What does this mean?

I recently sent out a letter to some of the VeraSage fellows that read:

I’m not going to give you any background about this, such as where I learned it, or in what context.

I just ask that you read the entire article, and watch each video from the Washington Post.

The article is a bit long, but very well-written, and incredibly enlightening, giving each of the videos context.

What lessons do you take away from this?

This has generated some very interesting discussions internally.

I’d love to hear from everyone else what they make of this?


  1. Ted Waggoner says:


    I read it a month ago or so. I take it that even the best of something has little meaning if we are not interested in it, or seeking it out. Bell is obviously one of the greatest violinists in the world today, and I own several CDs. I enjoy it, but can see myself being otherwise absorbed.

    What does it mean to PKW, lawyers or accountants? That we are not likely to sell services, no matter how good, without somehow getting the attention of those who we know need our services. We have to put ourselves on the radar, when they are looking at the radar, but then we need to find a way to get them to look at the radar.

    Your thoughts Ron?

  2. Ed Kless, Senior Fellow, Verasage Institute says:

    To put a Randian spin on this, I would ask, “Who is Bell playing for?” Not just in the subway, but in his concert appearences. He should be playing for himself in all cases. Who cares what anybody thinks! The mirror image of this story is this video, I am sure most of you saw it, but it still give me chills, every time I view it –>

    We need to act in our own rational self-interest, not to do so is madness. If Joshua Bell preferred to wash cars for a living, he should give up the violin immediately. I recently gave a speech in Las Vegas on “Trashing the Timesheet.” I did so not because I cared if anyone listened, but because I have a desire to think and talk about this stuff.

  3. I read the book Brain Rules recently. For those that are not familiar with it, it was a book about how the human brain actually works and relates those principles to help you better succeed at work (or home or school).

    Anyway, I think the article relates to one of the Brain Rules in particular. The basis of the rule is the fact that it is scientifically impossible to multitask effectively. Most of these individuals are focused on one thing – getting to work as quickly as possible. Most of them are so focused on this task, that the pay little attention to things going on around them. How many times have each of us been so focused on driving to the office that when we get there, we do not remember anything about the drive over?

  4. Thank you everyone for your comments. I thought I’d share what some other VeraSage fellows said:

    Michelle Golden: Wow. I think one line sums it up: life slowly starts to choke the poetry out of us.

    Peter Byers and Yan Zhu: Fascinating article indeed. I went out and purchased a cd that had Bach’s ‘Chaconne’ on it. Amazing.

    Yan and I consciously apply Lin YuTang’s ‘The Importance of Living’ and we both totally agree with W H Davies — “What is life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare”.

    Tim Williams: he had the same reaction I did, basically a marketing angle about context and value.

    I’ll respond more next…

  5. Ron Baker says:

    Ted: I agree with your comments. The fascinating thing about this is that everyone has a different take and there’s no one right answer. I guess it depends on how you see the world. Marketers give one answer, lawyers and CPAs another.

    Here’s what I thought: it validates the subjective theory of value and invalidates the labor theory of value. Joshua Bell should have earned an equal amount no matter where he played the violin–after all, it took the same amount of “billable hours.”

    Philip: Your three lessons are brilliant. And the answer to your concern, expressed in your last paragraph, is contained in your own lesson. You simply must communicate the value of what you do! I know you can do that, and the value you capture as a result will dwarf what you can make by the hour, or what Joshua can make playing in a busy subway station.

    Ed: I love it, a Randian spin!

    Chad: Great point, and in fact I picked this story out of a book I recently read entitled “Sway,” and they say the study is an example of “value attribution.” A mental shortcut that allows us to function.

    The downside is it makes us impervious to new theories or ideas. I haven’t read Brain Rules, but it sounds like Sway is the same type of book. It’s a book about how some actions of us humans are irrational.

    Thank you everyone for sharing your opinions, fascinating topic.

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