The Secret Path to Cool: What It Takes to Become the Most Popular Kid in School

It took me 20 years to learn this. It’s the secret to becoming “cool” — something I never quite grasped — to getting girls to like you and becoming the most popular kid in school.

It’s also the key to a breakout career that turns fledgling writers into best-selling authors and mediocre musicians into world-famous artists.

Photo Credit: anneh632 via Compfight cc

What is it? Stop trying so hard.

To be liked.
To be accepted.
To be known.

What Bono knows (that you don’t)

There’s something important that rock stars understand that the rest of us don’t. In order to get people to like you, you have to stop caring — at least, a little.

Granted, not everyone who’s popular does this. Some obsess over status: how many Facebook friends they have, how many books they’ve sold, how many numbers they’ve got stored in their smartphone.

But the true leaders and world’s greatest artists set a new standard. They do their work effortlessly. They don’t even have to try — or so we think. They’re just so, well, cool.

And this endears us to them even more. We love them for not caring, for not competing for our attention or trying to keep up with the status quo.

Of course, we all know that it probably takes lots of effort to make it look so easy, but it’s their attitude that makes us love them. Such ambivalence inspires the rest of us to be more daring.

It’s not really about not caring

Why do we find this attitude of indifference so inspiring? Because it’s uncommon to be fearless. It’s rare to risk rejection and be true to who you really are.

The secret to becoming cool, then, isn’t to care too little. It’s to care too much… about the right things.

The secret to becoming cool, then, isn’t to care too little. It’s to care too much… about the right things.

Jeff Goins

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Instead of worrying what people will think, focus on making stuff the world needs. Write what needs to be written. Say what needs to be said. And make what needs to be made.

But please don’t apologize.

If you’re trying to be accepted, to be known, to do the kind of work that makes a difference, and nothing seems to work, try this: Stop caring so much.

When you do this, here’s what happens:

  • You become more comfortable in your own skin.
  • You do better work.
  • You get people, some people, to like you.

And most importantly, you realize this isn’t about people liking you at all. It’s about leaving a legacy, about taking risks and being brave and no longer questioning who you are and the work you were born to do.

So what do you say? What’s one thing you can stop caring so much about? Share in the comments.

63 thoughts on “The Secret Path to Cool: What It Takes to Become the Most Popular Kid in School

  1. Its true how if you do care much, you feel uncomfortable in your own body which gives your a weird vibe! Stop worrying too much, love yourself and people will love you for who you are!

      1. Hi Jeff, I like this post because it remind me what I have been seeing through out my life experience that people who don’t care however much they misbehave in their community, some people always like them even if they don’t want their behaviours as they’re concern not to offend them by letting them know their negative attributes. Yes, we just need to be ourselves, so long as we’re doing the right thing than to pretend being good to other people just for sake of pleasing them even though they don’t deserve to be praised.

  2. This was well said. Far too often we worry about being liked and because of that we don’t step outside the box and create what ever we feel needs to be created. But often times others are waiting to see what we do so they can do the same. Freedom comes from just being ourselves.

  3. Jeff, this is so RIGHT in line with what I’ve been learning lately. The less I NEED people’s approval, and the more I’m fully ME, the more I randomly end up with people’s approval. And I’m like, “Oh, hey there, approval! Didn’t even see you coming!” 🙂

    It is the BEST feeling in the world to be completely okay if I never get another reader, just to be content in seeking to more fully know and BE my true self in Christ.

    I so appreciated this post. I still read your blog frequently, by the way. Sorry I don’t say so very often, but I really benefit from your work, Jeff. Thanks.

  4. Instead of worrying what people will think, focus on making stuff the world needs. Write what needs to be written. Say what needs to be said. And make what needs to be made.

    LOVE it, Jeff. Thank you for sharing this!

  5. This how we become fragmented and disconnected from ourselves and our values. I know personally I got lost in this tail chasing exercise for many years (although most of these years I was hanging with the cool kids.) The job now is stripping away the noise and returning my authentic self – a work in progress for sure.


  6. Love the message in this post – for me, it’s about not caring so much about the “impression” I create, but focusing on doing the work and being the best I can be.

  7. I cannot tell you how true this is…and how much you helped me this day. I have been writing all of my life WITHOUT publishing anything because I was so fearful of what others would think. I finally wrote THE BOOK and waited for great feedback, or even critical feedback so that I could make adjustments where necessary. I got absolutely NO FEEDBACK from the everyday people. But, when I heard from the publisher my worries were ill-founded…it will be a great book…and, I DO NOT CARE ANY MORE!!! Sorry for the shouting, but that’s how I feel after fifty years of writing…Thank You!!!

  8. Cool is elusive. As soon as something is deemed cool it is no longer cool. When you try to be cool, you’re not. It’s when you no longer care about cool that you reach it.

  9. I really want to move from being a pastor that people like to become a pastor that people feel challenged and inspired by. I do this is some aspects of my call but I need to stretch myself to include all areas of my call.

  10. I wasn’t cool either in school (math club and Model UN, anyone?) But it’s very true that when I wasn’t concerned with what other people thought of my hair, clothes, taste in music or something equally superficial, and was concerned about what was important, everything fell into place. Same goes for what I’m writing about.

  11. Hi Jeff, So, this is funny. I was going to leave a comment because I love this post, and I can’t tell you how many times I reworded and cleared what I wrote cuz I thought it sounded dumb…then I realized, Wow, I’m doing exactly what he wrote about! I even closed the window, thinking ‘forget it, I’m not going to write anything’. So, I guess in answer to your question, I need to stop caring about what YOU think!
    Anyway, thanks…my hubby and I just started following you and look forward to your next post.

  12. Jeff, you nailed it.
    “It’s about…taking risks and being brave and no longer questioning who you are and the work you were born to do.” For years I described myself as frustrated field biologist stuffed in the skin of a pastor’s wife until I stopped living for people’s expectations of who they thought I should be and started living who God created me to be. I now write and speak about in the wonders of God’s creation and how they can draw us closer to the Creator. And I love every minute of it.

  13. Excellent Jeff! I never liked the cool kids. They were always boring, and self absorbed. I always found anybody who was up for an adventure. 🙂

    As long as we hang on to our control, we can’t create. We lose our muse, our mojo. Having written probably a thousand songs, I always start a new one before I totally let go of the old one. And it can look like you don’t care, but you’re just focused on what really matters. What’s important is that we create. It’s our mandate, it’s the song in our hearts.

    As a writer I’m realizing more and more that writing is about energy management rather than time management. When you said “Write each sentence as if your life depends on it.” You nailed it.

    1. Write on, Bob 🙂 I love your statement “writing is about energy management rather than time management.” What a great perspective.

      1. Carol, It is, but it’s not original with me. It’s a quote from Tony Schwartz that I’ve been applying for about a year now. “Manage your energy, not your time.”

  14. I think it all boils down to, don’t please anybody just to fit in. By being yourself you attract the real people that you’re supposed to be with.

  15. Hi Jeff! Loved this post! I was fortunate to be somewhat of an observer in my awkward high school years. The “cool” kids were the ones that had enough confidence in who they were that all that outside stuff never mattered to them. If they liked something or did something they didn’t attach other peoples stuff to it. They never really fit into any of the so called cliques but they got along with everyone and everyone liked them. While I was a good observer I didn’t have the confidence at the time to put this into my own practice. I did however vow that I would teach this to my future children. 4 children later and my kids will tell you this was my mantra to them whenever the situation would arise. I think they turned out pretty “cool”!

  16. Interesting, Jeff! I’ve never considered myself to be “cool”, because I didn’t really care much about the label – and I’ve always been on the outside of any cliques, by choice. But I do wonder whether I try too hard with my business – so I shall take your comments on board. Thank you!

  17. Be grateful it only took you 20 years. Some of us still leave the impression that our first name is “Over” and our last name is “Eager” but only recognize it in hindsight.

  18. I love this Jeff. I’ve been thinking about how to tell my son to fit in when he comes of age and I was coming to the conclusion that he should act like he doesn’t care. When you care too much you look desperate and it pushes people away. They are attracted to people who are comfortable in their own skin.

  19. Love it!! Stop caring. So simple, yet so profound.

    i fall into the category of pushing to hard to be something, to be someone, and I missing the ease part of the equation. If I only stop pushing so hard. If I only stop wondering why others don’t see me jumping up and down for attention. When these things stop and I live with more ease and just let my legacy appear than the world shift from dark to light. Great advice Jeff. Advice at just the right time for me.

    A great big thank you for a nicely written article.

  20. The ‘coolest’ people are know care massively, but the care is always focussed outward. They care about others, about the world, about what others do to others and to the world. They care so much that they have to create, to express themselves, to do something about the things they see and care about. Then they don’t care if it runs counter to how they’re perceived by people, or whether it fits with a marketing strategy etc. They live their art, step into their fear, and breathe the suffering (passion).

    Great post. Thanks as always, Jeff!

  21. I have been thinking this exact thing so thanks for your post. I need to stop caring about being misunderstood, criticized and trampled over. Wow! That is a wildly deep statement and it feels good to get it out there. I have a purpose to live and a passion to share. Period. I need to just do it because what I have to say will make a difference in the way it’s meant to!

  22. Jeff, I stumbled across your blog only recently and it has given me the balls to say what I really mean and not copy anyone – truth be known, I had been looking at what other people in my field had been writing and rather than use their work as inspiration, I was kinda sorta copying them – trying to emulate what they had already written becasuse they were massive and i eas scared that Im not.

    This most recent email about being a rock star and not caring so much is a timely message – I’ve just changed the name of my blog and it’s a 90 degree turn to my truest me and I’ve already lost a lot of readers – however…. I’m now writing from the heart first head second (it used to be the other way round and it made me feel a little empty inside) , I’m sure anyone blogging can relate to this but true art takes being your true self and Jeff, you are a shining example of why we all need to be more ballsy – Thankyou, this blog has massively helped
    transformed my attitude. 🙂

  23. “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” You can thank C.S. Lewis for that little nugget.

    I think it’s a continual moving forward. That when we write / create, we should never look back but only keep creating. You make a good point: stop caring too much. Stop caring what people think of work past but make them remain forever curious of what will come next.

  24. Been watching a young lady who is a pole vaulting star at her school. The coaches wanted her to cheat, but she refused and her parents backed her 100% because the coaches’ way was dangerous to the students. She won, anyway.
    She did not care about being popular, because that required being immoral with the guys and snotty with the gals. But she sure could vault. So she hung out with the kids who were nice, and most of the guys were shorter than she is.
    Then one day, she decided she wanted to enter a beauty pageant (she is beyond beautiful, too, really,) So she worked up a talent dance thing with black lights, bought a formal gown, hired a hairdresser, and just had a blast. She won Miss Personality. Are we amazed?
    Then she went on her merry way to graduate 4th in her whole class.
    She could write the book.

  25. After many years of struggling to stick to one career, I have made the decision to explore all my interests through writing and drawing. I recently put up my blog at (for the 5th or 6th time I think) but finally I’m writing from my heart. A couple of my posts got linked to on Reddit and they received a few sharp comments (there were several positive ones too).

    I felt misunderstood, because how my post was interpreted was not how I meant it to be. But when I gave it more thought, I realized that it’s foolish to want everyone to agree with what you have to say. Your post has made me even more determined to continue writing like I have always wanted to. I have bookmarked it and read it thrice in yesterday.

    We can all agree to disagree, but that shouldn’t stop us from getting our ideas out in the open, should it? And it’s weird how we overlook a 100 positive comments to zero in on that single negative one.

  26. Awesome. I think the key to TRUE success is loving people, and caring so deeply about them that everything you do is for them. Of course, who is that awesome? Not me. But I hope to be one day.

  27. It’s hard to not care about what others would say, especially if you’re starting and really want to get your blog to go somewhere. It’s really easy to be scared and pay attention to all the things others say and let them affect your voice. I’ve experienced this a lot of times. Thankfully, I get reminders, like this post, once in a while, that I shouldn’t waste too much energy in it.
    Thanks for sharing!

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  29. I believe it would be easier to calm down; if you are expecting something wait a little, then ask. Put some time between your requests. If they keep denying, stop making plans with them, let them come to you. At school, let your friends talk to you, seem interested but not over excited. Yes, stop caring outside, but care about the right things internally.

  30. I think you should be yourself cause sometimes being to cool you become a bully sometimes so I’m just going to be myself

  31. Wait REALLY if you want to be the most popular kid in school, you kinda have to be
    1) Pretty or Handsome
    2) Smart
    3) Rich
    …Life’s hard that way

    1. JK, I’m totally ruining the point of this blog, sorry~
      It doesn’t matter if you’re not rich or smart or pretty. You should be yourself like he blog says. But of course no one can prevent the small temptation of being popular, but you have to remind yourself over and over again that not everything is about that. It’s about being yourself, so let’s be ourselves and not hinder^^

      1. You don’t have to listen to slick you know? Just block out mean people? And be kind to every one else and you will become SO cool ? And anytime you can talk to me if anyone is being mean ?

        1. Well when I became popular at school it was because my dad hit the jackpot and my family now lives in a mansion and we are rich so I get what I want and it makes me popular because, I mean, who doesn´t want to be friend with the new, cool rich kid who gets her best friends tons of stuff?

  32. I turn to a vampire any time i want to. i become a vampire because of how people treat me, this world is a wicked world and not fair to any body. at the snack of my finger things are made happened. am now a powerful man and no one step on me without an apology goes free. i turn to human being also at any time i want to. and am one of the most dreaded man in my country. i become a vampire through the help of my friend who introduce me into a vampire kingdom by given me their email. if you want to become a powerful vampire kindly contact the vampire kingdom on their email

  33. I don’t really care about being cool but my ex bestfriend became cool and now he makes fun of me and won`t talk to me or hangout with me anymore because I told him I didn’t like his friends

    1. Same. My (used to be) best friend became popular and is now treating me like trash when we were so close before. It is really hard losing someone you love and someone you thought you could trust, but believe me as soon as I started not caring about her, the more confident and happy I became.

  34. I don’t understand why anyone wants to be popular. I was once just a kid with a good small group of friends, although during the time I was overweight and unattractive considering society standards, but I was happy enough. Although, first year of high school I changed a lot. Guys talked to me, and all the girls acted as if we we’ve known each other forever, we’ll I knew them they just didn’t know who the hell I was before. Anyway, sure if you think being popular is honestly the best thing ever and it’s what you want to achieve, go ahead. I personally think, from my experience, it is way better to have a couple really good friend who love you for who you are. ( Talk about next level cringe ).

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