It has somehow become uncool to live with conviction – to be deliberate in our efforts, to try and admit trying.
I’ve seen this throughout my life. When I was younger, somehow, it was cooler to get a B without studying than to earn an A through hard work. It was generally more impressive to pass by careless natural ability than to excel because of training and diligent practice.
I’ve heard these words said to me over and over again:
“I could have gotten an A, but I just didn’t study”
“I could have scored another point, but I couldn’t be bothered to practice enough”
I’ve never ever been cool. No “cool” person would ever spend so much time or waste so many words trying to weasel its de facto definition.
I’m talking about those people who look like chilled, off-duty models with an effortless air of chicness around them, with ‘relaxed’ inflected in their everyday lingo, and smoking the kinds of cigarettes that don’t kill them (I mean, they do, but they’re too cool to care for nonsense like that). I see soft eyelids and relaxed welcoming smiles, and a sort of easy-going nonchalance and friendliness I have never maintained.
The admiration of ‘cool’ stems from the admiration of easy results – instead of praising hard work and enthusiasm, we too readily respect effortlessness and ease. Our need to keep up appearances encourages coolness, but ultimately doesn’t reward it. We use our portrayal of cool as an excuse from effort because it allows us to avoid the risk of failure. Perhaps if we feared failure less, we could embrace and celebrate trying more.
Don’t get me wrong. I often fall victim to this tendency myself. I validate my mistakes and failures by rationalising that I didn’t try hard enough. Instead of owning up, I make excuses and accuse others of being try-hards. We try to pass off our insecurities as indifference. Rather than work hard and risk a possible failure, we emphasise our lack of ambition to make the case that we would succeed if we’d cared — but caring isn’t cool.
Throughout the years, I’ve learned that to succeed, you have to try, you have to make an effort, you have to care, and you have to let the changing tides completely knock the bearing out of you. You have to be OK to make a fool of yourself!
I would challenge you to imagine a world where no one cared because they were so busy being cool. I see that world as a wasteland with a bunch of snooty people with their noses in the air pretending not to care to impress their friends while at their feet, people are dying of hunger, starvation, and conditions that could be eliminated if some of the cool people would care enough to do something about it.
Against this backdrop, it’s interesting to think about the emerging movement toward building companies that “do well by doing good.” It’s what every hip startup founder seems to aspire to do these days, dreaming up business models that have never been thought of before along the way. It’s an inspiring movement with many fervent followers. But is it cool? By projecting cool, you can sell anything—even the concept of caring about the world. While making the world better is certainly important, in the end, cool is a far more powerful currency, that if used for the right purpose, never goes out of style.
Playing pretend with your indifference is a dangerous and foolish thing to do. I guess I’m the last person who should be telling you how to live, but if there’s one thing I know beyond a doubt, it’s that you should love your passions, nurture them, and share them with the world. Bring something new into the lives of the people around you. Don’t be like everyone else. Don’t be boring. Don’t stop caring. If you don’t care, you’re not really living.
Be uncool! Live Deliberately.