On the evening of January 8, 2007, violin virtuoso Joshua Bell strode onto the stage of Boston Symphony Hall to a standing ovation, and performed Max Bruch's Violin Concerto in G Minor.
Tall, slender, handsome, with an early-Beatles mop of hair, shirttails untucked, Bell is a young "rockstar" to classical music aficionados. He finished to another standing ovation, and was later mobbed by autograph seekers at the stage door.
Three days later, at the peak of morning rush hour, Bell emerged from the metro at Washington D.C.'s L'enfant Plaza Station wearing jeans and a T-shirt, positioned himself at the top of an escalator next to a trash bin, opened up his violin case, removed a $3,500,000 violin handcrafted by Antonio Stradivari in 1713, threw a few dollars into the case at his feet, and played for 43 minutes, starting with Bach's Chaconne from the Partida No. 2 in D Minor. As is his style, he threw himself into the piece with passion and dramatic upper-body movement.
Of the Chaconne, Bell says, "It's not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history." Over the 43 minutes that Joshua Bell played at the entrance of a subway station next to a lottery kiosk that morning, 1,097 commuters hurried by. Of them, 27 tossed money in his case and 7 stopped to listen. When he packed up his Stradivarius, he counted $32 and change.
Behavioral guru Seth Godin writes about our desire to get "picked:" to be recognized for our work (playing in a subway,) to be elected a leader or captain, to be chosen to speak at graduation, to gain admission to your first choice, to land a good job. But getting picked is hard, and the correlation between being good and getting picked is inexact.
Getting picked when we want to be picked is not necessarily in our control. Godin urges us to consider alternate paths to alternate goals than those controlled by the picking system. "Pick yourself," he urges, "by becoming remarkable at something different, for a different audience, in a new and different way."
"The problem," he notes, "is that it's frightening to pick yourself. It's far easier to put your future in someone else's hands than to slog your way forward, owning the results as you go."
Conor presents details of the Universal Healthcare Act in Economics.
What is the correlation between hard work, being good at something and getting picked?
Ian puts finishing touches on a skiff he started building in September.