What is cool?

If I look hard enough, I will find the validation. I will get someone to tell me that my idea is good or that my outfit looks nice.

But, I think something I am learning, as I gain more exposure to the world, is that validation is only relative, bound to the scope of my limited imagination. If I chase validation, I will end up doing things based on others’ interests. This sounds obvious from the outside. “Do things that you want to do, because you want to do them.” This is far harder to implement in practice.

Here is an interesting exercise I use to, in part, come to the conclusion that most validation is entirely relative to your circumstance. Importantly, I am not saying that validation is pointless. I am not saying you do not need validation in your life to be happy and at peace. I am just saying the recognition of “relativity” is critical for me to understand how I make decisions (and why I make them in the first place).

Nonetheless, here is the question I like to answer…”what is the coolest thing I can do with my time?” You may be asking why cool matters. Perhaps it does not…but it is generally the first question people ask themselves when making “life decisions.” They aim for “cool.” They aim for awesome, legendary. They aim to learn, grow, make money, etc…but many really want to do “relatively” well.

Anyways…back to answering this question. “What is cool?” I tell you that it is entirely shaped by circumstance and I can point back to moments in my life for example.

The coolest thing I could do in middle school, in Arizona, was be a basketball/soccer player. All my friends would have been jealous of me if I were a great athlete.

High school (in Arizona) – the coolest thing I could possibly do would be to go to Stanford/Harvard/etc.

College (in STL) – the coolest thing I could do would be to win the Forbes 30 U 30 and get a job at Google or McKinsey.

Here in SF – the coolest thing I could do (depending on the circle) would be to like start a company or something.

Interestingly, some metrics, like Forbes 30 U 30 and google are actually looked down upon in certain communities. It is that dichotomy – the conflict of validation – that I find most interesting.

What is cool?

Why does it even matter? 

Also published on Medium.