The Freelancer That Could

May 18, 2019


Many of us of a certain age are probably 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 even though it’s written for children. Yet, that’s the beauty and wisdom of children's fairy tales. Young minds are endowed with infinite imagination while grown ups could learn a thing or two about releasing the bane of doubt. The main lesson of this fable is to "never give up." Interestingly, this story was first introduced nearly 90 years ago. Still, its underlying message is no less relevant.


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 that final impulse to give it "one last try."


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


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 peanuts. If you were face-to-face with these historic figures they would say to you “yes you can.”


Hey, here’s a quick history lesson I picked up from the site FastCompany. Did you know that in 1860 roughly 80 percent of the US 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 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 had never used before. With the steady mantra “I think I can, I think can, I think can” the little engine reached the top of the hill. While rolling down the other side 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 end result might have been.                                



The Message of the Little Engine That Could


Let’s face it, freelancing is a tough business. You, just like myself, have probably considered giving up many times. Why bother when you can just as well get a traditional 9-5 job? I tell you why you don’t give 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 you 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, so all we have is the present. What we do “now” will determine what happens later. A positive mental 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 a person is 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.


So how can you endure during trying times? Just remember “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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