The Art of Cool. Practical Psychology. Psychotherapy Copenhagen.

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

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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? 
  4. The neurological underpinning of cool. We look at a surprising perspective on being cool. 
  5. 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.  



2. Cool-Headedness 

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. 

Demand obedience

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

rarely smiles

Only talk about my own interests

Overestimate my achievements

Scheme against others

Am hard to satisfy

Am quick to judge others

Insult people

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

demand attention

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

Love life

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 others

Respect others

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. 



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