A Curious Mind is an homage to the power of asking questions, showing you how being curious can change your entire life, from the way you do business, to how you interact with your loved ones, or even shape your country.
When I say Brian Grazer, does that ring a bell? It didn’t for me at first, I have to admit. Maybe the title of this book reminds you of something. A Curious Mind.
A Beautiful Mind maybe? You know, the movie about the brilliance of economics Nobel prize winner John Nash, who invented the field of game theory, but suffered from severe schizophrenia? The one that won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and three others?
Yup, Brian Grazer produced that. He also produced movies like 8 Mile, Frost/Nixon, Apollo 13 and the world-famous TV show 24, starring Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer.
In 2015, Brian asked himself what the root of his success was. He determined that the answer was curiosity. To share how it’s shaped his life in ways he’d never imagined, and how it can potentially transform yours, he co-wrote this book with journalist Charles Fishman.
Here are 3 lessons about curiosity that’ll hopefully make you want to ask a lot more questions:
In business, whoever is the most curious, wins.
Everyone loves being asked questions and that includes the people closest to you.
Sometimes you gotta know when to stop asking and start doing.
Would you like to take a peek into the mind that made A Beautiful Mind? Today’s your lucky day!
Lesson 1: A rule of business is that whoever’s the most curious, wins.
Most people will tell you that business is hard. That it’s competitive. That you have to get your elbows out, toughen up, and try to overtake whoever’s in front of you.
But that’s not true. You can take a much more cooperative approach, one that’s based on collaboration, not competition, and still win. In fact, Brian Grazer would probably say: Whoever’s the most curious, wins. Curiosity not only fosters cooperation, but also connection.
If you’re genuinely curious about your employees’ lives, you’ll ask them questions accordingly. This way, Brian leads mostly by asking questions, instead of giving orders. Vice versa, his employees are supposed to ask him many questions also! When you’re curious, people can explain and reflect on their work themselves. This kind of meaningful conversation leads to bigger and better breakthroughs than a mere “do this now” approach.
The same holds true for your customers. Who would you rather buy a car from? The dealer who just touts his latest offers and how great the cars are, or someone who asks you why you want to buy a car, what you need it for, where you’ll go with it, and what you’re looking for? The only way to satisfy your customer is to find out exactly what they want in each case and then serve them the best way you can – and you can’t do that without being curious.
Lesson 2: Everyone loves being asked and answering questions, including your loved ones.
I recently thought about how much I know about my parents’ childhoods. As it turns out, it’s not too much. Sure, I know where they went to school and a couple big milestones, but teenage life is long – there’s so much I still have to ask them!
Think about someone you’ve known most or all of your life. How much do you really know about them? Chances are there’s still tons left to discover. By showing interest, you can improve your relationships even with the best of your friends and loved ones.
Most couples eventually fall into a rut. “Hey, how was your day?” “Good, good.” …and then TV takes over. Saving a deteriorating relationship from falling apart can be as simple as remembering one specific thing your partner told you and then asking them about it. “Hey, how’d the presentation go today? Were you nervous?” shows you remember and are curious about how their story evolves.
Similarly, questions make you much better at connecting with people. Everyone loves being asked questions and to talk about themselves, so instead of rambling about yourself at the next party, start asking new people all about their story. Where did you grow up? What do you do for a living? How do you like it?
As in business, so in life: curiosity connects.
Lesson 3: When it’s time to stop asking and start doing, keep a seal on your curiosity.
Being curious is a great mode to be in 90% of the time. But sometimes, it’s time to flip the switch and become anti-curious for a while. For example, after Brian Grazer had the idea for the TV show 24 from one of his many curiosity conversations (weekly meetings with professionals from all kinds of fields), he had to switch and commit to now bringing the show to life.
Similarly, his expertise in the film industry now tells him when he’s found a movie that deserves to be made – even if it’s not going to be a mass hit. Frost/Nixon and Rush are great examples of such movies. They were well written, and the stories of the post-Watergate Nixon interviews and Niki Lauda and James Hunt’s Formula One rivalry in the 70s deserved to be told. So Brian went ahead and made them, ignoring what people told him.
He had to tone down his curiosity for a while, but in the end both movies got a lot of critical acclaim, in spite of not being commercial successes.
People throw a lot of ideas at me. Features for Four Minute Books, products to create, posts to write. I’m always open to hearing them, but often I have to note them down and return to them later, so I can focus on writing the summaries, which are my commitment for the year. The only way to create something of value is to ignore new ideas every now and then – it’s up to you to know when that is.
My personal take-aways
This is a wonderful angle at business and life, if you ask me. It’s predicated on fun, being open-minded and preserving your sense of childhood curiosity. Seems to me like a much more sustainable approach than “work is hard, life is hard, you gotta be tough.” Never stop answering questions. Great book!