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I was never very popular in high school. On weekends during my sophomore year, my friends and I would sleep over at each other’s houses. We’d stay up until two in the morning playing Risk (yes, all the way to completion) and then we’d sneak out for no reason other than to walk around Kirkwood in the dark and talk about girls.
I would argue that it is precisely for this reason that we rarely had girlfriends.
On one of these late night excursions (we called them “patrols”), I was feeling particularly bold. I told friends that in no more than three weeks, I would ask out Lucy, one of the most popular girls in our grade. And what’s more, I promised them that she’d say yes.
If you’re expecting this story to play out like some teen drama in which I ask out the popular girl only to be embarrassingly rejected in front of the entire school, you will be sorely disappointed.
In the light of morning, my boldness made off with the monsters under the bed, which is to say that it only ever existed in the darkness as a figment of my overactive imagination.
Why couldn’t I ask Lucy out, though? Why wasn’t I cool in high school?
I don’t know. I still don’t quite understand the politics of high school. But my first guess would be that it had something to do with my extreme lack of athletic ability and, in part, stemmed from the fact that my friends and I snuck out, not to drink or do drugs, but to talk about girls from school. Even if I could go back and do it all again though, I doubt I’d be able to be popular even knowing what I do now.
Thankfully, high school was just four short years of my life, and by the time you’re out, the criteria on which people judge “cool” totally changes. In high school, cool is an external thing – are you good at sports, do you drink, are you dating someone popular and good looking? In real, not-high school life, cool is internal. It’s about who you are as a person.
Forget becoming famous or inventing the next Facebook. Here are five real steps you can take today to start becoming wildly popular and successful.
Be Kind To Everyone
The hostess at the restaurant. The janitor at work. The weird dude at improv. It’s as simple as saying hello and asking how they’re doing. Be nice to the people from whom you have nothing to gain. From a selfish perspective, you never know when one of these people might be in a position to help you in the future, so you want to treat them well. From a global perspective, not being a dick makes the world a better place for everyone.
Learn How To Listen
In a world where everyone needs a website, it pays to be a web developer. In a culture that is all about me-me-me, it pays to be a good listener. Ask questions, then pay attention to the response. Ask follow ups. Share your perspective or give advice on the topic someone else wants to talk about. Remember the name and a few basic facts about every person you meet. Feeling important is a scarce commodity. Be interested, not interesting.
Give Everything Away
Your ideas. Your time. Your expertise. Your assistance. Be a part of your creative community. Create the community you want to be a part of. Go to other’s shows before asking them to come to yours. Help someone move before asking for help yourself. Share your friends’ social media posts. Celebrate your competitors’ success. Write honest reviews on Amazon. Buy your coworker a coffee just for the hell of it. By the time you finally have to ask for something, people will be lining up to lend a hand.
Put Yourself Out There
Nobody will ever know who you are if you sit at home and play Fallout 4 day after day. Go out. Meet people. Say hello. Start a conversation. Take a risk. Make yourself vulnerable.
We all have ideas in our heads about what’s “cool” and what isn’t. Watching football and drinking Bud Light is “cool.” Playing D&D and participating in poetry readings is not. Says…who? If you’re passionate about something, don’t denigrate it. Celebrate. Share your passion, because passion is infectious. People look to you to see how you want to be treated. If you hold up your interests as the coolest things in the world, you’ll start to see them magically become “cool.”
You don’t have to invent the next iPhone, perform on SNL or be the quarterback of the football team to be “cool.” Those are external factors, and there will always be another one to chase.
Being popular and successful has nothing to do with what you do and everything to do with who you are. If you don’t feel cool now, you’ll never feel cool, no matter what level of success you achieve. So start with yourself and the people around you.
That’s really all it takes to ask out the most popular girl in school.