The Cool Kids Usually Aren’t, But You Are

When I was in high school I desperately wanted to be one of the cool kids. I was decidedly not “cool.”

The Cool Kids Usually Aren’t

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Photo by Mikhail Nilov on

My parents worked hard to provide for us, and we lived a good life with everything we needed including a Catholic education K-12. However, my classmates wore (then) $60 Nikes and I wore $20 Traxx from KMart. The cool kids wore Izod polos, mine were Montgomery Ward button downs. There was nothing wrong with my clothes, our car, our home, or any other outward measurement of social worth, but I was not “in” with the cool kids. I was too immature at 17 to understand that being “cool” wasn’t a be all and end all. It wasn’t even important.

Wish I’d learned that sooner because I wasted a lot of time on things that prevented me from friendships and personal growth. I know that now.

Cool Kids Are Usually Trying Too Hard

You see, the “cool kids” were often doing things that weren’t good for them or the people around them. Things we think are “cool” when we’re 16 or 17, are decidedly not with the benefit of a little hindsight and maturity. In fact, looking back, I’m glad I wasn’t one of the cool kids. My lack of social cooth and status likely protected me from some bad decisions.  Not that I didn’t make bad decisions with the uncool kids – but to be honest, those were mostly because I was trying to be something I’m not.

Be Yourself, You’re the Only You You’ve Got

Over and over again, it’s become apparent to me that absent a solid foundation in personal dignity and core values, people will often make the worst possible choices. One of the things continually surprised about as an adult is the propensity of large numbers of people to do things, wear things, and go places because someone in the entertainment industry or public life did it, wore it, or went there. When I see the magazines at the grocery store checkout, I’m amazed that these publications are in business. Honestly, I just don’t care that Princess So-And-So wore that thing, or Mr. Actor did such and such, or Mrs Socialite said whatever. Everyone is welcome to their own politics and opinions, and people in public life are no exceptions, but just because someone in a magazine or on TV is doing it is not sufficient reason for us to follow. People whose life is different than yours can be inspirational if they are virtuous or doing good works, but their life is just their life. Like eating watermelon, you have to eat the sweet stuff and metaphotically spit out the seeds.

Core Values

This is where guiding principles come into play. If we have a set of guiding principles for our life, we won’t be swayed because a pretty face decides to wear something or buy something. They have their lives, but their lives are not ours and vice versa. We can certainly admire someone’s work without feeling the need to agree with their politics or personal taste in clothes or cologne. Ultimately, when we have our core values and align our decisions with them, the “world” can do whatever “they” want without really affecting the quality of our lives. I can enjoy an actor’s work without feeling the need to agree with their politics, and just as importantly, not feel the need to judge them if we disagree. As I’ve written often, Mickey’s Rule #7 holds here, The other team is not the enemy.

Be authentically free, ya’ll.

Mickey is a consultant, author, and keynote speaker. He believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate of the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.

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