This post is about coolness. If you got it. Why you want it. And cats.
It was Tuesday morning. I had packed up my things for a very needed work/life balance activity known as vacation. At the last second, I headed back up to my office and dug out my printed copy of Danielle LaPorte’s The Spark Kit (formerly The Fire Starter Sessions).
My hunch was that for some of the 12 hours (one-way) of commuting California’s I-5, I’d have some time to read. To finish it. Since I never had. Even though the portion I had read thoroughly rocked the me that’s learning to love and adore her self more, everyday.
Cracking it open one evening, I started over, from the beginning. Pouring over some already-read material, some not, and smiling because its content underlined some of the most important lessons I’ve learned this year.
About the transformative power of self-acceptance. And also the mystery of finding healing and wholeness through pain and discomfort.
One of my biggest aha’s this year, is recognizing the tendency in relationship to inflame sore spots we’ve carried forward from early childhood.
Each of us has a few sore spots. I know I do. Each of them always dot-lines back to not enough. And so many things seem to trigger it when I’m relating with another. Often times, I’m dancing to avoid it. Dodging and shrinking, afraid to hear about your disappointment in me or my performance. Spouses, lovers and friends, a boss or parent, all hold a key I’ve freely given to them.
For me this year, it’s been my client relationships mirroring back to me the opportunity to heal those sore spots and accept myself.
I’ve had several clients expect so much from me… for practically nothing (free or very little compensation). Not really their fault no matter how much my ego would love to pin that tail on that donkey. Instead, they mirrored exactly what I’ve believed about myself for a very long time. That I needed to prove my value first. I wasn’t enough for them, right here, right now.
Believing I’m an outsider, I waited to be let in. Willing to do almost anything to get in. Constantly needing to make the deal sweeter. Add this. Do that. Drop everything, for them. Am I in yet? How about now?
Until it just all broke down. Starting with me.
Breakdowns & breakthroughs.
I’m still breaking through. Picking up the pieces of me. Strewn all over this crazy world wide web. Trying to find my place in the popularity contest (Danielle sums up social media as a popularity contest… fits doesn’t it?) that reminds me of high school days. When I wanted so badly to belong to the “right” crowd. Have lots of friends. Get invited to the cool places with the cool people.
Today it’s about retweets, guest posts, who’s going to what event and how to get noticed.
Even now, the tears rise up in me as I consider the deep self-betrayal in this notion of not belonging. Of not being cool enough. Smart enough. Pretty enough. Skinny enough. Athletic enough. Talented enough. Bright enough… to be been seen and have my worth acknowledged.
I know you’ve been there. I know you’ve belonged to the uncool club. At least once. Maybe you’re still there…
If you are, I want to tell you what I would have done, if I knew then, what I know today, about getting in and the value of cool.
Who am I? If I see myself on the outside, I’m just another follower of the cool cats club. Distracted from my own passion and certainly not following my North Star.
Why do I follow someone? Why do I retweet another? Or share someone’s Facebook fan page?
It takes time to really get to know someone. The access we give people to who we are on social media circuits is selective. And if it’s important for a cool cat to remain in the club, they are going to be very selective about what they are willing to show you.
Mostly because they know you and other cool cats are already watching and they wouldn’t want their membership privileges revoked. Because being considered cool matters to them.
I’m asking myself these days if being a part of the cool cats club has any real value. I’ve learned first hand this year that if the rest of the club isn’t watching (can’t see or hear), some cool cats are really very unkind and totally inconsistent with the actual message they preach.
Again, it’s all about selective access. Just think about how many times you think about what you are going to tweet next. How you are going say it, how it will be construed. How many times you backspace and rewrite it.
If I get into the cool cats club because of my ability to stand on my head just the way a cool cat wants me to, how sustainable is that? Sure there are short-term benefits of getting in, but the question remains for me as to whether I want to belong to that kinda club to begin with. And, whether or not it amplifies my own brilliance.
So how do I know if a cool cat really is cool? Here’s a couple of things that have helped me understand if their brand of cool strengthens me or is merely part of the opportunist crowd of posers pretending to be cool.
- You have to have some kind of personal contact with a cool cat to determine if they are really cool or not. What happens when a cool cat’s fur gets soaked? It’s not how we show up with each other when everyone is watching that matters. It’s how we show up with each other when no one is. I know you’ve heard that one before. I’m not trying to be original here. What I wanna know is if you carry this truth forward into action. For a real cool cat, when there’s a disagreement, it matters to them how they show up. Pretending-to-be cool cats burn the house down. And seem to take pleasure in making sure it happens while you are standing in it. I’ve been set on fire numerous times this year. By cool cats and not so cool cats. The bottom line for setting me ablaze, I wouldn’t stand on my head for them. They resented it. Because their head is so bruised and calloused from doing it themselves.
- Consistency reveals all. Over time, you can see how a cool cat behaves. Are they consistently flaky or consistently kind & generous? When you finally decide to accept their product offering or service and engage with them, is that experience consistent with who they are socially online? In other words, inconsistency is also an indication that a cool cat is part of the club for the sake of being considered cool, not because they really are cool. What we are, what we believe in, proves itself over time. It’s why when anyone calls you a fake, you can just laugh because over time, what’s real about you will and does show up. Cool or uncool. I’ve had cool cats follow me and, in a tiff, unfollow me only to turn around and follow me back again, once they believe their personal type of persuasion and influence is once again effective with me. Red flag: a cool cat raved about you or some other cool cat publicly and now, nothing. They no longer follow you or other said cool cat. That’s just plain inconsistency. What is that cool cat really after anyway? The ego cannot stand to not have the light shining down on it. The soul is at peace no matter how dark the room becomes.
- Shame, blame, criticism, threats, power trips… not a cool cat. Anyone who would say to you that you are uncool and list their reasons for it can’t possibly be living from an acceptance of their own uncool. Or any cool cat that, from behind closed doors, constantly criticizes other cool cats… is using the fear of not belonging to control and manipulate you. Cool cats freely give acknowledgment of another’s brilliance. So if you got your eye on a cool cat and there is no other thing coming outta their social media stream except “look at my own brilliance”… yeah, there’s another hint for ya. Cool or uncool, secure with who you are radiates; insecure insists to the world “see me, see me!”
What is the object of the game of social media then?
I’m still figuring that out. I have already figured out that it’s NOT “those who die with the most followers/subscribers/seats at the head event table next to a big shiney one” wins. At least not for me.
My win at social media is about my willingness to bring me to the game. Cool or uncool. It’s my authenticity. It’s my willingness to be just fine with being a member of the uncool cats club. It’s my willingness to speak my truth and risk getting torched. For me, I win when when my focus remains on me and my goals, my throughput, my passion. The more I watch what the cool cats are saying and doing, the less in touch with me I become.
Really, the seeking of any kind of acknowledgment, belonging to the cool crowd, is my own inner being calling to me. Promising me, that if I’m willing to give up the need to be seen as or by a cool cat, the return will be longer lasting in the end. Investment in my membership to the uncool club equals investment in my dreams, in my unique ability to say-it-the-way-I-see-it, and the return from that can never be taken away from me.
All my followers can disappear (or never appear by the thousands). My subscribers, or number of visits to my blog can plummet (or never be realized in the form of a post going ‘viral’). I may never be invited to sit at the head event table next to a big shiny one. And I won’t need any of that to know who I am.
In the end, the coolest cats to me, are the ones that aren’t afraid to show me their uncool. To live from it. Own it. To say out loud to others, “Yeah, that was me too. I had a beginning once. There were/are people who offered me a hand up. And oh yeah, I’ve sacrificed my own dignity to learn the lesson of who and what honors me most. I totally know what it’s like to be at a conference or workshop and feel like an outsider. In fact, I don’t know another cool cat who hasn’t felt that way… in the beginning and truthfully, for the duration of the game.” It’s called being human folks!
Honest, real humility. A real deal cool cat for sure!
So to all the uncool cats, it’s time to rock. Uncool is authentic and beautiful. It’s real. It’s just you being you, without the need to be seen.
You’ve arrived. You’re in. You belong. It’s your turn. Your time.
There is nothing the cool cats have that you don’t already have, right now. The question that remains is if you’ll allow yourself to be distracted from your own North Star because you are constantly watching what the cool cats are doing, saying or what conference they’re attending next.
I think it’s time that uncool became the new cool, don’t you? Only you can be in charge of that. By being willing to be uncool and mean it.