Violinist clipartWe’ve all heard this story – in 2007, during rush hour, a young man started playing a violin in a Washington DC Metro station. Rather well. A few people paused very briefly to listen, a few dropped coins, most rushed by on their way to work. At the end of the hour that he played for, he had earned $32. Not bad, really, for a busker. But not great for one of the world’s foremost musicians at the time, Joshua Bell.

This story is usually used to suggest we are all focused on the wrong things, and we should slow down and appreciate the good things in life. Like a free concert by a top violinist. Or birdsong. Or the trees and flowers. Or each other.

The fact is, it wasn’t the harried commuters who were responsible for the music going unappreciated. It was Mr Bell’s (or, to be precise, The Washington Post, who put him up to it). He was performing his art – very well, by all accounts – in the wrong place, at the wrong time. In the wrong context. Even if the commuters had the time to stop and listen, who wants to stand for an hour in a drafty subway station with dodgy acoustics, even for the best of music?

If you want people to appreciate what you do, to find value in it, to willingly pay you for it, you have to offer it to them in the context that makes it valuable for them.  So the question to ask yourself is: where in your life and business are you trying to amaze people with your skills, to persuade people with your eloquence, to waylay people with your marketing … when the context is just plain wrong?

So I’m sorry Bananarama (& The Fun Boy 3), you’re wrong, it’s not what you do and it’s not the way that you do it that gets results – it’s the context you do it in.

Andrew Horder
Andrew Horder

Founder of the blog at, Andrew has been working with business owners for many years, helping them find and maintain their unique Focus - those activities and opportunities that they love, and will produce their success, what Andrew calls your Joyful Genius! Andrew's first book, The Busy Fool's a to Z of Loving Work is available from Amazon

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