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You can if you believe you can

As a small boy, I sometimes would play a game where I would run around in a circle chanting “I think I can! I think I can!” I know this probably sounds a little strange, but as a child it was fun.

I loved the book “The Little Engine That Could.” It’s a children’s story about being able to accomplish whatever you believe you can. It illustrates how optimism and hard work makes a big difference when facing any struggle. This book has been, and continues to be, a great teaching tool enjoyed by multitudes of children and adults -- including me.

Whenever I became scared, worried or thought there was something I might not be able to accomplish, I would go to my bedroom, grab my small, inexpensive cowboy hat, throw it on my head and quickly run to the living room where I could be alone. There, in our living room, I would experience something we now refer to as meditation. If there were any doubts in my mind, I put them to rest right then and there.

Our living room was pretty small. I knew I wasn’t supposed to run in that room, but I felt like it was safe because my family rarely used it. My self-doubt cleansing process began by me slowly jogging in place and ended with me revving myself up into a complete frenzy.

“I think I can! I think I can!” I chanted as I pretended to be that train going up a steep hill. I don’t know exactly why I felt like I had to be a cowboy to do it, but the hat seemed to give me extra strength. Much the same way spinach did for Popeye.

My motivational sessions usually left me dizzy, out of breath and falling to the floor trying to make sure I was near our sofa when it happened. That sofa and I certainly have a history. When I close my eyes, I can see it now. It was covered with a form of thick plastic material stamped with a texture to resemble leather from a distance. There was no mistaking it was faux upon closer inspection.

We called it “pleather.” It came in a variety of colors, but ours was burnt orange. On the color wheel, it was somewhere between pumpkin and Georgia clay. At the time, it was the nicest sofa we had. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have been in the living room.

I would lie on the sofa, take deep breaths to slow my breathing and stare at the ceiling for what seemed like an eternity. Just like most children, I had an incredible imagination. The ceiling wasn’t just a ceiling. It was whatever I needed it to be to help me at that moment.

I can’t explain it, but somehow I felt like I could conquer the world by the time I had recovered and jumped off the sofa.

That cowboy hat has long been gone -- as has the burnt orange pleather sofa -- but I still vividly remember those four powerful words: “I think I can!” During the years, I’ve relied on them for courage on many occasions when an obstacle was in front of me that I didn’t think I could conquer. Even today, every morning (without running around in a circle), I say them to myself. They comfort me and help me to get my day started on the right foot.

During the last month or so, I’ve had to enlist the help of those four words more than ever because of a new television series. I won’t even give the show the satisfaction of me writing its name or the channel it appears on, but it involves a very dysfunctional family whose daily lives are captured on film and aired for everyone to see.

Now that I think about it, that actually describes many of the shows currently on television. The fact that people would even film this type of show is, in my opinion, unprofessional. The fact that people can’t wait to watch it each week ... well to me, that’s very sad.

You’re probably wondering why this particular show has caused me to say to myself over and over again, “I think I can!” It’s because I’ve tried and tried for years and years to develop and produce a television show that allowed me to share the talents I was given, inspire people and leave them uplifted long after the ending credits had rolled.

During this process, I’ve run up against just about every obstacle one can imagine. But because of those four little words -- “I think I can!” -- I’ve never given up on my dream. To be honest, I’ve been very close to throwing in the towel on more than one occasion, but deep inside I feel like one day I will find a way to spread knowledge, laughter and joy to a larger audience without exploiting myself or anyone else in the process.

I read an article the other day that said to follow our dreams because they know the way. Those words really spoke to me. That’s exactly what I intend to do. I’m charging up that steep hill just like the train did in the book I read so long ago.

I’m going to stay motivated by using everything I have in me as fuel. Somehow, some way, some day I’m going to reach my goal because of those four little words.

We all need to learn a lesson from “The Little Engine That Could.” No matter what our dreams or struggles may be, no matter how hard the journey is, just remember we must never give up. That little train from the children’s book never did, and neither did that little boy who still lives inside of me.

More with Mark

The 10th annual New York City holiday trip with Mark and Debra Ballard will be Nov. 29-Dec. 3. Join the Ballards in the Big Apple at the most amazing time of year. Broadway shows, tours, shopping and much more are included. For details, e-mailmarkballard@cox.net or call 757-6877 and leave your mailing address to receive the information by U.S. Postal Service.

Check out Mark’s website, www.markballard.com, for current projects, recipes and lots of other fun stuff, including Mark’s T-shirts, prints, cards and his porcelain plates.

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Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; fax them to (478) 474-4930; call (478) 757-6877; e-mail to markballard@cox.net; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.

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