Who Judges Talent and Can Talent be Missed?

This is a follow up on the May feature relating to talent.  That article questioned whether talent is natural or developed; the importance of talent; and the ingredients that make up talent as one strives to achieve success.

This month we relate to the recognition of talent in a different way.  I would like to start with a wonderful story that some readers of our newsletter may already know.  But even if it has been previously read it is a story worth re-reading and repeating.  It is a true story about a man named Joshua Bell playing the Violin in a Metro Station in the USA.

It relates to Washington DC Metro Station on a cold January morning.  A man with a violin plays six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approximately two thousand people passed through the station, most of them on their way to work.  After 3 minutes a middle-aged man noticed there was a musician playing.  He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

4 minutes later:

The violinist received his first dollar.  A woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

6 minutes:

A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

10 minutes:

A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all  the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.

45 minutes:

The musician played continuously.   Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 people gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

1 hour:

He finished playing and silence took over.  No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world.  He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin valued at $3.5 million dollars.  Two days before, Joshua Bell sold out a theatre in Boston where the price of seats averaged $100.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.  The questions that were raised?  In a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it?  Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this.  If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made… what else are we missing?

Do we first have to know that this is a famous musician before noticing the quality of the music and the talent of the musician?

Let’s bring this story back to talent.  The Boston Post research related to recognising talent in a different context.

Let’s rather relate this story to simply recognising talent.

How many times have we heard people say that ‘he was in the right place at the right time”?  How many really promising young talents never enjoyed the opportunity or the experience of the bigger stage because they were not noticed or because they were not given the opportunity?   Because they were not in the right place at the right time; because supposedly objective leaders and/or management and/or selectors who are purportedly there to represent the best interests of the sport and/or the individuals playing that sport are one-eyed in their approach and quite often either ignore or don’t notice the talent?  Talents who are compromised because officials and/or management are egotistical and looking after their own best interests rather than representing the greater good of the game.  Talents who are compromised because of arrogance.  Talents who are compromised because officials do not always consider or acknowledge the best stage or the best events for the talent to have the opportunity to perform, preferring rather to offer events that they control?

This comment doesn’t only relate to sport.  It can relate to business and/or to many other environments.  Think of the processes within businesses or within schools.  How many times is it a favourite of teachers who is given greater responsibility when there are other more deserving candidates?  Or when an individual is promoted in business not because they are the best candidate but because they better suit the needs and/or requirements of those already in charge?

Think back to the statement quoted in the May newsletter “there is a distinct lack of ‘black’ talented golfers who qualified for the program…”  Can this really be true?  Or is the problem rather that those in charge of the program and in this particular instance those who are advising others involved in the greater game of golf; simply don’t have the best people and procedures in place to recognise, uncover and help develop the talent – to give all talent the best possible chance of succeeding?  Perhaps these people are there for their own benefit and for the benefit of their brand rather than for the benefit of the greater game of golf?  Perhaps it is those that make such statements who are the ones that actually lack the talent and the ability?

Does this comment only relate to black people or black golfers?  The answer is an emphatic ‘No’.  In truth it is happening to people from all races and in many different sporting disciplines, in business environments, and in life, on a regular basis.

First, talent has to have an outlet.  Once the ‘opening’ is offered or identified, there are some who are able to understand and develop their talent better than others.  That is why there are a few who tend to stand out from the crowd – be it in golf, in other sporting disciplines, in business or in life.  But those on the branches just below the top of the tree still have talent.  And those who never made it onto the tree also have talent.  They either never learnt how best to develop their talent or they were not afforded the opportunity to develop their talent.

Make the most of the talent that you have and never give up.  Success beckons and success is relative.  Reconsider your talent and the opportunities for your talent; then reset your goals…..!

Ron Boon


Ron Boon