Brian Grazer

A Curious Mind

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A Curious Mind Summary

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In their non-fiction book, A Curious Mind (2015), Brian Grazer, a film and television producer, and Charles Fishman, a writer and journalist, focus on the power of simple curiosity as a way of improving one’s mind and one’s life.

The book begins with an introduction in which Grazer explains why a film producer would write a book. He says curiosity drove him to the heights of success that he enjoys; if he hadn’t been a naturally curious person, he would never have become a film producer. Despite the power of curiosity, he was intrigued by the lack of discussion about it—curiosity was never mentioned as a driving force in people’s careers and lives. This revelation led to the book, opening a formal discussion on how embracing curiosity can affect one’s life in a positive way.

Grazer describes himself as naturally curious, a man who never hesitates to approach people and ask questions. He traces his adult sense of curiosity to a moment shortly after he graduated from the University of Southern California, when he overheard a conversation in which someone discussed leaving a job working for an executive at Warner Brothers. Grazer was curious about the job, and so he called the executive up and applied for the position, without knowing anything about it.

The job involved ferrying documents around to different people. Instead of simply doing his job and leaving the documents with assistants, Grazer insisted on delivering the paperwork personally, giving him the opportunity to ask questions. He set a goal for himself to have a conversation with someone new every day. He expanded this habit to include people outside his industry, always asking about their lives and their professions.

Grazer reflects on the meaning of curiosity, contending that the desire to know things is less important than how you use that desire. He describes himself as a shy person afflicted with anxiety. Forcing himself to ask people about their lives began as a way to handle these challenges. He describes his fear of public speaking and how he conquered it by being curious about it; his research led to the revelation that he was more afraid of being unprepared than of actually speaking. He then found that thorough preparation calmed his anxiety about public speaking.

Grazer describes a time he spent pursuing an interview with Chief of Los Angeles Police Daryl Gates, discussing how the variety of conversations and opinions he’s collected through conversations like that has directly influenced his production career, because the wide range of experiences he’s discussed directly influences his varied film and television projects.

Grazer describes the usefulness of curiosity in a business setting. He talks about how being curious and asking people questions—as opposed to simply assuming you know everything and giving orders—leads to a discussion where, heretofore, unknown factors can be revealed and explored. Grazer describes curiosity as a business superpower, especially when it comes to connecting with one’s customers. Grazer relates how he met his business partner, Ron Howard, directly through curiosity and pursuing answers to questions.
Grazer sees a similar principle in personal relationships. He asserts that we tend to assume we know everything about the people in our lives, but that this is largely untrue—and can’t be true, as there is simply too much to know about any one person. By remaining curious about the people we love and rely on, we will continuously learn about them, deepening the relationship and keeping it fresh. We cannot be bored with people about whom we are constantly learning something new.

Grazer defines what he calls “curiosity conversations,” one-on-one interviews with people conducted solely out of curiosity. These have been staged with both famous people—such as Jonas Salk, Eminem, Condoleezza Rice, and Isaac Asimov—as well as non-famous people Grazer has met in his life. He believes that this ongoing project of being curious and pursuing satisfaction for that curiosity has kept him ‛plugged in’ to what’s happening in the world in terms of science, culture, world events, and politics, in ways that he would not have been able to manage through simply reading or watching television.

Grazer concludes with an exhortation to never be afraid to ask questions. People like to discuss themselves and are usually happy to answer a question; learning something is always preferable to being content with what one has already learned. Curiosity is a tool that can break down barriers, giving one insight similar to Grazer’s insight into his fear of public speaking, which turned out to be something completely different once he exerted his curiosity to look into the matter.

The book concludes with samples of Grazer’s interviews and a guide explaining how to have a curiosity conversation.