"But it’s my vision… I know I’m right – and if the Big Boys haven’t seen it, then it is their mistake, not mine."
Curiosity is a powerful thing.
So powerful, it drives people to action. And I’d call that the most powerful force on earth.
People filled with curiosity do amazing things. And that’s the story of John Hendricks, an incurably curious person, who thought that curiosity was powerful enough to build an entire cable channel around it. He believed that there were a lot more people like him, curious people with a thirst for learning all kinds of things about the world around them.
And the number one nonfiction media company in the world called Discovery Communications, with a public market value over $23 billion, proves that he was right.
But it wasn’t easy building a multi-billion dollar company from a simple idea. In A Curious Discovery, Hendricks tells the whole story, sharing all the roadblocks, setbacks, and close calls of his journey, along with the triumphs, good luck, and smart decisions that marked the path to where he is today. Along the way, he teaches important principles to entrepreneurs about how to capture the market, get major investors, build critical relationships, take risks and other key aspects.
After ‘discovering’ this book from my own curiosity, I’ve not only learned what went into creating some of the world’s most popular shows, but I’ve also learned what it takes to be a savvy entrepreneur with a dream.
I may not end up building quite the entity that Hendricks has, but my similar drive for curiosity will cause me to take enough action to see my dreams come true.
The Big Idea
Curiousity Opens Doors
"I believe that if you scratch any entrepreneur you will find a little boy or girl who was intensely curious about the world…"
Hendricks is an excellent storyteller. He shares how curiosity fueled his youth and allowed him to learn everything about a particular subject that interested him. At age 5 he could name the make and model year of every car on the road. At the same age, his uncle rigged a TV antenna up on a hill with a cable down to their home so they could get a clear channel, and he became mesmerized by Television.
Hendricks shares the stories of his life in order to demonstrate why he did certain things, and how it shaped his entrepreneurial career. Recognizing that even though the path of each entrepreneur is different, he believes there are a shared set of stages in the creation of any successful entrepreneurial enterprise:
1. Curious observation
3. Ignition of passion
No discovery occurs without a beginning of curiosity. This is why curiosity is a necessary trait of an entrepreneur. And as you gain experience and knowledge by following your curiosity, your experiences will combine to offer up a perfect opportunity (one you may have never seen coming.)
Hendricks says, “My curiosity, my early fascination with television as a teaching medium, my college work-study job exposing me to the producers and distributors of documentary films…compounded upon each other, building a strategy beneath the surface of my consciousness that could be switched on and executed when the right factors were at last in place.”
If you start with curious observation and gain experience with preparation, something will ignite your passion and you’ll be off and running with an idea.
I can see that happening in my own life, and plan to keep opening doors with my curiosity.
"...that child is still inside you, forever curious… and every once in a while that child asks a question that is so compelling that it can’t be simply set aside as unanswerable. Rather, it has to be lived."
The moment Hendricks officially formulated his vision for cable educational programming, he began to sense and worry about an impending deadline to make it real. “What if they lived out my dream and left me behind with a lifetime of regrets?” worried Hendricks.
This motivation put urgency in his work. He began to ask more detailed questions, and put in the time to answer them. “I became a man on a mission” declared Hendricks. And that mission caused him to jump in with both feet, jettison his career, and go all in on his new venture. This meant working fulltime on building his idea, taking out a second mortgage, and throwing in all his savings (basically everything he owned) to raise $130,000 to start a new cable network (while at the same time bringing a new baby into their family.)
Now, I’m not saying I need to do that exactly, or that anyone does, but the principle remains that the more you put into an effort, the more you’ll get out of it. For me, I’m not ready to invest everything I have into a new venture, but I can take a little more risk by setting aside certain activities and putting more time, effort, and even funding into my own curiosity led dream.
The launch of his company was only one example. Throughout the book, Hendricks continues to take big risks to gain the big rewards. And he didn’t always win. Valuable lessons were learned with each failure.
Calculated curiosity was his guide to discovery.
Connect with those who can help you
"This is John Hendricks. Can you connect me to Walter Cronkite?"
A big part of Hendricks’ success was his ability to connect with key individuals who themselves had connections and also knew the parts of business he didn’t know.
In order to get big funding he needed individuals who could write $50,000 checks, and companies who could invest $1 million or more. He didn’t know those people, but he knew someone who knew them. He goes on to describe an unbelievable story of meeting someone from his first connection who connected him to a lawyer who introduced him to a CEO of a large corporation, who then thought of someone else Hendricks should meet. Finally, he found an investor.
His first attempt to contact Mr. Cronkite wasn’t successful. But the rest of the story ended like this, “Mr. Hendricks, this is Walter Cronkite, and boy, I think you are really on to something…” When Hendricks told Walter he would need some introductions to financial people in New York, he replied, “I would be glad to. I know a few people.”
But it wasn’t always about money either. Hendricks built his core team with individuals who knew the ins and outs of the industry, were well-connected, and most importantly, believed in the vision of the company.
No one works alone. Relationships make things happen. This is one thing I’ve learned in my corporate experience. Organizations or positions are only superficial boundaries that can disappear under a strong relationship.
As I continue to open doors with my curiosity, some of those doors will be new relationships, along with the nurturing of existing relationships to increase my ability to make things happen.
What doors do you plan to discover and open with your curiosity?