Joshua Bell and the magnificent seven theory

Joshua Bell is famous. You may have never heard of him. Bell is one of the best concert violinist in the world.

In 2012, Bell in collaboration with the Washington Post set up a social experiment to see what would happen if he were to play a free concert in L’Enfant Plaza subway station in Washington, DC on a 3.5 million dollar Stradivarius.

During his 45 minute concert, Bell only had seven people stop and listen to him play while over a thousand people walked by him.

These seven are part of what I like to call the magnificent seven theory. The magnificent seven theory goes like this: out of every thousand people you can find seven people who will care enough to stop and listen to what you have to say. That is your target audience. That is the seven people you want to share your ideas with for that start-up. Or that blog you want to launch.

The other interesting take away from this is: your settings matter. In one setting at a concert hall you may be worth $200 a ticket. However, in the subway station you are worth pennies to the dollar. Bell made a total of $32 that day. $20 came from a woman who recognized him.

The thing is Joshua Bell wasn’t playing in the subway for money. (Twenty-seven people dropped money in Bell’s hat.) Money isn’t what artists are after. They are trying to get us to slow down for a moment.

The clock compromises our values. Too many of us are a slave to the clock. We worship the clock. We ever feel the clock and his presence. Ellen Langer calls it mindfulness or the simple act of noticing new things. The old anecdote of stopping to smell the roses is needed more today than ever before.

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