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The following article
was written by Coleman Patterson and
appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.
Taking a cue from
the little engine that could is crucial in child development, April 27, 2008, 2D.
I think I
can. I think I can! Those were the words of the undersized train
engine as she pulled the train of dolls and toys up the hill in the popular childrens
book, The Little Engine That Could, by Watty
Piper. Pipers book is an updated
version of a story that originated in the early twentieth century. It teaches children about optimism and the power
of positive thinking and the sense of accomplishment that comes from taking on and
succeeding at big goals.
Teaching people at
early ages that success comes from hard work, persistence, and personal sacrifice can have
important influences on society in years to come. According
to Professor Harold Jones, the author of Personal
Character and National Destiny, stories like The
Little Engine That Could help develop personal values that affect how people work and
their goals and aspirations. Children who
learn that hard work and accomplishment are important and desirable personal
characteristics begin to see events in life as opportunities to accomplish exceptional
Jones argued that
the stories we teach to our children help set the course of the nation in years to come. Children who value exceptional achievement turn
into adults who value exceptional achievement. When
high-achievement people control the organizations and institutions of society, they
influence how a society functions and the things that it values and aspires to accomplish. A nation full of high-achievers functions
differently than one without people programmed for exceptional performance. Jones suggested that the stories, lessons, and
cultural examples that we hold up to our children early in their lives helps instill in
them a sense of achievement, success, and work ethic.
Jones based much of
his work on concepts of Learned Needs Theory by David McClelland. Needs explain why people want to do the things
they do and have been used to describe human motivationMaslows hierarchy is
probably the most well known of these theories. Learned
needs are acquired early in life through family experiences. Once acquired, they serve to guide the behaviors
of individuals throughout their lives. The
three learned needs identified by McClelland are achievement, power, and affiliation. A person with a high need for achievement will
view and seek out events in life as opportunities to accomplish unusual and exceptional
things. A person with a high need for power
will search for opportunities to be in control and one with a high need for affiliation
will look for ways to include and be included by others in events.
workplace is made up of people who grew up at different times and were exposed to
different stories as they were raised. For
some, hard work and achievement is programmed into them.
For others, strong needs for power or affiliation drive their behavior. Others grew up with negative and painful stories. Managers should understand the needs and
motivations of their workers and seek ways to develop cultures of exceptional performance
with people of different backgrounds and types of personal motivation.
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