What drives human conversation? Is it the need to communicate? But why do we want to communicate in the first place?
The answer is simple, really — humans are curious by nature. We have an innate desire to learn and experience new things, new emotions, new people, and new ideas. We love to hear stories — stories that inspire us to pursue our dreams and maximize our potential.
Without meeting new people and having interesting conversations with them, it’s easy to get stuck inside your own bubble of knowledge. Sure, you probably have a good grasp on things that are familiar to you, but other than that, your scope is limited. Don’t you want to learn more? Do you have a curious spirit that is urging you to step out of your comfort zone and discover new things?
If so, you’re going to love my guest today. And even if you don’t consider yourself a curious person, my guess is that you will be after listening to this fascinating interview.
“I like living because of curiosity.” – Larry King
That’s right — today, I have the one and only Larry King on The School of Greatness to share about his interviewing legacy, the importance of curiosity, and how we can all become better communicators.
I’m sure you’ve heard of Larry King, but just in case you haven’t, here’s an introduction:
Larry King is a world-renowned radio and TV talk show host who has won numerous awards throughout his career. Starting as a radio interviewer on WMBA, he later became the host of Larry King Live for over 25 years on CNN. Now, he hosts his own talk show, Larry King Now, on the internet, where he continues to interview amazing individuals.
On his web series, Larry King has interviewed the biggest celebrities and leaders the world has to offer — including Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Jerry Seinfield, Tony Robbins, Snoop Dogg, and many more. He has received several honorary degrees for his accomplishments.
Not only that, but Larry King is also a best-selling author, heart disease survivor, and generous philanthropist. Some of his best selling books include How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere and Truth Be Told — both of which I recommend!
I had the pleasure of connecting with Larry a couple times earlier this year at dinner, and then I met his stepson who actually plays in the Arena Football League as well! I really didn’t know how funny Larry was until I met him — in our interview, he shared two of his favorite jokes that I think you’ll love. He also talked about how he became the prolific interviewer he is today, how we can all become better communicators, and why curiosity is at the heart of everything he does. Lastly, he shared a moment from an inspiring interview that absolutely rocked my world.
It was an incredible experience to interview this amazing man — someone who has been doing what I’m doing for many more years. I know you’ll love hearing from Larry King as much as I did, so let’s dive in.
I think it’s safe to say that Larry King has probably inspired almost every interviewer in the world. His interviewing legacy is like no one else’s, and he admitted that he still has to pinch himself sometimes to remind himself that he isn’t living in a dream.
“Next May 1st, I will have been on the air [for] 60 years. I think I’ve done 60,000 interviews. I always wanted to be a broadcaster. I used to dream about it when I was a kid. When I was five years old, other people wanted to be doctors, lawyers, [or] firemen. I wanted to be on the air.” – Larry King
As Larry King rose to fame, that passion only grew. Now, after interviewing close to 60,000 people, he’s continued to be fascinated by people.
“I guess the word I would use would be passion. I have a passion for curiosity. I’m not the kind of person you want to sit next to on an airplane … because I want to just ask questions all the time, and that [impulse] has never left me.” – Larry King
If you sat next to Larry King on a plane, you’d never get any sleep. It doesn’t matter whether you’re famous — what matters to Larry is that you’re a person and you have experiences, thoughts, and feelings that are different from everyone else’s. Larry King loves asking people questions, but he genuinely wants to know the answers. He’s curious, and that’s what drives him to be the incredible interviewer he is today.
“These are little things I learned in the passing of life, you know? I never learned anything when I was talking — that was my motto on the air. So, I asked short questions. You [have] got to be a good listener. … And if you’re a good listener and you stay focused and you’re naturally curious, interviewing is a great way to make a living.” – Larry King
Before his interviews, Larry goes over some quick notes, but he said he doesn’t actually “prepare” for the interviews in detail. He said he always wants to ask questions that he doesn’t know the answer to. So, rather than coming into the interview as an expert, Larry King comes into the interview to learn. This is what makes him such an incredible interviewer, and as an interviewer myself, I can’t agree more with his tactics.
Even if you’re not an interviewer, I think Larry’s emphasis on curiosity has takeaways for all of us. Whenever we’re in conversation with someone, we should always aim to be the listener. When we listen intently, we learn about new things, we hear different perspectives, and we become well-rounded human beings.
Growing up, the radio was Larry’s life. He loved listening to the different voices of the broadcasters, and he was very attuned to voices by the time he was 16 years old. Still, the first time he had the chance to speak on the air, he was terrified.
“I was nervous as hell. My name was Larry Zeiger, [and] I had wanted to be in broadcasting all my life. I’m in Miami, living with my uncle, and I get a job at a small radio station. … And they hire me, and they say, ‘You’re going to be a disc jockey — play music.’ And I’m starting on a Monday, and the whole weekend I can’t sleep. I’m up, and I’m planning my records, what I’m going to play, [and] what I’m going to say. … I didn’t sleep all … weekend.” – Larry King
For many people, public speaking and communication are huge fears. All attention is suddenly on you, and in these moments, it’s easy to get flustered. Even though Larry had wanted to be on the radio for as long as he could remember, he couldn’t stop thinking about the possibility of messing up. But rather than letting that fear keep him from his dream, he conquered it and is now teaching people how to do the same.
“[I offer] ten different courses, all based on my book — How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere. … So I try to help people through this course learn how to communicate because the biggest fear people have is public speaking. That’s bigger than any challenge.” – Larry King
Do you struggle with this fear? If so, know that you aren’t alone. But in order to move past this fear, you have to face it, not avoid it. And that’s just what Larry did — even when everything went wrong.
“I still remember it — a hot day in Miami Records. … [I] turn the mic on. Nothing comes out. I bring the music back up [and] bring the music back down. … And I’m saying to myself, ‘All my life, I wanted this, and I’m scared. I can’t do it. I’m too nervous.’ So the whole thing is blown. And Marshall Simmons, [my boss], kicked open the door … to the control room. And he said, ‘This is a communications business, goddammit — communicate!’ I turned the record down, put the mic on, and I can almost remember it verbatim — ‘Good morning. My name is Larry King.'” – Larry King
Everything that could go wrong, went wrong — the music wasn’t working, he was too terrified to speak, and his boss came in shouting at him. At that moment, Larry had to make a decision. Was he going to let the pressure get to him? Or was he going to rise to the challenge and confidently pursue his dream? He chose the latter, and you can too.
“There is no secret, [other than,] ‘Be yourself.’ If your self is going to work, it’s going to work. You can’t grab the microphone or the camera and make them like you. I can’t make someone listening to us now continue to listen. So all I can [do] is directly answer what you ask, try to be conversational, and hope that works.” – Larry King
If you want to become an expert communicator, you have to be yourself. Don’t try to be someone else — just speak from your heart. People are drawn to authenticity, so next time you have a conversation, just be you.
Larry King has interviewed U.S. Presidents, top celebrities, and incredible athletes, but one of his favorite interviews was with a New York City cop.
“I’m in New York doing my television show, … and someone recommends [that I] interview this New York City cop … [who] is in the public relations area. He doesn’t walk a beat. He goes around and talks to schools and groups. … And he comes in with a beautiful wife and a little son, except he’s paralyzed from the neck down.” – Larry King
This policeman can no longer walk, hug his wife, or play with his son — all because of an accident that happened years ago. He was on duty in Central Park due to an increased number of bike robberies in the area.
“He’s in the squad car, driving through the park, and [he] see[s] a Black kid with a brand new Schwinn [bike]. They pull over, [and] the driver stays in the car. He gets out to approach the kid, … and the kid shoots him. He remembers the puff of smoke going up, … [and] the ambulance comes to give him last rites in the car.” – Larry King
Despite all odds, the policeman survived; however, he was paralyzed from the neck down. His son was just one month old at the time. After leaving the hospital, the policeman decided to visit the teenager to ask him why he shot him.
“The kid said, ‘I’m a student. My brother was a bad kid. And he left town to go to Philadelphia. And he said [to] hold [his] gun. I was just holding it. I didn’t even know how to shoot a gun. … I saved money delivering groceries for five years to get my Schwinn bike. … And you were the 12th cop to stop me that day.’ So he says, ‘Can I ask you a question? Would you have stopped me if I were White?'” – Larry King
The cop was humbled by his question and admitted that he wouldn’t have stopped him if he were White. Due to repeated offenses of racial prejudice from cops in the area, the kid lashed out in anger. He had worked hard and saved his money to buy that bike, and there was a cop assuming that he had stolen it. Here’s the most incredible part of the story, though:
“The cop [got] the kid paroled, … and that kid became a cop.” – Larry King
That story gave me chills. By visiting the kid who shot him, the policeman was able to put himself into the other person’s shoes and realize the weight of his racial prejudice. At the same time, the kid could see the debilitating effect his actions had on the policeman. It’s an incredible story of loss and redemption, and I was so grateful that Larry shared it with us.
Guys, I cannot stress this enough — this interview with Larry King was absolutely incredible and life-changing for me. He’s one of the greatest interviewers in the world, and I had the honor of interviewing him myself. He knows how to ask the right questions, and through his curiosity, he seeks truth like no other person I’ve met before.
Before I wrap up this article, I want to share Larry King’s definition of greatness:
“I think greatness is to, in your chosen profession, exceed at being the best you can be. So you can be a great delivery man for a milk company. You never miss your rounds. The milk is always there.” – Larry King
Larry King is certainly great at what he does, and I hope to follow in his footsteps. If you want to hear more from Larry King, be sure to tune into Larry King Now. You can also read his books or enroll in his courses to become a better communicator. Lastly, don’t forget to listen to the full episode to learn more from Larry King about his incredible legacy.
If you enjoyed this interview, let us know on Instagram! You can tag Larry King, @larrykingnow, and me, @lewishowes, and let us know what your greatest takeaways were! We’d love to hear how this interview inspired you.
Now, friends — you know what time it is. Go out there and do something great today!
On January 23, 2021, Larry King passed away due to complications from COVID-19. He will be greatly missed, but his legacy will live on for several years to come. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have interviewed him — he was truly a great man.