“I Think I Can” vs. “Mom! Help!”

Katy Montgomery

Katy currently serves as the Global Director of the Career Development Centre at INSEAD where she manages career services professionals across three campuses: Abu Dhabi, Fontainebleau, and Singapore. Katy previously served as the Associate Dean for Student Development at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

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One of the most famous children’s books of all times is The Little Engine That Could. In the book a small engine accepts a request to pull a large train over a mountain. The engine is successful and throughout her struggle to pull the train along says the following motto:

“’I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…’ Up, up, up. The little engine climbed and climbed. At last she reached the top of the mountain.”

Watty Piper

The story is best known for teaching perseverance and optimism along with other characteristics.

The cartoonist Dave Coverly has another interpretation of the beloved children’s book. In his cartoon entitled “The Little Engine Whose Parents Did Everything For Him,” you don’t see the “I think I can” motto anywhere. Instead, the little engine says, “Push me!” “Mom!” “Well? I’m Waiting!” Coverly’s simple drawing says 1,000 words. It comments on helicopter parenting and children’s (even college and graduate school aged) lack of ability to do something completely on their own.

Parents are important in our lives. At 41, I still value my father’s advice and wish I could ask my mother all sorts of things about my professional and personal life. But, there is a point when you have to go at it alone. You have to make the decision and suffer or celebrate the consequences.

Is your motto, “I think I Can” or “Mom! Help!”?

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