(The following is a requested reprint from The Fred Factor ezine 2006 www.fredfactor.com)
I’m probably preaching–or more accurately writing–to the converted. But my guess is that you might work with someone or know someone who thinks being a “Fred” is a corporate plot to extract more work for no more money, that there’s no reason to be a “Fred” or that the whole concept is dorky.
I’m no stranger to criticism or critics. When you speak and write books, some people like your work and others don’t. I don’t agree with everyone so I don’t expect everyone to agree with me.
What is a bit of a crazy-maker are the mean-spirited critics who aren’t content to disagree but who feel the need to demean those with a positive point of view. I had one Amazon reviewer suggest I’d written another book because I needed more money, and another suggest that using the principles of The Fred Factor at work would make people think a manager was an “uber-dork.” Speaking and writing is my profession (does the previously mentioned critic not go to work every day because he needs more money?), but fortunately, both are my passion. The message is more important than the messenger, and if I can provide good ideas and encourage listeners and readers, I count that a blessing, whether or not I get paid for it. And if encouraging excellence in your work and making a difference would make one an uber-dork, sign me up. That particular critic might disagree with slogans, pins and tee-shirts, but don’t throw the message out with the medium.
Someone once said that a cynic is a passionate person who doesn’t want to be disappointed again. I hope that is true, that underneath the skin of a cynic is a person who wants to believe in the good, right and praiseworthy things in life. Skepticism is fine by me because is says “Explain it to me. Show my some proof, some examples.” The skeptic doesn’t want to buy into anything without good cause, and that make sense.
The cynic isn’t open to being shown. Rather than being willing to consider, they stay on the offensive and attack what threatens his or her opinions or beliefs. And they deflect genuine dialogue with sarcasm and glib statements that make them sometimes seem clever but mostly flip.
“The Fred Factor” is a concept, a label, a phrase. It uses fun language (and if someone is opposed to a little levity, God help them) to express a serious point: nobody can prevent you from choosing to be extraordinary. You and I aren’t always encouraged, recognized or rewarded for our efforts, but that isn’t an excuse for not trying. Great sculptors in the Renaissance often spent hours on details that would never been seen by the viewing public. Why? Because the artist saw and believed that God would see, too. Those artists had a commitment to art and excellence that was as personal as it was public.
The Fred Factor is also about looking beyond one’s self as the measure of all things. Self-absorption can become pathological, and those who subscribe to the concept of The Fred Factor see themselves as being part of a large world where the feelings and well-being of others are important as well.
So why be a Fred? There are several reasons, and the first, in my mind, is because it is a better way to live. Philosophers have spent hundreds of years grappling with the question, “What is the good life and how do we live it?” Maslow believed that there might well be something higher on the hierarchy of needs than self-actualization, and that was self-transcendence. I have come to believe that we become self-actualized through self-transcendence, a paradox I’m not going to delve into here. Doing all you can to build meaningful relationships, make a positive difference and add value to your work and those around you—those are components, I believe, of the good life.
Another great reason to be a Fred goes back to a quote from Helen Keller I use frequently: Is life not a thousand times too short to bore ourselves? Living life like the real guy, Fred Shea, makes for an infinitely richer, more interesting and fulfilling lifestyle that going with the flow of mediocrity. There are personal benefits one enjoys from
practicing the principles of The Fred Factor.
I doubt if I’ve converted the true cynics, as I doubt there are many cynics reading this blog. Maybe there are a few. So what have I gained? Maybe you find yourself doubting from time to time, as I do, about whether your efforts are worth it. Is there really good reason to keep trying to make the ordinary extraordinary? Are the cynics possibly right? Why does it seem my best efforts and intentions are often met with resistance and criticism?
The Holidays are a wonderful time to celebrate the best and highest ideals of life and people of diverse faiths and beliefs pause for a time to celebrate the goodness to be found in the midst of adversity, struggle and even tragedy. My hope is that in the short time it took you to read this article, you’ve been validated and confirmed. I hope that you know that your efforts are appreciated, even if that appreciation isn’t always adequately expressed. I hope you know that the cynicism of another should never prevent your own optimism, and that the highest reward of doing good work and good works is always found in the doing itself. And I hope that you know that the resistance and struggle makes us stronger, and makes the accomplishment of the extraordinary even sweeter.
Just remember, not only is it the season to stop being cynical, it is, more importantly, the season to be hopeful and to be of larger service to others.