Cam Taylor

Be inspired. Be focused. Be tenacious.

How 1,090 People Missed Greatness

The value you assign to people, events, and things changes everything.

Why does it matter to keep our eyes open to see true value? If we don’t, great moments and opportunities pass us by. I’ve missed opportunities to connect with family, be inspired, discover new insights, build new relationships, because I was tuned out to the “real” value of what was standing right in front of me.

1,097 People Walked By Greatness

The Washington Post did an experiment to see if people would value greatness if unprepared to see it. The Scientists call it “value attribution.” The experiment happened one morning on the subway platform.

It was 7:51 a.m. on Friday, January 12th, in the middle of the morning rush. On a subway platform, leaning up against a wall, stood Joshua Bell, one of the world’s greatest violinists, dressed in casual clothes. In his skilled hands was a $3.5 million dollar violin designed by Antonio Stradivari in 1713. When ready, he proceeded to play the most complicated, amazing arrangements of music for 43 minutes.

You would think that this level of quality and beauty would capture the attention of the passing crowd. After all, people pay $100’s of dollars to hear him play in concert halls around the world. How many people passed by him that morning during his 43 minute concert?


How many people stopped and listened?


What happened on that subway platform? 

According to the authors of this study, they concluded that most of the 1,097 had already assigned value to the subway performer. The sound of the beautiful music wafting through the air couldn’t change that. The $3.5 million dollar violin couldn’t break through the barrier. The speed and perfected skill of Bell’s hands couldn’t break through either.

“As they passed by Bell, most subway riders didn’t even glance in his direction. Instead of hearing an outstanding concert, they heard street music.”*

They had decided the subway was full of desperate musicians coddling together a few tunes to raise a few bucks for some bread and a cup of coffee.

Joshua Bell, when asked his perspective said, “When you play for ticket-holders, you are already validated.” People have already attached high value to you when they buy the ticket then walk into the concert hall. If something of high value is standing right in front of you but you don’t attach value to it, you miss a golden opportunity.
It’s art without a frame.

What does it takes to see value in unsuspecting place?

  1. It takes a mindset that is prepared to see beauty and greatness “anywhere.”
  2. It takes having a pace to life that allows you time to stop, listen, and soak in the experience.
  3. It takes humility of heart that says, “Others matter. I’m not the center.”
  4. It takes a child-like curiosity that asks, “What’s that?”

Final thoughts

Always have something beautiful in sight, even if it’s just a daisy in a jelly glass.  — Life’s Little Instruction Book #97
Think big thoughts, but relish small pleasures.  — Life’s Little Instruction Book #99
What is of true value in your life that you are walking right by?

*Source: Pearls Before Breakfast

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About Cam Taylor

Life and leadership coach, transition & change specialist, husband, dad, leader, writer, life long learner.

10 Replies

  1. Sheldon Carlson

    Thanks for the post Cam. Even at my age I still rush by. I did have time recently to see the beauty in grandchildren, and look regularly to the beauty of the King.

    1. Thanks Sheldon for your honestly but also the way you do pay attention to your grandkids & the King. May what you notice increase!

  2. Bill Hinksman


    1. Thanks Bill – enjoy being curious!

  3. Shirlene Henning

    Thankyou Cam. It’s like, “Take time to stop,and smell the flowers”. For me, abit older now. I have slowed down some, and taking note of what is around me, trying not to miss anything,of good value.

    1. Thanks Shirlene – slowing down is wisdom we could all take to heart. Keep up the pace!

  4. Linda Stryker

    Thank you, Cam, for giving me new insights into an unusual experience I had just last week. The contents of this apartment used to belong to the people who owned this campus, but after they sold the property they gave everything in this apartment to me. I looked at the pictures on the wall in a different way as I thought about what I should do with various items. It was quite a surprise when I realized that I now had a signed limited edition of a watercolour print by AJ Casson, a member of the Group of Seven. I could have been studying and enjoying this work of art for the past 3.5 years if I’d been more curious or observant. A lesson for sure.

    1. What a great story! Great beauty right under your nose. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Joan Taylor

    Thank you for inspiring me again with your wisdom. Always keep enjoying the things in life that many people pass by. I want to keep my eyes and ears open.

    1. Thanks Mom for the encouragement & desire to keep your eyes always open.

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