Keep a Beginner’s Mindset — Stay curious and keep a beginner’s mindset. These were wise words I received from a producer during my first on-air job working for MTV Canada. This idea has helped me to stay open and listen to what people share in interviews and avoid getting emotionally distracted and shutting off when viewpoints may differ. The beginner’s mindset helps suspend judgment in conversations and also helps with listening to what isn’t being said.
As a part of our series about “Five Things You Need To Succeed As A Journalist”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Riaz Meghji.
Riaz Meghji is a Human Connection Expert. He has 17 years of broadcast television experience, and, during his time as host on Citytv’s Breakfast Television, MTV Canada, TEDxVancouver, CTV News, and the Toronto International Film Festival, has interviewed thousands of experts about human connection and collaboration, undertaking critical training that helped shape the tangible takeaways he shares to make in his new book, Every Conversation Counts.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
In 2002, I took a leap of faith. I went from finishing a business finance degree at Simon Fraser University, to pursuing a career in television. Natural transition no? I entered contests, interned and eventually landed my first producing and hosting gig with MTV Canada.
I realized my passion for presenting and connecting with an audience during my final year of university. Instead of following a traditional career path of becoming an investment broker, I took a chance to go after something different and have had the chance to host for brands like Citytv’s Breakfast Television, TEDxVancouver, CTV News and the Toronto International Film Festival as well.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
Eugene Levy once told me to insure my eyebrows. Does that count?
Can you share the funniest mistake that you made when you first started? Can you share the lesson you learned from it?
When I first started at MTV Canada in my early 20s, I remember reading an audience blog where someone said “Why does Riaz make so many stupid faces on camera. He should just put a paper bag over his head.” This crushed me. My brother laughed and reminded me that it was probably some moody teenager that didn’t like my personality or maybe didn’t even like their own. My response was “Sure, but how can they be so mean?!?!?”
We’ve come a long way since then. One of the best lessons I’ve learned in this industry is not to sacrifice authenticity for approval. If you’re in the public eye, you will never earn 100% approval. This is an important reality to accept early on to stay true to your authentic self.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Releasing the ‘Every Conversation Counts’ book in 2021 has been a passion project years in the making. Given our challenging year of isolation and loneliness, I’m excited to share this book that addresses the problem of disconnection and delivers five key habits of human connection that help deepen and build extraordinary relationships.
Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I’ve had the privilege of interviewing countless notables such as Jennifer Lopez, Tom Cruise, Salman Rushdie, and Gary Vaynerchuk. While the high profile figures are fascinating, the most interesting subjects have been survivors that used adversity to their advantage. Those that have overcome life threatening obstacles and enormous odds to go after their dreams. Every conversation that starts with people sharing their personal adversity or conflict and ends with a teaching point from powerful change, has always made for a memorable interaction.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in journalism?
Less info, more emotion. We are bombarded by information. If your storytelling or interviewing is going to make a difference and move the audience to take action, look for the emotion in every story you are going to tell. How can you help someone? How can you invite your subject to speak from the heart? How can you deliver a sense of hope in your writing and delivery? These are all objectives with a high emotional component.
What advice would you give to your colleagues in the industry, to thrive and not “burnout”?
When we’re living in a time where everyone is asking ‘how are you holding up?’, one of the greatest questions and pieces of advice I can offer is to ask ‘how are you taking care of yourself?’ This question acts as a helpful reminder for ourselves and for others, as difficult as it may be, to stop, do nothing and recharge your own battery on the regular. This will help you elevate your presence when you need to be in front of a camera or microphone.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Success in my mind has always been driven by a ‘service mentality’. I’ve used the platforms I’ve presented for to share ideas, inspire action and find ways to prioritize the audience’s priorities.
I know this is not an easy job. What drives you?
The thrill of making genuine human connections, consistently learning something new from the people I get to interview and sharing specific ideas with the audience that will make their days better.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
‘The Coaching Habit’ by Michael Bungay Stanier. Loved the simplicity of it and the practical takeaways of seven questions to help leaders connect. In fact, many of the ideas feel familiar as there are similar approaches I use to connect with guests in the green room before live television interviews.
Ok wonderful. Thank you for all of that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Keep a Beginner’s Mindset
Stay curious and keep a beginner’s mindset. These were wise words I received from a producer during my first on-air job working for MTV Canada. This idea has helped me to stay open and listen to what people share in interviews and avoid getting emotionally distracted and shutting off when viewpoints may differ. The beginner’s mindset helps suspend judgment in conversations and also helps with listening to what isn’t being said.
You Can’t Edit a Blank Page
Sage advice shared by my book editor. On days when I’d get caught in a writer’s block, it was simply because of a fear of writing down a weak idea. I was reminded to write without a fear of judgment by putting the ideas on paper first, then objectively edit and elevate the message to deliver a greater impact.
If It’s Not a Hell Yes, It’s a No
Last year, I reached out to author Michael Bungay Stanier to review my manuscript and if it was a fit, see if he’d endorse it. He’s a high level player, insightful author and I’m a big fan of his work. He said the following:
“Congrats on making it to this point. I can guarantee you I will review it. I can’t guarantee an endorsement though. For me, if it’s not a ‘hell yes’, it’s a no.”
This was intimidating, yet at the same time made me respect his position so much more. It’s easy to fall into the trap of pleasing others constantly. At the beginning of your career, having a collaborative spirit and being willing to put in the work and pay your dues is crucial for your success. But after you’ve gained some experience, it’s important to protect your peace. An important question to ask ourselves is “Is this project a hell yes?” If not, maybe making it a ‘no’ will serve you and the other person much better.
As for Michael’s support, his endorsement blurb is on the front cover of Every Conversation Counts 🙂
In 2016, I had the chance to chat with Darren Hardy, who is a successful mentor for CEOs around the world and former publisher of SUCCESS magazine. He’s interviewed some of the biggest names in the world.
When I asked him what the secret was to getting people to open up, he shared two words: ‘Go First’. He said, if you want people to trust you, go first and show you trust them by sharing something raw and honest. If you want to motivate others, go first and find out what motivates them and help them achieve that.
Going first has been a valuable approach to deepening relationships, building trust and unlocking courageous reveals.
Make People Feel Famous
This idea draws from interviewing thousands of successful leaders. They all have one thing in common. They put their people first. Psychologist William James said it best ‘the deepest principle in human nature, is the craving to be appreciated.’ Instead of simply saying ‘great job’ to someone, get creative with your praise and make it specific, personal, public and urgent with the way you can celebrate what others have done for you and their community. Everyone needs a champion to lift them up, especially right now. Be that person that consistently puts the spotlight on others and watch the difference it makes.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The movement in three words would be: ‘Every Conversation Counts’. I champion this message to remind the world that we are always one conversation away from changing our lives, for better or for worse. If we walk into every conversation, stay open to the possibilities and discover new ideas before we dismiss them, powerful relationships can and will be built.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
In 2012, I saw her speak at the World Domination Summit in Portland. This was my first introduction to her powerful work. One of many memorable messages she shared on stage that day was — “When we lose our capacity for vulnerability, our joy becomes foreboding”. Her words unlocked something for me. I was a pretty guarded person and hearing her speak reminded me of the value of opening up and savouring every moment.
Would love to have a conversation with Brene about human connection in our hybrid reality, especially given what we’ve been through this past year and where we are going.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
RiazMeghji.com and @RiazMeghji
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!