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I was listening to my elder daughter, Sofia, reading Wally Piper’s classic The Little Engine That Could to her younger sister, Ella, one night and it occurred to me what a powerful little story it is. In his book, Mr. Piper shares the story of a little red engine pulling a train “filled full of good things for boys and girls” on the other side of a mountain.
When the little red engine breaks down, a toy clown hops off the little train and starts asking larger passing trains if they will help.
The first two trains refuse to help because they feel they are too big and important to pull toys and goodies.
A rusty third train relates that he is too old and tired to help, and chugs away saying, “I can not. I can not. I can not.”
Finally, a little blue engine passes by and stops immediately when she sees the clown waving. The little engine’s first words are, “What is the matter, my friends?”
The clown relays the challenge, and the little blue engine explains that she has never been over the mountain. She then sees the tears in the dolls’ eyes and thinks of the good little girls and boys who will not have any toys to play with or good food to eat unless she helps. She looks at the mountain and says, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.”
The little blue engine hitches herself to the little train and starts tugging and pulling and pulling and tugging. Slowly, the train moves forward.
“Puff, puff, chug, chug, went the Little Blue Engine. ‘I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.’” — from The Little Engine That Could by Wally Piper
Up they go, ever so slowly to the top of the mountain. When they reach the top, the toys cheer. After coming down the mountain and unhitching the train, the little blue engine chugs away, saying happily, “I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could.”
The conviction that we have the power to progress is a major key to progressing. Remember, our brains want to be right. Whatever the mind believes, it will work to make true.
But, the little blue engine didn’t say, “I think I can,” only one time. She said it over and over and over and over. Repetition, repetition, repetition.
What do you think that little blue engine will say next time she is asked to pull a train over a mountain?
Will she say, “I think I can”?
I think not. She will say, “Yes, I can.”
Also, the little blue engine did not say, “I think I can,” and then glide away. She said it and immediately hitched herself to the little train and started tugging and pulling and pulling and tugging. To progress in this world of change, there must be ACTION. No dallying!
The little blue engine had to tug and pull to reach her goal.
Will some of the progressive action steps that you and your company need to take to climb that mountain and reach your crafted goals be painful? Yes. Again, consider:
What is more painful to you, discipline or regret?
Finally, the little blue engine had strong reasons. She saw the tears in the dolls’ eyes and considered the little children, who would not have any toys or good food to eat unless she helped. She would feel pain if she didn’t help, and would gain pleasure, prestige, and power if she did.
Develop strong reasons for taking strong action. Remind yourself often of the personal benefits that reaching your and your company’s goals will have for your life. Help others develop strong reasons, so they too choose to take strong actions.
Define your Parameters for Progress.
Stop Changing and Start Progressing.
Uncover others’ Parameters for Progress.
Focus on Being Progress – not being perfect.
Believe in yourself. Chug. Chug. Puff. Puff.
Progress is a step forward. Take today’s step. To change is human; to progress, divine.