On Success Panelists
POSTED AT 10:09 PM ET, 12/21/2010

Repackage your act


Q: Sure, Bob Dylan is "the age's iconic singer-songwriter and rock's poet laureate.'' All the same, the Wall Street Journal suggests, he should hang up his hat. The Journal caught Dylan, 69, at a bare ballroom in an Atlantic City casino, his voice a "laryngitic croak'' as people walked out to play the slots. Are there age limits on success? Do you go out at the top of your talents, or do you soldier on, doing what you love?


In the behavioral field, we frequently ask the following question: How often are you going to keep banging your head against the same wall in the hope of getting a different outcome? At one point, Dylan's "act" reaped success and rewards. Over the past 10 years, that act has flopped. Time to change the act. Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley died before having to face that dilemma.

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BY Virginia Bianco-Mathis

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POSTED AT 12:00 AM ET, 12/20/2010

Chasing the dream


Q: Sure, Bob Dylan is "the age's iconic singer-songwriter and rock's poet laureate.'' All the same, the Wall Street Journal suggests, he should hang up his hat. The Journal caught Dylan, 69, at a bare ballroom in an Atlantic City casino, his voice a "laryngitic croak'' as people walked out to play the slots. Are there age limits on success? Do you go out at the top of your talents, or do you soldier on, doing what you love?

Convention in our society pushes people to retire, often before they are ready to retire. In many professions, age may play a factor in one's ability to continue the work at the level necessary for continued success. In an organization, for example, it may often make sense for a long-time leader to move on in order for the organization to continue moving forward. But that perspective does not universally apply.

Bob Dylan's continued performing despite, in this instance, the absence of an audience or obvious following might reflect that, rather than being out of touch with the decline in his voice or talents, he continues to pursue the dream he has pursued all his life -- to be a singer-song writer. It's not money or fame that drives him; it's what inspires him as a person. His continued stage presence may also reflect what made Dylan an icon in the first place, not his voice, but his message, which some might say is ageless.

So, in many ways, this question comes down to how you define success. In the case of Bob Dylan, no one can argue that he has not achieved success -- as one of the most influential singer-song writers and most recognizable voices of the last century. No matter what comes later, no one can take away that success from him.

Our society puts a high premium on youth and in many ways denigrates age. We don't like to think about our idols aging and perhaps not performing at their prime. If the public does not enjoy the performances or the music, they won't buy the records or attend the concerts -- that's their choice. But most people will remember Bob Dylan for the huge talent that he was and always will be, no matter how he rides off into the sunset.

Who are we to tell Mr. Dylan it's time to stop singing?

BY Nicola Goren

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POSTED AT 12:00 AM ET, 12/20/2010

The grace of age

Q: Sure, Bob Dylan is "the age's iconic singer-songwriter and rock's poet laureate.'' All the same, the Wall Street Journal suggests, he should hang up his hat. The Journal caught Dylan, 69, at a bare ballroom in an Atlantic City casino, his voice a "laryngitic croak'' as people walked out to play the slots. Are there age limits on success? Do you go out at the top of your talents, or do you soldier on, doing what you love?


There are certain journeys we learn alone; growing older gracefully is one of them. Thankfully, most do not forge this path under the watchful eye of the Wall Street Journal. Bob Dylan, by being the legend that he is, is now under the microscope as he continues to share his gifts.

In the past few years, I've watched parents, mentors, and friends approach retirement, and there are lessons that emerge. The people who have navigated growing older most gracefully share two common characteristics.

First, they have a strong sense of self-awareness and the ability to see possibilities as they progress through life. Many have had successful careers that they are extending into new areas. A computer scientist now does web development for non-profits. A teacher continues service through causes like Habitat for Humanity and the Ronald McDonald House. Their work today builds on the experiences of the past, but also opens new doors and relationships that bring both challenge and joy.

Second, they are able to regularly recalibrate their skills and interests with the needs of the world around them. Just as buggy whips became obsolete, we all have skills and approaches that grow less relevant to our trade as collective knowledge grows. Successful people are self-critical: Are our gifts still valued, or do we now appear out of touch to those that once hung on our every word? Are we pushing the envelope, or are we still selling the 32-cent stamp? Growing older and staying connected asks us to be wise to the difference.

I was raised with the sound of my parents playing their guitars and singing Bob Dylan songs. It is music that has touched generations, and is woven into the tapestry of time. His is a legacy to admire, not cut short.

We must each decide in our own place and in our own time when it is time to take that final bow. Let's give Bob Dylan the same grace.

BY Jennifer Tucker

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POSTED AT 12:00 AM ET, 12/20/2010

Age is what you make it


Q: Sure, Bob Dylan is "the age's iconic singer-songwriter and rock's poet laureate.'' All the same, the Wall Street Journal suggests, he should hang up his hat. The Journal caught Dylan, 69, at a bare ballroom in an Atlantic City casino, his voice a "laryngitic croak'' as people walked out to play the slots. Are there age limits on success? Do you go out at the top of your talents, or do you soldier on, doing what you love?


Not all singers can "keep their pipes" at Dylan's age. If the Wall Street Journal report is accurate, my suggestion is that he consider developing a passion for song writing or weight lifting. He was quite a cigarette smoker -- an unwise habit for anyone relying on their singing voice to earn a living.

Not all singers, dancers and performers are destined for a lengthy career. While noting this, I am reminded that in Las Vegas and Branson, Missouri, there are acts in a genre casually known as "people you thought were dead." Groups like the Platters and the Coasters somehow make it up on stage and manage to keep audiences entertained. Paul Revere and the Raiders is another such act.

I conversed extensively with Paul Revere (his real name) in 2002. He noted that he was enjoying getting Social Security. The performers of my ancient '60s Era are well into the 60s themselves -- and many are approaching 70. Paul Revere is still performing with enthusiasm, by the way. Keep up with Paul or fly to Branson to see his Christmas Show at www.paulrevereraiders.com.

There are some people at peak talent in their 70s and beyond. The ones I have known include judges, writers, attorneys and architects. One, architect James Polshek, found an amazing concept for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Education Center, allowing an attractive landscaped solution near the Lincoln Memorial.

The actual question here is whether it is wise to soldier on or to head to greener pastures at the peak of one's performance. There are surely some professional boxers who would have been wise to stay out of the ring after their peak.

The exception was George Foreman, who was clever enough to get great mileage out of his one too many fights. At age 48, he finally stepped out of the boxing ring. He is now an ordained Baptist minister and it seems like everyone with a pulse has at least one George Foreman Grill.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to when one moves on. I do recall the wisdom of Napleon Bonaparte, who noted that the secret of good government is to assure that men "do not grow old in their jobs." He had many wise and thoughtful quotes when he was not busy attempting to conquer Europe and living like a tyrant. He did not exactly follow his own advice. He died in exile.

I have always loved these words to "Like a Rolling Stone": "Once upon a time you dressed so fine. You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you ?"

Bob Dylan was born Robert Allen Zimmerman in Minnesota. Bob (or Robert) turns 70 years old on May 24, 2011. His music and poetry have been quite influential.

Speaking of Rolling Stones, comedian Dave Barry has noted after attending a Rolling Stones Concert that "Keith Richards looks like a giant iguana that has learned to walk erect and play guitar." Keith Richards is still soldiering on!

BY Jan Scruggs

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POSTED AT 12:00 AM ET, 12/20/2010

The real deal


Q: Sure, Bob Dylan is "the age's iconic singer-songwriter and rock's poet laureate.'' All the same, the Wall Street Journal suggests, he should hang up his hat. The Journal caught Dylan, 69, at a bare ballroom in an Atlantic City casino, his voice a "laryngitic croak'' as people walked out to play the slots. Are there age limits on success? Do you go out at the top of your talents, or do you soldier on, doing what you love?


If your primary aim is to establish a legacy, then, sure, leave while at the top of your game. But that is a more selfish motive than a true artist pursues. The expression and application of creative skill and imagination is the ongoing destination of every creator worth his or her salt. That is what Dylan continues to do.

In a society that values only the young and upcoming, he is a consternation. Yet he persists, and in public. Dylan is showing us what it means to grow old, and his constant reworking of classics to our dismay is irrelevant. Instead he continues to stir the pot, to see what new forms emerge. He has always tossed the need for perfection aside and instead gone after the life force as it emerges inside his being. What else can an artist do? And who are we to cast judgment?

As long as he can wrangle a stage, he is entitled. And all the pundits who spin their thread on his dime have a choice. They can spit and castigate or they can take note of an aged poet and his mysterious process. Of course Dylan will not conform to their demands. He set his course as an independent force long ago, and he stays on track. If disruption is the result, it takes place in a wider context than he can control. So he sticks to his guns and plays with his music and lyrics while the critics do their dance. Everyone has to serve somebody.

This is a priceless time for Dylan fans. Other greats like Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, all left our world before they had a chance to hit maturity in their chosen form. Here we have a unique human being, scarred and disfigured by life's trials -- as we all are when lucky enough to reach our 70s with grit and love still intact.

BY Seth Kahan

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POSTED AT 12:00 AM ET, 12/20/2010

His real fans understand


Q: Sure, Bob Dylan is "the age's iconic singer-songwriter and rock's poet laureate.'' All the same, the Wall Street Journal suggests, he should hang up his hat. The Journal caught Dylan, 69, at a bare ballroom in an Atlantic City casino, his voice a "laryngitic croak'' as people walked out to play the slots. Are there age limits on success? Do you go out at the top of your talents, or do you soldier on, doing what you love?


A few years ago, country vocalist Trisha Yearwood sang a song titled "The Song Remembers When." This song was about the essence of an artist-fan relationship. The artist and the songs will forever return to a specific time and circumstance.

This artist-fan relationship is very complex. In time, the artist and the fans will go through changes. The fan will not forget that, even though the artist may not look or sound the same.

The sound, the songs and the lyrics are forever imprinted on the soul of the fan. Some artists have the ability and talent to reinvent themselves over time and are able to entertain and gain new generations of fans (Kenny Rogers and Tony Bennett are two artists that come to mind), while others will represent one era in the life of the fan.

Bob Dylan was a very powerful artist in his prime and was the "spokesman" for millions of baby boomers struggling with identity and a war. He was never known for his vocal skills, but it was his instrument, along with the harmonica, through which he expressed and delivered some of the most powerful mind-changing lyrics ever written.

His current act is no longer at the forefront of any social movement and his vocal sound may have an impact on his gaining new fans. I suspect that this "croaking" singing style will do little to discourage his true fans, who truly remember him as an icon of their past . Most of them expect him to sound this way.

As to how long should he continue to perform? As long as he is willing to continue to write and perform and his fans who remember are willing to pay to see and hear him do another rendition of "Like a Rolling Stone," "Positively 4th Street," or "The Times They are a-Changin.'"

BY Cleve Francis

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POSTED AT 12:00 AM ET, 12/20/2010

Age irrelevance


Q: Sure, Bob Dylan is "the age's iconic singer-songwriter and rock's poet laureate.'' All the same, the Wall Street Journal suggests, he should hang up his hat. The Journal caught Dylan, 69, at a bare ballroom in an Atlantic City casino, his voice a "laryngitic croak'' as people walked out to play the slots. Are there age limits on success? Do you go out at the top of your talents, or do you soldier on, doing what you love?


When Mike Shanahan expressed hopes of finding "a young Donovan McNabb" in the college draft, in the very same press conference where he tried to explain the benching of the real Donovan McNabb, he drove a stake through the heart of every aging athlete trying to eke out a few more years. Are you listening, Brett Favre?

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BY Patricia McGuire

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POSTED AT 12:00 AM ET, 12/20/2010

Not Dark Yet


Q: Sure, Bob Dylan is "the age's iconic singer-songwriter and rock's poet laureate.'' All the same, the Wall Street Journal suggests, he should hang up his hat. The Journal caught Dylan, 69, at a bare ballroom in an Atlantic City casino, his voice a "laryngitic croak'' as people walked out to play the slots. Are there age limits on success? Do you go out at the top of your talents, or do you soldier on, doing what you love?

So the Wall Street Journal has decided that Bob Dylan, at 69, should wrap it up and exit the stage, provoking us to wonder whether there is an age limit on success. So a critic wrote an unflattering review about Dylan's voice and show -- I can't count how many times that has happened over the last 50 years.

Remember that people were disapproving and walking out on a fresh-faced Dylan in the 1960 when this 20-something singer/songwriter/poet defied all convention by composing his own songs, delivering them in totally new-sounding everyman voice and plugging in his electric guitar to the sometimes wild boos and consternation of crowds -- who kept paying to see show after show.

If this were a matter of a 69-year-old Bob Dylan who kept making the rounds and cashing in by croaking out his 1960s hits, this call for Dylan's retirement would be understandable. But Dylan is not this and as such, he gives us not only an unequalled body of work in which to revel, but a model to emulate as we grow older in our careers.

For nearly 50 years Bob Dylan has been making music. Before the Stones and the Beatles, 10 years before Springsteen and 20 years before U2 and REM, there was Bob Dylan, not just making music but changing the way we all thought about music and its relationship to our lives.

The 1960s Dylan became a meteoric success, an icon. Dylan then quickly withdrew, regrouped and proceeded to produce some of the most thoughtful and relevant music through the 1970s, both in the studio and on the road. Around 1980, Dylan produced a series of gospel records that confounded secular fans and critics alike. But looking back, the music was tight and attractive, and the records stand up quite well. The 1980s and early 1990s saw Dylan produce many excellent pieces of work, though his output was sporadic and many critics and fans assumed the bud was off the rose.

Dylan, however, at age 57, came out with arguably the most remarkable statement of the relinquishment and diminishment demanded by age in the album Time Out of Mind and the stand-out song on that album: "Not Dark Yet." This album, a masterpiece that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with any he has ever done, went on to win multiple Grammies, including Album of the Year.

A couple years later, Dylan wrote a "Things Have Changed," which won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. It was at this time -- at the age of 60 -- that Dylan started producing his own albums. His last two self-produced albums are wonderful; both hit number 1 on the sales charts and won multiple awards.

Dylan is about to turn 70 years old, and he continues to push himself artistically and professionally -- to find both new ideas and musical expressions. Because this work is so good, he is finding new audiences, while keeping most of those who have always loved his music. I did not tune in to Dylan seriously until my 30s -- Dylan was already in his 60s.

I feel grateful to Bob Dylan for two reasons aside from the 50 years and counting of wonderful music. Dylan is a model to me of how to keep busy, keep sharp and keep relevant -- even 50 years into a career.

We used to live in a work world that expected a couple decades of production and then a move out to pasture. The thought that I could stay fresh and vital -- that my ability to be competent and compelling does not have a forced expiration date on it -- is a vastly comforting thought.

More importantly, however, I get with Dylan what none of us have gotten before -- the chance to see what happens when a visionary rock artist braves life into old age. We lost the chance to follow Elvis, Hendrix and Holly into that room, but Dylan is taking us there. And with his artist's eyes, poet's pen and welcoming guitar, I look forward to know what awaits me.

BY Hile Rutledge

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POSTED AT 4:58 PM ET, 12/13/2010

The best motivator


Q: One did time in prison. Another was raised by migrant farmworkers. All came from humble origins. One recent night, Oprah Winfrey, Merle Haggard, dancer Bill T. Jones, Broadway composer Jerry Herman and a guy named Paul McCartney received one of the world's highest awards for artists: the Kennedy Center honors. What does this tell us, if anything, about the will to succeed, the importance of personal history and the theme of the American Dream?


I think that the drive to succeed is much greater and stronger if a person comes from humble beginnings. I also believe that people are much more likely to reach out and provide support with the knowledge that a person comes from humble beginnings.

Today, it seems those who are the least motivated and challenged are those given everything on a silver platter.

My parents grew up during the Depression, and life was much more simple when they raised me because of this. Not because they could not afford to buy us things, but because they saw no reason for it. This created children who were motivated to work hard to achieve.

Now, unfortunately, my husband and I tend to spoil our children and they have things that we didn't have or that didn't exist when we grew up. Laptops, iPhones, Uggs, and the list goes on. Our challenge now is to motivate this generation -- the ones who have not had to challenge themselves!

BY Kristina Bouweiri

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POSTED AT 12:00 AM ET, 12/13/2010

The dream lives on


Q: One did time in prison. Another was raised by migrant farmworkers. All came from humble origins. One recent night, Oprah Winfrey, Merle Haggard, dancer Bill T. Jones, Broadway composer Jerry Herman and a guy named Paul McCartney received one of the world's highest awards for artists: the Kennedy Center honors. What does this tell us, if anything, about the will to succeed, the importance of personal history and the theme of the American Dream?


Rumors of the demise of The American Dream are greatly exaggerated. I have met many people who have lived this dream. Most were unlikely candidates for success -- but in their stories there is a profound lesson about why people from all over the world want to live and work in the land of the free.

Millions from around the world will risk anything to live in America. We have a Constitution, protecting their liberty and giving them rights to do profound activities like vote or criticize their government's policy or leaders.

At the outset in any serious discussion of success we are wise to look at our society and accept that social stratification exists. In looking at the question about Oprah, et al., who have "made it" -- where did they make it to?

These people made it to a higher social class -- with prestige, accolades and influence. Money is a part of it, for sure. The rags-to-riches stories that inspire us tend to be of people from modest means who become influential. The President and First Lady come to mind. Let me tell you some stories of people who I have met.

Some very inspiring people began arriving in America in 1975. They were largely penniless. Most began in California refugee camps.

One had to wait until 1978 to escape, Viet Dihn. The Communists placed his father in a re-education camp. His mother planned their exit on a 15-foot boat that barely made it to Malaysia. The Malays sent them to America. They picked strawberries in Oregon.

Poor but bright and determined, Viet Dihn graduated from Harvard. He is an entrepreneur now, teaching law part time at Georgetown. The last time I saw him, I gave him advice on purchasing a boat for his waterfront house. The boats under consideration were bigger than 15 feet.

A pal of mine is the son of a truck driver. No one had ever gone to college from his family -- or graduated from high school! He made it through high school and was encouraged to become a diesel mechanic. He ended up as a rifleman in Vietnam and was injured badly. Rifle and grenade wounds became infected. He nearly died.

When he recovered, his ambition to succeed was significant. He excelled at one thing in particular -- law. The last time I saw him, I took a friend over to see his 1970 MG and a 1951 Chevy Pickup -- both in showroom condition. His Harley Davidson is something to see as well. He succeeds at the top of his competitive profession -- and loves vintage vehicles.

Betty Nguyen left Vietnam in 1975 in a lumbering U.S. military aircraft. She says "It was stepping into the unknown. Nothing was guaranteed except that turning back was not an option. And that meant leaving behind my grandparents ... As hard as it was, fleeing not only saved my life, it gave me a new one, in a place called America." A graduate of the University of Texas, Betty is now an award winning correspondent for CBS.

David Moses walked across the desert being pursued by brutal Sudanese (over 1,500,000 Christians have been murdered there). He stealthily escaped to a refugee camp in Kenya, ending up in South Dakota at a meat-packing plant.

He is now leading American soldiers as an Army officer, joining after seeing the Twin Towers fall. This is what he told NPR: " ... Many people went out of their way to help me out, especially when I came to this country. And so joining the U.S. Army was a way for me to give back, to serve my adopted country, because I know I'm representing something that is greater than myself."

These are examples of refugees and a working-class kid who made it in America. Why did each make it ? I have noted in each the ambition to succeed, the willingness to sacrifice to get their education credentials and the non-negotiable refusal to quit. Each faced more adversity than most Americans can imagine.

Not everyone tries hard enough or works smart enough to achieve their potential. Why do some people from families with many financial advantages end up accomplishing so little, while those who have no advantages end up doing so well?

I remember hearing Kirk Douglas , the son of Russian Jewish immigrants, being interviewed. He noted that America was a place where "everyone at least has a chance."

Success is not guaranteed. But in the USA, you do get the chance.
Most with ambition, persistence and drive will succeed for many reasons, one of which is they live in the right country- the United States of America.

BY Jan Scruggs

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POSTED AT 12:00 AM ET, 12/13/2010

Underdogs on top


Q: One did time in prison. Another was raised by migrant farmworkers. All came from humble origins. One recent night, Oprah Winfrey, Merle Haggard, dancer Bill T. Jones, Broadway composer Jerry Herman and a guy named Paul McCartney received one of the world's highest awards for artists: the Kennedy Center honors. What does this tell us, if anything, about the will to succeed, the importance of personal history and the theme of the American Dream?


People stand in long lines to see the Hope diamond at the Smithsonian here in Washington, DC. There are plenty of stunning and large diamonds, but this one is prized not only for its size and beauty but also its distinctive history.


When we see or hear about others who have struggled, it somehow makes our own struggles pale in comparison. It makes us feel ashamed that we dare to complain when we don't have nearly as many challenges. On the other hand, this year's Kennedy Center honors are the superstars of underdogs. These are people who clearly started from a low point but whose talents were so overwhelming they had no choice but to excel.

I suspect whether they achieved superstar status or not, Paul McCartney, Merle Haggard and Jerry Herman would be composing and singing; Oprah Winfrey would be entertaining; and Bill T. Jones would be choreographing someone's movements. These are a super-special class of artists who are truly unique.

In America, it's possible to come from nothing and succeed or to have advantages at the start of life and excel. However, it's the rare individual that begins life as an underdog yet exceeds not only the world's expectations but their own. I imagine that for these folks, they must have been born with it and no amount of setback, misfortune, or tragedy could have stopped them from fulfilling their promise.

There is no way to explain the fortitude and profound success of this year's Kennedy Center honorees -- Oprah, Paul McCartney, Bill T. Jones, Merle Haggard, and Jerry Herman. No one has to know these talents personally to observe how naturally they overcame their adverse personal histories.

In a recent article in the Washington Post, Reliable Source authors Roxanne Roberts and Amy Argetsinger wrote that it was atypical that the honorees attended the fundraiser dinner that occurs after the main awards ceremony. As they reported, previous honorees generally opt out of attending, probably because it entails schmoozing with the well-heeled common folk.

This demonstrates to me how "regular" these superstars feel about themselves and that their talent is just something to which they are born. These are people everyone wants to be near because talent this enormous and this astonishing from such underdogs is as rare as the Hope diamond.

BY Allison Miner

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