Life Lessons from the Little Blue Engine
Growing up, one of our favorite books was The Little Engine That Could, the classic story of the small blue engine that, against all odds, helped deliver toys and food to the little boys and girls on the other side of the mountain using the power of positive self-talk – “I’m not very big. I have never been over the mountain. But I think I can. I think I can. I think I can….”
Despite being a children’s book, we continue to find the little engine’s story relevant, perhaps even more so since starting Chenmark. That’s because one of our core values is to Chase Better, an ethos that demands we constantly look out for new approaches, new business models, or new skills to acquire. We are aware of and excited by the many mountains we have yet to go over.
Of course, the pursuit of progress means change and change often meets resistance; the two go hand in hand. Some of this resistance can certainly be warranted. A project may not be analyzed from all angles; there may be logistical challenges involved in execution; timing may not be right, or there may be a permanence to the decision which necessitates more careful study. Clearly not all change is good and we must be mindful that we are’t endorsing change simply for the sake of it.
That said, often we find concerns regarding change are more a function of the story we tell ourselves than the reality on the ground. Many – we are certainly repeat offenders – approach new concepts with the belief that something simply cannot be done or that it just “won’t work here”. On this point, a recent Seth Godin post titled “Impossible” resonated:
“Our days are filled with the path to future skills, tasks and commitments that we believe we can’t possibly take on. We’ve seduced ourselves into believing that we’re not born with the talent, or that the obstacles to doing the work are just too great. In fact, it’s more likely that we’ve simply decided that the work isn’t worth the effort. Or the fear is too much to bear. But it’s hardly impossible. We just don’t care enough.”
While positive self-talk isn’t the only thing we need to accomplish new and difficult work, we believe it’s the first step. If the little blue engine had told herself, well, that simply can’t be done, those toys and food would still be stuck on the other side of the mountain. And, it’s not as if the positive self-talk made the task easy – the little blue engine still had to puff, puff, chug, chug, her way up the mountain. But puff she did, and then all of a sudden, the impossible was possible. And thank goodness she did, otherwise we’d have to find something else to read our kids.