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How Passion in Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary into the Extraordinary

Written by Mark SanbornAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Mark Sanborn


List Price: $11.99


On Sale: April 20, 2004
Pages: 128 | ISBN: 978-0-385-51364-7
Published by : Crown Business Religion/Business/Forum

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On Sale: September 19, 2006
ISBN: 978-0-7393-3961-9
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Meet Fred.

In his powerful new book THE FRED FACTOR, motivational speaker Mark Sanborn recounts the true story of Fred, the mail carrier who passionately loves his job and who genuinely cares about the people he serves. Because of that, he is constantly going the extra mile handling the mail – and sometimes watching over the houses – of the people on his route, treating everyone he meets as a friend. Where others might see delivering mail as monotonous drudgery, Fred sees an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those he serves.

We’ve all encountered people like Fred in our lives. In THE FRED FACTOR, Mark Sanborn illuminates the simple steps each of us can take to transform our own lives from the ordinary – into the extraordinary. Sanborn, through stories about Fred and others like him, reveals the four basic principles that will help us bring fresh energy and creativity to our life and work: how to make a real difference everyday, how to become more successful by building strong relationships, how to create real value for others without spending a penny, and how to constantly reinvent yourself.

By following these principles, and by learning from and teaching other “Freds,” you, too, can excel in your career and make your life extraodinary. As Mark Sanborn makes clear, each of us has the potential be a Fred.THE FRED FACTOR shows you how.


Chapter One

The First Fred

Make each day your masterpiece.
--Joshua Wooden, father of John Wooden

I first met a "Fred" just after purchasing what I called a "new" old house. Built in 1928, the house was the first I'd owned and was located in a beautiful tree-lined area of Denver called Washington Park. Just days after I moved in, I heard a knock on my front door. When I opened it I saw a mailman standing on my porch.

"Good morning, Mr. Sanborn!" he said cheerfully. "My name is Fred, and I'm your postal carrier. I just stopped by to introduce myself--to welcome you to the neighborhood and find out a little bit about you and what you do for a living."

Fred was an ordinary-looking fellow of average height and build with a small mustache. While his physical appearance didn't convey anything out of the ordinary, his sincerity and warmth were noticeable immediately.

I was a bit startled. Like most of us, I had been receiving mail for years, but I had never had this kind of personal encounter with my postal carrier. I was impressed--nice touch.
"I'm a professional speaker. I don't have a real job," I replied jokingly.

"If you're a professional speaker, you must travel a lot," said Fred.

"Yes, I do. I travel anywhere from 160 to 200 days a year."

Nodding, Fred went on. "Well, if you'll just give me a copy of your schedule, I'll hold your mail and bundle it. I'll only deliver it on the days that you are at home to receive it."

I was amazed by Fred's conscientious offer, but I told him that such extra effort probably wasn't necessary. "Why don't you just leave the mail in the box on the side of the house?" I suggested. "I'll pick it up when I come back into town."

Fred frowned and shook his head. "Mr. Sanborn, burglars often watch for mail building up in a box. That tells them you're out of town. You might become the victim of a break-in." Fred was more worried about my mail than I was! But it made sense; he was the postal professional.

"Here's what I suggest, Mr. Sanborn," Fred continued. "I'll put mail in your box as long as I can get it to close. That way nobody will know you're gone. Whatever doesn't fit in the box, I'll put between the screen door and the front door. Nobody will see it there. And if that area becomes too full of mail, I'll just hold the rest of it for you until you come back into town."

At this point I started to wonder: Does this guy really work for the U.S. Postal Service? Maybe this neighborhood had its own private mail-delivery system. Still, because Fred's suggestions sounded like a terrific plan, I agreed to them.

Two weeks later I returned home from a trip. As I put the key in my-front door lock, I noticed my doormat was missing. Were thieves actually stealing doormats in Denver? Then I saw the mat in a corner of the porch, concealing something. I lifted the mat and found a note from--who else?--Fred! Reading his message, I learned what had happened. While I was gone, a different delivery service had misdelivered a package sent to me. The box had been left on somebody else's porch, five doors down the street. Noticing my box on the wrong porch, Fred had picked it up, carried it to my house, attached his note, and then tried to make the package less noticeable by placing it under the doormat.

Not only was Fred delivering the mail, he was now picking up the slack for UPS!

His actions made a huge impression on me. As a professional speaker, I am particularly adept at finding and pointing out what's "wrong" with customer service and business in general. Finding examples of what's "right" or even praiseworthy is much harder. Yet here was my postman, Fred, a gold-plated example of what personalized service looks like and a role model for anyone who wants to make a difference in his or her work.

I started using my experiences with Fred as illustrations in speeches and seminars that I presented across the United States. Everyone wanted to hear about Fred. Listeners in my audiences were enthralled, whether they worked in the service industry, at a manufacturing company, in high-tech, or in health care.

Back home in Denver, I occasionally had a chance to share with Fred how his work was inspiring others. I told him one story about a discouraged employee who received no recognition from her employers. She wrote to tell me that Fred's example had inspired her to "keep on keeping on" and continue doing what she knew in her heart was the right thing to do, regardless of recognition or reward.

I related to Fred the confession of a manager who had pulled me aside after one speech to tell me he never realized that his career goal all along was to be "a Fred." He believed that excellence and quality should be the goals of every person in any business or profession.

I was delighted to tell my postman that several companies had created a Fred Award to present to employees who demonstrated his trademark spirit of service, innovation, and commitment.

And one fan of Fred once sent him a box of homemade cookies in care of my address!

On the first Christmas after Fred became my postman, I wanted to thank him more formally for his exceptional service. I left a small gift in the mailbox for him. The next day I found an unusual letter in my box. The envelope had a stamp on it, but it wasn't canceled. That's when I noticed the return address; the letter was from Fred the Postman.

Fred knew it would be illegal to put an unpostmarked letter in the box, so even though he personally carried it from his house to my house, he had done the right thing by placing a stamp on the letter.

I opened the letter, which said in part, "Dear Mr. Sanborn, Thank you for remembering me at Christmas. I am flattered you talk about me in your speeches and seminars, and I hope I can continue to provide exceptional service. Sincerely, Fred the Postman."

Over the next ten years, I received consistently remarkable service from Fred. I could always tell which days he wasn't working my street by the way the mail was jammed into my box. When Fred was on the job, all items were neatly bundled.

But there was more. Fred also took a personal interest in me. One day while I was mowing the front lawn, a vehicle slowed in the street. The window went down and a familiar voice yelled, "Hello, Mr. Sanborn! How was your trip?"

It was Fred, off duty, driving around the neighborhood.

After observing his exemplary attitude and actions, I concluded that Fred--and the way he did his job--provides a perfect metaphor for high individual achievement and excellence in the twenty-first century. Fred--and the countless other Freds I've met, observed, or been served by in numerous professions--inspired me to write The Fred Factor. It contains the simple yet profound lessons all the Freds around the world have taught me.

Anyone can be a Fred! That includes you! The result will not just be extraordinary effort and success in your work. You'll find yourself living an extraordinary life as well.
Mark Sanborn

About Mark Sanborn

Mark Sanborn - The Fred Factor
MARK SANBORN is president of Sanborn Associates, Inc., an idea studio for leadership development, and the author of the national bestsellers The Fred Factor and You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leader. As an award-winning business speaker, he regularly keynotes meetings in the United States and abroad. He lives in Denver, Colorado.


The Fred Factor is a powerful, poignant parable of success. It’s about going the extra mile and always doing more than is expected. It is revolutionary, yet simple. It is life changing.”
--Brian Tracy, author of Focal Point and Goals: How to Get Everything You Want—Faster Than You Ever Thought Possible
Teachers Guide

Teacher's Guide


The Fred Factor is the true story of Fred, the mail carrier who passionately loves his job and who genuinely cares about the people he serves. Because of this attitude, he is constantly going the extra mile when handling the mail — he sometimes watches over the houses of the people on his route, and he treats everyone he meets as a friend. Whereas others might see delivering mail as a monotonous drudgery, Fred sees an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those he serves.

In The Fred Factor, Mark Sanborn illuminates the simple steps each of us can take to transform our own lives from the ordinary into the extraordinary. Through stories about Fred and others like him, Sanborn reveals the four basic principles that will help bring fresh energy and creativity to your life and work: how to make a real difference every day, how to become more successful by building strong relationships, how to create real value for others without spending a penny, and how to constantly reinvent yourself.

Academics can give a child the tools to succeed in society, but character is what holds a community together and brings value to life. As educators, we want our students to grow up to be responsible citizens and good people. In order to accomplish this goal, we must not only focus on the mind of a child, but also on the whole child. We want students to pursue their own well-being, while also being considerate of the needs and feelings of others. The examples illustrated through The Fred Factor will assist educators in bringing making character education seem relevant to students.

This activity guide was developed as a way to illustrate the importance of character in our daily lives. It is important for us to teach our students that ability may take you to the top but character will keep you there. Character, and the work ethic that is part of developing good character, is a necessary ingredient to a fulfilling life.

This guide is divided into ideas for staff use as well as teaching ideas. The discussion questions and enrichment activities can be used for oral discussion in small or large groups or for written assignments. The personal essay questions will require longer, personal answers, and some are more appropriate as projects and written assignments. Each section can be individualized by student interest and reading level or adapted to meet curricular demands. The activities in this guide tie directly to the curricular areas of practical living and vocational skills as well as become a direct link to character education and work ethic.

This Teacher’s Guide can be adapted for use with middle and high school students.


Mark Sanborn is an internationally known author, motivational speaker, and the president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio for leadership development. He gives nearly one hundred presentations each year on leadership, team building, customer service, and mastering change.


Discussion, Relevance and Application

In this activity section, the student will review specific actions from The Fred Factor and be able to discuss how this action connects to character traits or essential work ethic skills. Optional extension - apply these character traits through the personal daily routine and write a reflective journal to share.

Discussion Questions and Enrichment Activities


Responsibility means being dependable, keeping promises and honoring our commitments. It is accepting the consequences for what we say and do. People who are responsible don’t make excuses for their actions; they take charge of their lives. They make decisions, taking into account obligations to family and community.

Read pages 4, 5 and page 56 of The Fred Factor. Both sections illustrate examples of the character trait responsibility as applied in two different ways. Compare and contrast the examples and discuss how responsibility was the key to the positive outcome in both situations.

Relevance and Enrichment Activities - Responsibility
•Develop a rulebook for personal behavior on the school function or ballgame.
•Identify a character from history or literature and explain how that person displayed responsibility.
•Produce a video or Power Point presentation to explain school rules and responsible behavior.
•Prepare a public service announcement to support student responsibility in the school and community.
•Develop and implement a service-learning project.


Self-discipline is the ability to set a realistic goal or make a plan then stick with it. It involves keeping promises and following through on commitments. Self-discipline requires persistence, a positive attitude, and dealing effectively with emotions. It involves being the best you can be.

Read pages 9, 10, 14 & 15. Explain the terms gratification and mediocrity as they are apply to this text. Discuss the importance of doing your best as described on pages 9 and 10. Explain how the character trait of self-discipline applies to Fred’s actions on page 14 and 15.

Read page 23 “The Famous Fred” and page 59. Discuss the lesson shared on each page and how it applies to self-discipline, work ethic, and doing your best? Have you had a comparable experience? Write about a daily task or job you presently do and describe what you could do extra to make a positive impact.

Relevance and Enrichment Activities — Self-Discipline
•Make up a story about what would happen if people didn't complete their jobs. Use examples from the jobs parents of class members do daily.
•Select a personal goal and write the steps needed to achieve the goal.
•Discuss curfews and how self-discipline and responsibility applies to curfews.
•Discuss the price for reaching a goal such as playing piano or running track. How does self-discipline apply to reaching these goals?
•Discuss benefits of a healthy lifestyle and the self-discipline involved in maintaining a healthy life.
•Discuss or write about an historical figure who displayed self-discipline in his or her work.

Altruism — (Caring)
Altruism means practicing unselfish concern for and devotion to the welfare of others. It means identifying with and being concerned about people’s feelings and needs. It provides the emotional root for caring about other people and allows us to be understanding and tolerant of different points of views and beliefs.
Read The Generous Fred, pages 20 — 23. There are several character traits demonstrated throughout this passage. Describe the character traits used and discuss who in the passage demonstrated each of the traits. Do you think this is typical behavior? Why or why not?
Read More Fred Sightings on pages 24 & 25. Discuss what character trait was displayed in each situation. Choose one of the examples and write about an “un-Fred-like” situation that you heard about or observed that is the opposite of the character trait described.
Read pages 106-108. What is the key character trait described in being a “Fred”? How do people treat you differently if you exhibit this trait in dealing with people?

Relevance and Enrichment Activities — Altruism
•Define the word altruism and provide examples from personal experiences.
•Write a report on a story, poem, or book and explain in other words what it says about altruism.
•Identify examples and the value of altruism through a buddy system wherein an older student helps and tutors a younger student.
•Identify a character from history, current events or literature and explain how the person displayed altruism.

Human Worth
Human worth means understanding of self and others by treating each with kindness, caring, generosity, and a forgiving spirit. 
Give three examples of how the character trait of human worth is demonstrated through The Fred Factor. Compare this with a recent action you either heard about or observed in the school setting or community that demonstrates the same trait. Contrast this with a recent action you heard about or observed in the school setting or community that demonstrates the opposite behavior.
Relevance and Enrichment Activities — Human Worth
•Read a biography of a famous person who embodies attributes of human worth and dignity. Write an essay describing how he/she portrayed this character trait.
•Brainstorm in small groups ways to make a person of a different culture feel welcome and accepted.
•Conduct an interview with someone that has experienced prejudice or discrimination in the areas of race, gender, age or disability. Using cooperative learning, have each student discuss his or her findings.
•Examine the Holocaust and other historical events to analyze the impact when human rights were ignored.

Honesty means being truthful to ourselves and with others, admitting wrong doing and acting with integrity; being genuine, trustworthy, sincere and fair. It means caring enough for others not to mislead them for personal benefit.
Read pages 47 and 52 and talk about the importance of being honest. Give an example of an action used in The Fred Factor that demonstrates the character trait of honesty.

Relevance and Enrichment Activities — Honesty
•Discuss the influence of honesty and values in appropriate books and stories, such as Jesse Stuart's A Penny's Worth of Character or those dealing with the life of Lincoln.
•Identify a character from history, current events, or literature and explain how the person displayed honesty.
•Discuss plagiarism and copyright laws as they relate to videos or software.
•Discuss honesty in the political area.
•Discuss life-threatening consequences of dishonesty.

Respect means showing high regard for authority, other people, yourself and your country. It also means treating others as you want to be treated. People learn how to respect others when they are treated with respect themselves.

Read pages 34 and 35. Discuss the acts of respect that are demonstrated in this passage. Write a reflective article that describes an action of respect that you demonstrated and explain what response you received as a result of your actions

Relevance and Enrichment Activities — Respect
•Describe positive qualities of self and others.
•Engage in personal goal setting to establish New Year's resolutions using questions: What would you like to change? How would you go about it?
•Develop a Friendship Wheel that describes what characteristics are desired in a friend and discuss in class so that children can understand what others expect in a friend.

Personal Essay
What are three qualities you admire most about Fred the postman in The Fred Factor and explain why?
Describe an incident or event from which you learned a lesson “the hard way.” How would Fred have reacted differently in this incident? If you were to experience this incident again, how would you act differently?

Describe a situation in which you went out of your way to help someone or describe a situation in your life in which someone went out of his or her way to help you.

Read pages 82 & 83. What character trait describes this action? Find a situation in which you can demonstrate this character trait. Document the actions and write about this personal experience.

Notice Freds and “non-Freds.” Keep a journal for one-week noting behavior that is
Fred-like and un-Fred-like. Be prepared to share you findings.

Choose one quality from The Fred Factor that you believe will make the most difference in your life and help you to be a better person. Write an action plan as to how you would like to be more like Fred through embedding this quality in your behaviors. What changes do you hope for in your life by adding this quality to your behavior?

If you become a parent, what are the three most important values you hope your children will have?

Ideas for Staff Use

The lessons learned through The Fred Factor are powerful and life changing not just for adults, but also for children. This book contains lessons in building character and work-ethic skills, all of which are areas we see as lacking in many of our children today. This is why the Hardin County School District in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, has taken these lessons and put them into action through various activities. We believe through leading by example we will positively impact each other as well as our students, family and community. We began this focus very simply, but the positive effects and eagerness to participate have spread through the district and into the classrooms.

•All district administrators and support staff read The Fred Factor and developed a plan to make a positive difference through our actions. Our goal was to build positive relationships, improve our customer service approach and demonstrate high quality work ethic and character through positive examples.
•Each school received Fred buttons to reward staff members that are going beyond the call of duty.
•Each school chooses a Fred of the Month that is recognized at the monthly School Board Meetings.
•Some of our schools have a Fred bucket in which individuals donate if they catch themselves demonstrating “un-Fred-like” actions.
•One classroom teacher has a “friendly Fred reminder” posted on the board which states: FREDS = Friendly Reminder Everyone Deserves Simple recognition and respect.


Nannette Johnston received her Rank I in Administration and Supervision and her Masters in Education from Western Kentucky University. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Louisville. Mrs. Johnston began teaching in 1983 in the Hardin County School District in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. In 1993 she moved into administration in the same district. Presently, she is the Superintendent of the Hardin County School District, which serves approximately 2,500 employees and over 14,000 students.



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