Are you a “Fred”?

Please note – copyright disclaimer: I am writing a post from my personal reading experience and journey from Mark Sanborn’s book, The Fred Factor which has influenced and changed the way I view the world around me.  I am not claiming authorship or inventorship for the concept of “Fred” nor am I writing this for profit or any incentive.  I am writing to share with you what a life-changing book this truly is, authored by Mr. Sanborn who resides right here in my wonderful state of Colorado.

Copyright Sanborn

Copyright Sanborn

I recently read the book, The Fred Factor recommended by my former boss, and it has really impacted me in a positive way.  He recommended the book to me along with another Sanborn book, “You don’t need a title to be a Leader.”  For some reason this one impacted me more because the concept is so simple:  A guy named Fred, who was Mr. Sanborn’s postal carrier in his Wash Park subdivision, really went above and beyond in his job, and made an impression on the author.  The question is, are you doing everything you can in an extraordinary manner or are you failing and unhappy in your work and life?  It was eye-opening because I could not have read this book at a better time in my career.  Personally, I felt like a failure as a mother because I had taken on new responsibilities at work and sadly, people issues dominate work more often than they should.  Although I have to say I am lucky that in my industry, the people are generally all professional, very intelligent, and honestly want to be there and do good things.  However, as a supervisor sometimes it can be tough to sort out those issues that vex the soul whilst still maintaining a normal work load and balancing family and life.

I read this book when I was traveling to and from my second job in California and I have to say it really made me look all around me.  My “fred radar” was on the entire time.  It was heightened in fact.  All around me, there were freds doing fred-like things and I was actually able to notice and appreciate it.  But, I was able to make a list of the fred-actions in me too.  From helping an elderly man with his bags to just saying something kind to an employee who showed kindness to others, all of these actions make a seemingly uneventful trip quite extraordinary.  The same principles can be applied at work and at home and throughout your life.  Being positive is at the heart of being a “Fred” and wanting to do the best job possible- trying your hardest.  Being a “Fred” is the concept of practicing daily to be extraordinary, from simple acts to bigger acts.  And, as Mr. Sanborn stated in his book, it is even more challenging to do these things to those who have been unkind and unpleasant to us.  Those who are the biggest challenges in our lives offer us the greatest opportunity to be excellent because it is tough to be good to those who are back biting or are unhappy to the core.  But, in the end, the reward is to feel positive in all you do which can’t be bad at all.  The same goes for home- being kind and doing acts of service even amidst tough times and above all, being positive.

The key concepts of this book are listed here and basically are: “(1) Everyone makes a difference- the question you want a positive answer to at the end of each day is what kind of difference did you make; (2) Everything is built on relationships and building them can either bring small rewards or huge ones especially in business- the examples he uses really are enlightening; (3) You must continually create value for others, and it doesn’t have to cost a penny- this is broken down further into four parts for how to create value for others without spending a lot or any money; and (4) You can reinvent yourself regularly.” [Sanborn, copyright]

The last one struck a cord for me too.  It is recognizing that you are human, and improving yourself and trying to learn from others around you that is so important.  There are those who never see their faults, never admit they are wrong, and continually blame everything and everyone around them.  The true problem is not all the external factors or others but the problem is the person.  So, the person who can ask “how could I have handled this situation differently” will be on better track for success than the person who refuses to reinvent and change but blames others and the environment.

All of this was very eye-opening to read and I am actually excited about the possibility of attending a Sanborn workshop to learn even more.  I think everyone can grow and learn something new- whether that be coping skills, or how to look within to make change.  Being a “Fred’ is more than following a checklist or spending money to make people feel valued but rather, seems to be a way of life- the practice in becoming a good, decent person.  And to be a “Fred’ you have to value yourself first.  You can’t really see value in others until you perfect the art in seeing it in yourself.  I also learned that being a “Fred” means that you cannot be hard on yourself.  We are not perfect – no one is (although some in their minds may think they are).  The point is to see that and to learn from our mistakes and move on.

This book was a good read, and for me, career and life-changing.  I highly recommend it.

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From the Mouths of Kindergartners

Mornings in kindergarten

Mornings in kindergarten

I volunteer at my daughter’s school a few times a month and sometimes that is in the morning.  They start their day with the school bell, then the pledge of allegiance, and after that, they all say a bunch of phrases or hymns so to speak.  It can go something like this, “In everything you do, do your best, even if it is coloring.  Try your hardest.  In everything you do, try your hardest.”   There is another one that goes like this, “respect means treating others the way you want to be treated,” and finally, “responsibility means wdoing your job without being told or just one time since you’re a kindergartener.”

I love, love these little sayings, and I started to think everyone in society could benefit from these little sayings.  Think about it:  isn’t life often like a Kindergarten or in some cases, high school?  Simple phrases like this can really serve some people well, and serve to remind them of simple principles that will hopefully help them be true to themselves and others.  I like to add one more phrase to the list, “everyone is not you, everyone is different, and you are not better than any one else.” I think if Kindergarteners learned this up front and throughout their lives maybe they wouldn’t be so difficult to deal with later on in life?

When my friends and I talk, it seems that there is a common theme in most everything they encounter – whether its interactions with other parents, neighbors, at their business, or at the child care centers:  Personality conflicts, lack of respect for others and their property, and the perfecting of interpersonal skills.

Think about the words said by these kids first thing in the morning, “in everything you do, do your best…” Sure, its not coloring but shouldn’t we all be doing our best in all we do- trying our hardest?  How much better would our friendships and relationships be if we heeded the phrase “respect means treating others the way you want to be treated.” This is a common theme in most religions too but just saying these out loud daily or in our heads, could it change the way we view our world, and ultimately, change our world?

My personal favorite is the one on responsibility.  You shouldn’t have to be told – okay, so there is the one-time exception for a Kindergartner.  But I also view responsibility as someone accepting responsibility for their actions as well, instead of blaming everything and everyone around them for their shortcomings.  It comes as no surprise that lawsuits and tort actions are so rampant in our society- no one is ever to blame for anything they do anymore.  And, going back to the adage above of people thinking they are better than everyone else, why would they ever take the blame for anything they contribute to if they always think they are right?  If we recited this phrase daily that we learned from Kindergartners, would more people learn to take responsibility for their actions in society?

Ah, from the mouth of babes!  I love volunteering in my daughter’s kindergarten class.  There are so many parallels between school and daily life – more than I care to admit.  I love volunteering and seeing the interchange between the kiddos.  The same parallels present themselves to the parents of these kids in almost all they do, whether it’s shopping in a grocery store, mommy’s day out, parents’ groups, and working outside the home.  No matter what it is you do, or don’t do, we could all benefit from lessons from the mouths of Kindergartners- to enhance ourselves and our interpersonal relationships … “in everything we do, do our best, even if it is just coloring.”

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Childrens’ Birthdays – tid bits and ramblings of a … mom

IMG_3015One more birthday has passed by; one more birthday planned, executed, and one more milestone reached.

My youngest daughter turned 4 and we had a “small” party for her at My Gym.  Keep in mind, in our world, no party is small by normal people standards.  We invite everyone.  It is insane.  We invite the class, and our friends with kids, and often, purely for selfish reasons, we invite our friends in other cities that we have not seen for sometime so we can socialize with them.  We rarely throw a party so when we do, we go all out – after all, we just don’t see our friends that often- so we use our child’s party as an excuse to have some fun for … well, to be blunt, us!

I have written on this topic before.  [see the following related posts on parties: Party Poopers, and Dancing With Myself]  This weekend, we had our party, and then we attended a smaller, more intimate party as well.  I have to say, the intimate party was awesome- the family was kind, everyone introduced themselves, and talk about just nice people.  It made me think back to our party and how chaotic it was, and I do not remember introducing anyone or meeting that many new folks because I was stressed- the videotaping, the photos, the cake, the food, the constant – “can I get you a drink?”  But, like every year, here are some more lessons learned to carry forward into future party-planning:

(1) Go simple- go small:  It is okay to invite 5-10 of her closest friends and just do something super casual like the mall, build a bear, or jumpy castles.  She is after all only 4.  Keeping it simple makes it easy to enjoy.  The chuck e. cheese party we had was the most enjoyable because while it is loud in there, the tables are all there to sit and hang out.  You can hand out tokens to kids, and then just sit back and relax.  The food is served, the cake is served, and there is really not much to do and parents can have a glass of cheap wine or beer too!

(2) Forget the goody bags:  Goody bags are just junk.  I got some good ideas this year to avoid them altogether.  IF you want to do a giveaway and it is not built into the party, then just get scholastic books for $1- $2 and hand out the same ones to all kids.  Another great idea I got from the same friend is a book exchange.  Everyone brings a book of $5 or less and there is a book exchange… everyone takes something home.  Another friend suggested that each kid bring a wrapped gift of $10 or less and you do a round robin type of gift exchange– where each kid goes home with a $10 gift- great idea!  Another wonderful idea is a book exchange no matter what you do with gifts.  People can bring gifts but they also need to bring a gently used book or purchased for $1 – $3, and then the goody bag is the book exchange.

(3) If you do give a gift, be kind, bring a gift receipt and don’t commit the faux pas I did.  If you are recycling a gift, don’t accidentally leave someone else’s card or message on it.  Boo! I heard this weekend that it is okay to recycle gifts.  All moms do it, I was told.  My husband hates recycling gifts.  If our kids get them, and we do not want them, return or donate.  He despises re-gifting.  He is right you know.  But if you do it, do it with pizzazz and style.  Make it look cool – make it look put together or that you thought of this person when you re-gifted.  Don’t throw some trash you don’t want in a bag and call it a present.  Don’t bring a gift at all rather than re-gifting presents without a little class.

(4) Does it feel weird when you bring something back to the store and get store credit? We got something we already had so I took it back to the store and got a gift card.  It felt weird.  These were my daughter’s gifts, and I returned it.  I do not know- it felt weird.  I know it is okay but I couldn’t help but think of the parent who misappropriates their kids’ money.  I think if you get a gift card from a returned gift, let your child learn the value of money by using it to get something for him or her and spend it wisely.  Of course, it depends on the age of the child.  Age 5 and older I think this makes sense.

(5) Another tid bit I got this weekend was very helpful – siblings.  Who brings along siblings to a party for the other sibling?  If the sibling invited is say 5 and the sister/brother is 18 months, this may be okay, but once kids are older, is it okay? What is the magical age you ask?  Well, it depends on the circumstances too and also, the relationship of the family.  I went to a party where someone was paying $15.00 per kid to build a bear and people brought siblings.  It is one thing if you are family friends but if you are a classmate, and you bring a sibling, you really should just pay the cashier or the party host automatically without being asked.  If they choose not to accept, that is one thing but that is a lot of money to spend on your kid plus their siblings.  In one party we had for my kiddo several years ago, someone we did not know brought a neighbor’s kid so his son would have a friend to swim with.  Here is the kicker- I never invited the son.  He was the brother and his 2 year old sister was the only one invited.  I ended up paying for 3 kids and an adult rather than 1 kid and 1 parent.  It is one thing if they are family friends but you can rest assured that as a classmate, you will NOT be invited back – ever!   We are trying to implement the same for our kids- one kid goes to the party and the other does not unless we are family friends, special buds etc.   Here is an important rule: Please tell people in advance when you plan to bring a sibling.  If one parent is out of town and there is no child care, it is more understandable or if it is a play date at a park or fun place w/ no admission fee.  But, to expect someone to shell out $15.00 + for a sibling or a neighbor’s kid is wrong.  Ask the person if it is okay in advance – but don’t just show up with extra kids.  It is shocking.

(6) What is the etiquette of food at a party?  Do you just feed the kids and not the parents? I think it is really important to feed everyone who is there.  If you order 1 pizza to feed 5 kids and expect to have leftovers, you won’t.  The worst party I went to ran out of food for kids, let’s not even talk about parents.  Parents just stood around drinking bottles of water and going out to dinner afterwards.  If you hold a party at lunch time or dinner time, do the right thing- feed your guests.  If you do it at snack time, have snacks for all.  I felt like it was more work to have snacks than just ordering a bunch of pizzas.  Lesson learned – take the easy way out when you can.  Bottom line: If you do it, do it right or don’t do it at all!

And while we are on food people, let me tell you my observations of all the parties were there was food present.  Order ONLY cheese pizzas for kids- one out of 10 kid eats pepperoni.  The veggie pizzas went first.  As a vegetarian, I get offended when you order just meat and all that is left is meat.  Order cheese pizzas.  Why is it that at all the parties I attend, all that is left over at the end is meat/meatballs/meat trays?  People are more health-conscious and they eat better.  That means they tend to gravitate towards non-meat items.  Order accordingly .

(7) RSVP – this french abbreviation is the bane of my existence in addition to the damn goody bags because no one seems to honor the RSVP date.  As a result, the mom who invites people has to exhibit the utmost grace and dignity when someone RSVPs an hour before the party.  Have extra crap bags handy (goody bags)- it is not the child’s fault after all.  Be ready for 2 to drop, and 4 to add.  If you are mentally prepared, you will not lose your mind and be tempted to write back a nasty response or say something nasty on the phone.  Someone once told me- “grace” – “breathe…grace…breathe again.”  It has worked. It is rude, and nasty and disrespectful what people do, but what you do with that is even more important because how you choose to handle it defines you.  You have to live with yourself.   If you are reading this and you are the mom who always consistently fails to RSVP on time or you RSVP yes and then don’t show up, please use this opportunity to perhaps self-reflect.  Your actions do affect others.  It is never too late to do the right thing.  Your actions will not be forgotten but everyone understands you are human.

Birthdays come, birthdays go – if your kiddo kisses you at the end of the day and says, “mommy I loved it… thank you,” all the madness seems worth it.

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