YA’LL GOT ‘COOL’ ALL WRONG
My friend has a theory: you are as an adult, who you were as a child. The only thing that ever changes is how you learn to handle the world around you.
A couple of weeks ago someone came to me asking for my thoughts on a rather vulnerable subject: they wanted to know why ‘the cool kids’ weren’t accepting them. I was a little taken aback. I’m not the best person to ask, I wouldn’t know. I’m not a ‘cool kid’.
Before I go any further, the reality is, even as adults, many of us still struggle with not feeling ‘___________ enough’. If we didn’t, there’d be no beauty, self-help or even ice cream industry (ok, maybe the ice cream part is just me). My point is, before you judge, at least this person had the balls to say it, out loud.
We talked for some time and after asking a few questions, I realized the real problem wasn’t this persons’ social acceptance, but rather a misconception of what ‘cool’ actually is. And this person is not alone.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: the cool kids aren’t really all that cool.
You need to get out more, champ…
At the end of The Devil Wears Prada, Miranda Priestly turns to her assistant and declares, “Oh don’t be ridiculous Andrea, everybody wants this…everybody wants to be us.”
Keep your distance from anyone who thinks this way. They’re the ‘Al Bundy’s’ of the world.
Kim is one of my closest friends. We’ve known each other since 9th grade and while I’m here in New York, Kim is in Texas getting her doctorate in Art History. We speak on average once a week and what I love about Kim is she talks to me with just as much fever about African art and her life in Texas as I talk to her about rappers and entertainment. She has no idea who or what a Waka Flocka is, she could care less. And I love her for it. She does not want my life.
Don’t confuse cool with insecure.
Many talk day in and day out about ‘protecting their circle’, not realizing that the very fence you build to keep ‘the others’ out, can quickly become the cage that holds you in. Cool is being open, remaining somewhat connected to a variety of people, and new experiences. Even the ones you may not initially understand. If you believe that there’s only one ‘cool’, then you haven’t seen enough of the world to know differently, and therefore are unqualified to determine what’s cool in the first place.
You know how I know your crew is lame?
Everything you see on social media isn’t real. Browser thugging. Tweet stunting. Instagram modeling, will only ever tell a fraction of the story.
Some of your favorite ‘Online Celebs’ were the kids who always felt they had something to prove.
I have a great amount of respect for Toure. I’ve read his writing for years, every time I see him, he’s incredibly warm, kind and he’s not afraid to speak his mind, even if that goes against the popular opinion. But in 2012, cyber-dissing Toure seems to be a favorite twitter pastime.
Now, I too am no saint. While I’ve never said anything about Toure, I’ve typed my fair share of negativity towards others over the years. And then one day I had an epiphany.
One morning I saw someone tweet something ridiculously heinous to Tyrese. It was completely out of the blue, unprovoked, and done purely for attention. Now, I know this person…and – having interviewed Tyrese – I can say I have a fairly good idea of the type of guy he is as well. But as I read this tweet, and then watched it being retweeted, I couldn’t help but think, this would have never been said to Tyrese’s face.
In fact, most of the shit talking you see online, would never be done in person. Some of the loudest people online are quiet as church mice in real life, only content with throwing jabs from behind a screen. Now if that’s not the definition of lame, I don’t know what is.
Cool people don’t have time for cyber thugging. They consider their lives too valuable and have too much to lose to put all of their business on display for the world to see. And they certainly wouldn’t say something virtually, that they wouldn’t say to someone’s face.
Even the best of us scream YOLO every now and then and pray it doesn’t come back to bite us in the ass, but only a fool sits behind a screen and types away like they have nothing to lose. And someone with nothing to lose rarely has anything (of value) to offer.
But what else you got?
I work in an industry where the perks can be boundless. From concert and courtside tickets, to sneakers to free trips, there’s always something new and exclusive to get your hands on. And none of it should define you.
Those that let it define them, were the kids in school that only felt good about themselves when they had the new, hot shit.
Access is a privilege, not a character trait. Now don’t get me wrong, I benefit often from well-placed hook-ups – for which I am genuinely grateful – but an early mentor of mine once told me, “Build relationships with people, not the brand.”
There’s no better example of this than Damon Dash who in 2003 proclaimed, ‘I can never be broke, because I have rich friends.’
I’m just going to let you think about that one for a minute…
Relationships based on an anything other than a genuine admiration and respect for one another – be it material gain, professional growth or social status – have a shelf life. And when your supply of ‘cool shit’ runs out, so will many of your ‘friends’.
Cool story, bro
The very first time I met Will Smith was in 2004. I was at an event when he overheard a conversation between three friends and I. He walks over and proceeds to shake each of our hands and introduces himself, “Hi, I’m Will.”
Will Smith’s box office total is $787,333,389; he has 3 platinum albums, 3 Grammy’s and a classic television show. We knew who he was.
Will – you know, cause in my head we’re bff’s now – didn’t introduce himself to us on the off chance we didn’t recognize him, or to give us reason to fawn over him. He introduced himself to us because that’s what a normal human being (who’s not a dick) would do. He didn’t assume his own importance.
Now I will admit, I struggle with my own arrogance, often having to check myself when that ‘Daddy’s girl’ sense of entitlement tries to take over. The key is humility and remembering that the only promise life makes, is that it will go on.
Tatiana Grace, the head of Music for Twitter, said it best, “The world does not owe you fans.” It’s also easy to be nice to someone you need. The true test of how ‘cool’ you are, is how you treat the people you don’t.
I was at a brunch with relationship expert/television personality Tionna Smalls this weekend. Going in, I wasn’t quite a fan. I’d seen What Chilli Wants and didn’t quite ‘get’ Tionna and as we sat at the table, I told her this. But as time went on, and we all spoke about different topics, Tionna dominated, giving her opinion in such a relatable, non-judgmental way that you couldn’t help but like her. She knew her shit and whether she’s at a formal media brunch, on a television show or on the phone with her homegirl, she’s going to give it to you The Tionna Way.
That sort of range can only come from knowing and understanding who you really are, away from the influence of others. She didn’t need me to like her, it won’t change who or how she is. Anyone who’s opinion of themselves is shaped by someone else’s opinion, is the very opposite of cool.
Nowadays I don’t much care if I’m cool or not. As my never-ending search for balance continues, I find myself putting more thought into vegetable juice cleansing, classic house music and Alice Walker books than worrying about who fucks with me.
Back to the conversation with the person worried about the cool kids acceptance. I encouraged them to focus more on themselves. Learn to become comfortable with yourself in any situation. Develop some perspective to recognize things for what they really are, and stop giving power to foolishness, and then calling it ‘cool’.
The people with real power, money, influence and access are often some of the nicest people you will ever meet. They don’t subscribe to the Mean Girls mentality. They don’t have time to. The real cool kids ain’t worried about you.
And that’s what makes them cool.
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By Paulo Coelho