The Timeless Lessons of “The Little Engine That Could”: Generosity, Determination, and Perseverance in Today’s World

little toy train

Do you remember the childhood story, “The Little Engine That Could?” It was about a little engine that was not built to haul freight or passengers but, knowing the job needed to be done, summoned generosity, determination and perseverance to haul a load too large for her over a big hill. The power of mind-over-matter. Note that the larger engines declined to do a job that they considered beneath them and didn’t want to help unless there was something in it for them. They selfishly thought they were too good for the task.

Talk about evergreen content! Even after 90 years, this story teaches the value of optimism and hard work, and is a metaphor for overcoming any challenge. Kindness comes from unlikely places. Look around corners, and avoid readily presuming without further knowledge or experience. (Don’t judge a book by its cover! 😂)

Fast forward to today: there is a real generosity out there, especially among entrepreneurs who pull together to help each other. This was not always the case, particularly early on when there were relatively few women in powerful positions, including in law firms. It’s markedly different now in stories recounted by women who grew up in these industries where, despite collegiality, they were really on their own. Now it’s about “all ships rise” and lending a hand for the greater good. Some of my older successful clients now embarking on second careers speak in amazement about the encouragement and support that women offer each other.

Little did we know at age four that the theme of our favorite book would be a beacon for how we think and behave decades later. Generosity, determination and perseverance can help all of us get from “I think I can” to “I thought I could.”