Virginia Bianco-Mathis
University professor, author

Virginia Bianco-Mathis

Business department chair of management programs at Marymount University and author of two books on executive coaching.


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.

This does not mean that Dylan no longer has anything more to offer the world. However, what he needs to do at this point is to repackage those talents into something else: teaching, mentoring, consulting, writing music and lyrics for others to sing, etc.

What comes to mind is an older football player or aged ballet dancer. You stay in the field as a revered virtuoso as you gradually fade into the sunset. You pass on but leave a legacy that continues to influence future generations.

The same is true for those from all walks of life. Past presidents consult and speak. Former leaders sit on boards, write books, and teach at major universities. That is one reason for having a coach, partner, colleague or guru who can give you straight, honest feedback; such as, "time to morph your talents into something else" or "time to close this chapter."

An important question to ask ourselves is, "Given who and what I am at this time in my life, and given what is happening in my field and the world at this time, how can I repackage myself to be successful, value-added, productive, timely, and inspiring?"

Time for Dylan to ponder that question.

By Virginia Bianco-Mathis  |  December 21, 2010; 10:09 PM ET  | Category:  Success and age Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Ms. Blanco-Mathis really should hang up her type-writer.
She is out of the loop.

Posted by: hardrain24 | December 25, 2010 8:45 AM
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Flopped? Not lately. Twenty years ago Dylan did face a commercial and artistic crisis, and overcame it. However, he did so not so much by changing his approach as by revisiting his original source of inspiration. It worked. Grammies and millions of sales and thousands of sold-out concerts ... we should all fail so. (He also branched out into radio and art, with notable success, as well as movies [less commercially] but all that was in addition to, not instead of, his primary work.) Perhaps Ms Bianco-Mathis might consider the idea that research is frequently recommended for writers, whether aspiring or published in major outlets.

Posted by: pete31 | December 24, 2010 2:00 PM
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It may be worth adding that of all the misinformed drivel that has been written about Bob Dylan over the past half-century, Virginia Bianco-Mathis's advice that he should ask himself "how can I repackage myself to be successful, value-added, productive, timely, and inspiring?" could well count as the most wrong-headed and insulting to date. A hundred years from now, I can see it being reprinted (if such a thing as printing still exists) to howls of laughter and bemused head shaking. A classic.

Posted by: mzuckerman | December 24, 2010 9:29 AM
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While I basically agree with both MZuckerman and Ohmercy above, I attended the concert in question and to that point, the question and the original Wall Street Journal article miss one important fact. The show was sold out! Not exactly a flop. Sure, as with shows in casinos particularly, some people left to get drinks. Most returned. The majority of the audience was there at the concert's end. However, having read all the posts in answer to this question, Ms. Bianco-Mathis is totally clueless and absolutely unqualified to be writing anything on the subject of Bob Dylan.

Posted by: psb51 | December 23, 2010 11:27 PM
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- Good grief! That would have been Charlie Brown's comment on Ms Bianco-Mathis' - well, I don't know what to call it, it goes beyond my vocabulary. Nothing to get so angry about, though. One just have to see and enjoy the humourous side of it, even if it is unintended by the author.

Posted by: hannisdal | December 23, 2010 2:48 PM
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Oh my. This is perhaps the lowest of the many low editorials about b. dylan and the question of whether he should hang it up. It is so drenched in absurdity that it may have been irony and we dullards were just to frigging dumb to know it.

Posted by: dalegood1 | December 23, 2010 1:38 PM
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wow- what a bit of inanity and inaccuracy in this bit of fluff. Advice on success?
As has been pointed out, Ms. Bianco-Mathis hasn't done ANY research on her subject as she seems completely unfamiliar at the continual evolution of the artist.
If she listened to Theme Time Radio Hour or his music, read Chronicles, looked at any of his drawing and paintings, attended a concert or perused the hundreds if not thousands of blogs, forums, books, University courses, symposiums and conferences she would have been aware of his recent Pulitzer Prize, his numerous Nobel nominations, the ongoing impact Dylan still has on the culture and continuation of leaving "a legacy that continues to influence future generations."

She seems to be utterly devoid of any understanding of the artistic temperament and drive to create. An artist is never content to arrive someplace but is always in the state of becoming. S/he is always looking to create anew, perfect and evolve on an internal level. When an artist generously shares that evolution and growth with others s/he runs the risk of being publicly ridiculed and disrespected by those who are more than willing to criticize what they don't understand. The unfortunate souls that spend their lives hungering for "success" and rejecting anything less are failures -and "failure is no success at all." They have no hope of reaping the fullness of a life that embraces both the joys and sorrows, the successes and "failures". The artist, or any creative knows that all of life experiences are jewel to be mined with multiple facets reflecting the depths of our being to create who we are.

An artist is creating more than a body of work to be admired or rejected by others. The artist is engaged in soul-making, the journey of completing the life of the integrated self. Any artist who stops that process is beginning to die- or perhaps is already dead.
The artist formerly known as Bobby Zimmerman has spent more than 50 years on creating the masterpiece of Bob Dylan.

It would behoove this so called expert on success to look to artists like Picasso, Cezanne, Dylan and many others who continued this process till they died as examples of the who, why and how of success.

To paraphrase Mr. Dylan a person is a success if they spend their days doing exactly what they want to do. The idea that foolish people who believe that money and power equate success believe that they are qualified to critique or give advice to Dylan- or anyone else for that matter is a sad commentary on their lives. Frankly they aren't qualified to bring the artist a cup of coffee.what is their legacy-

Have you noticed that these expert givers of advice to Mr. Dylan never engage in a conversation with those that don't agree with them?
This column is a flop and perhaps the author should stop banging her head against the wall.

Have a Happy Holiday to all.

Oh, and by the way Virginia- Yes, their is a Santa Clause:

Posted by: ohmercy | December 23, 2010 12:31 PM
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get a brain, moran

Posted by: BaltimoreBuc | December 23, 2010 11:18 AM
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Doesn't the Washington Post have editors and fact-checkers?

Posted by: carnival24 | December 23, 2010 10:24 AM
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I don't want to be harsh, but this bit "executive coaching" is uninformed and therefore off the mark. Other posters have made this point well. One other example is Dylan's Theme Time Radio Hour. This weekly show ran for three years and provided a wonderfully rich look at 20th century musical history.

Posted by: Stumpzian | December 23, 2010 9:25 AM
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Those who could and can, did and do. Others acquire impressive academic credentials, attain lofty positions and titles, criticize and "coach" the efforts of others, and assume an entitlement which they deem a license to pontificate and condescend.

Posted by: johnpilecki | December 23, 2010 7:33 AM
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"At one point, Dylan's "act" reaped success and rewards. Over the past 10 years, that act has flopped."

Over the past ten years, Bob Dylan has enjoyed the greatest commercial success of his career, with critical acclaim not far behind: his 2001 release 'Love & Theft' was #5 in the US and #3 in the UK. 2006's Modern Times was #1 in the US and #3 in the UK. Last year's Together Through Life was #1 in the first week of release on both sides of the Atlantic, making him the oldest living person ever to achieve that feat. Add to that sold out concerts (just in 2009-10 alone) in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, France, Holland, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium, the UK, Ireland, the USA, Japan, South Korea, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovak and Czech republics, Austria, Slovenia, Greece, Turkey and Spain, plus a critically acclaimed best-selling memoir and art exhibitions in in leading galleries in Germany, the UK and Denmark.

Please explain your definition of "flopped". Could it be that you have written this paragraph without giving arguably the greatest living artist of the day the respect of, say, two minutes' thought before sitting down to write? (Reading a report by one myopic Wall Street Journal hack does not count as research.)

Posted by: mzuckerman | December 23, 2010 6:00 AM
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I don't believe Dylan has ever set out to be "value-added, timely & inspiring" - I think he probably aims to be true to himself, not his times or his audience, which is all you can ask of an artist really. Hard to argue that he's not productive given the tours & albums. Success? It's a bit like failure.

Posted by: yapperhound | December 23, 2010 5:17 AM
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