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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by David Carus
Once in a while an artist comes along that changes everything. Michael Jackson was that kind of artist. His influence on popular culture continues to resonate and his legacy is as rock solid as they come. People will be talking about Michael Jackson for generations; but why? What was he able to do that set him apart? How did he go from intensely shy to the greatest entertainer in the world? He was so famous he couldn’t walk the streets of any country without people recognizing him. How did he do it? His story may surprise you.
Most people look at someone with talent and say things like, “He’s a natural,” or “He was born with that talent,” and in the case of Michael Jackson you’d be tempted to say these kinds of things. However, there is no talent gene or magic dust sprinkled on a few lucky folks. When you see talent, know that it is the result of practice alone, and in the case of Michael Jackson he had lots and lots of practice. He not only had to work hard to sing and dance like he did, but he had to fight his way in from a very young age. Many people remember he got his start performing with his brothers in the Jackson 5, but he was never supposed to be in the group. His older brothers wanted to form a band and make music and when young Michael came into their bedroom, they’d kick him out. He was too young, just a kid. But he kept knocking on the door and eventually he became part of the group when they heard him sing. He had music around him his whole life. His father was a musician and his tight knit family always had music around and he’d been listening and learning.
The Jackson 5 didn’t explode onto the national scene right away. They performed lots of shows, practiced to get better and worked hard to get signed to Motown Records. Once there, Michael Jackson became surrounded by musical greats like Diana Ross, James Brown, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and others who all influenced him. As a child he got a priceless education, recording and performing during one of music’s greatest eras. His career wasn’t founded on natural born talent or luck, it was the result of study, practice and hard work. And what makes it even more incredible is the fact that Michael Jackson was one of the shyest people you’d ever meet. He’d spend so many hours practicing that by the time he went on stage he completely owned it, exuding tons of confidence.
Michael Jackson achieved great success performing with his brothers but no one could have foreseen just how successful his solo career would be. One of the key factors in his success, aside from the hours he devoted to his craft, was writing his own material and consciously creating his image. Michael Jackson and his brothers had been restricted at Motown. They were told which songs to record and never got the chance to produce their own music. By the time Michael went on his own, he believed in his ability to write songs and determine the course of his career. He was the one that chose to work with Quincy Jones and from his first album “Off The Wall,” music would never be the same again. The follow-up “Thriller” would sweep the Grammy’s and go on to sell more copies than any album ever had. He went on to dominate music and change its entire landscape.
How was this achieved? Michael Jackson had a vision. He knew what he wanted to create and all those years of hard work and practice paid off. This didn’t mean now he then coasted and took it easy. He worked even harder, spending countless hours recording and performing to give the world what we now know as Michael Jackson. This image was his total creation. From the fedora hats and sparkling glove to the groundbreaking videos and moonwalk, Michael Jackson knew what he wanted and made it happen. There were no favors, no back room dealings, no luck, no connections, just 100% working on art. Michael Jackson chose to be an artist and achieved such phenomenal fame because he dreamed more, imagined better, worked harder and practiced longer than most people dare to do. The next time you watch him effortlessly glide across a dance floor understand all of the effort that went into making it happen. There’s no reason you can’t moonwalk like Michael Jackson. You just need to practice.
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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.