(book review) A Curious Mind by Brian Grazer

TL;DR Summary:  I can’t say enough about this book. The content is rich, tangible, accessible, actionable, and as life-changing as anything I’ve ever read. Anyone who reads this book and makes curiosity a driving force behind their behavior, will be the better for it. Also, movie making might be the perfect career.


 

This week, I was fortunate enough to discover and read two books that have helped me better understand the world, life, and myself. Few books have been so meaningful and helpful to me personally as these two books, which were both shoe-ins for my “Favorite Reads” list.

The first book was The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson.

a-curious-mind-9781476730752_hrThis post is a review of the second and equally impactful book: A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life by Brian Grazer. I am sharing this book because it has helped me understand myself in a very core way and because it provides so many good ideas/ways for how to get the most out of life going forward. It really is a powerfully down-to-earth and joyful book that I think pretty much anyone can benefit from reading.

How to get the most out of life going forward.

Better relationships.

One thing I was probably most surprised to learn from the book was how curiosity can be a driving force behind good, healthy inter-personal relationships. For me, it’s more obvious how curiosity can make us all more thorough and more innovative professionals, but what is less obvious is how curiosity can make me a better people manager, spouse, brother, parent, friend, colleague, etc.

As a self-described servant leader, as a fiancee to my future wife with whom I want to build a long and fruitful relationship that doesn’t end in divorce, and as a brother and son to struggling relatives, the stories Mr. Krazer tells about how curiosity drives constant question asking and how this makes people more responsive to him, were priceless.

Better citizen.

No man is an island. We are all members of at least one society and organization, and so perhaps curiosity can be a driving force to our asking questions of our government organizations and elected officials. If we never ask why and seek to understand how things are done, things would never get done better.  Perhaps this topic can be an opportunity for a revised edition.

Proper questioning.

One thing I think worth highlighting is the difference between “questioning” and “asking questions”.  It is a subtle difference but also at the core of how curiosity can be very a powerful force for good; or an insulting and ineffective force that distances you from people and whatever thing you need to understand.

Curiosity can and should lead to you becoming inquisitive and asking a lot of questions in search of understanding. “Questioning”, however, implies critique, which puts people on the defensive. When people feel defensive, they will not share openly with us; and we won’t learn the truth from them. The whole purpose of being curious is to learn the truth. Instead of “questioning”, our aim is to inquire, discover, understand, and discuss ideas.

“Anti-curiosity”

Mr. Grazer makes it clear that he a proponent for using curiosity to achieve desired results. It is a tool and culture. He is not suggesting we be curious for the sake of being curious. I love the practicality of this.

Ever the proponent of curiosity but of also achieving desired results and being a leader, Krazer does something really smart towards the end of the book, and describes this idea of “anti-curiosity”.  He points out that we must also learn when to stop asking questions; otherwise, we increase the likelihood of being convinced by respondents to not move forward with an idea that we believe worth pursuing.

Better understanding myself.

Curiosity is a good thing…a very good thing.

As anyone with ADHD will tell you, we are constantly distracted by things. We are–by definition–wired to notice. Before reading A Curious Mind, I understood my distractibility primarily in terms of an ADHD mind. Since my curiosity inherently makes me even more vulnerable to distraction, and I’ve always thought of distraction as a bad thing, I saw my curiosity as a bad thing. In fear of “not getting anything done”, I’ve spent more time telling myself to ignore my curiosities than to follow them. Not anymore. In A Curious Mind, Brian illustrates–with many tangible examples–that being curious is not only a unique personality trait but an extremely good way to live one’s life.

It is tough to put into words–especially without becoming a bit emotional–how good it feels to have struggled so much with one’s own mind and then come to realize that you’re mind isn’t “broken”. As they say here in Silicon Valley, my unfocused range of curiosities is not a bug; it’s a feature. And this feels so good.

Making movies might be what I should do with my life.

I still remember the first great movie I saw: American Beauty. I was 18 years old. For me, that movie was far more than an entertaining two-hour escape from reality. Somehow, it was a believable story into which I could escape and at the same time continue thinking about the world but in a new light. It was a magnificent experience,  ingeniously written and executed.

The lessons the movie taught me have stuck with me to do this day, almost 17 years later. Lessons like how people can put up facades and hide who they truly are on the inside. How the people society may judge was “weirdos” or “losers” might be the sanest of us all. It put so much of our society in front of us to rethink and question ourselves, making the movie far more than a great story. Immediately after finishing the movie, I knew right away that this was my kind of movie. These movies that cause us to think about things differently. These are the movies that responsibly take most advantage of this most powerful medium.

I’m fortunate to have attended three great institutions of higher learning, all of which I took very seriously, worked hard at, and learned a tremendous amount from; but movies have been my other educational institution.

As I take a step back and consider my vast range of curiosities, my unique ability to engage with people with different backgrounds, my business and intellectual property backgrounds, and my passion for influential movies, what could be a better job for me than producing movies?

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *