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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


I Gave Up Trying to be Cool

I was just on a campus recently when a student told me she liked the way I dressed. I thanked her and didn’t think anything of it. The following week, however, I was in Dallas and another student, this time a male, told me the same thing. He told me I looked cool.

I am grateful for the nice compliments, but if anyone only knew how little I care about looking cool. I gave that up years ago. Way back in a time when hair was expanded, and bell bottoms were in, puka shells were on and leisure suits had just gone out. (Actually, that last comment is a bit of an exaggeration.) I do remember as a student caring so much about how I was perceived by others and the opinions they both held and shared with friends.
I’ve found that as I age, I just care about different things. Authenticity is so much more important than image and look. Function over form. Substance ahead of style. What’s interesting is–I found that when I cared less about what others thought, they actually thought better things about me.
I heard something funny some time ago. Someone said, “When we are young, we worry about what others are thinking about us. When we are middle aged, we don’t care anymore about what others think about us. When we are old, we realize they weren’t think about us at all.”
So, while I have nothing against anyone being concerned about their appearance, I am impressed when I meet people, especially young people, that have already gotten past that, and are building their integrity instead of their image. This means, perhaps, we have to trade off the pursuit of the superficial. We have to give up certain things to gain others.
Me? I gave up trying to be cool.

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I Gave Up Trying to be Cool