Friday, September 21, 2012

Rudolf Bing and Mrs. Glaser

Mrs. Glaser was my home room teacher in 11th grade. She was the first person ever to give me career advice. I remember her fondly for taking the trouble to do that, and also for her accent; she came from somewhere in the South, and instead of losing her native way of speaking after many years in New Jersey she elaborated on it and polished it up for effect, much of it comic. "Roo-een," she used to say. "We are facing roo-een."

Rudolf Bing
Anyway, she perceived that I was facing roo-een instead of the wild success that my talents should have made possible for me, and so she called me up to her desk one day and gave me advice. It was useful advice. If I had been a more success-prone person I would have followed it. As I did not, and in my small way suffered roo-een as a result, I will now pass it on to you. Perhaps you can do something with it.

"Rudolf Bing decided when he was twenty years old that he would become the manager of the Metropolitan Opera by the time he was thirty," she said. "World War II was the only thing that got in his way." She took a piece of paper and drew a straight line with an arrow on the end. There was Bing. There was the Metropolitan Opera. He went straight for it.

"He focused on one thing," she said. "You are focusing on too many things." She drew a number of zig-zags. "Acting. Drawing. Writing." I nodded. Yes. All these things were good. Clearly, however, I could see that Rudolf Bing was outpacing me. "Choose one thing," she said. "Focus on that." I nodded. I never forgot the talk or the diagram. But I never focused all that well, either, and I never caught up to Rudolf.

So there you have it. Monomania is the way to success in life. Unless it isn't. Some say that in the modern economy you have to be nimble and willing to try a number of things. Would you like fries with that?

Kate Gallison


  1. Kate, that a twenty year old would make such a permanent commitment gives me the creeps. Who knows. If Bing had stayed loose, he might have found a cure for baldness instead.

  2. I agree with you, Kate. In all my years putting bread on the table as a career consultant, I often have found when a man or woman loses a job there is a better chance of a rehire if the person has a number of skills - rather than putting all eggs in one basket. That is so true today, especially with so many layoffs.