Virtuoso V. Rush Hour

What is beauty? Talent? Genius?

Do they need to be framed in order for us to recognize them? Or worse, do we need someone else to tell us what they are and when they occur?

In 2007, in a Washington DC metro station, a man with a violin played 6 classical pieces for 47 minutes. Nearly 1100 people passed through, most of them on their way to work.  7 stopped to watch for at least one minute. 27 gave money on the run ($32.17 in total) about 1070 others rushed by.

Turns out the man was Joshua Bell, one of the best classical musicians in the world. He was playing some of the greatest music ever written on a $3.5 million Stradivarius. Nobody cared. (See proof here.)

What business can learn from the Washington Post's "experiment in context, perception and priorities":

  1. Think for yourself. Consultants are great but they don't replace the need for you to be meaningfully connected and aware.  If something is great (or not) be engaged enough to know it.
  2. Take a minute. Life is an increasingly busy prospect. But we should never be too busy to recognize genius -- in ourselves or others (that includes partners, staff, spouses.)  So recognize them, and then recognize them.
  3. Give it away.  Sometimes it's a good idea to give your stuff away for free.  A man that can make $1000 a minute gave his genius away for free (and while only 7 people gave him attention then) here we are talking about it over 2 years later.
  4. Watch your rhythm.  Entrepreneurial idea, staff meeting, major project -- all require you to be in sync with people.  Otherwise you might miss something big, i.e. an idea, a client, a musical genius playing a multi-million dollar violin.

If a tree falls in the forest, will YOU hear the music?

(Thanks Annie, for the inspiration.)