So much of achieving your cool actually has to do with avoiding uncool behaviours and situations. We’ll go through a lot of these, but we can’t spend all of our time avoiding the uncool. We have to march towards the cool like an army of relentless soldiers. We already know it takes discipline, but what are the behaviours universally associated with cool? There are about 500 million of them. Let’s start with having a plan. Then have a backup plan. Then have a backup plan for your backup plan. Then accept the fact that nothing in life will ever go according to those plans. Sound logical?
Life is short. When you get older, you realize it and wish you had been more productive when you were younger. When you’re young, there’s no sense of urgency, because you feel like life isn’t short, and your dumb little young brain is impervious to that kind of information. Older people are forever trying to warn younger people of this fact, but to no avail. Let’s just say that at some point in life, it feels like the fast forward button has been pushed, and everything moves way faster. Most would argue that totally sucks. So this next little bit of advice doesn’t necessarily relate to your cool as much as it is just general life advice. Decide what you want to do, and start doing it. Even if it’s totally wrong. You can make corrections later, but you can’t get back the time you wasted trying to decide. I think the idea of a bucket list is sort of morbid, but you need to have some idea of things you would like to do in your lifetime. It’s probably important to get a good education and have a great career as part of this plan, but I’m not your parents, I’m just a guy trying to write a book about cool. For our purposes here, I’ll need you to make a list of every cool thing you have ever wanted to do, both short-term and long-term. There’s no due date for this homework assignment. It should take you your entire life to make this list, as you’ll always be adding to it, but when you first start it, you’ll have had your whole life up to this point to have thought of these things, so I expect your list to already have at least 50 awesome things that you’ve always wanted to do. They don’t need to be easily achievable either. Don’t limit yourself when making this list. If marrying into Royalty is the most absurd thing on your list, I think pursuing that is a great way to waste your life, but my opinion of this list doesn’t matter. Only yours does. You always wanted to be an astronaut? Write it down. You’ll also have to make sure that some of the items on your list are achievable short-term objectives. Think of things you’ve always wanted to try like an exotic food, or a challenging activity.
Take this list, and post it on your fridge. Every time you go to get yourself a snack to eat on the couch, you should be reminded that you are a person with hopes and dreams. Even though it’s really important to have this list, you shouldn’t attach too much importance to it. The completion of the list isn’t the point of the exercise. In fact, it would probably decrease your cool factor if you let this list hijack your life, and let your success at the completion of the list affect your self-esteem. What this is really all about is direction and ideas for when you feel like you don’t have any of either. As soon as you post this list on your fridge, you should realistically never complain of boredom ever again. If you ever say that you are bored, then subtract a few points from your cool factor. People don’t want to hang out with people who are bored. To make up those points, you need to be a person that cures others of boredom. In the event that you aren’t a fascinating conversationalist, you’ll need to have an idea of what to do with the time you’re allotted. If there’s not a lot going on in your life at the moment, then you should refer to this list, and start working towards one of these objectives. I’m not suggesting that you aren’t allowed to spend a few evenings on the couch watching sitcoms or ballgames if that’s how you unwind, but the cool people are out doing cool stuff. What are you doing?
Having dreams is cool. Having the courage to share your dreams with friends and family is cool. Being supportive of other people’s dreams is cool. Trying to make your dreams come true is cool. Helping others make their dreams come true is cool. Being able to recover from your dreams not coming true is cool. Dreaming new and different dreams when your other dreams didn’t work out is cool.
One of my greatest regrets stems from certain behaviours that I exhibited while in high school. I didn’t have a very clear perception of what cool was, which probably led me to think that a book like this should exist. I went to a school that had a Performing Arts program in it. So there was a lot of creative energy flying around at all times. The school plays and musicals were always a cut above what you might normally see at a high school because we had so many talented people who were passionate about what they were doing. I wasn’t part of the Arts program, and I don’t regret that one bit, but just going to that school presented a lot of opportunities to get involved with some of the creative projects that people were working on. I did take Drama classes, and I loved acting and writing, but beyond what was expected of me as a student, I didn’t participate in anything. Even though there were probably all sorts of opportunities and outlets for my own creativity. When I would hear about, or even watch some of these performances, I always secretly envied these students for pouring their hearts and souls into something, and then having it come to fruition. Witnessing their performances with a negative attitude from the back row probably seemed cool to me at the time, or maybe to whomever I was spending my time with. In my heart I probably wanted to be part of that creative energy somehow. Just to see the joy on their faces after everything they had worked for had finally happened was bittersweet for me. I was in slacker mode, and more of a hater than a participator. God forbid that a performance required some sort of vulnerability or a strange outfit. I didn’t want to step out of my comfort zone for that. It was just easier to sit back and watch other people take chances. I don’t want to use a played out ‘caged bird’ analogy, but I had a lot of creative energy bundled up which I haven’t always been eager to share with the world, and I probably would have enjoyed letting more of it out when there was such an abundance of opportunity to do so. To this day, I’m not always able to sum up the balls to participate in really cool things, but I guess if I’m to give myself a small slice of credit, I’ve always been fairly supportive of other people’s creative endeavours . So I get half a point on my cool factor for that, but lose a full point or more for missing out on opportunities to take part in something that I might have really loved, possibly because I was worried that my slacker friends might have thought I wasn’t cool. The irony is that today I believe I was incredibly un-cool for even giving a shit what any of them thought. I didn’t find this out until later, but the true essence of cool is to follow your heart and your dreams while being completely unaffected by other people’s opinions of your choices. The lesson?? Don’t let people hold you back. Don’t hold yourself back.
Getting back to having a plan, here is the best tangible advice I can give you during this chapter. This will work at any age, under all circumstances to elevate your cool factor a bit. This will be important for dating, hanging out with friends or spending time with family………
Know your town and be a ‘Life DJ’
Knowing your town is the first step. It’s the research part of this 2-step cool tool. In your personal activities, try to avoid a lot of repetition. This is harder than it sounds. You may have a restaurant that you love, and want to go back there over and over again. I’m not saying that’s bad, but you have to check out a lot of different restaurants. If there are ‘fun’ things to do like bowling, or roller skating (not everyone considers these fun, but you know what I mean), you need to know where these places are. If there are hang-outs like coffee shops or pool-halls, scope them out. If there are festivals, or cultural events, know about them. If there are live music or comedy or theatre venues, familiarize yourself. You want to have a good working knowledge of everything that is cool in your town. If you are from a very small town in a remote area……(sigh)……. I’m sorry. This isn’t going to help you that much. If you are from or near a big city, there will be an almost limitless amount of great things for you to find out about. There should be lots of resources available to help you with this too. Think websites and community newspapers, or websites OF community newspapers. The whole point of this endeavour is so that you always have ideas when it comes to going on dates, or hanging out with friends, or entertaining out-of-town family members. You should be an ambassador of your town. The benefit of having these ideas is that if a good time is had by all, you will be the all-star that organized it or came up with the idea. Also, from a backup plan perspective, if a good time is not being had by all during an outing planned by you, or someone else, you can always easily segue into another activity which makes you the rescuer of a bad night. Now before you get too happy with yourself, don’t you dare take credit for it. This isn’t about you. Just let people quietly be in awe of you and how well you know your town. Chances are they’ll look forward to hanging out with you again.
Now that you know your town, you can be a ‘Life DJ’. A friend of mine told me I was a Life DJ once. I had never heard this phrase before, so I don’t know if he made it up, or if it’s an actual thing. He explained that a DJ in music suggests and informs you of all the good music that you need to be listening to. While I like to do that with music as well, he suggested that I was the type of person that tried to get other people to experience cool things whether it’s music, food, travel or otherwise (and possibly pesters people relentlessly until they try my recommendation). I was really happy to receive such a thoughtful compliment. (Be a giver of thoughtful compliments, and add half a point to your cool factor. Be a guy who writes a book, and talks about thoughtful compliments he’s received, minus half a point, but it was worth it.) I think everyone should be a Life DJ. If we’ve experienced awesomeness in life, then who are we not to share it, and encourage people to experience it with us? I love finding the ultimate souvlaki (for example), and bringing people to that restaurant so they can try it, and watching their faces as they enjoy it for the first time as well. Why would I be selfish about that information? It’s meant to be shared. From a cool factor standpoint, I think it’s really well looked upon to be the guy that recommended a great experience for others, and possibly even went along for the ride. Now that you are armed with ‘knowing your town’, you could be that ‘Life DJ’ for some of your friends. If you’re at a phase in your life where you are dating, how great would it be to be to never run out of great ideas for places to take that person that you’re trying to impress? If you have friends or family visiting from out-of-town, wouldn’t it be cool to show them all the best stuff that only an insider like yourself would be able to compile? If you’re a music fanatic, and really know your stuff, then aren’t you making other people’s lives better by recommending great albums? If you’re movie buff, and you’ve just seen the most amazing film, isn’t it your job to encourage other people to see it? There are a million examples of how you could be a Life DJ. Share the awesomeness of the world around you. You will make people happier for knowing you, and it will increase your cool factor. The best part is that you don’t need to have a particular skill set to make this happen. It just requires some research and some enthusiasm. If you want to go to the same place over and over and over again, then you better be really interesting in some other way. People get bored with stuff. If you can cure them of that, then you are indeed, very cool.