James Dean and Natalie Wood - Rebel Without a Cause
Credit: By Studio (Dr. Macro) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

James Dean, Rebel Without a Cause, was the epitome of a play-by-his-own-rules badass. His “buck the system” mentality—along with many other caution-to-the-wind Hollywood heroes—helped define a subculture of adolescents that lived by the cardinal rule: being cool means not trying, not caring, and striving to do less. Always.

Do you approach school this way? Or maybe your work or your social life? Do you believe that it is better to do less and try less, and shy away from putting in the effort?

Well, if so, don’t worry—you’re not alone. But, if that has been your approach and you feel unfulfilled or void of a strong social network, it’s time to change your approach and take some lessons from the cool kids that somehow found time to do it all.

What the Real Cool Kids Knew All Along

I knew kids in my high school that played football, basketball, ran track, were on the student council and pep-rally squad, and took all AP (advanced placement) classes while maintaining a robust social life. And by this approach those kids were cultivating important habits whether they knew it or not. They were creating themselves, finding out their likes and dislikes, and developing talents they would eventually call upon in college and beyond.

So, if you’re heading to college, take heed. Employ the following tips and you’re almost guaranteed to find hobbies you love, increase your social network, and develop skills that will serve you for the rest of your life.

Tip # 1 - Throw up 1,000 things to see what sticks

Just like when you’re trying to find your passion, you should try everything. Don’t think you’ll like swimming? Try out for the swim team and swim some laps before you make up your mind. This is how you find your interests. Some people like football, others basketball. How’d they find out? They tried them out and only stuck with the one they enjoyed. 

Tip # 2 - Do it for the sake of fun

Another important lesson—especially if you’re still in high school or just starting college—is to do it for the fun of it. Regardless what the activity is, make sure you’re enjoying yourself. If you start different activities with shallow motivations, you’re not likely to stick with them and probably won’t be completely honest with yourself as it if you should quit or not. All this does it waste your time so remember, just do it for fun or not at all.

Tip # 3 - Be unafraid to fail

This is probably the most important lesson you can glean from the cool kids. I saw many cool kids botch many different things, but they simply dusted themselves off and continued to try. But everyone’s afraid of failure, so what did they do to mitigate that fear? They developed their self-confidence. How? Through self-validation. What they did mattered to them and them alone, and they didn’t rely on the opinions of others. (This also goes back to Tip # 2—if you’re doing something for fun, you’ll continue to do it regardless of what others think).

Tip # 4 - The connections you make are the point

Popular kids understand that you do not connect with others to achieve a goal, but instead you set out to achieve a goal so that you can connect with others. It’s the goal that brings you together with others. Why are social organizations created? Because a collective of people come together to accomplish the same goals. So before you set out to do everything solo, or let yourself be overcome with fear of meeting and interacting with others, try joining various social organizations and groups to build lasting connections ASAP.

Tip # 5 - Experience is cumulative

Meaning it builds upon itself. So, the earlier you start, the sooner you’ll developed an advanced experience and move beyond the classification of novice. The cool kids that start playing instruments in high school or are on the debate team, football team, or other organization take that experience with them to college or into the real world. Not only do they have the pre-constructed social unit, but they are also not starting fresh. Remember, the sooner you start, the better you’ll be.

Before you chalk up the cool kids as shallow over-achievers, take a few lessons from them and remember that being cool means living life to the fullest not hiding from experiences so you can have more “free time.”

Do you know of any other suggestions for people wanting to be more involved? Please leave your answers in the comments below.