Business

Guy Raz looks for human stories behind the businesses, will speak Thursday at Cedar Rapids virtual event

'How I Built This' podcast host will speak in NewBoCo virtual event

(Photo via NPR)
(Photo via NPR)

Guy Raz doesn’t think of businesses in terms of just finances and the economy. For him, businesses are best understood through the people behind them.

“I find I have learned best in my career, and my listeners learn best, through human experiences. We connect to human narratives because we relate to them,” he said.

“I’m inspired by the stories of the entrepreneurs because they are not stories of easy success. They are stories of hard-won success and lots of failures and crises. It reminds us we’re not alone in our journey, whatever that may be.”

He’s interviewed the founders of some of the world’s most recognizable companies for his NPR podcast, “How I Built This,” and a new book of the same name.

“The book is designed to be a different kind of business book. It’s designed to tell the story of how to build a business or idea and put it out in the world, but it’s told through narrative and the stories and experiences of people who have done it before,” he told The Gazette Monday.

“It’s really designed to kind of be a road map for people who are looking to create or build an idea.”

Raz also is the host and co-creator of the NPR podcasts “TED Radio Hour” and “Wow in the World.” He will speak Thursday in a virtual event hosted by the New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative, or NewBoCo.

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Raz said anyone can think of themselves as an entrepreneur, even if they’ve never set out to start their own business.

“Most of us actually act in an entrepreneurial way every day — we solve problems, have to figure out how to get past them,” he said.

“It’s really not some mystical, magical thing, it really is thinking creatively and persevering and figuring out how to push through challenging moments.”

“What I wanted to do is to sort of reintroduce the concept of entrepreneurship to people who may not think of themselves that way, but actually are and have the potential the capacity to do really great things if they chose to.”

Uncertainty, fear and struggle are part of every entrepreneur’s story, he said.

“One of the most important themes that emerges from the book and the people I’ve interviewed is it’s not that they lack fear — we all have fear, fear is normal. But they’ve figured out how to manage their fear and carry on despite those fear.

“They’ve figured out how to test their limits and push a little further,” he said. “We’re afraid of rejection, ridicule, people’s reactions, we’re afraid of hearing no. The key is to figure out how to push through that fear.”

That’s a message even more relevant in this year of pandemic, economic hardship and other upheavals.

“We’re in a really challenging moment in human history, and never before in the modern era have so many people faced so many crises a global pandemic, recession, climate change, political division, social unrest.”

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Right now, he said, “I certainly need to think about places where I can make a difference, where I have agency to make a change,” he said.

“We’re living in a moment where we really do need inspiration. We need something to remind us that not everything is dark and bleak, that actually there are a lot of reasons to be inspired by possibility.”

Participants can watch the event and ask Raz questions. Tickets are $45 and include a copy of his book.

Tickets are available at newbo.co/guy-raz.

The Gazette is a media sponsor of the NewBoCo event.

Comments: (319) 398-8339; alison.gowans@thegazette.com

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