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    Perception. How good are yours?

    Written by Anne Marsden on December 16, 2009

    Washington, D.C.

    A Metro Station on a cold January morning.

    describe the imageThe man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes.. During that time approx two thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

    After three 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.

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

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

    10 minutes: A three-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.

    45 minutes: The musician played continuously. Only six 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.

    1 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, with a violin valued at $3.5 million dollars.

    Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theatre 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 common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

    One 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?

    This is not just about everyday life - it's about work, work relationships, and for those of us in B2B Marketing, it is equally worth a moment's reflection about how, in our own mad dash for deadlines and results, we ignore great ideas and opportunities that are all around us.

    More than a "Stop and Smell the Roses" story, this is a reminder that our own perceptions and preconceived approaches may be limiting our success.

    The end of one year and start of a new one seems to me a good time to reflect on how we can open our senses and broaden our perceptions.

    NOTE: The author of this piece is unknown (with the exception of the closing lines, which I added), and the photo is also without attribution, though the event was originally staged by the Washington Post in January of 2007. It has been circulating the email ether for quite a while, but when it landed in my inbox this time, it hit a nerve and I thought it worth sharing.

    Here's a Video of the event - take a moment to enjoy...and Happy Holidays.

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