You Can Get There From Here
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Howard County Hall of Legends Class of 2013

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Tavis Smiley
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You Can Get There From Here

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Portfolio Hardcover (September 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591844223
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591844228
  • Read an excerpt: Introduction and Chapter 1






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“Not just another business autobiography, this is a fascinating and uplifting look into one man’s leadership journey through poverty, hardship, racism, and betrayal to becoming one of the most inspirational business leaders of our time.”

—Jane Marvin, former SVP human resources, Ross Stores, Inc.


Bob Knowling is respected by many of America’s most admired executives, from Jack Welch to Michael Bloomberg. He has led large organizations through periods of dramatic transformation; management guru Noel Tichy calls him “a change agent’s change agent.” But even more impressive than Knowling’s résumé is the road he took to the top.

He grew up as one of thirteen children in Indiana, shuttling between the homes of his divorced parents, surrounded by crime, poverty, drug abuse, and racism. Later he lived and worked on his grandparents’ farm in Missouri. No one encouraged him to have big ambitions or even bothered to ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” But Knowling used his athletic and academic talents to earn a college scholarship and later an MBA. He became an expert at leading change—helping others see a better future, then work hard to make it real.

Knowling’s story proves that almost any disadvantage can be overcome with persistence and a passion for excellence. And it teaches us how to embrace change rather than cling to the past.

It is easy to lose sight of our potential in a time of economic turmoil, joblessness, and confusion. Knowling reminds us that none of those conditions is permanent and, more important, that none of them excuses us from making a concerted effort at whatever we try to do. As he puts it, “You turn around organizations, in most cases, by turning around individuals. . . . The real lesson of transformation is that it happens not in companies and not in offices, but in lives.”

Knowling believes that we do not define ourselves by our upbringing or the external conditions of our lives. It’s our response to those conditions that counts. It’s not where you came from; it’s what you do with your potential. You’ll be amazed to learn where Knowling came from and how he got from a really distant “there” to a very inspiring “here.”



“Bob Knowling’s contribution to public education in New York City is incalculable; his lessons on leadership and team building are profound; his story is inspiring.”

—Dick Parsons, chairman, Citigroup; former chairman and CEO, Time Warner

“Bob Knowling is a unique leader. He combines vision, a tireless work ethic, but most important, a compassion for people and business that compels him to always do the right thing. Bob’s book is a must-read, a story of one global leader who never looks down on anybody unless it’s to give them a hand to lift them up, a man who knows where he’s going but is humble enough to look back and give back to his colleagues, his extended family, and his community.”

—The Reverend Jesse Jackson, president and founder, Rainbow PUSH Coalition

“An inspirational book with the right blend of humility and honesty, as Bob Knowling’s journey takes us from humble beginnings to becoming CEO of several companies and the founding CEO of the NYC Leadership Academy for school principals. His life has been one of helping others build successful lives.”

—Noel Tichy , professor, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan; coauthor (with Warren Bennis) of Judgment

“You Can Get There from Here is an inspiring story that shows what hard work, determination, and integrity can accomplish in business and in life. We can all learn a thing or two from Bob Knowling.”

—Jacques Nasser , chairman, BHP Billiton

“Bob’s personal story of resilience, reinvention, and reflection is impressive. A colorful journey certainly worth reading.”

—Greg Brown, chairman and CEO, Motorola Solutions

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