I have been wracking my brain trying to understand what makes me keep coming back to How I Built This with Guy Raz, and I think I finally found it: they are mini-memoirs. While there are probably too many podcasts who go ahead and interview “successful” people from all walks of life, there are few that do so with the grace, humility, and curiosity of Guy Raz. What I think, however, separates this podcast from the rest is Raz’s focus on storytelling, world-building, and narrative – it is like I am listening to a memoir.
Raz spotlights the founder over and above their venture at all points. This is in spite of most listeners carrot being the recognisable brand name each guest represents. Like clockwork, Raz always begins with bringing up their childhood, their sensibilities, and the influences they had. Often it’s not until halfway through the episode that discussion about the company begins. Even then, it is always contextualised with details about their personal lives i.e. any issues they were having or other influences. I love that about this podcast, and thinking back upon it now, I suppose that’s why it’s titled the way it is. In doing so, Raz never fails to make the compelling argument each episode about how luck is a key ingredient in these “successes” regardless of the guest. A belief that has grown stronger the more I listen to this podcast is that truly anyone can start something.
I am grateful for the diversity of guests Raz has invited. You would think that there would be a stark contrast in building a mattress company to building an e-commerce business. While this may be the case, there are also a startling number of similarities in terms of the founders’ journeys. It really has broadened my horizons with regards to starting a business beyond the technology startup stereotype. You don’t have to be from the United States, you don’t have to be young, and you certainly don’t have to build a software product.
What I love most about the show is how vulnerable the conversations are. There is no sugarcoating much: deaths, divorces, bankruptcy. It seems like no topic is off-limits. More than anything, this characteristic contributes most to the feeling of this podcast reading like a memoir. I honestly feel spoiled that something of this quality is produced and distributed free of charge.