Image credit: http://books.simonandschuster.com/
I just finished reading A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life. The last I looked, there are very few negative Amazon reviews of this book. A couple people complained that the book wasn’t “serious enough” and it was just about “some guy bragging about all of the famous people he knows.” To those reviewers, I respond, yes, the book is definitely a memoir and movie producers do tend to know famous people (I think you can tell that just by reading the cover). But the book is FUN. And how often can you say that about non-fiction?
I loved this book. I think I got something out of every chapter. Part of the fun is hearing all of his stories – the book is almost episodic in that way – so I don’t want to ruin it by sharing any of them here. Instead, I’d like to highlight the four themes that I found running through the book.
NOTE: Brian Grazer wrote this book with the help of Charles Fishman. In this post, I’ll refer primarily to Grazer because these are his stories that he is recalling about his life. I do not mean to minimize Fishman’s prose in anyway. The book was a nice read. Plus the last time I recommended it to someone on Twitter, Fishman tweeted me a thank you, which I thought was really sweet.
Theme 1: Curiosity
Grazer speaks about curiosity with the reverence most successful people reserve for words like “leadership,” “perseverance,” or “tenacity.” The man apparently can’t stop asking questions and his passion is infectious. We learn that while curiosity can be a sign of immense bravery (having the guts to ask the question), it can also be a beautiful demonstration of vulnerability (admitting you don’t know the answer). Over and over again throughout his stories, Grazer demonstrates that, in life, it is never wrong to ask questions, as long as you are willing to listen to the answers. Professionally, regardless of your industry, he makes it easy to see how curiosity can lead to better work and a better work environment.
Theme 2: Storytelling
I have a hunch that if I had a dollar for every time Grazer has said the words, “but what is the story?” over his lifetime, I would probably be richer than he is. A master storyteller in an industry of storytellers, each personal story that he shares keeps you at the edge of your seat. As marketers, his book reminds us that we can have the most efficient, powerful sales funnel in the world, but if our product and brand story aren’t there, then the sales won’t come.
Theme 3: Confidence and grit
I don’t remember the authors actually using the word “grit,” but I think it is appropriate. For me, this was the biggest surprise of the book. Grazer has developed a technique for tackling virtually any fear he encounters. First, he identifies the thing that intimidates him, and then he attacks it with questions until it dies and goes away. It sounds so simple and yet I never thought of it that way before. He also applies the same persistence to keeping a movie alive in the face of repeatedly being told “no” – he calls this “learning to beat the ‘no’.” Staying curious in the face of repeated negativity can be the secret to keeping your confidence afloat and your project alive. The advice is surprisingly practical: Stuck between a rock and a hard place? Ask a question. Feeling beat down? Ask a question. Turned down for funding again? Ask a question. Learn more and don’t stop until you have powered through and there is nothing else to ask.
Theme 4: Compassion
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle you know nothing about.” – Wendy Mass
Finally, Grazer makes a beautiful point about the importance of being curious about each other, just as human beings, not as a means to an end. He considers curiosity to be his leadership style, the secret to a healthy marriage, and a critical parenting technique. The book makes you want to call up your great uncle who survived in a war and ask him what his favorite food was as a child. Maybe we can’t all be as curious as Grazer, but it certainly can’t hurt to ask a few more questions and listen to the answers.