Meeting people at Inc. 500

Yesterday was a great day. I met two people I look up to — a lot: Robert X. Cringley and Tom Peters.

Tom Peters wrote the foreword of my book, but I had never met him until yesterday, more on that in a second.

Robert Cringley was the 12th employee at Apple and has turned that into a whole bunch of things, including an interview show on PBS. Think of my show without the annoying laugh, done with two high-end cameras (his cost $9,000 each, mine are around $4,500), with professional microphones, makeup, and lighting.

I was more apprehensive about meeting Cringley than meeting Peters. Why? Cause Cringley is more of a direct competitor to what I’m trying to do and because he regularly kicks my ass.

Meeting him I immediately realized he’s smarter than me, better looking than me, and has more industry experience than me. *&^%$%! But, not only that, but he’s good on stage and nice too.

Guys like him are not only fun to have a lunchtime conversation with, but they also make you pick up your game and be better than you are. I imagine if I were a football player and met Jerry Rice I’d think the same thing.

One thing? He’s now a blog evangelist. He said he changed his column to a blog format a few months ago and watched his traffic go from 300,000 a week to 500,000 nearly overnight. He told the audience at the Inc. 500 conference yesterday that that blew him away — it took him many years to get to 300,000 and only two months more to get to 500,000.

As to Tom Peters, when I first saw him, he recognized me and treated me like his long-lost college friend. I knew then I was in the hands of a masterful people person. He was talking with someone else, and I gingerly stayed a couple of feet back and observed.

One thing I noticed was he was very quiet spoken. Now, I’ve seen him on TV and I only knew him from his public performances. This was another side of the guy that you don’t get to see.

He wore a red sweater, and had bushy eyebrows (he’s turning 65 this year). He seemed a lot more like my dad than some famous speaker and book author. Oh, and he admitted he was really nervous (he’s spoken about 2,500 times, including lots of times to crowds much bigger than the one that was in San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel to see him yesterday, so I was taken aback by that).

All that would end in a few minutes when he took the stage.

He exploded with energy, passion, and visceral words like “hate” and “love.”

This was not the Tom Peters that was talking with us just a few minutes before.

He was pacing around the room. I think he circled my front-row table at least 20 times, walking directly into the audience talking only one or two feet from many audience members.

Talking is actually a huge understatement. This 65-year-old was pissed. Pissed that American business is leaving major money on the table by not catering to women and “geezers,” as he put it.

His arms were waving wildly. It was a performance I’d never seen.

It was the first speech since laughing my ass off at Dave Barry’s speech that I went home tired.

Emotionally exhausted is more what it felt like. He passed his passion onto his audience. No wonder he gets paid large sums of money to do this all over the world. Not to mention he got a standing ovation at the end.

And he’s not happy. Told us he’s still looking forward to doing a good speech.

Afterward I asked him “where does that come from?” After all, now that I’d gotten to see the quieter side of Tom I wanted to know how he changed himself when he walked on stage. He said “I want to connect with each and every member of the audience.”

Boy, did he. I’m in awe 17 hours later.

Thanks guys for inspiring me.

Comments

  1. I’ve been reading Cringley on and off (mostly off) for years and it blows my mind that he has more readers than you do. And I don’t say that just becasue I think you are all that great. There are just so many people out there that have so much more on the ball than Cringley I don’t have time for him.
    Tom Peters on the other hand I read regularly. I’ve never seen him life and I’ve heard both pro and con so I’d like to make up my own mind.
    But one thing that doesn’t surprise me is that he is different in a small group and on stage. I am as well. Sometimes I wish I could be that guy on stage when I am in a small group. There is something about an audience when you have a message to share that really can power a person up.

  2. I’ve been reading Cringley on and off (mostly off) for years and it blows my mind that he has more readers than you do. And I don’t say that just becasue I think you are all that great. There are just so many people out there that have so much more on the ball than Cringley I don’t have time for him.
    Tom Peters on the other hand I read regularly. I’ve never seen him life and I’ve heard both pro and con so I’d like to make up my own mind.
    But one thing that doesn’t surprise me is that he is different in a small group and on stage. I am as well. Sometimes I wish I could be that guy on stage when I am in a small group. There is something about an audience when you have a message to share that really can power a person up.

  3. Cringley: I almost never read one of his posts where I don’t come away thinking he is absolutely right and I’m a fool for never seeing what he has seen. His deep research shows through what at first seem to be the “obvious” conclusions. I look forward to each new revelation.

    Peters: I’ve also been inspire by his presentations. Unfortunately most of the people I’ve worked with can’t be bothered with such things, and those who have don’t allow the inspiration to have much of an impact on how they do their job. The vast majority of tech workers take every shortcut they can find and leave a mess for someone else to fix, or let a mess which only they can unravel provide them with job security. It’s sickening at times.

    You: The best human technology aggregator out there. the problem with all automated aggregation is the dupes. Clicking on headline after headline with cleverly unique come-ons only to resolve to the same AP or Reuters article puts me to sleep. For now only a few trusted humans can wade through the thousands of “stories” each day and find the three or four that are actually news. Of course I have to supplement yours with LXer, Drudge, and a few others that hit topics you ignore. Maybe one of these days the automation will be better, but for now, it has a long way to go and real people with broad interests in a topic area (quite the opposite of Cringley) are quite valuable.

  4. Cringley: I almost never read one of his posts where I don’t come away thinking he is absolutely right and I’m a fool for never seeing what he has seen. His deep research shows through what at first seem to be the “obvious” conclusions. I look forward to each new revelation.

    Peters: I’ve also been inspire by his presentations. Unfortunately most of the people I’ve worked with can’t be bothered with such things, and those who have don’t allow the inspiration to have much of an impact on how they do their job. The vast majority of tech workers take every shortcut they can find and leave a mess for someone else to fix, or let a mess which only they can unravel provide them with job security. It’s sickening at times.

    You: The best human technology aggregator out there. the problem with all automated aggregation is the dupes. Clicking on headline after headline with cleverly unique come-ons only to resolve to the same AP or Reuters article puts me to sleep. For now only a few trusted humans can wade through the thousands of “stories” each day and find the three or four that are actually news. Of course I have to supplement yours with LXer, Drudge, and a few others that hit topics you ignore. Maybe one of these days the automation will be better, but for now, it has a long way to go and real people with broad interests in a topic area (quite the opposite of Cringley) are quite valuable.

  5. I interviewed Cringely the day of the Charleston Uplifter meeting and really enjoyed. I went over to his house and interviewed him at his house. His wife was expecting a baby any minute so that really put a certain pressure to get in, do it right and get the hell out. Even with that, it was a great chat and I enjoyed getting his take.

  6. I interviewed Cringely the day of the Charleston Uplifter meeting and really enjoyed. I went over to his house and interviewed him at his house. His wife was expecting a baby any minute so that really put a certain pressure to get in, do it right and get the hell out. Even with that, it was a great chat and I enjoyed getting his take.

  7. Does he actually go by “Robert” on a personal level when you’re interacting with him, or by his real name?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cringely

    I’ve always found him most notable (aside from his connections) for his ability to connect the dots and get to the bigger picture, or the real meaning, behind something. A lot of this is risky, so he can be wrong more often than some others, but it’s always a fun read regardless of how it turns out.

  8. Does he actually go by “Robert” on a personal level when you’re interacting with him, or by his real name?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cringely

    I’ve always found him most notable (aside from his connections) for his ability to connect the dots and get to the bigger picture, or the real meaning, behind something. A lot of this is risky, so he can be wrong more often than some others, but it’s always a fun read regardless of how it turns out.

  9. One more way that Cringley’s videos beat ScobleShow: NerdTV offers a version with captions.

    When I posted on Apple TV, I got a comment asking me to look into whether Apple TV supports closed captions. (It doesn’t.) This started me poking around in the issue. So far the dominant download and streaming video providers are pretty much avoiding the issue.

    PBS is the first provider I’ve encountered that makes provisions for captioned programming. Does anyone know any others?

    As online video gains in popularity, the need to provide captions for deaf and hearing impaired becomes more urgent.

  10. One more way that Cringley’s videos beat ScobleShow: NerdTV offers a version with captions.

    When I posted on Apple TV, I got a comment asking me to look into whether Apple TV supports closed captions. (It doesn’t.) This started me poking around in the issue. So far the dominant download and streaming video providers are pretty much avoiding the issue.

    PBS is the first provider I’ve encountered that makes provisions for captioned programming. Does anyone know any others?

    As online video gains in popularity, the need to provide captions for deaf and hearing impaired becomes more urgent.

  11. Tim and Pam: sorry, I was typing faster than my brain was engaged this morning. Foreword and bushy eyebrows were what I was thinking.

    Michael: Robert told me to do closed captioning too. But not for the reason you give. He found that his international audience is a lot larger because of them. Why? Because there are many people around the world who barely speak English, but can read it a lot better.

  12. Tim and Pam: sorry, I was typing faster than my brain was engaged this morning. Foreword and bushy eyebrows were what I was thinking.

    Michael: Robert told me to do closed captioning too. But not for the reason you give. He found that his international audience is a lot larger because of them. Why? Because there are many people around the world who barely speak English, but can read it a lot better.

  13. Robert: Good to reconnect at the Inc 500 event.

    Tom Peters rocked! I’d never seen him speak before, and it was worth the wait. Passion and honesty and a good dose of entertainment. Salty, witty, insightful. I have a page of notes with some good stuff, like “all big companies suck” and “hire for the soft stuff – skills can be trained” and “S.A.V.: Screw Around Vigorously” which means try a bunch of stuff and don’t be afraid to fail.

    If you think business speakers are boring, you’ve never heard Tom Peters.

  14. Robert: Good to reconnect at the Inc 500 event.

    Tom Peters rocked! I’d never seen him speak before, and it was worth the wait. Passion and honesty and a good dose of entertainment. Salty, witty, insightful. I have a page of notes with some good stuff, like “all big companies suck” and “hire for the soft stuff – skills can be trained” and “S.A.V.: Screw Around Vigorously” which means try a bunch of stuff and don’t be afraid to fail.

    If you think business speakers are boring, you’ve never heard Tom Peters.

  15. I attended a Tom Peters conference nearly 20 years ago. I still remember him having the entire audience chanting “more, better, faster, for less.”

    I thought it would suck. It was amazingly great.

  16. I attended a Tom Peters conference nearly 20 years ago. I still remember him having the entire audience chanting “more, better, faster, for less.”

    I thought it would suck. It was amazingly great.

  17. Cringley: I was introduced to him via his “Triumph of the Nerds” and “Nerds 2.0.1″ programs on PBS. His “Nerds” program struck a chord with me – it was one of the best explanations I had come across regarding how the Internet morphed into existence. I showed segments of his “Nerds” program to several of my networking students – I wanted them to have some background on the industry they were getting in to and Robert’s program fit the bill nicely. I’ll stop by his web site a bit later today (it’s been awhile and I an interested to see what he is blogging about…).

    Peters: I am a huge fan of Tom’s work! I visit his site regularly – he causes me to think v e r y hard while uplifting my spirits and scaring the living hell out of me, usually in the same sentence. He “gets it”. I have not yet attended a TP event but look forward to doing so and experiencing the “emotional exhaustion” you describe.

  18. Cringley: I was introduced to him via his “Triumph of the Nerds” and “Nerds 2.0.1″ programs on PBS. His “Nerds” program struck a chord with me – it was one of the best explanations I had come across regarding how the Internet morphed into existence. I showed segments of his “Nerds” program to several of my networking students – I wanted them to have some background on the industry they were getting in to and Robert’s program fit the bill nicely. I’ll stop by his web site a bit later today (it’s been awhile and I an interested to see what he is blogging about…).

    Peters: I am a huge fan of Tom’s work! I visit his site regularly – he causes me to think v e r y hard while uplifting my spirits and scaring the living hell out of me, usually in the same sentence. He “gets it”. I have not yet attended a TP event but look forward to doing so and experiencing the “emotional exhaustion” you describe.

  19. Robert

    I don’t think that it is just companies that neglect ‘boomers’.

    I think networking sites that say they want to cater to ‘boomers’ can be condescending.

    I wrote about it on ‘Serge the Concierge’ a while back in a comment on ‘Eons’.

    I followed up on the topic after hearing The Buzzcocks being used by the AARP for a commercial.

    After all Lou Reed is like 64.

    The summer of love was some 40 years ago and punk started some 30 years back.

    From these 2 movements though game creative people and ideas and a DIY attitude.

    Take care

    SERGE
    Biz:
    http://www.njconcierges.com
    Blog:
    http://www.sergetheconcierge.com

  20. Robert

    I don’t think that it is just companies that neglect ‘boomers’.

    I think networking sites that say they want to cater to ‘boomers’ can be condescending.

    I wrote about it on ‘Serge the Concierge’ a while back in a comment on ‘Eons’.

    I followed up on the topic after hearing The Buzzcocks being used by the AARP for a commercial.

    After all Lou Reed is like 64.

    The summer of love was some 40 years ago and punk started some 30 years back.

    From these 2 movements though game creative people and ideas and a DIY attitude.

    Take care

    SERGE
    Biz:
    http://www.njconcierges.com
    Blog:
    http://www.sergetheconcierge.com

  21. When I interviewed him, I referred to him exclusively as Cringely. I’m not sure if I used any direct address talking to him off the mike but if I did I would have used RXC unless and until he said “Call me Mark.”

    Just like many years ago when I interviewed Robert Jordan, I know that’s a psuedonym but in the context of the recorded conversation using their real name would just be a distraction since it is not what people associate with the work.

  22. When I interviewed him, I referred to him exclusively as Cringely. I’m not sure if I used any direct address talking to him off the mike but if I did I would have used RXC unless and until he said “Call me Mark.”

    Just like many years ago when I interviewed Robert Jordan, I know that’s a psuedonym but in the context of the recorded conversation using their real name would just be a distraction since it is not what people associate with the work.

  23. Robert, I find them inspirational in a different way. Tom’s blog catalogs his global travels. When I am dog tired after having done 10 flights in 2 weeks I think of him, and I am much younger and tell myself to quit whining.

    Cringley, I admire for not being afraid to pick on any body in our industry. We need folks like him to say the things Gartner and other analysts cannot or will not.

    I wish I had been there – meeting you would not have been bad either -)

  24. Robert, I find them inspirational in a different way. Tom’s blog catalogs his global travels. When I am dog tired after having done 10 flights in 2 weeks I think of him, and I am much younger and tell myself to quit whining.

    Cringley, I admire for not being afraid to pick on any body in our industry. We need folks like him to say the things Gartner and other analysts cannot or will not.

    I wish I had been there – meeting you would not have been bad either -)

  25. > Robert Cringley was the 12th employee at
    > Apple and has turned that into a whole bunch
    > of things, including an interview show on PBS.

    Robert Cringely is a fictional character so it’s literally impossible that he was 12th employee at Apple.

    It might just be possible that Mark Stephens, who plays the Cringely charcter, worked at Apple but I rather doubt it. Stephens is reckoned by Wikipedia to have got a Bachelor’s degree in Wooster, Ohio, in 1975, and he got a Master’s in communication from Stanford in 1979. See:

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/1998/11/11/DD94762.DTL

    This came up because he lied about having a PhD from Stanford.

    According to a Wired story: “After graduating, he raced off to Northern Ireland and Beirut to cover foreign wars as a newspaper stringer, but by 1977, he had returned to America, married, and moved to California.”

    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/6.12/cringely_pr.html

    John Naughton in a column (14 April 1996) wrote that he “in fact was educated in Liverpool and worked for two years as an apprentice, restoring antique aircraft in Bedfordshire before going to Stanford.

    Hm, yeah, right.

    Apple was founded in 1976.

    Cringely’s book, Accidental Empires, is great and I loved the Nerds series. (I also thought his build-a-plane series was good.) His column can certainly be entertaining. I greatly admire and envy his achievements. But please remember that Cringely is a fictional character and that the back-story may not always be historically accurate.

  26. > Robert Cringley was the 12th employee at
    > Apple and has turned that into a whole bunch
    > of things, including an interview show on PBS.

    Robert Cringely is a fictional character so it’s literally impossible that he was 12th employee at Apple.

    It might just be possible that Mark Stephens, who plays the Cringely charcter, worked at Apple but I rather doubt it. Stephens is reckoned by Wikipedia to have got a Bachelor’s degree in Wooster, Ohio, in 1975, and he got a Master’s in communication from Stanford in 1979. See:

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/1998/11/11/DD94762.DTL

    This came up because he lied about having a PhD from Stanford.

    According to a Wired story: “After graduating, he raced off to Northern Ireland and Beirut to cover foreign wars as a newspaper stringer, but by 1977, he had returned to America, married, and moved to California.”

    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/6.12/cringely_pr.html

    John Naughton in a column (14 April 1996) wrote that he “in fact was educated in Liverpool and worked for two years as an apprentice, restoring antique aircraft in Bedfordshire before going to Stanford.

    Hm, yeah, right.

    Apple was founded in 1976.

    Cringely’s book, Accidental Empires, is great and I loved the Nerds series. (I also thought his build-a-plane series was good.) His column can certainly be entertaining. I greatly admire and envy his achievements. But please remember that Cringely is a fictional character and that the back-story may not always be historically accurate.

  27. No, Cringley really did work at Apple — as his real self, Mark Stephens.

    Here is the story from Wired:

    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/6.12/cringely.html

    Issue 6.12 | Dec 1998
    |>

    The Double Life of Robert X. Cringely (continued)

    Mark Stephens went to the College of Wooster, in Ohio, where he majored in physics, bowled, sang tenor in the choir, and chased girls. After graduating, he raced off to Northern Ireland and Beirut to cover foreign wars as a newspaper stringer, but by 1977, he had returned to America, married, and moved to California. He worked with Steve Jobs in the early days of Apple, and when Jobs offered him shares in the company as payment, Cringely held out for payment at $6 an hour. “Let’s not think about that,” he says. He went to Stanford and got a master’s degree in communication research, but he tired of school, and in the late ’80s, he joined InfoWorld.

  28. No, Cringley really did work at Apple — as his real self, Mark Stephens.

    Here is the story from Wired:

    http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/6.12/cringely.html

    Issue 6.12 | Dec 1998
    |>

    The Double Life of Robert X. Cringely (continued)

    Mark Stephens went to the College of Wooster, in Ohio, where he majored in physics, bowled, sang tenor in the choir, and chased girls. After graduating, he raced off to Northern Ireland and Beirut to cover foreign wars as a newspaper stringer, but by 1977, he had returned to America, married, and moved to California. He worked with Steve Jobs in the early days of Apple, and when Jobs offered him shares in the company as payment, Cringely held out for payment at $6 an hour. “Let’s not think about that,” he says. He went to Stanford and got a master’s degree in communication research, but he tired of school, and in the late ’80s, he joined InfoWorld.