Ask yourself — if you were on your way to work and heard one of the world’s greatest violinists playing on the street, would you notice?
A brilliant piece in the Washington Post called “Pearls Before Breakfast” describes an experiment in which the authors asked Joshua Bell, a world-renowned violinist, to play his Stradivarius for 45 minutes in a commuter Metro station during morning rush hour. Out of the nearly 1,100 people who passed by, only a handful stopped to listen or acknowledge him. A musician who regularly sells out concert halls was simply…ignored.
The saddest part for me are the interviews with the commuters who didn’t notice him — most were government workers and mid-level business people more focused on getting to their jobs, thinking about their upcoming meeting or buying lottery tickets than on the incredibly beautiful music in this unremarkable place.
This article points to something I think is fundamentally wrong with us as a work culture. We focus so much energy and time on our work, planning our days and schedules down to the last minute, that we miss the surprises — the unexpected beauty that can be found in the most unlikely places, the spontaneous opportunities that pull us out of our routine. Innovation and inspiration don’t come from being on time or sitting behind our desks. Art can be found and appreciated in any context, but only if we take a second to stop and look.
I would like to believe I would have stopped and listened to him play, throwing a good tip into his open violin case. But sadly, I’m not so sure.