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  • DebD

The Freelancer That Could

February 17, 2020

Many of us of a certain age are most likely familiar with the childhood classic fable The Little Engine That Could. If you are not acquainted with this wonderful tale, I would advise you to check it out. It’s a story of triumph against the odds and resonates a profound message for adults even though it’s written for children. But that’s the beauty of these types of fables; they are endowed with untold enlightening metaphors. At least the ones from the past are. Today, not so much as everything has gone political.

Grown ups could learn a thing or two about tapping into that positive imagery of children that we tend to lose in our adult years.

Interestingly, this fable was first introduced nearly 90 years ago. Still, its underlying message to persevere is no less relevant.

Think about the days-of-old and what inventors like the Wright Brothers encountered trying to get a makeshift airplane off the ground. In fact, history has it that their first flight lasted only 59 seconds! Freelancers today need the chutzpah of the Wright Brothers and scientist/inventors like George Washington Carver who discovered over 300 uses for the peanut. If you were face-to-face with these historic figures their advice would be “don't give-up.”

A Brief Freelance History Lesson

Amazingly, many people think freelancing or the "gig economy" is some new 21st century phenomenon.. But it's has simply been revived.

Here’s a noteworthy freelance history lesson I picked up from the site FastCompany. Did you know that in 1860 roughly 80 percent of the U.S. workforce were freelancers? By 1900, the number had dwindled to 50 percent and by 1977 to 7 percent.

You can also find noteworthy facts about the history of the gig economy at

The Story of "The Little Engine That Could"

The Little Engine That Could stresses the importance of maintaining a vision of achievement and the power of the will. What’s more, the story brings to light the significance of making a "last-ditch-effort." Many individuals may not have succeeded without the final impulse to give it "one more try."

The story of the little engine is simple and charming. A train transporting toys and goodies for kids breaks down and several other trains refuse to help the conked-out train to deliver a load of trinkets. Luckily, a little blue engine comes to the rescue.

The little engine tugs and pulls to get the train and its cargo up the hill. It was tough, but four-words gave this little engine the will, courage, and fortitude to carry-on. Those words were “I think I can.” While pulling the train up the hill, repeating the affirmation instilled a strength and determination the little engine never knew it had.

While steadily repeating the mantra “I think I can, I think can, I think can” the little engine reached the top of the hill. When rolling down the other side of the hill the little engine chanted “I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could.”

Just think about what may have happened if the little engine chanted “I don’t think I can, I don’t think I can, I don’t think I can.” There's little to no uncertainty about what the outcome would have been.

The Message of the Little Engine That Could

As a freelancer rejections are par for the course. Unfortunately, many may give-up just when a lucrative offer was right around the corner.

Freelancing is a tough business. You, just like myself, have probably considered giving up many times. We all have to pay the bills...right? Why bother when you can just as well get a traditional 9-5 job? I tell you why you haven't given up, because just like the little engine, deep down inside you believe that “you can.” Somewhere in the back of your mind a small voice tells you “things will turn out just fine if I keep tugging along.”

It’s a matter of sacrificing now for the anticipated rewards later. I will tell you, if you give up, you’ll never reach your goal. You never know when that much anticipated opportunity will appear. Of course, there are times when in order to continue with a certain path adjustments are required. That's not giving up, it's being sensible.

Capturing the Chutzpah of The Little Engine That Could

There are a couple of steps that you can take to keep your freelance engine running, even when in doubt:

-The past is gone, we don’t know the future, and all we have is the present. What we do now will determine what happens in the future. A strong will and positive attitude - like that of the little engine - will reinforce your determination to keep-the-wheels-turning through the challenges of freelancing and everyday life.

-Affirmations are a comforting friend in times of doubt. When the little engine repeated “I think I can,” those words instilled a sense of strength that allowed the engine to continue chugging along. While passing over the hill, the little engine chanted “I thought I could...I thought I could...I thought I could.” The power of words are entrancing and have a direct influence on our actions.

Another philosophical twist on the little engine story titled "Be the Little Engine That Could" is also enlightening.

Whether you're a freelancer or not, getting through difficult times can be tough, but once you reach your goal, you appreciate those difficulties because they made you that much stronger.

Ergo, when encountering arduous times, just remember the tale of The Little Engine That Could. The fable will bring a smile to your face and keep your engine well-oiled for future challenges.

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