Guy Raz is the host of the NPR podcast “How I built this,” where he interviews entrepreneurs, innovators, and executives from all over the world about the companies they’ve built and the stories behind their success.
We were lucky enough to talk with Raz about his own career, his experience hosting the show, and what he has learned from talking to so many innovators and business leaders. The conversation is excerpted below.
There seems to be a theme that runs through your episodes about entrepreneurs confronting the difficulties of starting or running their business. And your guests often talk stories of crisis and doubt.
Normally, we only see the end result of a successful business, what draws you to the hardship?
What I found to be interesting is that some entrepreneurs that I talked to, they’re reluctant to talk about failure and I have to push it out and tease it out of them. And explain to them that it’s really important and it’s actually a real act of generosity to talk about failures, especially when you are not successful yet, because you are essentially saying, look, failure is a natural part of any process, and if you don’t fail you can’t learn how to succeed. I really think that to a person they all believe that.
In my own career and life I’ve experienced so much failure and I think that when I meet younger journalists or interns at NPR, people who are just getting into the profession they see me where I’m at now at this vantage point. People make the assumption that you skate from success to success and it all happened very smoothly and without friction. And the reality is that for much of my career, and I’m sure in the future as well it will happen time and again, it has sort of been failure-success-failure-failure-success-success-failure-failure-success. And that doesn’t mean that they were easy. Those failures were really difficult and those periods of rejection were really hard. But I think without those failures or periods of rejection I wouldn’t have been able to figure out a) what I wanted to do, and b) how to do it better.
So would you say it is a necessary step to building a successful business or career?
I think so, absolutely.