How to Be the Cool Kid (Even if
You Weren’t One in High School)

image of skateboarder

If you hang out here on Copyblogger, you’re probably trying to figure out how to expand your readership and make your blog popular.

You’re here because Brian Clark is a pretty cool guy, and he seems to know what’s up.

He has this shiny blog, a rockin’ team, billions of subscribers, good hair, a nice car and a pretty wife.

So maybe you’re hoping that if you hang out with Brian long enough, listen to what he has to say, read his blog’s posts and become one of his inner circle, that some of his coolness will rub off on you and your blog.

You’re hoping that your blog becomes cool by association.

You’ve done this before. We all did. In high school, we all worshiped the popular kids, the cool kids that could help us be cool too.

And just like back then, you’re probably going about it the wrong way.

The popular kid

High school movies try to show the popular guy and gal as a cookie-cutter ideal. They’re the head cheerleader and the head jock — always surrounded by a huge crowd of other cheerleaders and jocks in identical uniforms, who all talk, walk, look, dress, and mock any outsiders in the exact same way.

In the movies, the popular kid is just like all the other kids, but a little more perfect.

You might easily be fooled into thinking that hanging out with someone popular makes you the popular kid you want to be.

But you don’t want to be the popular kid. You want to be the cool kid.

The cool kid

The cool kid didn’t give a damn what anyone thought about him. He had a wacky hobby that he was pretty good at, maybe motorbike racing or painting or staring off into nothingness in an alluring way. He might be a jock, but he could take his sport or leave it. He didn’t play high school politics. He didn’t have obvious crushes. He never created drama.

And everyone liked him.

Even the popular kids liked the cool guy. He wasn’t a part of their crowd, but he was still cool, you know? They never made fun of him. They respected him.

This is the guy you want to be in the blogging world. Think of every uber-popular blog you know of, and then think of the person who writes that blog.

Guy or gal, they’re cool.They know their own niche inside and out, they don’t give a damn, and they get along with everybody, even if they don’t hang out with those people regularly.

Chris B and Darren are cool. So are Chris G and Naomi and Dave.

Note that not one of the people I just mentioned could be mistaken for any other person. This brings me to the other important point you need to remember about the cool kid when you’re trying to blog like one.

The cool kid wasn’t like anyone else — and didn’t want to be

This is the most important element to remember as a blogger.

Differentiate yourself. Have a unique voice. Be special in your own way. There are so many blogs out there nowadays that it’s near impossible to start blogging on a topic that hasn’t been discussed a hundred times already.

But that’s okay. The cool kid didn’t have a hobby that no one had ever heard of before. He just did what he liked to do in a way that made it seem really awesome — and made you kind of wish you’d thought of doing it first.

Even if you did think of doing it first. The cool kid just did it way cooler than you did it. He was the one who made martial arts or playing the saxophone or climbing trees original and cool and worthwhile.

Here’s something else that made the cool kid cool — he didn’t make a point of showing off how cool he was. He just did what he did, and it was fantastic.

Likewise, don’t keep pointing to your unique coolness. Just let it show up in your blog naturally. Be cool about it.

And suddenly you’ll be that guy, that really cool guy who happens to blog about penguins or marketing or economics.

The topic isn’t important. Being yourself, being cool about your topic, is.

About the Author: For more great posts from one of the coolest kids in town helping you have a better blog and business, check out James’ awesomeness at Men with Pens. You won’t regret it.

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Comments

  1. First time I have ever been called the cool kid. Geek, nerd, or … um, worse. Never cool. Flattery gets you everywhere ;)

  2. Cool kid is aiming way too high for me, I’ve decided to shoot for “lovable goofball”. This is a step up from angry young woman taping Peta posters of factory farmed chicks on everyone’s locker, which was my real role in high school.

    I love the point you made about the cool bloggers not being able to be mistaken for anyone else. You know, I don’t think you’re doing your job as a blogger or writer if your voice isn’t so distinct that it drives at least a few people completely bonkers, otherwise you’re playing it too safe.

  3. Laughing, Tracy, I think that’s awesome. As those who’ve known me awhile can attest, “passionate dork” is about my highest ambition.

    Chris, you’re a cool kid to me. :)

  4. Great post! And it’s true… If you want to succeed on this you have to be and act as the cool kid! You got to stay at the top of the wave :D

  5. Good post. I didn’t recognise any of those names…is that bad?!

    I agree about finding your own voice and really just keep doing what you’re doing. It pays off in the end.

  6. The call of the cool….
    mellow…like jazz.
    And playing your own sound.
    The two questions jazzmen ask are can he play? And how’s his time?
    People know when the sound is true.
    Nice piece, James.

  7. @ Matt – No. I’m sure you recognized mine, and that was all that counts. Mm?

    :D

  8. Your tips on being the cool kid are great and I think that the analogy is even better.

    If you’re in this space for long enough you’ll notice that there is a high school-like hierarchy of bloggers. There are a ton of jocks following the norms to reach popularity but very rarely challenging status quo. There are also a ton of geeks, goths, and average joes who while meaning to challenge status quo often go about it with an ill-conceived approach towards gaining a following.

    Finally there are a small select few cool kids working hard behind the scenes to make their style and approach look effortless. They can weave in and out of the various social circles with a Zach Morris-esque ease. They provide an approachable insight into what life is like on the other side of the social fence and more importantly are admired for being liked by all.

  9. We meet again James (Sean Connery voice – Celebrity Jeopardy).

    For some reason, this reminds me of Tom Cruise. From everything I’ve heard about him, he is very interesting and has a very strong cool kid vibe in person. The biggest thing he does is be himself, however loony that is.

    I read a story about him where he kept telling someone to stop apologizing for thinking, acting, or feeling a certain way.

    I think that’s how we should blog. We should write apologetically about our topic and not worry about going against the grain or being different. Who knows, maybe one day, once people get to know us, they will think we are cool too.

  10. Like you said, cool kids don’t apologize for being who they are. That’s also why the cool kids get all the chicks…you can only put up a front for so long…you’ll get busted and then your done.

  11. Cool bloggers make money. Those that don’t can only hope to become popular.

    Nothing wrong with popular, just not cool in my book.

    Cool write, James.

    Shane

  12. I gotta tell ya, this is without question one of the best posts I’ve ever read, and I read way too many of them!

    The style absolutely personifies the message, which happens to be right on the mark.

  13. What’s interesting is, just like in real life, being cool isn’t about the clothes you wear, the car you drive or anything — it’s all about personality, YOUR personality and what makes you unique.

    I’m still working on putting that through on my blog… Thanks for reminding me about what’s important!

  14. Love, love, love this post! :) I just returned from a high school mini reunion and it was interesting looking back on our old yearbooks and remembering what crowd I was in back then. It’s funny that my high school days were very similar to the present. I was popular by association with certain people but cool in my own way. I hope to accomplish that with my blogging as well. :)

  15. James,

    It’s all in that one phrase: “not like anyone else—and didn’t want to be.” We’re all not like anyone else. But the don’t want to be is mighty hard to come by, and without that, you can’t communicate your uniqueness boldly.

    Nice reminder.

    Regards,

    Kelly

  16. If there was any doubt that blogging is just like high school, I think this dispels it. ;) (Although I must say, it’s much more fun.)

  17. This piece had me laughing and then some… Real cool!
    I was called the cool kid in HS, the exotic chick in college and now I am happy to be a working mom wielding a blog pen on the weekends and grateful that my braincells are not fried.
    I love all you guys but I’m too tired to be anyone but me… and that’s cool. Learning new things is cool, being courageous is cool and helping others is radically cool.
    I agree that with over 100 million bloggers out there, it is virtually impossible to write a topic that nobody else has tackled somewhere or in some fashion. The joy of blogging means there is room for new interpretations; spot on James. ;-)
    I don’t get your “don’t keep pointing to your unique coolness” line because I don’t know how one does that but I totally get your “being yourself, being cool about your topic is” line.
    Definitely… being true to who you are (Do You) is always cool. :-)
    Cheers,
    Eliz

  18. @ Eliz – Well, if you keep saying, “LOOK! Look at this PROOF how COOl I am!!!” Then people are gonna say… “Dude. Coolness comes from within. Not from that.” And they’ll not think you’re so cool.

    Hmm… Being cool is a very zen thing, I think. I wonder if Brian is zen… Must be, with that nice wife and hair.

  19. I truly appreciate and learn oodles from all the cool kids listed above, but I was dismayed to read this: “…and a pretty wife.”

    I get that it was said in jest (at least I hope so), but as a woman trying to make it in the work world since the ’60’s, it’s very disheartening to see that sometimes the “cool kids” can inadvertently perpetuate a stereotype.

    It won’t deter me from reading and learning from all the good stuff y’all do so well, but it’s a little sad and disappointing.

    Just a friendly observation, no offense intended :)

  20. @ Claudia – The way I figure it, I’m sure that woman is pretty.

    I’ve never seen her. I haven’t seen a photo. But I think for her to put up with Brian, there’s something special about her for sure, and that makes her pretty to me.

    It isn’t just the outside that counts, y’know :)

  21. True that the coolest cool kids are the ones who are actually not trying to be cool!

    I haven’t been in HS for twenty years. I wonder which groups are the coolest these days?

  22. Claudia,

    What’s uncool is people coming into a community and trying to dictate what words we can and can’t use here.

    Like on the “Educate to Dominate Your Competition” post where someone was offended with the word “dominate” and linked it to how evil Western culture was.

    You play the victim here, yet whether you choose to be cool enough to admit it or not, you’re using passive aggressive bully tactics in an attempt to silence people.

    Should James have gotten your approval first? Damn! Opps! I meant Darn!

  23. I may be kind of crazy, but I think people look to me as the ‘cool kid’ of my group, when I’ve always seen myself as ‘the nerd.’ I like nerd status, with my blog and my websites and my awesome computer skills.

    Strangely though, riding a motorcycle, being able to dunk a basketball, and having a very disciplined workout routine seem to trump my “nerdiness.” Strange how we become ‘cool’ when we stop trying to…

  24. Hey James.

    Good point about getting to the relevant point on the other side of the table not occurring through some type of partial association, but by presenting one’s own material as confidently as those who are described here as the “cool kids”. It gives folks a better idea of what it takes to make the switch.

    Cool concept behind the post.

  25. @Claudia, I saw that as being about our projections of what Brian must have, not as any kind of comment about the actual physical appearance of the real human being who is married to Brian.

  26. Great post & really resonates with me. Simply do what you love with a passion and the money, relationships, and recognition will follow.

    Reminds me of some of the things Gary Vee talks about with passion and being you. Love it!

  27. Nice points. I definitely think the coolest people are those who don’t try at all to be cool. In fact they just seem to give off an energy that makes them cool.

  28. Isn’t it a bit Ironic blogging about how to try to be like the cool kid when the cool kid is actually cool just because they’re not trying to be like anyone else?

  29. Bad ass post James. Each of the people you named does something uniquely well. Being popular is overrated anyway. Cool guys end up with all the chicks :)

    By the way James, you’re one of them too :)

  30. Very good advice. It’s not the topic/niche that’s important… It’s the angle and personality you bring to the table when covering the topic that makes all the difference. Be unique, be engaging, and you’ll be the blogger others strive to be. :)

    Rob – LexiConn

  31. I’m beginning to feel blessed that I could never figure out who the cool kids were. Saved me much anguish and preserved me from being a copycat I guess.

  32. My site isn’t up yet. I’m such a newbie, I squeek! I have been reading your blogg and all of those connected to you. Thank you for such good info. I’m studying while I wait for my site to be finished and am learnng from your blog. Just wanted to say thanks. Thanks.

  33. Cool Article about cool kids and guys you have refered they are also awesome because I am also one off the subscribe of them.

    Thanks James for sharing this great story about cool kid

  34. Uniqueness and not losing your “self” while you try to incorporate all that you learn and process about this phenomenon called blogging is something I just posted about the other day. Hopefully, I’m picking up some really valuable points cause I seem to be spot on with what I’m blogging about…just might not be saying it in the same way. But hey…I’m being me. And that’s COOL!

  35. Love it!! So true!

  36. This article really resonated with me.

    I’ve been in the situation more than once where I have great ideas, but nobody cares until one of the “cool kids” adopts it! Used to intensely frustrate me.

    Fortunately, I’ve come to realize a few things:
    1. Ideas really are a dime a dozen, only execution matters.
    2. Good ideas really do seem to collectively evolve. Anything I think of, good chance someone else is thinking of at the same time.

    And, now, I just do what I do… let the chips fall where they may.

  37. I definitely teach the concept of differentiating yourself from the crowd. It’s better to be the cool kid than the popular kid. Popular kid comes and goes, but the cool kids are always remembered. I was the cool kid in high school! Giggles!

  38. Good advice, no one wants to hear a parrot. You’ve got to find your own voice.

  39. So popular kids need not necessarily be cool but cool kids are kinda popular. Nice post.

  40. Hey James,

    Be cool by being an amplified version of yourself. Cool being not a self-conscious image, but of a state of non-caring happiness.

    You shouldn’t care what other people think. As long as you’re happy doing something, nothing else matters – including others’ opinions. And THAT’S what people respect.

    They see you being completely at peace with yourself, while being an amplified version of you. All your quirks and hobbies, you do them to a confident extreme. Usually it takes big balls to do that, since society wants you to be a certain way. And people respect big balls. They admire your confidence, your cool, your remarkableness.

    Here’s to being ever-more cool and an amplified ourselves,
    Oleg

  41. I’m too cool for this blog.

  42. Thanks for the attitude adjustment! It’ll take some practice, but now I’m shooting for cool.

  43. What a cool post.

    Haha.

  44. In other words, to be cool is to have style. As Quentin Crisp observed (in ‘Doing it with Style’): “To have style is to be yourself, but on purpose.”

    Or, as Oscar Wilde wrote: “Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their life a mimicry . . .”

    A person of style is, by definition, cool. She neither needs nor seeks approval.

  45. Sound advice, yeah. It’s hard not to want to be the popular kid, though. What we have to remember, however, is that the popular kid was probably the cool kid at one time and transitioned roles.

    The reason those bloggers you mentioned made it is because of them just doing their thing and going about their business and making a name for themselves in their respective niche. They were the cool kids because they were good at what they did and people knew it. Once enough people knew it, they stopped being the cool kids and instead became the popular kids, thus making room for the next generation of cool kids to take over.

    And that’s where we come in. I want more readers for my blog, yeah. I’d love to be able to quit my job and write full-time. But I don’t see that happening for a very long time. If ever. And until it does, I’m going to keep doing things my way (and picking up hints and integrating them where I can) because I care about what I write and love what I write about. I found my niche, and I’m working on getting my name out there, but not so much as to make it seem artificial.

    After all, who likes a cool kid who has to open up every conversation about how awesome he or she is?

    Nobody, that’s who.

  46. Penguins? I can write about penguins.. *throws on jacket*

  47. “mock any outsiders in the exact same way”

    Ha! Thanks, you made my day with that comment. I’ve always thought those eighties teen movies were hilarious for exactly that reason.

  48. Differentiating your blog from others is definitely the way to go about being cool. With this in mind, it’s essential to find out who it is you are trying to target and how they can find you interesting and stand out from the rest. Thanks for this post James.

  49. Excellent point. The cook kid doesn’t care what others think about him; no self-consciousness, or better yet a ton of self-confidence. Believe in yourself and you will be yourself. No competitive methods, only creation. When you are being you the most people will find you because people admire someone who is unique and willing to express themselves confidently.

  50. It’s so much easier to be me. Whew… what a relief! Great post.

    When I just ‘do/be me’ that’s when I feel on purpose and I wake up eager. If I’ve forgotten how to ‘do/be myself’ (when I get caught up in what others want for and from me) I just ‘lean toward’ what makes me feel better in the moment.

    Pretty soon that ‘leaning’ turns into more of ME and what makes me special and happy – and then, I’m back to being cool me again.

    Very cool – huh?

  51. It’s great that you differentiated “popular” from “cool,” James. At first glance you’d think its the same, but it isn’t. Many bloggers make the mistake of tackling a popular niche, but if they don’t know anything, people will see right through and skip that blog. I know I would.

    I remember when I first started out blogging, it was really just about online journals. Now, it’s so much more. It’s an amazing tool for communication, sharing news and information in this fast paced world. Everyone can talk about anything, but it takes a bit more to be able to stand out. Everyone may have the same idea, but how that idea is presented can make a whole lot of difference.

    The best blogs I’ve read are from those who not only know what they’re writing about, but love it to a point that it definitely shows up in their writing. Now that’s cool.

  52. Ravi Spielberg :

    Popularity goes; coolness lasts, and that comes from listening to yourself first, what drives you; working very hard, constantly learning, being true to your ideas and bucking the trend when you believe its right to do so. Coolness, when not sought after, comes, and then it doesn’t really matter ..Does it?
    @ Dave Doolin; don’t despair; great minds think alike!

  53. One time I was getting my lunch and Brian knocked the tray out of my hand and then stepped on my sandwich and then then he and his gang of toughs trapped me in wood shop and after school and this one kid stabbed my bag with a switchblade and there was yogurt in there and it was gross but then my car named Christine came to life and went out on its own one night and ran over a few of the toughs including this fat kid who kind of looked like Flounder from Animal House so it was cool

  54. Hmm. I thought I’d classified all the areas of K-12 social class (probably even that which goes into adulthood). I’d never thought to differentiate cool versus popular. You actually clarified so much in my life. I should be paying you instead of my psychiatrist :)

    Rachael

  55. See? That’s what makes cool. Suh-weet, Johnny.

    ROFL.

  56. Great thoughts James.
    As a baby boomer, I’m trying to have a blog which provides more wisdom than coolness. I believe that as an older dude the best thing I can do is share a few of my mistakes with the younger dudes so they don’t have to make the mistakes I made and they can make a whole new set of mistakes of their own and the world can progress rather than go around the mountain again!!

  57. Cool Kid. I like that. Great Post. I was never the cool kid but can’t say I wouldn’t mind being one now. Thanks for sharing.

  58. We are of a generation where it is cool to be unique, not conform to the standard, and I think this is true more than anywhere on the blogosphere. If you have a unique perspective, what better place to “let your light shine”.

  59. Wonderful post and advice most excellent. My favorite bloggers are those who aren’t afraid to just be themselves and let the chips fall where they may.

    Falling chips amuse me.

    Wannabes and cookie cutters give me a piercing headache.

  60. Loved this, James. It was life affirming as well as great blogging advice.

  61. This post is way way too cool !
    i will remember this -thanks : )

  62. Do you want to target now high school kids … lollzzzz :D

  63. Hmmmm…I seem to be having the same trouble I had way back in high school. I differentiated myself a little too much back then — it was about a decade before “geeks” were “in” as Willow said on Buffy and I’ve always kind of marched to my own beatnik drummer.

    I like to believe I have a funny, unique voice and occasionally something important to say with it — I don’t even want necessarily to “make a living” doing this — I just want to feel like someone is out there listening. I’d like to engage in thoughtful debate or other conversation.

    So, I don’t know how I feel about this article and its analogy. I’ve never cared for high school hierarchies. The “cool guy” is just as oblivious and self-absorbed as the popular ones, maybe more so, but the above description.

    I mean, in the blogging world, the goal really is to march to your own drum beat while being an expert in your niche, but it doesn’t really matter how “cool” you are if no one knows where your blog is. One of the key elements you’ve left out is that in order to be “cool” or “popular”, you first have to be noticed by the rest of the class and that’s not an easy task for the new kid in town when everyone else has been going to school together since forever.