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  • What about Bob?

    This website features the work of Bob McKinnon. He is a writer, designer, podcast host, children’s author and teacher. What unites all of his work is the desire to help others move up in life – just as others have helped him.

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  • America's Dreaming

     

    The cover has just been revealed for Bob’s next children’s book!  America’s Dreaming tells the story of a child whose simple dream is to feel welcomed and seen.

    Now Available for Preorder
  • Three Little Engines

    New York Times’ best seller Three Little Engines, a  modern retelling of the beloved classic Little Engine that Could, is now available in Spanish!

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  • NPR Special Program

    On the 50th anniversary of The Piano Man, Bob interviewed Billy Joel to discuss his contributions to our ideas of struggle and success in America.

    The Piano Man at 50
  • New Series

    Check out Moving Up in Communities, our new  series sharing stories of innovation and advancement in communities across the country. This series is supported by the journalism nonprofit Economic Hardship Reporting Project

    Fast Company Moving Up in Communiities
Three Little Engines

From Bob McKinnon comes this modern retelling of the beloved classic, Little Engine that Could, that asks young readers, “How does your journey differ from others?” It also serves as a thank you letter to all the parents, teachers, role models, and even strangers, who help to clear the storm or pull the tree trunk from their track.

Available in your favorite bookstores.

How did you end up here?

Have you ever asked yourself this question?  Or wondered why your life turned differently than you expected or from others you know.  On this site, you’ll find tools, writing and podcast episodes that explores this question and others.  Watch Bob’s TEDx talk to learn about his journey and the science behind how we see our lives and those of others.

Children’s Books

I think I can, I think I can, I think I… can’t?  What’s an Engine to do when even believing in yourself won’t get you to the top of the mountain? In this modern retelling of the beloved The Little Engine That Could, The Little Blue Engine and her friends attempt to reach the town on the other side of the mountain, but they quickly realize that not every engine is on the same track, and they all face different obstacles in their journey. In Three Little Engines author Bob McKinnon asks young readers: How does your journey differ from others?

While paying homage to the beloved classic, author Bob McKinnon acknowledges that although positive thinking and confidence are important, they are not always enough to help you succeed. In many instances, success requires a helping hand. This book is a gentle introduction to the idea of socioeconomic mobility and inequality in America. Heavily inspired by his own experiences, McKinnon teaches the youngest of readers how to recognize opportunity and inequality in the American Dream, and, most importantly, how to extend a helping hand to those on different tracks of life. At its heart, Three Little Engines is a thank you letter to all the parents, teachers, role models, and even strangers, who help to clear the storm or pull the tree trunk from your track.

Three Little Engines is now a New York Times best seller!  Order your copy today from your favorite online bookseller or your local bookstore:

 

What is Your American Dream Score

What is Your American Dream Score?

Spend five minutes taking this quiz, and you’ll find out what factors were working in your favor and what you had to overcome to get where you are today. At the end, you’ll receive an overall score and a personalized summary of the results (and probably a big dose of pride and gratitude).

Newsletter

College

This time of the year represents the anxiety ridden period when “would be” college students anxiously await their college acceptance letters. Understandably this can be a particularly stressful time for students and parents alike.

But should it be?

The reality is that the overwhelming majority of students who apply to college will get accepted. In fact the average college acceptance rate is 70%. Over half of U.S. colleges have acceptance rates that are over 67%. Most of these are excellent colleges.

Yes there are the “ultra-competitive” acceptance rates for some private colleges that are below 20%, but these only represent 4% of all colleges.

Furthermore, where you go doesn’t really have much of a correlation of how you’ll do in life. In fact, Frank Bruni’s book, Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to College Admissions, shares compelling research that shows where you go has little correlation to lifetime income or other metrics of success.

Rather than being concerned with where we go to college, perhaps greater emphasis should be placed on how to make sure that college fulfills its promise as an engine of social mobility and a pathway to a better life.

Around 40% of students who enroll in college drop out. Often saddled with significant debt and no degree to show for it. Beyond academic challenges are additional financial or health hardships that often contribute to the difficult decision to quit.

To this end, I was thrilled to take part in the launch of the Social Mobility Lab at City College last week. It is an idea that I have been working on for several years and am so grateful to have the opportunity to launch it within the Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership.

The purpose of the Lab is to do research and learn what contributes to success in college and beyond and then translate that learning into actionable programs that can improve our students’ chances of a good life. The only reason to study social mobility is to make it a reality for more people.

One example coming out of previous research at City College, showed that when students were simply aware of the financial benefit of a college degree they were more likely to graduate. The implementation of this learning is simple. Take every opportunity to remind them that their education and hard work is worth it. This is particularly critical as people on both the left and the right question the value of higher education.

In our launch event, Dean Andy Rich opened by interviewing author Paul Tough who shared his perspective on the role of higher education during these contentious times. I then moderated a panel (starting at :27 on this video) with three incredible individuals who have “lived the dream.” Their vulnerability and courage in sharing the ups and downs of their climb was so moving and insightful.

We all want our children to have a better life than we had. But I’m not sure how stressing over where they go to college is particularly helpful to that end. Instead, we can assure them that they will find a college that’s right for them and continuously reinforce what college is about. It is not the name on their diploma or the bumper sticker on our car but a wonderful journey, marked by growth, learning and relationships that can last a lifetime. We should also seek out and remove the roadblocks and detours on that journey so that more of our children can finish and flourish – making the most of an experience that can set them up for a more secure and wonderful life.


See all posts from Moving Up Mondays blog

Monday Morning Notes

Delivered to your mailbox each Monday morning, these short notes offer an opportunity each week to reflect on who and what contributes to where we end up in life. Readers tell us it’s a great way to start their week on a positive note. See the latest note below:

College

This time of the year represents the anxiety ridden period when “would be” college students anxiously await their college acceptance letters. Understandably this can be a particularly stressful time for students and parents alike. But should it be? The reality is that the overwhelming majority of students who apply to college will get accepted. In fact …

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Attribution with Bob McKinnon

Attribution is a podcast, where people from all walks of life, reflect on who and what has contributed to where they ended up. Our hope is after each episode, you feel a little more inspired, grateful, or supported, then when you first hit play. Check out the latest episode below:

Episode 28: Family w/ Brittany Means

Brittany Means is author of the critically acclaimed memoir, “Hell if We Don’t Change Our Ways”. Reviews have called it “gut-wrenching and triumphant.” “Readable and rigorous.”  “Brutal and beautiful.’  At its heart, it is a book about family. as Means recounts her complex relationships with her mother, father, brother, and grandparents and eventual guardians. What does it mean when those closest to us hurt us? Is understanding or forgiveness even possible?  How do children make it through it all to find support and love?  This was a particularly moving discussion.  I hope you find it of value. 

Links to learn more about: 

Brittany Means

Hell if We Don’t Change Our Ways