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  • Writer's pictureAbe Cherian

The Subway Violinist

Here's a lesson, I've understood -- and I painfully watch many of my talented entrepreneur friends experience it as well...

You may have the talent, and skill to be a success in your field... but if you don't understand two important things that I am about to share with you... you'll struggle to attain the pinnacle of success.

Let me tell you a remarkable story...

On January 12, 2007, a man just outside a subway station in Washington D.C. started to play the violin.

He wore a baseball cap. And over the course of 45 minutes, he played six pieces, including two by Bach and one by Schubert.

Because it was rush hour, it was crowded. Exactly 1,097 people poured through the station, most of them on their way to work.

According to video footage, three minutes went by before anyone noticed whatsoever.

A middle aged man turned to notice the musician. He barely altered his gait, and then hurried to catch the next train.

Thirty seconds later, the violinist received his first tip: A woman threw a dollar bill into his open violin case. She did it hurriedly, like someone flicking a cigarette butt to the curb.

A few minutes later, a man named John David Mortensen leaned against the wall to listen to him. Three minutes later, the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. He, too, had a train to catch.

The one who seemed to pay the most attention was a three-year-old boy. He was in tow at the hem of his mother's skirt, hurriedly being dragged along, the kid's head following the violinist even as he was being pulled away.

Several other children had the same reaction. All their parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only seven people stopped and stayed for any length of time.

About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace.

He collected $32.17. No one applauded.

Only one person out of the 1,097 that passed through the arcade recognized the man.

She patiently waited for him to finish, then went up to say hello to Joshua Bell, one of the most celebrated musicians in the entire world who had agreed to take part in an unusual social experiment.

He had just played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.

Three days earlier, Bell sold out a theater in Boston playing the same repertoire. Average ticket price for that performance: $112.

So why am I telling you this story today?

Well, there's a lot to be drawn from this, obviously.

It's not just a lesson to appreciate the beauty that's around us every day.

It's also a lesson that context is everything.

And that persuasion can't be assumed or taken for granted.

How can you apply this to your business?

Context - Explain why you are doing what you do to your potential clients... set the context.

Persuasion - Show social proof to persuade your potential clients...

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