The Urban Dictionary defines “Cool” as a phrase that is very relaxed and never goes out of style. There’s doctorates and self help books enough to fill a stadium written on and about our quest for “cool” and it is something that has always baffled me.
As grown ups – my husband and I have a wide, varied and supportive social circle. I would not, however, call either of us “cool”. Some of our friends are, exceptionally and effortlessly cool cats – but we remain filterless oddities with big hearts and even bigger mouths that can and do get us into trouble.
I came home from a wonderful and enjoyable dinner with friends last night, after several successful evenings in a row of visiting. I had to stop and wonder about how all of this came about. Adolescence and post adolescence was something I squeaked through by the skin of my teeth, and although I craved Love and friendship, I can honestly say that most people only just tolerated me. Not that I can blame them for that looking back on the big basket of crazy I was in those days.
As an adult, the crazy remains. The only difference now being… I don’t really mind if that causes people to dislike me. Sure I still get a bit upset when haters hate on me, or opportunists prey on me, or nasty people are cruel or gossip – but not so much because I take this stuff as personally or seriously as I did once – I find this stuff upsetting now because it is crap. Whether it is happening to me or someone else.
As an adult, the happiest (and generally “coolest”) people I know embrace their eccentricities and celebrate the different quirks and oddities in those around them. They can embrace different political, religious or scientific views and are happy being heard, without the need to always be right.
One conversation, with a beautiful and successful friend of mine who is a published author and business woman, was on our opposing political views. We aired our opinions, failed to agree on everything (most things perhaps), and left without a single ounce of lost respect for one another.
A broad and thoughtful grin from my friend, and the confession that she couldn’t ever lose an argument or be wrong until she was well into her 30’s made us both laugh – and a common ground was again established.
I honestly hope that ageing is bringing a previously lacking grace and perhaps even some humility without counter productive self-deprication. Also an increased sense of self and purpose, that could have really been a useful tool while struggling through my awkward teens and twenties.
Which brings me back to the concept of “cool”.
My new career means that I must be able to identify trends, fads, brand penetration and loyalty. I also get to try and unravel the mystery of stages in the lifecycle of a brand, product or service, and easily and elegantly distinguish who thinks the brands, causes and individuals I represent are “cool” and why. Thanks to the Internet, and a very clever ninja business partner, there’s lots of tools to help me with all of these necessary quantitative and qualitative evils – but it is a mysterious and sought after gift that some people have to be able to pick out “the next big thing”. Some people have it, some do not, but I honestly think there are a few tried and true rules about what people are drawn to – because these are the things that attract me!
What I lack in street credibility, youth, elegance and influence, I try and make up for by identifying and aligning with a few truths that have rarely steered me wrong. (You may or may not agree)
1) Genuine kindness is always cool. Douche-baggery may have a moment in the sun, but is not sustainable. While brands like Abercrombie and Fitch chase their misguided holy grail of exclusivity by catering to the “cool kids” and “mean girls” as a genuine branding exercise caused a rather uplifting backlash – there is a massive movement away from that and toward conscious consumerism and feel good factor lifestyle and buying behaviour.
2) Confidence! Yes, confidence. NOT arrogance. Being sure of yourself, comfortable in your own skin, proud of the brands and causes you believe in, and feeling free to make choices that make you feel good, well all of that is seriously contagious. Eeyore, glass is half empty stuff does not win friends and influence people, but confidently stepping out and doing your thing your way certainly does.
3) Choose Happy. Be content. Happiness, enthusiasm, energy, joie de vivre, optimism; These are things that people are undeniably drawn to. The tragedy of coolness fuelled by snobbery and exclusivity is that we do from time to time fall prey to theses illusions as a source of happiness. The concept of “keeping up with the Joneses” and filling up empty with expensive and beautiful things is one that does not seem to fade out of our consciousness, especially in the Western world I’d say. However, being happy and celebrating all that you have, and NOT pining for things you do not is a great and sustainable source of genuine peace and happiness if you’re able to grab hold of it. And if you’re able to do this, please share with me your secret, as I often bitch and moan about first world problems like a beggar sitting on a beach of gold.
4) Keeping it real. Whoever you are, wherever you are, being real and genuine is going to be a much safer and consistent bet. A facade, regardless of how practiced or intricate, will eventually be tested and break. However; good, honest character and establishing a reputation of integrity is invaluable and maybe even infinite. Even if people don’t like you, they’ll have a hard time attacking your character if you know who you are and you’re not afraid to be yourself. Being an optimist, I also believe that the truth does eventually come out. Either good or bad. High flyers and bullshit artists like Bernie Madoff or Eric Watson can ride the wave of success for a while, but immoral and self serving behaviour will eventually end in an almighty fall from grace. Even rather sad stories of amazing historical figures who die penniless or unappreciated (Tesla, Van Gogh, Mozart to name a few) seem to be eventually vindicated by history as the truth of their genius and contributions to the world did come out. Other people lead a quiet life and never seek or experience their fifteen minutes of fame, but leave a legacy of a family, some amazing friendships, a little garden plot, or maybe even a remarkable or heroic act that nobody knows about. Regardless, I think there isn’t much value in fake it until you make it mentality. A genuine character will stand up to time and scrutiny, and flippant and fake facades do not.
That’s enough ranting for a Tuesday.
Hope wherever you are and whatever you are up to that you enjoyed taking a minute to read this latest rant.