Above all else, Carlos Watson is curious. Curious about how a young entrepreneur got her start, about what comes next for the struggling democracy in Zambia, about what can be done to help underachieving children learn. Curious even about what his fellow diners at a restaurant have ordered from the menu and why.
So if Watson ever approaches your table, don’t worry; he’s not there to pick at your plate, he wants to pick your brain.
And it doesn’t stop there. From quizzing shopkeepers and taxi drivers to turning the tables on barbers and bartenders, Watson is always trying to find out more about the world around him and what his fellow travelers are thinking and doing about it. It’s a skill that naturally led him to a career in journalism, from writing for the Miami Herald and Detroit Free Press while in college to later stints on television as a political commentator on CNN and news anchor on MSNBC.
Kindled at an early age in Miami, Florida, Watson’s fire of curiosity was sparked by a mother who had lived and taught on three continents and by a father whose love of news, especially politics and sports, was highly contagious. Despite this love of learning, Carlos had problems at school, leading his teachers to label him disruptive and learning disabled, and even resulting in his eviction from one kindergarten. “My mom always jokes,” he says, “that anyone who’d seen my first 10 years wouldn’t believe my last 10 years.”
But even with the troubles at school, the occasional need for food stamps, and a car accident at age 11 that almost rendered him unable to walk, Watson persevered. He would go on to earn degrees from Harvard and Stanford Law School, launch an entrepreneurial career focused on media, politics, and education, and to use those two legs to win some money on the dance floor and play pick-up basketball games all over the world, from Iceland to Zimbabwe. His desire to learn about others’ stories and struggles comes in no small measure from the persistent realization that his own life might have been very different, and that in many ways he is still crashing a party he could easily have missed.
But he doesn’t just want to crash the party, he wants to throw a new one. Curiosity breeds enthusiasm — the energy not only to acquire information but also to use that information to make an impact, something Watson had already achieved in the education realm. Well before Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post , The Washington Post bought Achieva College Prep Service, a company Carlos founded at age 29 to help high schools prepare their students for college.
Carlos has now turned his attention and enthusiasm to the world of media — a place he is well-acquainted with, and one whose venues and playmakers he has explored since he first sat down to watch the local news with his dad as a boy. His relentless research, interviews and experiences all point to something missing.
“When I was a kid, I’d always open the refrigerator door 100 times because I kept hoping to see if anything new or different had appeared,” he says. “It never did.”
For Watson, what’s missing - despite a flood of online news and information - is a favorite dish that hungry readers would reach for every day, not just to catch up on current events, but to learn about the new and the next, and, most importantly, to translate that knowledge into energy and action. And so he created OZY.
OZY is in many ways his curated party, but like all good hosts, he’s merely a catalyst for the spirited and wide-ranging conversations between his guests, people who burn to learn more about the world and to do something with that insight.
Curiosity. Enthusiasm. Action.
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