Everyone has their role-models, someone who represents the epitome of “cool” – that ineffable mix of suave sophistication, laid back attitude and unflappable confidence that we all admire. Whether it’s George Clooney or Idris Elba, Ryan Gosling’s nameless Driver or James Bond, there’s always that one person who represents everything we wish we could be.
These are the guys who seem to always have it together, who always seem to know exactly what they’re doing and never question themselves. They’ve got a drive and surety of purpose that we rarely see. They’re insanely charismatic and attractive individuals. They seem to flow through life effortlessly as a 70’s funk track plays in the background, leaving the rest of us mere mortals to stumble along, hoping that we don’t fuck things up too much.
Who wouldn’t want to be cool like that?
Because you could be just that cool… if you know how.
Cool Is All About The Attitude
We get so caught up in trying to be “cool”, that we end up hung up on the superficialities. We assume “cool” is about being stylish or self-consciously counter-cultural. We tend to picture “tall, dark and handsome” with artfully tousled hair, five o’clock shadow, a blacker-than-black outfit that’s at least 40% leather and sporting sunglasses because actually being able to see somebody’s eyes is the definition of “uncool”.
But these only cover the surface; they’re the trappings of what we consider to be cool, archetypes that were cemented 60 to 70 years ago by people like James Dean and Jack Kerouac. The point isn’t to declare yourself to be cool; much like Nice Guys, if you have to tell people you’re cool, you clearly aren’t.
The key to being cool isn’t about the exterior. It’s not about whether you’re rocking leather motocross jackets, tattoos1, carefully maintained facial hair or a permasneer. It’s all about the internal, about the attitude. You can be easily as cool in a t-shirt and jeans as you can in a tailored Armani suit if you have the right attitude.
The first key to being cool is to, well, keep your cool.
When you consider most of the icons of cool, they’re all united in their imperturbable nature, an almost zen calm. They’re the very definition of the slow-burn; they don’t let anything get to them because 99% of it is unimportant, and that remaining 1% isn’t anything that can’t be taken care of.
To pull a random pop-culture example, take Ocean’s 11. Whether you’re examining the Rat Pack film of the ’60s or the Stephen Soderbergh remake from 2001, Danny Ocean’s character never loses his temper, never freaks out or panics – even when it looks like things are about to go disastrously wrong. He maintains his equilibrium throughout, even as he’s playing Xanatos Speed-Chess ((I’m so, so sorry…)) with the most dangerous, vengeful casino boss in Las Vegas.
The key is that you simply don’t let the little things – and they’re almost all little things – bother you. They’re not important; its simply not worth your time to get upset because freaking out doesn’t do you any good. Panicking over, say, whether the woman you just messaged on OKCupid is going to write you back, doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s a waste of your energy and ties your brain up in knots for no reason. If your plans suddenly fall through – your date flakes on you, the restaurant loses your reservation, whatever – then getting upset isn’t going to change anything; it’s only going to make it harder to pivot and fix things.
You save your concern for the big issues, the life or death issues, and even then you keep your calm. Maintaining the idea of “chill out, I’ve got this” helps keep you calm and thinking clearly – critical parts of managing the unexpected trials the universe loves to throw your way. It helps boost your confidence that you can handle anything that comes along… even when you’re panicking inside.
Now, don’t make the mistake of thinking this means that being cool means being an emotionless robot or that you’re supposed to pretend that you’re completely disengaged from the world around you. There’s a difference between “cool” and “bored”.
The difference is that cool people make things look effortless, even when it’s really goddamn hard. To be cool is to be like a swan; they’re majestic and serene above the water. Underneath, they’re paddling like a motherfucker.
Most people have a problem with the idea of consciously making themselves vulnerable; they see it as a way of inviting or displaying weakness to others; that they are deliberately making themselves impotent or weak. They see being vulnerable as cowardice, hiding in the corner and begging people not to hurt them.
Cool people, on the other hand, understand that true vulnerability means being so secure in who you are that you don’t care about being judged. Being willing to be vulnerable means being willing to allow yourself to be hurt or rejected. It’s having enough strength of character to know that you’re going to be opening yourself up to being hurt and doing it anyway.
To be cool means being comfortable with yourself – flaws and all. You don’t worry about what other people think about you because you have embraced your identity and your sense of your own value isn’t dependent on the approval of strangers or acquaintances. You own your emotions and your motivations; you don’t make excuses. You don’t have to justify your interest in somebody – you like her, you want to date her, end of story. You may be rejected and that’s fine because rejection doesn’t define you. It sucks, to be sure, but it doesn’t change who you are, nor do you need to change yourself in order to insulate yourself from the potential of being hurt.
By being willing to be vulnerable, cool people actually take greater control of their lives. They don’t live in fear of being seen as weak or imperfect. They’re able to admit to being nervous, or confused or feeling awkward without being ashamed of it because they don’t see it as something to be ashamed of. It’s just how things are.
Now, there are people who take being self-validating too far – people who take not caring what others think to the level of narcissism or sociopathy. They may use it as an excuse to not change or improve themselves, holding on to the idea of refusing to change for anyone as a virtue. Ironically enough, this is just another way of avoiding vulnerability. They are insulating themselves from their own flaws by trying to turn them into assets and pretending that a stubborn refusal to admit fault is a principled stand.
Cool people are aware of their flaws and take ownership of them. This doesn’t mean that they don’t try to fix them, just that they are willing to accept themselves as they truly are rather than trying to hide behind a flawless persona.
Part of being vulnerable is being passionate. Cool people have tapped into their passion. It’s part of why we find them so alluring.
There’s a reason why I bring passion up repeatedly on the blog: because it’s one of the most important aspects of attraction. Having passion makes you magnetic; it means that you have a purpose in life, something that drives you beyond simple existence from day to day. Most people are content to exist. People who have connected with their passion live. We’re attracted to people with passion because they exude certainty; they have a magnetic North in their lives that they can use to orient themselves, while the rest of us feel as though we’re lost. While we’re stumbling around looking for reason and motivation, people with passion know exactly what they want and will work to get it. Their passion gives them meaning… and they don’t give a damn about what others think about it.
If you watch cosplayers at conventions, they’re often having the time of their lives because they’ve connected with their passions. Yes, they’re grown-ass adults playing dress-up… and they love it. They’re not concerned with whether people think they’re foolish for making and wearing costumes from comic or video game characters, they’re enjoying the skill it takes to bring those outfits to life and expressing their affection for the characters and designers. After all, despite what some may think, you don’t sink that much time, effort or money into a hobby unless you truly love it.
The key to finding that passion in your life is to find what it is that brings you joy, the thing that you love with almost child-like abandon, that excites you, and be willing to embrace it, to chase it and make it part of your life. It doesn’t have to be your career; it just has to be something that gives your life meaning and direction.
Cool people have that sense of certainty that most of us lack. They never seem to doubt themselves. They don’t hem and haw or constantly second-guess themselves; when they decide on a path, they commit to it.
Now, notice very carefully that I said “seem”. That’s a key. Everybody has doubts on occasion. We all have that annoying little voice in our heads that seems to question everything we’re doing, that nags us by insisting that maybe we’ve made a huge mistake and we’re doing it all wrong. It’s just that cool people have learned to shut that voice up.
Think of life as a video game built with trial-and-error gameplay and filled with branching paths, each leading to a completely different ending. There are those who will only want to find the most optimal path through the game and will do anything they can to get there, quicksaving constantly so that if they don’t like the consequences of their actions, they can always restore and try again. The problem is that you can’t save-scumm your way through life; there’s no way to restore from a previous game and you can’t check the FAQ for everything you need for the best ending. As a result… these people are constantly assailed by doubt. They’re always trying to game out every possible permutation, constantly second-guessing themselves and seemingly unable to make even the simplest decisions.
The problem is, it’s very easy to what-if yourself to death; you get so caught up in trying to guess the odds and game out every possible scenario, that you paralyze yourself and miss out entirely. Cool people simply understand that the key is just to grab themselves by the balls and/or ovaries and just go for it. They pick a course and follow it, willing to accept whatever consequences may come their way. This doesn’t mean they necessarily choose at random; they understand the value of an informed decision. They just don’t let getting informed become an excuse for not actually making a decision. They simply accept that there will always be things that they will never know, things they will miss out on and accept it.
The key mindset is to simply decide that the choice you’ve made is the correct path for you right now. You can’t predict every possible consequence or experience everything that the other path might offer, so you make each choice with the information you have and commit. Half-assing it only ensures that you’re going to hurt yourself; in the words of an old sage: “Do. Or Do not.”
Not every path is going to be ideal, and cool people accept this. They understand that in the end, you make your choices and make the corrections you can as needed.
- Although they certainly help… [↩]