by David Carus
He has been called the biggest movie star in the world. He’s worked with every big name director and star in Hollywood. For decades his films have consistently generated millions at the box office. It’s safe to say the kind of success Tom Cruise has experienced is no fluke but instead the result of hard work. So what did he do to make it?
Tom Cruise didn’t come from elite Hollywood royalty. In fact, his family was poor, his parents divorced and his career path wasn’t easily laid out for him. When he decided to get into acting he wasn’t immediately handed the role of Maverick in Top Gun. There were lots of smaller roles to be played before he solidified himself as a star. His first big screen role was Billy the arsonist in the movie Endless Love and Cruise was only on screen for 47 seconds! Some actors might have been frustrated about getting so little screen time but Cruise decided to take his character and create as best he could with him so his 47 seconds would be memorable and they were! So much so that it helped him land his next role in the movie Taps.
Once again he was only supposed to play a minor part but after seeing how committed the actor was on set (he was out-marching the other cadets) Taps director Harold Becker gave Cruise a larger role. With it he established that he could play a killer, so much so that when he expressed interest in the title role for Risky Business, the director Paul Brickman said no way. Despite this Tom Cruise showed up unannounced, created an opportunity for himself to audition and landed the coveted role. He slid across that floor in his underwear and let America know a new star had arrived. By the time Top Gun hit theaters there was no stopping the actor.
How did he pull it all off? He used hard work, committed himself to the roles he played, no matter what they were or required and showed a passion for creating movies. He built each character, was determined to become that person and did what it took to see them through. He’s one of the few actors that does his own stunts. Why? Because he knows that’s what it takes to make the best picture he can make. He once said, “That’s what works for me: the power of my own imagination and my own ability to believe.”
He makes it look effortless, like being a movie star is something you’re just born with but on closer examination we see that he just showed up more times and spent longer hours than anyone else to get the job done. He made up his mind that he was not only going to be an actor but that he was going to be a great one. You can tell the level of responsibility he has for his work because he also produces his own films. Despite whatever happens in the tabloids or press the guy continues to get in front of cameras and create. His films are the work of a true professional and stellar artist. One who keeps showing up eager to make something great and no matter the limitations finds a way -- he creates!
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I’m a dad. I have the most awesome son in the world. He’s two and a half years old. Throughout his life I’ve noticed him having quite an effect on people. It started on Facebook when I’d post pictures of him. He always generated more likes than anything else I’d post. He even got the attention of an artist friend of mine in London who asked if he could be part of her latest work (art below). As he got older and had better control of his body and words, I’d take him to the park or to the store and people would ask how old he was and say how mature he was for his age. Lately he’s been creating some incredible effects and I was lucky to film one of them and post it on YouTube. Some of my friends expressed interest in reading what I had to say about parenting and raising such a super kid, so I decided to finally tackle the subject. It also gives me a chance to tell the story behind the YouTube video I just uploaded. I’m sure everyone will love and be amazed by it. So here goes my viewpoint as a parent.
Parenting is something I never thought much about but when the time came to be a parent I suddenly realized no one had ever clearly explained how all of this would be. Sure, people that have kids will laugh and say things like “Good luck waking up in the middle of the night,” or “There goes your free time,” but too many details were missing. Having gone through the whole waking up in the middle of the night thing, changing diapers, rocking my son to sleep in about a million different ways, I can understand why people don’t elaborate on the experience. It’s because everyone is faced with the most difficult task they will ever have to do and no matter what happens, the job has to get done and by the end of it you’re at a loss for words as to what exactly happened; it becomes a big blur. Well, I learned a few things that helped me get through the blur and they helped give me the happiest kid you’ll ever see.
My son’s name is Sage. Sage basically means an old wise man. I was flipping through a book about seven years ago when I saw the word and thought how it would be an awesome name for a boy. I should also mention his middle name is Kal-El which is Superman’s real name. I wanted my son to be smart, strong, able, caring, dynamic and help people. I wanted him to have a different kind of name because I thought of him as an individual. I didn’t want him to be me. I wanted him to be himself. I didn’t talk to him like he was a baby. No goo goo’s and ga ga’s. I talked to him like he was my friend, like an adult. I gave him space and independence but always stayed close enough to prevent him from hurting himself. When he did get hurt I didn’t baby him or show him sympathy; I just put his attention on the next thing. I didn’t invalidate him. I didn’t make him wrong or make him feel like he’d done something bad. I validated him. All the time I told him things like, “Good job!” or “Alright!” or “You did it!”
I knew he was watching and learning from my example so I tried my best to be the best person I could be around him. I wasn’t perfect and I didn’t expect him to be. We both did our best to not be too serious and have fun with what we did. I got excited when we were going to do something and he’d get excited too. It wasn’t easy and there were times I felt like throwing in the towel but I knew my worst was someone else’s best and tried to keep things in perspective. Overall, it took patience, good communication, good control, no punishment and lots of encouragement.
A couple of weeks ago my wife and I took Sage hiking and towards the end of our walk a family was walking towards us. Without saying a word, Sage walked up to the son and hugged him. Then he walked up to the daughter and hugged her too. The family and the kids were dumbfounded. I had to break the silence and told Sage, “Say, good to meet you.” He extended his hand out with tremendous purpose and said “Good to meet you,” to each person one by one. It was the most beautifully moving thing I’d ever seen in my life. When we walked away I told my wife, “My god, I wanted to cry,” she said, “Me too.”
Recently, we took a trip into Manhattan and came across a couple of street performers in Union Square. We stopped to watch a man playing a piano and another doing an interpretational dance to the music playing. The man dancing had big bushy hair, only wore underwear and tennis shoes, and had a fairly large audience watching him. I noticed Sage was excited to see him dancing and I could tell he wanted to get into the act. He did and I was able to film him as he made his way into the circle and it was a proud moment for me to watch him performing on the streets of New York City at 2 years old. Here's the YouTube video of him dancing:
I try to approach things as an artist. Parenting is definitely an art and you either become the starving artist parent, pointing at all of the barriers, or you become the master or genius artist parent, pointing at all of the freedoms. Watching my son running through the park with other kids, giving voices to the toys he plays with at home, saying thank you to the clerk at Trader Joe’s, or dancing in front of a crowd of people, makes me think I helped to give my son a little more freedom than most. I used to think he was my greatest masterpiece but now I realize he’s really his own. I just gave him a brush or two, he supplied the paint.
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by David Carus
If someone is not an artist they might think success as an artist works like this: you’re born with talent and it secretly waits to pop its head one day when, quite through accident, you find yourself performing or creating art and there’s a talent scout watching who rushes to meet you backstage, whips out a million dollar contract and sweeps you away to Hollywood and you wake up to your picture on the front page of every major newspaper in the world. That’s pretty much the idea of overnight success, right? Wrong. It’s time to reveal the actual secret to overnight success by looking at a couple of artists that actually had the world’s attention, seemingly overnight.
Man can fly, but that wasn’t always the case. At the start of the 20th century there were plenty of ambitious minds tackling the problem of flight, but the general public thought man would be limited to traveling by land or sea and laughed at the funny looking contraptions they saw being tested on the tops of hills. The Wright Brothers came along and changed the whole game. What did they do differently than everybody else? They not only took the road less traveled, they ditched roads all together. Like Doc Brown said in “Back to the Future II,” “Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.” Their story is truly inspiring.
Wilbur and Orville Wright’s father gave them a toy helicopter when they were younger. It was made from paper, bamboo, cork and a rubber band and the boys played with it until it broke but they figured out how to build their own, sparking an early interest in aviation. Wilbur Wright was an athletic guy with plans to go to Yale University when a hockey stick knocked out his front teeth, causing him to withdraw from people. Instead of college, he stayed indoors caring for his terminally ill mother, and considered himself lacking in ambition. However, while at home caring for his mother, he began studying aviation. Orville Wright had dropped out of high school to open up a printing business, using a printing press designed and built with Wilbur’s help. When bicycles became a national craze, the brothers decided to open up a bicycle shop, designing and building their own bicycles.
Up until this time there had been many attempts to build a flying machine but no one in the world had solved all of the pieces to the puzzle. The Wright Brothers decided to tackle the problem and used money from their bicycle business to fund their experiments. They used some of what they’d learned building bicycles and applied it to flying. While everyone else was focused on stability, the Wright Brothers knew the real problem was steering. They understood an airplane in the sky wouldn’t handle like a boat in the water. Their grasp of bicycle design helped them find a steering solution. And another breakthrough came when they abandoned using the aeronautical data of one of their biggest inspirations, the German aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal. Realizing his data was incorrect, the Wright brothers decided to start from scratch to discover the correct formulas behind wing design. After more than a decade of experiments, filled with failures, injuries and plenty of self-doubt, on December 17, 1903, the Wright Brothers flew the world’s first, truly working airplane. Were there swarms of reporters watching the historical moment? No, there was only one other person there, a guy Wilbur found to take photographs of the flights and the film wasn’t even developed until the brothers returned home to Ohio. The world eventually found out but it was an overnight success that had taken well over a decade to create; longer if you count the toy helicopter.
The airplane was the result of years of study, experimentation, hard work and thinking outside the box. For a couple of guys without college degrees or even high school diplomas, all they needed was to keep pushing through the barriers, ignore the limitations and focus on their dream, so fragile that the whole world didn’t think it possible. The next time you’re watching a famous artist or creator on TV and thinking of yourself as a failure for not being there yet, remember the story of two brothers who spent years of getting it wrong until they finally got it right. Imagine them pushing their flying machine made of canvas and wood into the wind until it was conquered, seeing their masterpiece soaring above the world. Overnight success is great, but not as great as the everyday success of chasing your dreams. The pleasure is in the doing, not the having, so get out there and do whatever you gotta do because that’s the secret to flying.
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I'm David Carus. From overcoming one of the most dangerous cities in the country and graduating from one of the most prestigious colleges in America to leading an educational movement as a teacher and running for Congress at the age of 25, I decided the best hope our world has is through art.