Rediscovering “The Little Engine That Could”: Lessons for Grown-Ups

Jan 1, 2024 | Life Balance

We all have fond memories of children’s books that shaped our understanding of the world when we were young. One such book that made a significant impact on me as a boy was “The Little Engine That Could.” Recently, I revisited this beloved story, and not surprisingly, it was an emotionally enriching experience. But more importantly, it reminded me of several life lessons that are just as applicable in adulthood as they were in childhood.

The Flood of Childhood Memories

When my wife brought me a copy of the book, a wave of positive emotions from my childhood came rushing back. I recalled how my mother would recite the iconic “I think I can, I think I can” line, each time raising her voice in a crescendo, instilling in me a momentary belief that I could achieve anything.

The Reality Check of Adulthood

As children, we readily embrace the idea that we can accomplish anything if we simply believe in ourselves. However, adulthood introduces us to the harsher realities: sometimes we don’t have the tools or skills required, and often the obstacles are truly formidable. But reading this book as an adult reminded me of valuable truths and offered new perspectives that I had overlooked as a child.

The Importance of Mission and Purpose

One of the most enduring lessons from the book is the importance of having a mission or purpose to propel us forward. The train in the story had a clear mission: to deliver toys, games, and food to children on the other side of the mountain. Understanding why they were undertaking this mission was crucial for overcoming the challenges they faced, including the breakdown of the original engine.

Collaboration Overcomes Obstacles

When their engine failed, the toys didn’t just give up; they sought help. This teaches us a crucial lesson about the value of teamwork and collaboration. Sometimes, no matter how strong your belief or how noble your mission, you will face challenges that you can’t overcome alone. Teams that work well together can achieve exponentially more than any single individual could.

Generosity: The Forgotten Value

The story also teaches us about generosity—or the lack of it—in the engines that refused to help. They were too consumed with their own tasks and too proud to help with what they deemed to be an insignificant mission. Over the years, I have found that the most successful and fulfilled people are often the most generous. Whether it’s a religious belief or simply a life principle, the notion that we get what we give is universally powerful.

The Triumph of Courage and Commitment

Finally, we come to the Little Blue Engine, the hero of our story. Despite her size and inexperience, she decided to undertake the difficult task of crossing the mountain. Her courage and commitment to the mission not only led to her success but also filled her with immeasurable joy and pride. She proved to herself and others that she was indeed capable of great things.

A Challenge to You: Stop Clowning Around

If you find yourself relating to these lessons, here’s my challenge to you: Take a risk. Go after something new. You’ll likely discover joy, newfound abilities, and a sense of fulfillment on the other side. Just like the Little Blue Engine, sometimes all it takes to climb that mountain is a deep belief in ourselves and the courage to press forward, one small inch at a time.