Everybody wants to be cool – but what does it actually mean? What does it refer to?
It is hardly a psychological term. There are no manuals in psychotherapy that are geared to making our clients more cool.
It is however a supremely important question: Who doesn’t want to be cool? Right?
This blog post will concern itself with a definition of “cool” and concludes with some concrete advice for you great one in search of cool.
To get you going: Start out by thinking about famous people who are renowned for being cool: Snoop Dog, Barack Obama, comedians Norm MacDonald and Dave Chapell, actors Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Lawrence. Muhammed Ali and Jimi Hendrix were also uber cool. What kind of (famous) people do you consider cool?
Apart from these people being really good at what they do and in many cases really good looking, these particular people master some undefined coolness skills.
So let’s dig into the psychometrics of it all. What makes up “cool”? We will follow that attempt up with some basic theory and actionable advice.
Quick Table of Contents
- To begin you will be introduced to a home-made-for-the-occasion-test of what you may call “the art of non resistance” or “taking it easy”. A key component of coolness if you ask me.
- After that we will look at the facet of a well known personality inventory called “Cool-headedness”, which is not the same as “cool”, but which has certain overlaps with cool.
- After that I will share with you some items from the IPIP open source personality inventory to lay out an experimental psychometric breakdown of cool. Let me know what you think?
- The neurological underpinning of cool. We look at a surprising perspective on being cool.
- The art of being sure of yourself as a consequence of “personal wisdom”: a more flexible and actionable model of the world. entailing also the art of individuality. Cool people listen – and think for themselves.
1. The art of Non-Resistance
Your role models, alive and dead: Essayist: Michel de Montaigne. Existentialist Albert Camus. Comedian Norm Macdonald. Actress: Jennifer Lawrence. Other personalities who master the art of non-resistance: David Letterman and David Bowie.
Being good at non-resistance is about accepting whatever life throws at you without you losing your cool. Rather than resisting, complaining and combatting uncomfortable feelings you choose to lean into them and calmly try to figure out what is going on.
We will begin with a test that I devised based on my hunch about the art of non-resistance.
Test yourself: Do you 1: Disagree. 2: Mostly not so. 3: 50/50.
4: Mostly so. 5: Agree
|Do you often get angry when things don’t go according to your plans?|
|Do you often get into arguments with your partner and friends?|
|Do you often judge other people in binaries – good/bad?|
|Do you try to insist that people do things as you would do them?|
|Do you worry a lot?|
|Do you often fantasize about the perfect partner, job, friends or perfect circumstances?|
|Do you often get impatient with other people?|
|Do you often get impatient in traffic?|
|Do you spend a lot of time thinking about how the past should have been different?|
|Do you find it hard to listen to others?|
>10 you may have worked it all out (either that – or you are too self sacrificing?)
> 20 points you are a bit on the controlling side.
> 30 points, people around you suffer as much as you do from your inability to relax.
> 40 points you are so unable to relax that you are at a risk of dying early from conflicts, accidents, loneliness and/or a heart attack.
Based on the big five personality inventory, a “cool headedness” facet has been derived: ??The Items in the 45 Preliminary IPIP Scales Measuring the 45 AB5C Facets.
This facet – on the face of it – does not add up 1:1 to coolness, but it has some overlap.
A cool-headed person does not:
Want everything to add up perfectly.
Keep up appearance
Love order and regularity
Attach himself to conventional ways
Try to impress others
React negatively to being contradicted
Want to be told he is right
3. Being Cool – psychometrically speaking
You don’t need to read all the items. Just scan them with your eyes to get the general drift of it.
I consider following items to be in inversely correlated (- keyed) with being cool:
Can’t stand being alone
Don’t like to ponder over things
Find it difficult to approach others
give up easily
Only comfortable with friends
Do not have a good imagination
Have difficulty imagining things
Can’t come up with new ideas
Seldom jokes around
Feel little concern for others
Am not interested in people’s problems
Take no time for others
Can’t be bothered with other’s needs
Only talk about my own interests
Overestimate my achievements
Scheme against others
Am hard to satisfy
Am quick to judge others
Criticize others’ shortcomings
Pretend to have concern for others
Listen to my brain rather than my heart
Tend to dislike soft-hearted people
Look down on weakness
Let people pull my leg
Feel threatened easily
Feel frightened easily
Take offence easily
shoot my mouth off
barge into conversations
Do not like concerts
Rarely look for deeper meaning of things
A cool person does however (+ keyed):
A cool person is mentally quick
Can handle complex problems
quick to understand things
loves to read challenging material
can handle a lot of information
quickly gets the idea of things
Act comfortably with others
Know what I want
Am comfortable in unfamiliar situations
Am not embarrassed easily
Dare to say anything
Am open about myself to others
Let myself go
LAugh my way though life
Express childlike joy
Like to amuse others
Sympathize with others’ feelings
Respect other’s feeling
Like to be of service to others
Appreciate the viewpoints of others
Am interested in people
Make people feel at ease
Take time out for others
Show my gratitude
Feel others’ emotions
Am easy to satisfy
Have a good word for everyone
Trust what people say
Keep myself well-groomed
Check over my work
Handle tasks smoothly
Feel comfortable with myself
Am calm even in tense situations
Like to solve complex problems
Ask questions that nobody else does
Challenge other’s points of view
Can easily link facts together
Look for hidden meaning in things
Like to get lost in thought
Think deeply about things
Need to understand my motives
4. The Neurological Underpinning of being cool
You literally navigate through life based on an internal map of the world which is primarily situated in your hippocampi, two oblong structures in the center of your brain. This map consists of images and memories about yourself, places and other people. This map functions on the following premise:
– What are normal events and what kind of events should I expect!
The smaller your map of the world the more likely you will be to get confused, shy, controlling or generally uptight as your map of the normal is too simplistic and therefore too much at odds with reality.
It follows that cool people are probably more experienced than average people. They have a more fine grained and better informed map. Therefore fewer situations upset them.
But cool people come in all ages, all jobs and all demographics. Perhaps some cool people are cool not because of greater experience per se but because they have better functioning maps of the world?
5. Personal Wisdom – a better map of the world.
Cool people may have a certain “street wisdom” going for them. Right?
They don’t need to be 100 % sure about anything before they act.
More specifically they develop generic or more encompassing models of the world that reduce anxiety in the face of novelty and improve their ability to act.
This is based on the insight that one can never attain perfect knowledge in any case; that one is meant to figure things out as you go along.
As such: You may say that cool people are better at developing personal wisdom than most. They have a more highly developed practical wisdom in the shape of heuristics or mental models of how to act in the world. For instance:
“if I see something I don’t understand I will observe before I act…”
“when I disagree I will either be silent or state my point of view in a nice and non-confronting way…“
”when meeting folks for the first time the first thing I do is to introduce myself by saying my name..”
By means of receptiveness to novelty, cool people engender a positive feedback loop in which their map of the world gets updated very effectively all the time.
I have written extensively about the art of personal wisdom – in Danish. Sorry. But. Some people way cooler than me by the way, have already penned down their own personal wisdom for us mortals to peruse and be inspired by: Letters from a Stoic by Seneca, Green Lights by Matthew McConaughey, and any and all self biographies written by legit cool people such as Barack Obama.
This also underpins another powerful aspect of coolness; the art of thinking for yourself – the art of individuality. Cool people think for themselves. They listen and update their map of the world but they never walk blindly or naively into things. They have an impressive toolbelt of personal rules of life to guide them through it all.