A recurring theme the past couple of weeks for me as I sit in on phone calls and meet people in meat space (i.e., the real world) is the notion of catching fire, being viral, capturing cool.
A couple of middle aged guys sitting around on a conference call ain’t gonna produce it.
You can’t dictate it.
You can’t borrow it.
You can’t buy it.
It’s not something to check off on an RFP / RFQ / Scope of Work or Proposal.
If you find yourself in a committee or group discussing how they can be cool or viral or popular, it’s time to move on. Because it will never happen. Let me repeat – It. Will. Never. Happen.
The cool people are cool. The un-cool people are not. That’s it.
I’ve never met Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates, or Donald Trump. All three are mega successful, but of the three, Steve is cool and Bill and The Donald are not.
Cool is a state of being. It IS being. It belongs to the poets, the creators, the doers.
I have seen incredibly cool stuff created by people of all stripes, regardless of means.
The one thing that sets them apart is that they are the doers. The risk takers. The contrarians.
They get the joke.
They are the people creating the gap that everyone tries to leap.
And they never, I repeat, never, are asking how they can be cool. They just are.
So, if in your heart of hearts, you still really want to be cool, what do you do?
Conceive. Create. Execute. Don’t ask how – just do.
There is an old poker truism, that when you sit down at the table to play and you can’t spot the sucker, it’s you.
Cool works inversely the same way. If you think you are cool, you probably are not. Maybe you were at one time. But in most cases, it has a definite shelf life.
Let’s review a few pop culture cases to illustrate. Many of you will disagree, many of you will agree, but the list will be informative just the same:
Michael Jackson: very cool in 1983, definitely uncool today.
Billy Joel: very cool 1975-1982, definitely uncool today.
Madonna: very cool 1983-2001, and still a force to be reckoned with. Not cool, but points for trying.
High School Musical: Cool, but wearing thin.
The Band: Cool then and cool now.
Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Carole King: Cool then and cool now.
Glenn Frye: Cool with the Eagles, kinda a tool now. Don Henley: Cool with the Eagles, cool with his solo work, comes across as a tool in interviews.
David Byrne, with or without the Talking Heads: You have to freakin’ ask?
Peter Gabriel: See entry on David Byrne.
David Bowie: Cool then, sold out in 1985, and really, coasting ever since.
Tom Hanks and Ron Howard. Old Skool cool and cool now.
Van Halen: OMG. Game changers in 1978, punchlines now.
Robin Williams: Funniest person I have ever seen in person, not cool now. Replace “Robin Williams” with “Jim Carey” and you still get “everything gets old the upteenth time.”
See any patterns?
It is very hard to stay cool, to remain relevant, over a period of time.
It takes persistent effort to continually renew, to continually create, to continually grow to remain relevant.
Relevance is the real essence of cool, because everyone wants to be loved, admired, liked, wanted, to belong.
And you will never get that on a conference call.