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I Think I Can!

I thought I’d take a short break from writing my Leadership Traits series, and write a blog on one of my favorite books on one of my favorite subjects … personal development.  That book is “I Think I Can!” The Little Engine That Could.

In 1959, Vince Lombardi took over as head coach of a Pro Football team who’d gotten into the habit of losing games … the Green Bay Packers.  The previous year, the Packers won only two games in their 12 game season.  That very same year, 1959, Coach Lombardi turned the team around, winning 7, and losing 5 games.  In 1960, Lombardi led the Packers to the NFL Championship Game.  Lombardis Packers quickly became one of the Fairy Tail teams of Pro Football, and Lombardi himself is among the most quoted figures in American culture.

From what I understand, Vince Lombardi was a hard man for whom to work.  He’s the guy that said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”  Coach Lombardi was one of those ‘back – to – the – basics’ kind of guys.  His philosophy was to perfect the basic activities, the basic techniques needed for the game … perfect, not just make really good … perfect the basic principles of the game, and let everything else follow suit.  This is another of Vince Lombardis sayings, “Some people try to find things in this game that don’t exist but football is only two things – blocking and tackling.”

At the start of every Spring training, on day one, Coach Lombardi would get his team together for a class.  He would address rookies, and veterans alike.  He would stand in front of them, hold up a football like it was something they’d never seen before, and say, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”   He did this to a team that he led to win three Super Bowl Championships in a row.  Seeing as how the Green Bay Packers did win three Super Bowls in a row under Vince Lombardi, in addition to a list of other accomplishments, I speculate that staying focused on the basics is a pretty good idea.

The concept behind the book “I Think I Can” is Vince Lombardis Football for personal development.  It is so basic that the book was originally written to be read by children, or to have the book read to them.  The concept behind the book is so delineated that it’s right there in the title, the whole thing, the rest of the book is just commentary and exposition.  Henry Fords commentary on the subject was this, “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”

As a hobby, I collect fairy tails, folk tails, moralitales, nursery rhymes, and the like.  It seems that Watty Pipers Little Engine That Could was not the origin of the story, whose version was printed in 1930 by publishers Platt & Munk.  I found this version, printed circa 1906 under the title Thinking One Can, and appeared in a childrens Sunday school publication called Wellspring for Young People, author unknown:

Thinking One Can

A little railroad engine was employed about a station yard for such work as it was built for,  pulling a few cars on and off the switches.  One morning it was waiting for the next call when a long train of freight-cars asked a large engine in the roundhouse to take it over the hill “I can’t! That is too much a pull for me,” said the great engine built for hard work. Then the  train asked another engine, and another, only to hear excuses and be refused. At last in desperation the train asked the little switch engine to draw it up the grade and down on the other side. “I think I can,”  puffed the little locomotive, and put itself in front of the great heavy train. As is went on the little engine kept bravely puffing faster and faster, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.”  Then, as it neared the top of the grade that had so discouraged the larger engines, it went more slowly, but still kept saying, “I–think–I–can, I–think–I–can.” It reached the top by dint of brave effort and then went on down the grade, congratulating itself, “I thought I could, I thought I could.”

To think of hard things and say, “I can’t” is sure to mean “Nothing done.” To refuse to be daunted and insist on saying, “I think I can,” is to make sure of of being able to say triumphantly by and by, “I thought I could, I  thought I could.” (source http://tigger.uic.edu/~plotnick/littleng.htm)

I just thought I’d share this with you because you’re pretty cool coming here to read it.  Till next time, keep up the good work, and the positive thoughts.

  1. 2011/07/08 at 19:13

    This one brings back childhood memories. I remember the book. I don’t remember if I owned it or not. I think the illustrations were very good, but that’s a long time ago.

    • Gerald Henthorn
      2011/07/08 at 22:03

      Thanks for the comment, Dick. The verbiage and the illustrations were very simple. It’s funny how such wisdom and depth can be gleaned from simple things. Oh! and try using the Stumble Upon service for you own blogs.

  2. 2011/07/08 at 21:39


    • Gerald Henthorn
      2011/07/08 at 22:04

      Well, I have to fail a lot in order to get anything done. I might be bull headed.

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