Warning: Excessive hyperlinks below. I got excited over NLB, and just… couldn’t stop. No one expects you to click on them all, but you won’t be disappointed.
I’ll be honest, I picked this book out because of the audiobook narrator. I had an unexpectedly scheduled 9-hour drive, both ways, to Columbus Ohio, and I needed audiobooks to get me through. My typical audiobook hunt starts with Audies and favorite narrators. There wasn’t time for that, nor for the waiting around for audiobooks to arrive (this is the first time I ever considered getting an Audible membership…). So, a stop at the library and whatever was on file is how it started.
I picked this one up because the cover read: Narrated by Norbert Leo Butz. NLB has been a stable in my life since I was 10. I couldn’t say no. I fell in love with his voice in The Last Five Years [as Jamie], but I had already known him from Rent [an understudy for Roger] and then when he was in Wicked [FIYERO!!!!], my love was cemented. So, I didn’t know what I was getting into when I picked this audiobook up. But I knew it wouldn’t be ruined by a poor narrator. What I found was an unexpected treasure. A mix between business, self-help, philosophy, and memoir, A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life explores one simple topic: Curiosity.
Curiosity is itself a form of power, and also a form of courage.
Brian Grazer is a Hollywood Producer to climbed his way to the top in the traditional American way, by his gumption and bootstraps. However, he identifies the secret weapon to his success as Curiosity. Over the years, Brian has hosted what he dubs “curiosity conversations”. He makes appointments with people he finds interesting (it could take years to meet someone!) and asks them about their life, what they’ve done/do, and how they think. He wants to better understand the world and view the world from other people’s eyes– and you can only do that by asking questions and listening. It’s because of these conversations he found the nuggets he and director Ron Howard have used to create Imagine Entertainment. And with this background information they have created films such as Splash and Apollo 13, as well as television shows such as 24 and Arrested Development.
For me, curiosity infuses everything with a sense of possibility. Curiosity has, quite literally, been the key to my success, and also the key to my happiness.
Grazer points out that it’s not considered “good behavior” in the modern day to be curious. That we consider curiosity to be an odd mannerism in people and often shut down for children when in school. When children ask, “Why is the sky blue? How high does it go?” exhausted parents will tell their kids to stop asking questions. And in the classroom or workplace, we are often just told to do what we are told instead of pressing and asking “Why?” Grazer found that if you are willing to slow down, wonder about something, ask a question, truly listen to the response, and then keep asking, you will really learn something. It might not be what you want to learn, but you will certainly learn something new about the world.
What I enjoyed most about this book was listening to Grazer’s journey. Yes, sometimes he comes across as arrogant. And yes, sometimes I found myself asking, “But what questions did you actually ask this person?!” but the stories are fascinating. Grazer certainly would not be where he is today without his innate sense of curiosity. Grazer’s first job in the industry was gained by being curious: By eavesdropping on people talking outside and asking questions. Then, he once in the In Crowd of Hollywood, he realized how much people liked to talk about themselves– so asking questions about how people got where they are, how to achieve great things, and how to think about the world differently helped him discover new opportunities and develop a career.
Just as curiosity had gotten me the job, it also transformed the job itself into something wonderful.
The end of this audiobook is a collection of Grazer’s most memorable curiosity conversations. He talked about meeting Princess Diana, Oprah, Dr. Edward Teller, Michael Jackson and many more. I really enjoyed listening to Grazer describing his reflections on these curiosity conversations. He has an interesting mind, and I never would have thought about things from the perspective he has. I guess that’s why we host curiosity conversations.
All in all, a fun and refreshing book. If I was reading it just to learn more about curiosity or how to host a curiosity conversation, well, then I’d probably be frustrated. There’s not a lot of detail on what actually happens in these conversations, what questions are asked, or how to even decide who to meet or how to go about meeting them. But there are some wonderful insights to the benefits of curiosity and the way curiosity affects the world. Plus, listening to Grazer’s stories and a bit about his life and relationships was quite interesting.
I recommend this to anyone who has ventured down a Wikipedia black hole or who has thought about Why many times in repetition, or just people who are interested in different ways of thinking.