I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. The Little Engine that Could. It’s a book I read to my kids almost every night. And after the 145th time reading it, you start to gloss over the meaning in the story. You read the words and point at each and every picture, but the little blue train climbing up the mountain becomes less and less inspirational. Heck, you know how the story ends already.
I’ve always been amazed with those that start their own businesses. How do they do it? Is there a secret recipe? So I signed up for Startup Weekend Kansas City to find out. A mass collage of talent, grouping around startup ideas to team up on the pitch they are most passionate about, donating 54 hours of tireless energy to compete for the title of “best startup” through sugar overdoses, caffeine highs and sleep deprivation. Some people like to sleep in and mow yards on their weekends off. Not this weekend.
Just in the middle of Startup Weekend, that Little Engine that Could popped back into my head. To be more precise, it was at 4:21am Sunday morning. Turns out I should have been paying more attention to that little blue train during story time at home. Let me explain.
We had an inspired team of 10 people. A great idea called TutHopper. And a diverse team all passionate about the idea. But that wasn’t what struck me. Instead, it was an ability to keep chugging along. To keep moving. To focus even when we knew only minutes would pass before we’d have to wake up and start the day over again.
What was the secret? The minimally viable product or MVP – the shortest train track to deliver a compelling product in a weekend. I can’t count how many times our ideas evolved, people began losing focus or the direction began to change. But somehow, everyone always snapped back onto the primary track and kept moving forward.
The Little Engine that Could. I’ve always focused on the words. I think I can. And sometimes pure determination is enough. But the forgotten part of the story is not about attitude, desire or work ethic. It’s about the track. The straight and steady rail to the top of the mountain. We all lose focus on our minimally viable products at some point. We get stuck in endless meetings. We debate with each other over trivial points. Our inner ADHD selves chase after shiny pennies. And then something bad happens, our train tracks get all mixed up and we stop moving forward.
Thank you @kcsw and Startup Weekend Kansas City. You awarded our little blue train “best startup”. But you provided a much more important experience about starting up great things – success comes not from thinking you can, but by moving together on the shortest track that leads to the top.
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