Orrin Woodward on LIFE & Leadership

Inc Magazine Top 20 Leader shares his personal, professional, and financial secrets.

  • Orrin Woodward

    Former Guinness World Record Holder for largest book signing ever, Orrin Woodward is a NY Times bestselling author of And Justice For All along with RESOLVED & coauthor of LeaderShift and Launching a Leadership Revolution. His books have sold over one million copies in the financial, leadership and liberty fields. RESOLVED: 13 Resolutions For LIFE made the Top 100 All-Time Best Leadership Books and the 13 Resolutions are the framework for the top selling Mental Fitness Challenge personal development program.

    Orrin made the Top 20 Inc. Magazine Leadership list & has co-founded two multi-million dollar leadership companies. Currently, he serves as the Chairman of the Board of the LIFE. He has a B.S. degree from GMI-EMI (now Kettering University) in manufacturing systems engineering. He holds four U.S. patents, and won an exclusive National Technical Benchmarking Award.

    This blog is an Alltop selection and ranked in HR's Top 100 Blogs for Management & Leadership.

  • Orrin’s Latest Book

  • 7 Day Free Access to Leadership Audios!

  • Email Me

  • NY Times Bestselling Book

  • Mental Fitness Challenge

  • Email Subscription

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 2,445 other subscribers

  • Categories

  • Archives

Joshua Bell: Subways to Metropolitans

Posted by Orrin Woodward on February 19, 2013

Joshua Bell is America’s greatest living violin player. This “poet of the violin” enthralls audiences around the world with his breathtaking mastery of the violin and the stage. Bell is equally at home as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist, and orchestra leader. His summer appearances included the premiere of a new concerto for violin and double bass by Edgar Meyer performed by Bell and Meyer at Tanglewood, Aspen, and the Hollywood Bowl. In addition, Bell appeared at the Festival del Sole, Ravinia, Verbier, Salzburg, Saratoga, and Mostly Mozart festivals. He kicked off the San Francisco Symphony’s fall season followed by performances with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Boston, Seattle, Omaha, Cincinnati, and Detroit Symphonies. Fall highlights included a tour of South Africa, a European tour with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, and a European recital tour with Sam Haywood. In 2013, Bell will tour the US with the Cleveland Orchestra and Europe with the New York Philharmonic as well as perform with the Tucson, Pittsburgh, San Diego, and Nashville Symphony Orchestras.

Bell’s first recording was released when he was eighteen, and now he has over forty CDs released, including the Grammy-nominated crossover recording Short Trip Home with composer and double bass virtuoso Edgar Meyer, as well as a recording with Meyer of the Bottesini Gran Duo Concertante. Bell also collaborated with Wynton Marsalis on the Grammy-winning spoken word children’s album Listen to the Storyteller and Bela Flecks’ Grammy Award recording Perpetual Motion. Highlights of the Sony Classical film soundtracks on which Bell has performed include The Red Violin, which won the Oscar for Best Original Score, the Classical Brit-nominated Ladies in Lavender, and the films Iris and Defiance. In addition, Bell has been embraced by a wide television audience with appearances ranging from The Tonight Show, The Tavis Smiley Show, The Charlie Rose Show, and CBS Sunday Morning to Sesame Street and Entertainment Tonight. In 2010, Bell starred in his fifth Live From Lincoln Center Presents broadcast titled: “Joshua Bell with Friends @ The Penthouse.” Other PBS shows include Great Performances – Joshua Bell: West Side Story Suite from Central Park, Memorial Day Concert performed on the lawn of the United States Capitol, and A&E’s Biography. He has twice performed on the Grammy Awards telecast, performing music from Short Trip Home and West Side Story Suite. He was one of the first classical artists to have a music video air on VH1, and he has been the subject of a BBC Omnibus documentary.

Finally, Bell has appeared in publications ranging from Strad and Gramophone to The New York Times, People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People issue, USA Today, The Wall St. Journal, GQ, Vogue, and Readers Digest among many. In 2007, Bell performed incognito in a Washington, DC subway station for a Washington Post story by Gene Weingarten examining art and context. The story earned Weingarten a Pulitzer Prize and sparked an international firestorm of discussion which continues to this day.

To say that Joshua Bell has achieved international fame in the musical world would be a serious understatement. Why do I tell the reader all of this? Have I suddenly joined the Joshua Bell fan club? Although I certainly enjoy his music, I have another reason for sharing his story. In an interesting social experimentWashington Post reporter Gene Weingarten proposed that Joshua Bell play his violin incognito in the Washington Metro subway. It’s one of the busiest sections of the subway and would ensure many subway users heard the greatest living violinist. The video is embedded below.

For forty-five minutes on the morning of January 12, 2007, concert violinist Joshua Bell stood incognito on a Washington, DC subway platform and performed classical music for passersby. “No one knew it,” explained Washington Post reporter Gene Weingarten several months after the event, “but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made.” Weingarten came up with the experiment to see how ordinary people would react.

And how did they react? For the most part, not at all. More than a thousand people entered the Metro station as Bell worked his way through a set list of classical masterpieces, but only a few stopped to listen. “Some dropped money in his open violin case (for a total of about $27), but most never even stopped to look,” Weingarten wrote.

I thought about this scenario many times over the last year and it finally hit me why this was so fascinating to me: People are so busy, busy, busy surviving that few ever notice the beauty around them. The subway passengers walked right by the most beautiful music played by the best violinist on his million-dollar Stradivarius violin. One of the anonymous emails circulating about this incident asked, “If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?” What finally sunk in was, out of context, greatness in life is ignored. Joshua Bell, in context, is the greatest living violinist, but out of context, he is just another musician attempting to make a buck in the subway.

Joshua Bell, in other words, had to get out of the subway and onto the Metropolitan stages before his talents and gifts were recognized by the world. In the same way, many people, with talents and gifts, are playing beautiful music in their chosen fields, but no one is noticing. The subways of life keep people so busy that they never stop to notice the beauty around them, including the beauty and talents of those around them. Imagine if Joshua Bell only had this forty-five-minute window in the subway to determine whether he was any good with the violin. He may have labeled himself as a poor player because no one was interested! One of the keys for success is to never take advice from someone who does not have the results one desires! How, in other words, can a subway person tell you anything about the Metropolitan?

My whole purpose in life is to create “Metropolitan” stages across the world where people can reveal their talents. Study the leaders in the LIFE business and see how each had amazing talents that were hidden in the subway environment. It wasn’t until they climbed out of the subway that others recognized what they had within them. For instance, Chris Brady was a process engineer in a factory. The world wouldn’t have experienced his amazing blend of humor and teaching in the factory! Tim Marks was an engineering supervisor. The world would have missed one of the best implementors of the PDCA process I have ever met had he stayed in that position. Claude Hamilton was in the Canadian military. His leadership gifts and orchestration ability would have been hidden from the world had he not chosen to climb.

Significantly, each of these LIFE Founders had Joshua Bell talents, but people didn’t seem to notice his greatness when living in the subway. LIFE gives people a chance to climb out of the subways of life onto the Metropolitan stages. However, climbing is never easy, and few will consistently and persistently climb up and out. Nonetheless, I love the fact that everyone is given an equal opportunity to move up, if he or she so chooses. In truth, this is all anyone should ask for from life: a chance. When I was shown the stairway out of the subway, that was all I needed. Laurie and I took it from there, and we climbed relentlessly until we reached the Metropolitan. We have dedicated our lives to go back into the subways of life on “search and rescue” missions to find other people who want out of the subway but do not know where the stairway is. This thirty-one-minute video (I know it’s long for today’s media age, but it has essential lessons for life) was recorded live in Visalia, California at one of the three LIFE Leadership Conventions. It shares the key lessons I learned through meditating on the Washington Post social experiment with Joshua Bell.

If the reader loves what he does, then become a LIFE customer and enjoy world-class leadership training to help out in the stairway climb. If the reader has no plan to get out of the subway, then become a LIFE Member and be one of the best students of someone who has made it out of the subways of life. I wish you all the success you earn on your climb.


Orrin Woodward

42 Responses to “Joshua Bell: Subways to Metropolitans”

  1. wendi witkowski said

    Thank you Orrin for this inspiring story that infuses one with the fortitude to keep climbing and to keep focused on the search and rescue. It was my favorite talk at the convention and really helps me to remember that not everyone wants out or will make the climb.

  2. Scott Staley said

    Great article Orrin. I remember watching the Joshua Bell video before – and being amazed that no one really noticed… That really is a prime example of the world (on a smaller scale). Everyone is so busy, that they don’t have time to notice anything that doesn’t directly (and usually immediately) impact them personally. It’s like a conditioned apathy which very few things can penetrate, except specific intent and very conscious thought – which in most cases, needs to be re-learned by the individual. That is what I love about LIFE – it helps people learn how to focus themselves in the ares that they would like to improve…. A nice side benefit is that it spills over into all areas of their lives.

    Thank you for everything that you do – I appreciate you, and all of the PC, for setting up a system that has been so impactful into my” and my familiy’s lives.

  3. Chad Waters said

    Great Blog Orrin!

    I love this story every time I hear it! It reminds me of how I was stuck at my own business chasing the mighty $ and along came a company called Life that gave me a stage and set me free!

    Thank you on so many levels!

  4. Bob said

    Great article! Thanks!

  5. Alicia Johanning said

    Listened to the entire thing Orrin. Amazing :). I knew my whole life I was meant for the metropolitan and i was stuck and still am in the subway…but I am following Matt and Michelle Mielke out of it 🙂

    Thanks for the inspiration. :

    • Matt Mielke said

      Alicia, you are a Josh Bell, or maybe Josephina Bell 😉 You have a stage waiting for you and you will impact thousands of lives with your story. Godspeed on your journey.

  6. Rob Robson said

    This was one of the most inspiring talks that I have ever heard! Thank you Orrin Woodward for creating an environment that so many are able to leave the subways of life and step into their greatness!!

  7. Steve Meixner said

    Orrin,I just watched the Video last night with my wife,I was telling her about your CD.You describe me Exactly on that CD, Never content in any job,always feeling unhappy,and always wondering,”Is this all there is, is this all I was meant to be” With the LIFE business I now see my way out of the Subway. The LIFE business has restored Hope in my life!!!Thank You so much for all you do!!! Steve

  8. Powerful stuff! Orrin Woodward, Chris Brady, George Guzzardo, Claude Hamilton, Bill Lewis, Dan Hawkins, Wayne MacNamara, and Tim Marks have such great blogs! I love the information being taught in the LIFE business. Thank you!

  9. J & P Harteis said

    We love your quote, Orrin, “LIFE gives people a chance to climb out of the subways onto the Metropolitan stages of life. However, climbing is never easy and few will consistently and persistently climb up and out. Nonetheless, I love the fact that everyone is given an equal opportunity to move up, if he or she so chooses to. In truth, this is all anyone should ask for from life, namely, a chance.” And you, & all of the PC, have definitely given us this chance! When we look at creation, the very things that God has made, & know that even these are overlooked by the very ones He created them for, is it any wonder why we get lost in the subways? We all have a message to share! Be blessed!

  10. Alison Ruhlman said

    I love this analogy — I love the LIFE business — and I love reading great blogs! Thanks for always taking the time to write and share — and most of all THANKS for the LIFE business opportunity you provided for us all! I hope to one day impact as many lives as you have been able to.

  11. Robert Daley said

    Outstanding analogy Orrin
    I love the concept of “search and rescue”….. I get to search for people who want to change their direction in life… Exciting times to live in…. The need of what we have to offer is extremely high….. The only challenging part is wanting to help people who don’t want help…. Thank God for our system of cd’s , books, and regular schedule of association.
    God bless

  12. Elaine Mallios said

    Ok man. I’m climbing! Was that true about 90% won’t? Looking over my stats its pretty close.

    • Orrin Woodward said

      Sturgeon’s Law is real. 90% of anything is crud. In this case, the leadership effort is crud. Anyone who desires to win must break out of the 90%! thanks, Orrin

  13. Tim Johnson said

    Thank you for this great blog, Orrin! When I first heard you give this analogy with Joshua Bell, it hit me very hard. I too felt like I had been in the subways wondering where the stairs were to climb out. I’ve always known I was meant for something else, something with meaning. It wasn’t until we were introduced to the association and materials of Team and Life that both my wife, Cindy, and I could see the way out of the subways. We aren’t there yet, but we are much closer than we were, in many ways. Thank you Orrin. Thank you for having the courage to lead and helps others. God Bless!

  14. Carrianne Hall said

    So moving! Inspiring many to start there own climb! Thanks Orrin God Bless

  15. Kevin Hamm said


    This is what makes the LIFE business so incredible. The people who choose to do what it takes to rise to the top always become a person of influence that they never would have become outside of this opportunity, what other entity provides a stage to apply the very skills that are developed along the way. All other “competitors” are theoretical cheerleaders encouraging people to find a venue to apply the information. The LIFE organization is a leadership factory that produces leaders from leaders. I can become what you are and you would cheer. Where else can you find that? No where. Thanks Orrin

  16. Thanks Orrin. You are are among those who encourage me little by little in resuming my cello career or pursuing a different means of awakening humanity’s consciousness, or at least giving something back to humanity. Below is another approach to the subway issue. Being a cellist, I have had failures such as Bell, but also a significant success – there are other factors. Your article on Bell appeared the day after I wrote about him and events such as the following, which I am currently co-organizing as of last week when I saw the video: http://www.wqxr.org/#!/blogs/wqxr-blog/2012/may/07/video-copenhagen-philharmonic-suprises-subway-riders-grieg/
    I had no idea things like this were being done.

  17. This is such a great illustration of how busyness is able to steal beauty from our lives… if we allow it to do so. I am so grateful for all the policy council does so that the LIFE opportunity exists to restore the awareness and enjoyment of the many beautiful moments in life. Thank you, Orrin!

  18. Christine Fleury said

    Wow. So true of so many people….we all want to believe there’s greatness in us, but in the “subways” of life its easy to begin doubting that there really is, to the point where most of us stop trying. Thank God for an incredible team that reminded me that “yes, there is greatness in you. It’s just wasn’t meant for The subways.” As Chris Brady says “it’s for who it’s for!” Thanks for helping me climb out of the subways of life and encourage others to come out with me.
    God bless,

    • Christine Fleury said

      Oops posted too soon and think clicked too many times. Sorry if this is in here twice…or more 🙂

  19. Christine Fleury said

    Wow. So true of so many people….we all want to believe there’s greatness in us, but in the “subways” of life its easy to begin doubting that there really is, to the point where most of us stop trying. I like how in the first video, only one out of the thousand that walked by stopped to notice. But that one did…she s the greatness and knew who he was…the real Joshua Bell, not just some random violinist in a subway terminal. Thank God for the courage of that one person in my entire life who noticed me in the subways of life and SAW me…and led me to an incredible team that fed the flicker of destiny in me that “yes, there is greatness in you.” That it was always there, but just wasnt meant for the subways. As Chris Brady says “it’s for who it’s for!” Thanks for helping me climb out of the subways of life and encourage others to come out with me.
    God bless,

  20. Jim Martin said

    Orrin this talk you gave about Josh Bell at the major was one of my favorite talks of the weekend and the analogy of how there are millions of people that want to get out of the subway but don’t have a clue on how to get out. We know with LIFE we can go into the subways all over the world and lead the people who want to get out of the subway but didn’t have a vehicle to get out! Thanks for the great post.


  21. Love, love, love this story Orrin! The LIFE business will assist in giving people a chance to get out of the subway. I won’t stop until Im in the metropolitan…and even then I will never stop because I also want to bring a bunch of people with me to the metropolitan. LIFE island would be a great starting place 🙂

  22. I take from this article a few things. A small point that I got was ‘dont judge your abilities by playing in “a subway.’ If youre setting out to do something,make the extra effort to get in front of someone that can get you some legitimate judgement.

    Btw,John Richardson and Brian Powers did a fantastic Open Meeting in Lansing MI last night!!

  23. Elizabeth Sieracki said

    Your telling of this story, Orrin, has become one of my favorites.

    It reminds me of the cd you did called Leadership Song. When I listened to that CD and then went and watched Susan Boyle perform on Utube I was brought to tears. You used Susan Boyle to explain that America Idol was just the stage that brought her story and amazing talent to the world.
    I sat across the table from a struggling single Mom yesterday that wants out of the subway. I was able to share this message that – “You have a story to tell that so many need to hear. LIFE is your vehicle to get out of the subway and tell it and I will be with you every step of the way.”
    From the subway to the stage! That’s what we do.
    Thank you Orrin for the amazing stories you bring to life and LIFE.

  24. Tina Abernathy said


    Loved this when I first heard and it ti resonates every time I hear it because I know that the LIFE business has helped me identify my purpose and encouraged me to CLIMB and keep on CLIMBING!


  25. Steve Leurquin said

    This video brings so many thoughts as I watch it. If this thinking happens to a man that is as amazing at his craft as Mr. Bell, how is the person living down the street doing? I know there are many Joshua Bells out there looking to climb out of the subway. Time to find them.

  26. Amy Antonucci said

    Thanks for the Joshua Bell story! Not only do I look for “diamonds” to join us in the Life business, but in my students. Then I point out their diamond status to them!

  27. Ali Staneart said

    I love love love this story Orrin!!!! I loved hearing it at the Major and I love hearing it again! Thank you and all the PC for showing us the way out of the subway and how to help others get out of the subway and on to the metropolitan.

  28. Terry said

    Love the Josh Bell phenomena
    What a great perspective to keep!

  29. Bryan Robinson said

    Thanks Orrin for this inspiring story. I know I am part of something special that will change people’s lives, since it has already started to change mine. My wife was unable to attend the major event and this is the only talk she has seen and was just glued to it. I know you are very passionate about it since you woke up at 4am and traveled across the country to deliver it and we were all fired up, even though it was late at night! Great job!

  30. Orrin, the Joshua Bell Story is the perfect example of people who go through their lives just existing and not taking the time to realize their God given talents. If only more people would be open minded to stop and realize there is a big difference between existing and Living the life they always wanted and deserve to have!! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the LIFE business opportunity and the vehicle to take us to our Metropolitan stage. Here’s to our first one million!!


    Kolynn and Lynn Kelley
    Harrisburg, PA

  31. Ted Hewing,Jr. said

    I really enjoyed that video Orrin! Thanks for allowing GOD to use you to create an opportunity for anyone who wants to get out of the subway!

  32. Rick Satterstrom said

    This talk was my favorite from the major as well. Everyone needs some help and if they want out of the subways, we need to find them!

  33. Mario Vega said

    Great info Orrin.

  34. Lana Harriman said

    What a great post. I first heard you give this talk at the power player meeting before the major and was so glad that the CD came down in the system. It has become one of my favorite talks and a great motivator to keep going and never quit. Thank You.


  35. Jenny Rains said

    Thanks for the great article.

  36. Alaysha said

    This is such an outstanding article!

  37. There’s more out there, and we need to find them! Lets keep hunting!

  38. Bob Pollock said

    This is Orrin at his best. I feel ten feet tall and bulletproof when I hear this. I’m glad he put the whole 31 minutes on here. I work a job that requires 15 hours a day–most days. This video gives me hope that there’s a better life.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.