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.