Posted Tuesday, December 5, 2017 by RODNEY HOemail@example.com on his myAJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Guy Raz is on the forefront of the newest type of rising media star: podcaster extraordinaire. He juggles three podcasts, two of which are heard by millions of people every week: “TED Radio Hour” and the relatively new but fast-growing “How I Built This.”
And he’s now doing a national tour for “How I Built This,” stopping at the Buckhead Theatre December 6 to interview Home Depot founder and Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank. (The event is sold out so you’ll probably to fish around for tickets on third-party sites.)
The podcast is just 15 months old but already attracts 1.5 million downloads weekly while “TED Radio Hour” pulls in 3 million-plus. And he also does a special podcast for kids called “Wow in the World.” In other words, Raz has proven that great story-telling and discussion is still valued in this ADHD world.
He said the idea for “How I Built This” stemmed from the “TED Radio Hour,” which focuses mostly on science and broad ideas. “It really got me thinking about story telling,” he said in a recent interview. “Some of the best stories are right under our noses. The things we use every day. The things that make our lives better. I’ve always had a deep interest in entrepreneurs. There’s usually a great narrative arc to creating a company.”
Raz’s dad owned a jewelry store: “He never got rich but he was able to sustain a life and raise a family. He took a huge risk leaving a secure job while raising three kids. This got me thinking about the people who take those risks.”
What he has learned is most successful entrepreneurs are not “kamikaze risk takers.” Rather, they have a combination of “persistence, optimism and unshakable belief in the power of the thing they’re pursuing whether it’s a Cliff Bar or Spanx.”
Raz believes “the ability to withstand rejection is a quality we can develop. Most people on the show said they developed this skill. It’s like working a muscle.” He mentioned Atlanta billionaire and Spanx creator Sara Blakely. She sold fax machines door to door early in her career and experienced constant rejection. She built up thick skin that enabled her to move forward as she built her shapewear empire in the face of skepticism and setbacks.
One of his most recent “How I Built This” podcasts featured Ben Cohen and Jeff Greenfield, the socially conscious founders of Ben & Jerry.
As Raz did the interview, he gleaned a couple of insights.
Although Ben and Jerry came across as two hippy socialist do-gooders who stumbled into success, they were far more astute behind the scenes. They read Small Business Administration handbooks, got a mentor, took business classes. They scouted locations by standing on street corners in Burlington, Vt. with a clicker and counting traffic.
He also marveled over their enduring friendship over a half century. “Money creates a lot of tension,” Raz said. “Business decisions create tension. Yet they remained best friends. Their kids grew up together. Their wives are friends. They vacation together. They see each other every day. This is unusual even with the most successful companies. People drift apart. Their interests change.”
These interviews led him to go on the road and do the podcasts live this year. He did one with the Reddit founders in San Francisco, the creator of Starbucks in Seattle and the Buzzfeed and Huffington Post developers in New York.
The goal in each case, as will be the case when Raz talks to Blank Wednesday, is to seek wisdom. And Raz is grateful when big shots are willing to take their time to talk to him. “You cannot put a price on wisdom,” he said. “That’s an incredibly generous gift to give.”
He said podcasting – now hot – is the latest iteration of story-telling around the campfire: “It’s going to be distributed in some different way in 10 years, in another way in 50 years.”
“NPR”s How I Built This With Guy Raz: Live from Atlanta with Arthur Blank,”
8 p.m. Wednesday, December 6
$35 (sold out)
3110 Roswell Rd NE, Atlanta