2 min read

The Price of Cool

For some, finding a way to tap into what’s cool can feel like a matter of life or death: professionally, financially, socially, and politically.

2-minute read

Preface: This isn't meant to be 100% correct. It's not a perfect thought. But it is stuff I think about—and I hope it gets you thinking too. That's my only intention here.


What’s considered cool is largely determined by:

  • What the majority likes: the number of people agreeing upon a thing.
  • What the loudest group wants us to care about: the best marketing, the loudest social megaphones, the online mobs.

Sometimes it’s hard to know which camp is actually directing cool.

(Important: The outliers of these two camps launch and influence what ultimately becomes the watered-down, mainstream version of cool. The outliers are the true creators of cool.)

Either way, if you want to be perceived as cool, it’s best to fall in line with the camps.

This is why we see companies taking public stances on political issues—even when they’re not compelled to. Or feeling obligated to offer certain luxuries to employees when it doesn’t fit what’s best for their business. Or offering inflated compensation packages to below-level talent.

(The list of back bending that companies do for the sake of what’s currently cool is exhaustive.)

And because cool carries so much weight, companies choose these distractions over productivity. They’ll trade distractions for the perception of cool all day long if it means they’ll fit it and make more money.

For some, finding a way to tap into what’s cool can feel like a matter of life or death: professionally, financially, socially, and politically.

The problem with cool is that it blocks all sense of individuality. It kills nuance. It eliminates the context that provides the meaning that surfaces truth.

We police our language and ideas to fit the cool narrative.

We police the language and ideas of others to force them into the collective.

We use certain words, images, and signals to show that we’re part of the group—even if we don’t fully understand their meaning.

We care about everything just so we don’t miss out on what’s trending.

Because let’s face it, it’s just easier, far less work, and a whole lot safer to fall in line.

And the bigger the brand the greater the need to fit in. More depends on it. It’s just the math. So things need to be watered down in order to fit the general narrative that the largest number of people agree upon.

At an individual level, it’s why people in groups tend to dress the same. Drive the same cars. Eat the same foods. Watch the same shows. Listen to the same music. Agree on the same topics. Support the same causes.

Sure, we can chalk this up to competition and what the market demands. But isn’t that all just a symptom of what’s cool at the moment?

In conclusion:

  • Cool ≠ unique.
  • If you’re choosing the path to cool, that's fine. It can certainly score you a lot of social and financial points with the right crowds.
  • If you do choose this path, it’s worth deciding the price that you’re willing to pay for being perceived as cool. Because cool is a trade-off. And many times what you’re trading is the ability to have an opinion, a personality, and ultimately, freedom.

The price of cool may vary. But it’s never free.

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