Be One of The Cool Kids

When I was a kid, I never knew what I wanted to be when I grow up.

My primary school teachers would ask questions like “What do you want to be when you grow up?” This question was the bane of my existence as a 10-year-old. How should I know?

Somehow my classmates always had an answer to this. Some of them want to be a pilot, a doctor, and I even remember one of them said he wants to be president (oh you sweet summer child).

What I did know was I always wanted to be one of the cool kids. The funny kids who have tons of friends, who looked effortlessly cool. I want to be “in the gang” so to speak. This mindset had actually benefited me.

We usually talk about how communities and groups can help you find similar-minded people, building a support network, and getting positive feedback loops. About blending in with people with similar goals and help each other along the way.

However, we rarely talked about the other way around: leveling up yourself so you can be a part of a group. When you aspire to part of a community, it helps focus your effort and pattern recognition.

You’ll start noticing opportunities to learn and connect. All started simply by saying to yourself: I want to be part of THAT group of people.

In this HBO Special, Jerry Seinfeld talked about his main motivation to be a comedian:

Success wasn’t my objective. It was just, I wanna be one of those guys. If I can’t be one of those guys, I win everything. Money wasn’t the thing. – Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry is now is one of the most successful comedians in the world, and he still just wants to hang out with people he thinks is cool. It was also why he started Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: talk to interesting people. He just wanted to be “in the gang.”

In my previous life, I was a stainless steel salesman. One day, I learned about a thing called “startup” from one of my clients (the steel business is his dad’s), and my thought was “that looks cool, I want to be part of it.” — I did my research and try to learn about the industry. It was the best career decision I’ve ever made.

As I was writing this, I recalled a quote from Steve Jobs Stanford commencement speech, also known as the Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish™ speech.

…have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. – Steve Jobs

There’s something deep inside everyone, the gut feeling that attracts you to walk in a certain direction, and it can surface in the form of an urge to lump yourself with a particular group of people.

Unless it’s a community of ax murderers (which in that case you have a bigger problem tbh), try to trust it. Give that voice a chance.

I joined a tech startup because it sounds cool, and it’s the best decision I’ve made in my career so far.

What’s the coolest group of people that you always want to be involved with, and how can you level up yourself so you can be part of it?

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