In my blogs, I almost always talk about leadership. This time, though, I need to talk about Anthony Bourdain.
No, not his suicide. The Internet is clogged with that part; much of it, sadly, is dust in the wind in terms of truly unraveling the darkness that can suffocate someone’s will to live.
It is the other part of Anthony that I would suggest, or perhaps invite, can be a part of all of us.
Tony had uber chops when it came to understanding the nuances and finery of food, but it was his sense of abandon and piercing curiosity — not about the food but what it revealed about the people who created it — that was the can being pried open for all to see.
He largely eschewed the comfortable (Paris, Lyon, San Francisco, Venice) and instead prowled for the uncomfortable places (Congo, Libya, Gaza, the low country of the Carolinas or the backwoods of West Virginia), sitting on wobbly metal chairs or on his backside on a curb and inhaling it all — the hopes, dreams, fears, stories and passions that are more common to the human experience than we realize if we just stay where we are. Tony took us where we would never have gone on our own.
Tony would say that travel changed him. He was humbler, more curious, even awed by the boundaryless diversity of our world and its people. He savored the differences, but also — over a few bourbons or beers, or fried eel or slurpy noodles — he allowed the comity of a shared meal to lower the walls that keep us from learning, exploring. He respected people for who they are, sensing amid what sometimes seemed squalor and chaos that they all just wanted a better life, too — or loved the one they had. He was the student of the thesis that in diversity of thought and experience is the insight we seek.
Our experiences — no matter how successful one has been in life, business life in particular — are not enough to encompass and understand the world around us. If we go out into parts unknown with a frame into which the puzzle pieces of the world must fit, we are missing everything that journey can offer.
True leaders are relentlessly curious, and you cannot be curious without being humble. Imagine the zest for learning you can unleash in your organization by being just a little more like Anthony Bourdain. You need not adopt his personna, but his heart and mind are those of a learner. .
To learn you have to move to parts unknown. Moving changes you. And it changes others around you.