Many of us walk around everyday immersed in our own stuff. We get caught up in task after task, shut down during our commute, focus on what might happen tomorrow, or spend our time re-running the events of the last day. Others are filled with anxiety checking their Blackberry every minute waiting for the next shoe to dropped or trying to predict every possible scenario in the (still yet fictional) unavoidable fight they know will happen when they get home (Never mind the self fulfilling prophecy principle at work here. That’s a whole other blog post.). The big question is what we miss…
The Place: Washington, DC Metro Station –L’Enfant Plaza
The Date: January 12, 2007
The Time: Morning Rush Hour
The Situation: A man played the violin for approximately 45 minutes. He played six Bach pieces.
Each commuter had choices to make as they passed by:
- Do I stop and listen?
- Should I spare some change?
- Am I annoyed by this street performer?
- Should I feel guilty that I do not want to give money?
- Is he good? Bad?
What Happened: During that time approximately 1100 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a man noticed there was a musician playing and he slowed down his pace, stopped for a few seconds, and then continued on.
4 minutes later:
The musician made his first dollar because a woman threw the money in his hat without even stopping for a moment. She just continued to walk.
A man leaned against the wall and listened to the music, after looking at his watch began to walk off.
A little boy, approximately, 3-years old stopped, but his mother tugged at him to come along. The child stopped to look at the performer again, but the mother tugged hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the entire time. This occurred with children several times. Each parent forced their child to move on hurriedly.
During this entire street concert only 6 people stopped and listened for even little while. Close to 20 people gave money but did not stop to listen. The musician earned a total of $32.
When he finished playing there was no applause or recognition. It was as if no one noticed. He was invisible. Just silence.
The Real Deal:
This was an experiment put on by the Washington Post. In fact, they won a Pulitzer Prize for the story. No one knew that the violinist was Joshua Bell a famous and extremely talented musician. He played for forty five minutes on a handcrafted 1713 Stradivarius violin he purportedly purchased for $3.5 million dollars. Three days prior Joshua Bell sold out a Boston’s Symphony Hall where the seats can sell for more than $100. Only one person at the subway station recognized him.
So what do we miss? This was a social experiment. Most opportunities occur at inopportune times. Can we recognize what is right in front of us? Do we recognize a great candidate for a job when we meet them out of context? Are we aware of our next great product when the inspiration tries come out during a major deadline? What great employee efforts do we miss and not recognize when we are afraid of health of the company? How does this play out with our families?
If we do not have the ability to appreciate one of the most talented musicians in the world, how much are we missing?
Why not take a few minutes and see what others missed…