Something To Think About . .

A colleague sent me this today, which made me think about what we miss by rushing through life without pausing, noticing and appreciating things that in other circumstances and environments we would love and value.


In Washington , DC , at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later:

The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw 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 the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but 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 1 hour:

He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.

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 worth $3.5 million dollars.
Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theatre in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.

Joshua Bell

Joshua Bell

This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:

*In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?

*If so, 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 as we rush through life?

Brought me back to thinking about something I wrote last year – see here: Do You Value What’s Right Under Your Nose?


Christine is a psychologist, executive coach, mentor, speaker, published author and poet. With a varied and successful 25-year career in research and consulting across diverse sectors, she now conducts leadership and organisational transformations. As a guide and mentor she seeks to release untapped potential in her clients.

She has recently completed extensive research into creating sustainable cultures for more values-driven, loving, compassionate organisations, with over sixty global leaders, ranging from HH the Dalai Lama to Sir Terry Leahy and The Rt Hon Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business. Christine is a Fellow of London Metropolitan University Business School’s Centre for Progressive Leadership.

Christine is able to adapt to different environments and issues quickly, where she is known for her ethical approach, her empathy, her stimulating and thought-provoking method of questioning, and for her ability to put people at ease. She is renowned for her creative resourcefulness and wisdom, her penetrating analysis, insights and ability to provoke transformational thinking and action for organisations and individual coaching and consulting clients worldwide.


  1. Linda Mattacks says

    Hi Christine

    I take your point yet wonder how many of the commuters worked for enlightened bosses who would smile benignly on the “Sorry, I stopped to listen to this amazing violinist who was playing at the station” excuse for being late had they lingered?

    And for any, a metro station, doors continually opening, on a cold January morning is not somewhere those using it would have planned to hang around at through choice…

    What strikes me most though is the fact that the children WERE sufficiently entranced to linger and hear more:

    Do we lose our ability to discern what’s important from what’s urgent as we grow up? That would be very sad 🙁

    • Hi Linda
      I think staying and listening for the full 45 minutes well might be a bit of a stretch – probably an excuse for lateness on a par with the ‘cat/dog/hamster ate my report’ or some such…and hopefully the music would warm the proverbial cockles of the heart with its passion and momentarily erase the winter Washington chill?

      It would be lovely to think of enlightened bosses recognising that an inspiring piece of music excellently performed might increase the productivity and creativity of their employees and override the time spent listening!

      The piece arose from a discussion elsewhere about children not being allowed to be children for long enough, being dragged off on ‘adult’ missions with no regard for their play and reflection time, and as you say it’s interesting that the children did want to stay and listen. That is a whole new thread for exploration though.

      It prompted me to think that I do usually rush past buskers in the Tube here in London, even though in the long tunnels (think Green Park and Charing Cross…) I get to hear quite a lot of their performance. In a way, it is a comment on how we expect things to occur in a certain context and don’t stay open to random beautiful experiences of art, nature, even kind gestures – wherever they may occur. I’m all for random acts of creative joy!

  2. When I was a kid, I was always interested in such things. Like it!


  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Christine Miller and Kira Campo, Christine Miller. Christine Miller said: New Blog post 'Something to Think About' […]

Speak Your Mind


Return to top of page

© 2010–2024 Christine Miller | Resource | Design by Porto Publishing | Log in