Real cool

If you ask the average college student what their “goals” look like, you may hear an answer that looks roughly like: “to get a great job that sets me up for success.” If you ask the above average college student at the above average school a similar question, my intuition is that you will hear a similar answer (although the definitions for “great and success,” while still quite fuzzy, will sound more pompous, at least relatively so).

A lot of people throw words around like “optimizing for success.” Most young people, even ambitious ones, are easily influenced. You could convince them evolve “optimizing for success” into “optimizing for impact” and/or “optimizing for capital” etc. etc. You could do this in lots of ways — mainly by asking relatively naive questions and pointing out counter-examples that force people to actually own what they are saying (to a degree they are not really comfortable with).

I recently heard an answer from someone that I admire a lot more.

A lot more than these ~fluffy things that, in practice, tend to not actually be representative of what people _actually_ want (or at least are in conflict with how they actually make decisions, and the types of decisions they actually make).

On the surface, it sounds silly but the answer I admire is: “my goal is to be cool. Really fucking cool.”

Again, I get it. It sounds materialistic in ways. But that may just be how you interpret the definition of cool. What if you defined what cool was? And what if you just spent energy doing things that you found to be cool in life?

What if being real was cool? What if working hard was cool? What if winning is cool?

Again I am not to prescribe what everyone thinks is cool – but I do believe/think that most people, whether intentional or not, are really operating at the abstraction/level of: “how do I spend energy doing the things I believe to be cool.”

But they do not make it explicit. They cover it in answers that are semi correct or semi descriptive of how they actually think about themselves. And so, they live a rather inefficient life. Like they want things — but they move slowly towards them because they are unwilling to embrace what they actually want.

OR, and perhaps YAND (yes and) they have not thought particularly deeply about what it means to actually be cool. They have not made it clear to themselves what cool is, and thus stumble through life reactively spending time on things they find to be cool and avoiding the things that don’t.

And sometimes they have a gut feeling about things but social systems and the places they have put themselves into have restricted their ability to trust their gut. I get this. Like they want to be the cool version of themselves. They know it’s in there. But they can’t. Because they have signed up for all these lame responsibilities. So they live a lame life. And they spend all this time making excuses that no one cares to entertain. Except for them. Sulking in their own pity about how bad life is.

Importantly, I think it’s lame to define cool by other people’s standards. I think that’s how a lot of people would interpret the framing of being cool — but I think you can define cool on your own. And that’s cool to do. Real cool.