Tom Cruise… The side you don’t know
By Steve Wolf
For many, “Tom Cruise” invokes ideas concerning his faith or marriages. People care because he’s famous. But why is he famous? What makes him great at his craft? There’s a side of Tom you don’t know if you haven’t worked with him.
I worked with Tom on a movie called “The Firm.” He led a cast that included Gene Hackman, Hal Holbrook and Holly Hunter, and I was special effects coordinator. We spoke often and I got to watch him work. What I saw was life-changing.
Tom gives his work total focus. He holds nothing back, and is brutally honest with himself. There is no room for “good enough.” If he thinks he can do better, he does. He doesn’t let himself get by with less than his best work. And he doesn’t stop just because someone else thinks he did a good job.
He’s disciplined and prepared. He arrives early, knows his lines and is physically and emotionally ready to work as soon as camera was set.
Tom was also incredibly generous with the crew; with everyone from the director to the doughnut boy. When we were tired, he hired a massage therapist to walk around and rub peoples shoulders. Even though he had his own chef to prepare healthy meals for himself, he showed just as much concern for the quality of the crew’s food, insisting that the best caterer be hired to feed the crew.
He treated people the way they need to be treated: with dignity, respect, compassion and patience. He valued everyone’s contributions, knowing that there is no movie in which to star without the efforts of crew working camera , lighting, electrical, wardrobe, make-up and so on. We all felt valued.
When Tom talks with you, you have his full attention, and you feel it. He’s not texting or distracted. He is listening to you. He is looking at you. He is thinking about what you’re saying. He is remembering what’s important to you. So when he needed our support, he had our patience, respect and compassion. Not because he was the star, but because he earned and deserved that respect.
You can’t watch Tom work without being inspired by his commitment. Nor can you avoid it rubbing off on you. His example led us to work longer, harder and smarter, with more respect for the work we were doing and more kindness for the people with whom we worked.
He also kept a sense of balance. He followed moments of intense work with humor. Hard days ended with hard play. He kept a football on set, and tossed it with us during down time. It kept him real, in touch and interactive. When he left set he’d ride his motorcycle to clear his head and recharge.
I was improved by the experience of working with Tom. He had a “special effect” on how I go about my work and my life. I adopted traits from the example he set. When I finish a project I show I no longer think “that was great, where to next?” but rather reflect, “How could I have made that better?” It’s not beating yourself up, but seeking to continually improve, by asking yourself, “Was this my very best work, and how can I make it better next time.”
Even if you walk a path no one has walked, you can still benefit from studying the habits of people who successfully walk the walk in any path.
When I achieve something, I am grateful for the influences that got me there.
Tom never worried about how much time, effort, diet, exercise, study or focus it would take to do his best work. He jumped in and did it. And when you do the work, the results follow.
Whose values and examples would you study in your path towards excellence in your life? What would happen if you committed to doing whatever it takes to be your “nothing-held-back” very best, in all aspects of your life?
I’m eager to find out.