A well-known Hollywood producer shares his simple trick for correcting awkward professional moments

Brian Grazer

  • Dan
    Schawbel
     is a bestselling author, speaker, entrepreneur, and
    host of the “ 5 Questions with Dan
    Schawbel
    ” podcast, where he interviews world-class humans by
    asking them just five questions in under 10 minutes.
  • He recently interviewed Brian Grazer, the Hollywood
    film producer behind “Apollo 13” and “A Beautiful Mind,” as well as
    the author of “Face to Face.”
  • Growing up dyslexic, Brian had difficulty reading but
    was able to learn from human conversations.
  • Grazer learned that people only share their precious
    insights if they feel trust, interest, and safety.
  • Visit Business
    Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Upon quitting law school after one year, Brian Grazer pursued a
career as a producer focused on TV projects for Paramount Pictures
in the early 80s. There, he met friend and business partner Ron
Howard, embarking on one of the longest running partnerships in
Hollywood history. Together, their films and TV shows have been
nominated for 43 Oscars and 195 Emmys. He won the Best Picture
Oscar for “A Beautiful Mind.” In addition, Grazer produced hit
films like “American Gangster,” “Apollo 13,” “The Nutty Professor,”
“8 Mile,” and “Liar Liar.” His films have generated more than $13.5
billion in worldwide theatrical, musical, and video sales. His more
recent projects include TV series “Wu-Tang: An American Saga,” and
his new book “Face to Face: The Art of Human Connection.”

In the below conversation, Brian shares how face-to-face
conversations have benefitted him, how having dyslexia impacted his
career, how he recovered from two poor interactions, how technology
and human connection work in tandem, and his best career
advice.

Dan Schawbel: How have face-to-face
conversations impacted you personally and professionally?

Brian Grazer: I was acutely dyslexic in
elementary school. I couldn’t read at all. It was incredibly
troubling, difficult, shameful and hard to read. I realized that I
could learn by looking at people and if I look at them and have
human conversations, I could reach their heart. I might not be able
to reach them literally, but I can reach their heart and they can
reach mine. I was able to learn so much that it enabled me to have
all the success I have today. Every bit of the success I have
today, on every movie, there’s a direct relationship to that and
face-to-face human connection.

Dan: Can you give an example of a poor
interaction you’ve had and how you corrected it using the power of
face-to-face conversation?

Brian: With Dr. Jonas Salk, it took me about a
year for him to agree to meet. Then, when he said yes, I had so
much pre-anticipatory anxiety that when I approached him, I
literally barfed. Then I fainted and he came down to help me and
then I became revived. Then we had a conversation and it could have
ended, but he was so humane and I recovered in a way that I was
able to connect to my core self and we became friends to the final
end of his life. 

I had the opportunity to meet Michael Jackson. He came to my
office and I asked him to please take off his famous black glove. I
asked him if he could remove it, and he looked at me as though he
was going to leave because he was offended by the request. I really
felt like it would be impossible to connect with him if he had that
affectation. He did remove it, but I wasn’t sure what was going to
happen. When he removed it he became an entirely different person.
He was the most articulate, communicative and instruct individual
on choreography, lyrics, melodies and dance. He was able to speak
to all of that with such clarity and with a different voice. His
voice became more elevated and just regular. 

With face-to-face communication you feel somebody’s spirit. It
builds trust and with trust, people share valuable insights they
wouldn’t share ordinarily. People only share the precious insights
that they contain if they feel deep trust, interest, and
safety.

Dan: I always say use technology as a bridge to
human connection instead of letting it be a barrier between you and
the relationships you seek. How can we use technology to create
more human relationships?

Dan Schawbel

Brian: You use technology to create more human
relationships by searching and accessing who is interesting to you,
what is interesting to you, what subject might be interesting to
you, and who defines that subject. Use it for all of the
information that will lead you to a human connection. You first
want to know who you want to meet and why, and then once you know
who you want to meet and why, you want to be an excellent
communicator with them so that they feel like they’re getting
something out of it as well. All of that is available because of
technology. It absolutely augments and enriches human connection.
But, if you’re using it all the time when you’re around people or
in elevators or walking the streets in New York, you’re human
connections will be eliminated. They work together in tandem.

Dan: What are some of the biggest lessons you
learned early in your career that were useful later?

Brian: To be an active listener and have smart,
alive, and energetic eyes. I learned to come to the table with at
least three valuable assets that I could offer that person. I come
to the table always with a subject that could be interesting to
them. You want to come to the table with something that is valuable
that’s enriching their life, not just your life. I come to every
conversation with a little piece of paper that has three subjects,
insights, facts or news events that night that are not easily
found. I come with three pieces of information, or ideas, that can
benefit someone else’s life.

Dan: What is your best piece of career
advice?

Brian: When you are faced with a big decision
like buying a house, taking a job or quitting a job, always do
what’s inevitable. Do you think it’s inevitable you can afford the
house? If the answer is yes, then buy the house. Try to imagine
what’s inevitable to you. It is inevitable that you will stay at
this job for five years? Do you like it enough? Is it enriching you
enough either financially or educationally? If the answer is yes,
then don’t quit. If the answer is no, then quit. 

 

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SEE ALSO: Former
Teen Vogue editor-in-chief Elaine Welteroth shares the best early
career lessons that changed the trajectory of her
life


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A well-known Hollywood producer shares his simple trick for correcting awkward professional moments