Okay, I’m just going to come right out and say it: if there’s one phrase in the English language that makes me squirm, it’s “The Cool Kids.”
I have a checkered history with those words. My career as a shy child, right up until college, was overshadowed by this idea of cool, popular kids who were not me and who weren’t particularly kind to me. I learned to feel pretty strongly that “Cool Kids” were always “Mean Kids” and “Exclusionary Kids.”
Fast forward more years than I care to admit.
Now, I’m blessed to be part of a vibrant and vast online community. I’m still shy, but I’ve made a lot of friends here. And lately, people sometimes refer to me as a “Cool Kid.” (Which, let me tell you, does a number on my brain.)
But I don’t think of myself as a “Cool Kid.” I’m a blogger who geeks out on all kinds of things. I spend easily 80% of my life in flannel pajama pants. I’m just a person, you know?
Let me tell you a secret – and then, a story. There are people in this community I still think of as “Cool Kids.” (I’m less inclined these days to attach “Mean” and “Exclusionary” to “Cool,” but that doesn’t make me any less intimidated.) Now, I try not to let this intimidation stop me, but I do have to wrestle with it a lot.
(Incidentally, there’s no universal definition of who “The Cool Kids” are. We each create our own “Cool Kids.”)
Case in point: I was at Summit of Awesome recently. Mark Montano was a keynote speaker. I was within a few feet of him several times, but never worked up the courage to walk up and introduce myself. Because in my mind, Mark is orders of magnitude cooler than me. Why in the world would he want to be bothered with starstruck little me?
I know, I know – not one of my finer ideological moments. Eventually, Richard was kind enough to introduce us (for which I’m so grateful). And you know what? Mark’s really cool. And talented. And funny. And I’m really glad I met him. Go look at his blog.
So, yeah. Perhaps we all have some “Cool Kids” tucked away in our worldview.
But the problem I have with the idea of “The Cool Kids” is that it creates barriers where they don’t need to exist. You’re interesting, and you have skills. Same here. There might be amazing opportunities for us to work together, if all this stuff about who has more readers and who’s bigger and who’s cooler didn’t get in the way.
All that said, though, it is true that there’s a subtle art to these things. It’s one thing to get over your intimidation and approach someone you think is cool. But it’s quite another to approach them in a way that gets you noticed and remembered. One thing that is true of most “Cool Kids,” I think, is that they’re also “Busy Kids.” There’s a process to building real connection with busy people in our crowded communication landscape.
So this is why I’m really excited about It’s Who You Know. Tara and I want to demystify this stuff so more of us can step out and forge great collaborations that move everyone forward. Based on the amazing conversations she and I have been having behind the scenes, this promises to be a lively time. (Tara is really cool!)
We’d love to have you join us next week.