Have you ever heard of the famous study in 2007 by the Staff at the Washington Post? Here’s what they did. They put Grammy winning violinist Joshua Bell in a Washington D.C. Metro Train Station and had him play a violin for 45 minutes. In the research, they studied pedestrians as they were rushing by without realizing that the musician playing at the entrance to the metro stop was a world famous talent.
Two days before his playing in the subway, his concert sold out at a theater in Boston where the seats average $100. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars. In the 45 minutes Joshua Bell played his violin, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. Around 20 gave him money, but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected a grand total of $32.
This study by the Washington Post was part of a social experiment looking at the perceptions and the priorities of people. Gene Weingarten later posed a brilliant question in his article, “in a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?” He later won a Pulitzer prize for his story… But I digress.
This behavioral psychology research helps us ask several important questions that correlate to life and leadership. Here are three of them:
– First, do we perceive greatness?
– Second, do we stop to appreciate it?
– Third, do we recognize the talent when it is in an unexpected context?
As it turns out, most of us are not nearly as perceptive to our environment as we might think we are. Think about it, how many people do you think walked by on that day, and only 6 really stopped. Heck, he was playing with a 3.5 million dollar violin. Yes, I said million.
Now, Chase, great story. Why are you telling me this? What does this have to do with influence? Just stop to think about it honestly for a second. Could that have been you walking past Joshua Bell? Or even better, do you intentionally stop to appreciate greatness that is right in front of you? Has there ever been a time where you didn’t even recognize the talent of one of your team-members?
And why do we just keep walking at the same pace, and don’t stop to engage? Why are we in a hurry all the time? Where were they all going that they couldn’t stop and listen.
I’m reminded of the brilliant philosopher and master strategist, Ferris Bueller and his famous quote, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Which ultimately brings me to the point of this timely message… Perhaps. Just maybe. I wonder if it is possible that the best thing that this Caronavirus situation has taught all of us is that if you don’t take time to appreciate the great things that are already around you, you might not have the chance to do it later.
I’d never thought I’d say this, and I am still a little hesitant even now, but thanks Caronavirus for helping us pause, and giving us time to reflect, and to ultimately appreciate the greatness that is right in front of us, or already around us.