Does Talent Always Speak For Itself?

While this particular article appears to have already made the rounds around much of cyberspace, I can’t resist joining the party and passing it along since I a) find the whole thing fascinating and b) I think it relates, in some small way, to the modern interview process and how employers may be so “rigid” in terms of their hiring criteria right now that they’re missing out on some terrific talent, right before their eyes.

At any rate here’s the posting.  Enjoy it if you haven’t already seen it, somewhere else, and many thanks to the client (you know who you are!) who sent it along to me in the first place…

———————–

The scene — a Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007.

The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately two thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.  After 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed there was a musician playing.  He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

At 4 minutes:

The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk..

At 6 minutes:

A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At 10 minutes:

A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly.  The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time.  This action was repeated by several other children.  Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.

At 45 minutes:

The musician played continuously.  Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while.  About 20 gave money, but continued to walk at their normal pace.  The man collected a total of $32.

After one hour:

He finished playing and silence took over.  No one noticed.  No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world.  He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, on a violin worth $3.5 million.  Two days before, Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a true story.  Joshua Bell playing incognito in the Metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.  The questions raised: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?  Do we stop to appreciate it?  Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made…. How many other things are we missing?

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