Who is on Your Dream Team?
Take the time to name those people who helped you get to where you are today. To help, we’ll give you a few quick prompts – about the friends, influences, places, work colleagues and other sources of inspiration that made your life possible.,
At the end, you’ll get a wonderful visualization of all the people who contributed to who you are today AND the opportunity to share it with them as a way of saying thanks.
This will take around ten minutes but don’t worry if you forget someone or need more time, you can always save where you are and update it later. Also, this is your dream team, not ours, so this data won’t be shared by anyone for any reason, period. If you’d prefer to do this with pencil and paper, just download the prompts and blank form here.
I lay in bed trying to fall asleep, my mind struggling to process the hour of bad news I had just watched. At a loss, I wondered what would happen if I just forced myself to smile. I imagine if anyone had seen me, it would have looked quite ridiculous, as I stared at the ceiling trying to hold a forced smile as long as I could.
The first five seconds were legitimately challenging, perhaps evidence that these muscles had atrophied a bit during these last several months. Eventually, as I moved past fifteen, twenty and then thirty seconds, I felt invigorated and happy. As good an example of “fake it until you make it” as I’ve experienced.
This short silly exercise buoyed my spirits as I began to think of all the things, past, present and future that I still have to smile about.
There are many causes for worry and concern. We all have more burdens to bear these days. Acknowledging that, for others, this extra weight, is on top of challenges that make my own insignificant in comparison.
I think the idea of smiling entered my consciousness through a song I’ve heard repeatedly over the last week — Mother’s Smile by Keelan Donovan. This beautifully simple and poignant song opens with the following lyrics:
My mother’s smile
Looks the same as it did when I was a child
It’ll stay right here with me for a while
It speaks to the enduring warmth of a smile given, remembered and missed.
It takes between 10-12 muscles to smile, depending on how wide you make it. Smiling requires more muscle activity and strength than frowning. Which if you think about it sounds about right.
The good news is that in normal times, we smile more. Meaning that those muscles grow stronger over time.
It is also worth noting that smiling is contagious. When you smile at someone, it activates the reward center in their brain, causing them in turn to smile as well.
Today, our smiles are hidden both by how we feel and the masks we need to wear. But they are still there if we look closely enough.
Recently, as I dropped my youngest child off at her socially distanced farm camp, I could see that all twelve of her facial muscles were working hard to create a smile that extended well beyond the contours of her mask. The strength of this smile created one of equal magnitude that I returned. The glow of which I carried with me as I drove away and now write this post.
Exercise your smile today. In private, see how long you can hold one and how that makes you feel. Then in public, flash one to someone else, and imagine how good that makes them feel too.
Moving Up is an initiative based on the writing of Bob McKinnon. Motivated to understand his own journey out of poverty and inspired by his career working with nonprofits and foundations, Bob began exploring the science behind why some people make it and others don’t – and how we make sense of our life outcome either way.
His journey was captured in his recent TEDx talk: How Did I End Up Here and in the interactive book, Moving Up: The Truth About Getting Ahead in America that takes you through the various factors the impact where we end up in life. It features compelling personal narratives, relevant social science, and documented mobility research and best practices
Bob is the author of the Moving Up Mondays blog that reaches thousands of readers each week and the book Actions Speak Loudest: Keeping Our Promise for A Better World. A contributor to Fast Company, Thrive Global, Medium and the Huffington Post, he is also an adjunct professor at the Parsons School of Design. Among his courses taught is Redesigning the American Dream.
In the spirit of Moving Up, this is Bob’s alternative bio: “Bob McKinnon is the son of Daytona Roth, a former bartender who raised three children largely by herself in various row houses in Chelsea, Massachusetts and trailers in rural Pennsylvania. He is a proud former recipient of food stamps, welfare, Medicaid, Pell grants, student loans and numerous other government benefits. His educational and professional success would not be possible without the kindness and efforts of countless teachers, mentors, social workers, friends, family, non-profit workers, and individuals – many of whom will never know their impact on his life.
Through his writing and work, he hopes to pay tribute and thanks to all those who have helped him and others move up in life.
The Moving Up Media Lab
To advance this work, Bob founded the Moving Up Media Lab, a non-profit whose mission is to inspire Americans to reflect on who and what has contributed to where they end up in life.
Each year the Lab focuses on developing 1-2 projects that are designed to help people reflect on their own journeys and gain a deeper appreciation for what has helped or hindered their efforts along the way. Research shows that by providing people with tools to reflect on their own life journey, they can become both more supportive and helpful towards others.
The Invisible Dream: A year-long research project done in conjunction with Public Agenda, asking Americans to share their attitudes about what the American Dream is and what it takes to achieve it. Results and an infographic series were launched at a National Press Club event which featured Fox News political analyst Juan Williams, Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution, Robert Samuelson of The Washington Post and Hedrick Smith, author of Who Stole the American Dream?
Your American Dream Score: An interactive calculator that allows people to see what factors have helped or hindered their own efforts to move up in life. Over 600,0000 people have already found their score to date and it is now the basis for curriculum created by PBS Learning and diversity training programs. It was recognized by Fast Company as a finalist for its World Changing Ideas issue.
My Dream Team: A simple online tool for people to name and thank the people, places and organizations that provided the social capital to help them get to where they are today. In the end, each person receives a beautiful, shareable visualization of their Dream Team comprised of all the people, places and groups that made their journey possible
Thank You:Each piece of content we create is the result of a highly collaborative effort. Without their involvement none of this work would be possible.
The foundation is the research relationships with scholars, universities and organizations that study the issues and attitudes surrounding mobility. They include:
- Brookings Institution, Century Foundation, Cornell University, Columbia University, Harvard University, The New School University, Public Agenda, Northwestern University, Penn State University, Stanford University, University of California-Irvine
Our inspiration is drawn from our relationships with those working to help lift themselves or others move up in life, including organizations such as:
- Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Chasing the Dream, Children’s Health Fund, Family Independence Initiative, Foundation for the Carolinas,The Ford Foundation, KIPP, LIFT Communities, Opportunity Insights, Opportunity Nation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Yonkers Partners in Education
Media organizations provide the platforms necessary for sharing our work.
- PBS, Facebook, Fast Company, New York Times, NPR, The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, and Yahoo among others outlets have featured our work.
Each project is funded through a combination of individual donations and grants from:
- The Ford Foundation, The Tides Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Carolina, The Foundation for the Carolinas and Photowings
Throughout the development of this work, we have benefited greatly from the guidance and wisdom of many individuals whose scholarship and commitment to helping others move up is unparalleled. They include:
- Raj Chetty, Brian Collier, Seth Godin, Paul Piff, Shai Davidai, Fiona Guthrie, Crysta Jentile, Kellie-Castruita-Specter, Geraldine Moriba, Eugenia Harvey, Will Platt-Higgins, Vicki Zubovic, and Anne Adriance among many others.
Finally, the digital design and development of our tools and this site is made possible by our fantastic partners at Sol Design – led by Adam Rosenkoetter.