There, I said it, he's impressive. Actually, more than that, he actually seems... human.
I'm exaggerating my shock a bit, of course. Did I really expect him to come act crazily, jump around the building and preach Scientology? Nope, not at all. I think I was clear on that yesterday.
To speak for myself and a few of the Yahoo's I talked to, I think that what we saw at noon on Tuesday was something a little bit shocking (and sort of US Weeklyish..): Tom Cruise is more than a little bit like us. He came across as an endearing, passionate, driven and pretty funny guy. Someone who professes to love working, is willing to hop on a plane to CES for an old friend (Terry) and who seems to genuinely understand the importance of other people to his success. Sure, it could all be an act, but you know what? Sometimes you find yourself really wanting to believe the movie and its message and today I wanted to believe.
You're not going to find a transcript or book report of the session here. But, here are a few things stuck out in my mind about the event:
- People really, really love Tom Cruise. People lined up very early for this event and there were more than enough cameras on hand. See for yourself on the ytomcruise Flickr tag. (Other tags include: terrysemel, katieholmes and tomcruise)
- This was WAY better than the Guhvanator's visit, a previous Influential Speaker series event. Whereas that felt like it was just a stump speech aimed AT Yahoo's, this felt much more like a conversation. In fact, it seemed a bit like Tom (ok, so I'm not on a first name basis, but I'm getting tired of typing Tom Cruise out) wanted it to be less formal than it was. He managed to make the inevitable catcalls (someone really should have sold "I love you Tom!" t-shirts) part of the event, rather than interruptions.
- The event started about 90 minutes late. Why? Because he flew his plane up from L.A. and it got stuck in gnarly weather, apparently. What I appreciated though, was the fact that Terry came out on stage, apologized and explained the delay and acknowledged that this wasn't, "the greatest way to spend Yahoo resources". But he did it in such a way as to make it clear that we should see this, it just sucked that it ate up a bunch of our time, instead of hinting that everyone should get back to work. Subtle difference, but an important one to me.
- Tom's got a sense of humor, making fun of himself a few times, in particular his recent habit of jumping up on couches and chairs. And then he got up on a chair... (I told you to look at the pictures..)
While the questions certainly weren't controversial in any way, there were some good ones. Questions about his views of how media and the Internet will play together, mobile devices, what drives him etc. Personally, I found the best one to be the question about how to interact with people on a personal level, but within a business context.
- To paraphrase his response: There are basically 2 or 3 types of people that I've come into contact with: 1) The open and giving person who's willing to share and explain everything to me. If I'm curious about something, they'll take the time to help me learn about it and if I'm dumb about something, they'll be patient with me. 2) The person who tries to hide information, in order to maintain control. 3) The person who tries to hide information, because they ultimately don't really know much of anything.
On the last point, obviously he prefers working with person #1. What I find interesting is that the line seems to basically be drawn between being open and being closed. Regardless of intent, being closed and trying to hoard information is a negative. I wholeheartedly agree with that, but I'm left wondering how many people really think that way. It's obviously not that simple, is it? Why, though, is it most people's default reaction to be closed when they're unsure? Wouldn't being more open in edge cases imply to others that you're trustworthy and giving? Maybe, from now on, when I have this debate with people, I can pull out the Tom Cruise card :)
On that note, I'll work in some openness here... Both during and after the event I felt a little nervous about my previous blog post. Not because I'd said anything that I thought was truly mean, but because I feared that my sense of humor might be confused with a lack of understanding about the man's basic humanity. Yes, it was just intended as something lighthearted and joking, directed more at the controlled nature of events like this than any specific person. But, my fear was/is that people might take it out of context and without actually asking me what I really meant, get upset about it.
When it comes down to it, this is what worries me about blogging. It's not a fear of being open and of being myself. The problem is that it's very hard to "be yourself" in just one post, or in one sentence. As I look across the "blogosphere" there are far too many instances where one statement was blown up into something totally unintended, just because someone chose to rant right away, without digging a little bit further. The answer, however, is not to run away and hide. My best option is to be open and let those willing to dig get to know me and trust that those intent upon ranting will look silly in the face of the sum total of my reputation (digital and otherwise). As Mr. Cruise said in Risky Business, "Sometimes you just have to say, 'What the fuck?!?'"