The 8 Principles of Better

Are you committed to getting better, to waking up each day a little bit better in some area of your life than you were the day before?

Most say they want to get better, but few have a plan. That’s not an educated guess, but a fact based on research I did for my book, The Potential Principle. We found that 59% of leaders were “very committed” to getting better…but only 50% of them had a specific, updated plan.

A goal without a plan seems more like wishful thinking to me.

The real question of getting better isn’t “do you want to?” but “what are you doing about it?” For a deep dive into the why, the how and a process you can use, I refer you to The Potential Principle book. But what follows is a simple foundation to launch your improvement program.

Download the Potential Principle Handout

Here are 8 principles you can use to get better:

  1. Anyone can become better. Few of us will ever be best at something. Best is really hard. Better is really easy. Becoming the best at anything is difficult. It usually takes tremendous effort and a long time. Better can happen in an instance. Any slight improvement will make you better. Ever heard the cliche, “Death by a thousand cuts”? Try “Better by lots of little improvements.”
  2. Desire always precedes better. Your desire to get better must be coupled with your efforts to get better. Better can’t be imposed, borrowed or rented. You’ve got to want it and be willing to work for it.
  3. Better is your responsibility. Others can help you get better, but they can’t do it for you.
  4. You can improve anything in your life but not everything. Don’t try to improve everything.You won’t benefit by making everything in your life better, nor do you have time nor energy to do so. Go for significant improvements.
  5. Better requires an object. Better at what? Be specific about what matters enough to improve (see above).Often improvement goals are too vague. Prioritize getting better at what matters most and what will make the biggest difference, and ideally identify metrics.
  6. Better is never accidental. It takes intention and effort. You can swing a golf club a thousand times but if you aren’t paying attention, you won’t get better. You’ll just get tired.
  7. Better needs a process. If desire precedes better a plan needs to follow. The primary reason people don’t get better is lack of a plan.
  8. Better always beats best. Target the person or company at the top of their game. You don’t have to be twice as good as they are to displace them. All you need is to be a little better.

So now what? Knowing these principles is interesting, but implementing them is powerful. Here is a worksheet to help you get started:

In what area(s) do you want to get better? (the goal)

Why? (the motivation)

How? (the plan)

How much time and…

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How You (Yes, You!) Can Change the World

Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

If I told you that the fate of the world rested on your shoulders, how would you respond?

Would you take an action hero approach and confidently declare that you will handle it?

Would you shrink from the responsibility and pass it on to someone else?

Or would you simply shake your head, look me in the eye and say, “You’ve got the wrong person”?

The truth is, the fate of the world does rest on your shoulders. Your life is changing the world every day, whether you believe it or not.

If you choose to live positive values and be a good citizen of your community, you are changing the world for the better. If you choose to live negative values and take what you want from your community, then you are changing the world for the worse. No matter what you choose—to serve when needed, to give when asked, to ignore the pain of others, to take more than you give—every choice changes the world in some way.

There are four easy choices you can make daily that will change the world:

  1. Choose to Value People—this is a decision to see each human being you come in contact with, be it in real life or in the digital world, as someone with value who needs that value affirmed in some way. It’s a choice to connect with people and begin breaking down walls of distrust.
  2. Choose to Add Value to People—this is the decision to do something that helps another person in some way. It can be as extravagant as giving a gift or as simple as doing the dishes still piled in the sink, but it’s a choice to influence people through good deeds.
  3. Choose to Live Positive Values—this is the decision to live a life that builds rather than destroys. It’s the choice to be honest when the cashier gives you too much change, the choice to let someone else get the credit at work, the choice to treat other people with courtesy and respect. It’s also one of the most attractive ways to live your life.
  4. Choose to Share Positive Values—this is the decision to share with others the values that inspire and sustain your life. A life of positive values will inevitably lead someone to ask, “What’s your secret? How do you stay so positive, or generous, or kind?” And when they ask, you can choose to share with them the values that empower and enable you to live differently and make a difference.

That’s all it takes. You don’t have to be a superhero or a social media icon to influence people and make a difference in this world; you just have to have the courage to choose a life of values.

That’s the message of my new book, Change Your World, which will be in stores on January 26th. To launch the book, we’ve organized the first-ever Transformathon: a virtual marathon…

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Dear Dan: I Never Do Enough

Dear Dan: I Never Do Enough

Dear Dan,

I am struggling at the moment with one team member. It feels like I do so much for her and it’s never enough.

I provided so much positive feedback and when I need to give corrective feedback, she can’t handle it and feels criticized. She is disorganized, constantly late, and unprepared. She is also causing other team members frustration. I experience her as very needy and manipulative.


Never Enough

Upside down cat. Persistent poor performance is a management problem, not an employee problem.

Dear Never Enough,

This person is doing more damage than you might imagine. She’s holding your team back, wasting your time, and drains everyone’s energy. You have three options.

#1. Reassign her to a job she is capable of doing.

#2. Redesign her current job so she can succeed.

#3. Manager her out with kindness.

Option #3 seems like the only viable choice. This is the first time in a Dear Dan post I have suggested termination. Typically I accept the challenge of designing creative options for readers to consider. In this case, I suggest you begin the termination process.

If I may suggest an awkward idea. Persistent poor performance is a management problem, not an employee problem. Yes, you’ve tried to make a difference for this person, but admit it. It hasn’t work.

Stop wasting time, energy, and resources doing things that aren’t working. Establish consequences for failure that include termination.

Trying to control things you can’t control adds heat to frustration. Accept that you can’t force this person to step up. Do your best to lower emotional frustration. It’s harming you and it’s not helping your poor performer.

Ruinous compassion harms people and organizations.

Whatever you do, keep the best interest of your employee, team, and organization in mind. It’s not in the best interest of your employee to tolerate poor performance.

You have my best,


What suggestions do you have for Never Enough?

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7 Keys for Remote Work Success

Before the Covid 19 pandemic, 17 percent of U.S. employees worked from home 5 days or more per week. That increased 44 percent during the pandemic. Here’s a fact:

     Remote work, part-time or full-time, is here to stay. And you’ll likely be doing it soon

     if not already and those you work with and lead need to know how to do it well.

Have you considered what it will take to succeed with that new challenge? Have you thought about the differences between working in an office space to working at home? Most importantly, have you developed a process that enables you to be productive and successful working remotely? Or, if you’re a manager, have you taught your team those skills?

Here are seven simple but effective keys to help:

1. If you can’t change where you work, change your attitude about it. When we are in a situation we can change, the way to make the most of it is to change our attitude. You don’t need to deny it if you don’t like remote work, but find the positive aspects to focus on until your situation changes. Whining never helps.

2.  Develop a work day routine. Your old workspace, start and end times, provided a routine for your professional life. When at home you need to develop a routine to support your productivity. Get dressed like you would at an office or worksite even if you’re not going to leave your home. Track your efforts and identify projects and milestones. Importantly, identify your workday’s end so it doesn’t keep expanding and enveloping personal time.

3. Use results rather than input to evaluate your success. In the past our activities at work filled each day. As long as we were busy, we felt productive. Remote work isn’t about how much time you spend, but how many results you produce. You may find that with fewer office type distractions, you may be able to work fewer hours and get as much or more done.

4. Clarify expectations. Your employer may well have different expectations of you as a remote worker. If they haven’t been specific about what they expect, inquire so that you know.

5. Model your remote work after how you work at the office. To the degree that you can, use the same processes and protocols. Don’t cut corners because your remote workspace doesn’t feel traditional. 

6. Stay connected as well or better than before. This doesn’t necessarily mean lots more time on the phone or in Zoom meetings. It is about being strategic and caring to maintain important relationships that might be affected since you’re not sharing space with those people.

7. Go outside. E.O. Wilson said it well: Just being surrounded by bountiful nature, rejuvenates and inspires us. The nature outside your home might be more or less bountiful, but getting out of the house periodically for a short walk will help.

The more tools you have in your toolbox, the…

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The Value of a Mile

Photo by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash

Since January 1 I’ve been walking one mile a day. It’s part of our Transformathon—which ends later this month with an amazing 5K walk that I’ll be live-streaming from two different locations—but it’s also part of my health routine.

When Covid hit last year and my travel schedule suddenly opened up, it didn’t take me long to realize that I would have to fill some of those now empty hours with something productive. Something that would make me better. Something that would help my growth.

So I started walking. I could’ve joined a gym, or hired a trainer, but walking is something that everyone can do. It’s something that doesn’t require fancy equipment. It’s something that you can do without needing a coach to show you how.

When it comes to it, a walk is just you, your willpower, and the open road.

What I loved about my walks was the uninterrupted thinking time! I made use of every mile, no matter how slow it may have been, by using the time to think about the things I was learning, or the things I was reading, or to think about our work for Transformation. Those daily walks became some of my most productive minutes of the day.

They also taught me the value of a mile.

One mile might not sound that impressive to some of you, but for many of us, it’s a big achievement. That’s because it’s takes us a little longer, requires a little bit more grit to get it done. That mile represents the victory of our will and celebrates the power of intentional action in our lives.

That’s why I love this Transformathon. Hundreds of you have signed up and joined me out on the road (or in the pool, as I was today!) to put in your mile. And while you’re walking, my team and I have provided you with a value to think about along the way. Since all Transformation is rooted in good values, it makes sense for us to meditate on a value as we walk.

Today’s value is teachability and I’ve recorded a video teaching on that value that you can watch on my Instagram or Twitter feeds (and I encourage you to give today’s video a look—it’s a hoot!).

But we’ve also discussed other values, powerful values like Attitude, Courage, Initiative, and Empathy. These values are the key to unlocking the potential in other people; they are the way that you and I can introduce change into our worlds by living out these values with the people we call neighbors and friends.

As you walk each mile, I want you to think about how the value of the day could change your neighborhood. What would happen if people were to embrace teachability and be open to learning new ideas or ways of living? What would happen if your neighbor who’s struggling with their marriage…

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One More Chance to Join the Movement

Become part of the movement today!

Today is a historic day for the United States of America; for the 59th time in our country’s history, we inaugurated a new president and vice-president, and began another chapter in our leadership history. As is common for inaugurations, there were a lot of words spoken about where our country finds itself and where the new leadership sees the nation going. It is a day of vision and invitation.

Good leaders cast vision and invite you to embrace it; great leaders cast vision, invite you to embrace it, and then create a pathway for you to take action to bring it about. A vision is only as good as the practical steps you and I can take to see it come true.

A vision minus action steps is a merely an ideal; it’s a compelling picture of a possibility without arms or legs. It’s like eating sugar when your energy is low—it offers a short burst of energy but leaves you emptier once that burst burns out.

A true vision provides a pathway to seeing that vision come true. Those steps will not be exact; there will be challenges that arise, plans that change, and new information revealed that reforms what the vision requires. But without a first step, no vision can go anywhere. That’s why the first step is the most important, because the first step reveals the next step, and that’s how visions come to pass:

Visionaries take the next step, one step at a time.

Over the last three weeks, I’ve been inviting people to join me in a vision of Transformation—a vision where good people, who learn and live good values, value other people and add value to them and together they take action to create a positive values culture that changes the communities and countries of our world.

To make it practical, I’ve challenged you to join me in walking/running/swimming/biking/hiking or otherwise moving one mile a day while thinking deeply about a Transformational Value. Thousands of you have joined in by not only hitting the streets daily but registering to join me for the Transform-a-thon, our virtual 5K event that takes place this Saturday, January 23rd.

You’ve received a personal letter from me, welcoming you to the movement, as well as your own personal copy of Change Your World, my new book written with my good friend Rob Hoskins. You also received your personal race bib to wear on Saturday when you join me for either (or both) of the two scheduled 5K walk/runs. You’ll find the schedule for the day on the Change Your World website, as well as the schedule for mine and Rob’s upcoming book tour!

I want to renew my personal invitation for you to join me and my fellow visionaries who are taking the necessary steps to see Transformation come to pass.

Sign up today for the Transform-a-thon virtual 5K this Saturday. Get out…

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How to Maximize Remote Meetings

Win the Day Over Your To-Do List

You sink into bed exhausted, but nothing feels done. The daily whirlwind of activities swept you away while your greatest priorities took a back seat. We believe neverending to-do lists are the source of overwhelm and disappointment in life. You don’t have to let your to-do list call the shots. There’s a better way.

Learn More

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3 Better Questions than “Do You Know How to Lead?”

Many years ago our family hosted a foreign exchange student. On her application, she said she knew how to drive a car. That was important to us as she’d help shuttle our two young boys to school and other events in exchange for her living expenses.

What we didn’t know is that she didn’t know how to drive very well. She was awful. She’d driven only a few times in a country where traffic conditions were very different. While she had driven a car, she needed much coaching and practice with my wife or me to become proficient and safe.

With that in mind, how do you respond to the question, “Do you know how to lead?”

Or if you’re hiring someone for your team, is it enough to ask them if they know how to lead?

For yourself or a potential job candidate, there are three better questions that provide a clearer picture:

1. How well can you lead?

Few would aspire to be a marginal or mediocre leader. Even these leaders, technically, “can lead.” They just don’t lead well.

Go beyond experience and consider results. What evidence is there of effective leadership? How do team members evaluate the leader’s abilities?

2. Why do you lead?

When I ask someone why they want to learn to lead, the response is often, “It will enable me to earn more money and become promotable.” While that might be true, it isn’t a very good reason.

Great leadership is about making a difference and positively impacting others. And if you don’t have a higher purpose that career advancement, you’ll likely lack motivation when you bump up against challenges and problems.

You won’t exert the effort to become a better leader because your boss or I told you to do it. You will become a better leader when you desire to become one. And to be more than just “able to lead,” you’ll need a higher purpose.

3. How are you becoming a better leader?

Experience won’t make you a better leader, but learning from that experience–both successes and failures–will if you pay attention to and learn the lessons.

Here’s the point of the matter:

Anyone can lead if they choose. But limited experience (“time in the seat” of the leadership machine) will put you on par with our exchange student. She wasn’t lying, but she wasn’t completely telling the truth when she said she knew how to drive.

Take consistent action so that the next time you’re posed the question, “Do you know how to lead?” you can answer affirmatively and with confidence.


Mark Sanborn is an award winning speaker and Leadership Expert in Residence at High Point University, the Premier Life Skills University. For more information about his work, visit 

For a free assessment and information about The Classic Fred Factor online training and a unique opportunity to license the training, go to

Author: Mark Sanborn

Mark holds the Certified Speaking Professional designation from the National Speakers Association (NSA)…

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The Unalterable Law of Energy

The Unalterable Law of Energy

Low energy is fatigue. No energy is death.

Only 11% of us had a great deal of energy yesterday. Tom Rath

Healthy fatigue rests joyfully, but weariness dreads tomorrow.

Sad Fatigue gnaws at potential and corrodes resolve.

Success with energy, according to Gallup, is one of the five factors of wellbeing at work.

The five factors of wellbeing at work:

  1. Career wellbeing: You like what you do every day.
  2. Social wellbeing: You have meaningful friendships in your life.
  3. Financial wellbeing: You manage your money well.
  4. Physical wellbeing: You have energy to get things done.
  5. Community wellbeing: You like where you live.

Dangers of fatigue:

Fatigue gnaws at potential and corrodes resolve.

Energy is courage. “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Vince Lombardi

Fatigue opens you to the attack of enemies you defeated in the past. When your energy tank is low, you fall into destructive habits, say things you regret, and pollute the atmosphere.

Exhaustion makes you stumble on pebbles.

The unalterable law of energy:

Pouring out requires pouring in.

Pour in more than you pour out and live on the overflow. If you’re exhausted, the ratio of pouring out to pouring in is off kilter.

Tip: Meaningful work is pouring out and pouring in at the same time.

I asked an online audience to text me things that fuel their energy. I received over 350 messages. Here are ten.

  1. Meditation.
  2. Playing catch with my dog.
  3. Baking.
  4. Positive feedback.
  5. Prayer.
  6. Family get togethers.
  7. Time alone in the woods.
  8. Working out.
  9. Challenges.
  10. A good night’s sleep.

A little restoration goes a long way. Take a short walk.

A little discipline pays big dividends. Don’t overeat.

A little encouragement is fuel. Express gratitude.

Small improvements are confidence to look forward.

Tip: Find some friends that pour into your tank instead of draining it.

What gives you energy?

Added resources:

How to Fuel Tomorrow’s Energy Tonight

How to Manage Energy: 4 Out Of 10 Are Drained At Work

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Why You Need to Spend Your Days on Paper

Win the Day Over Your To-Do List

You sink into bed exhausted, but nothing feels done. The daily whirlwind of activities swept you away while your greatest priorities took a back seat. We believe neverending to-do lists are the source of overwhelm and disappointment in life. You don’t have to let your to-do list call the shots. There’s a better way.

Learn More

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