On a lovely late September afternoon at Brit + Co.’s Re: Make 2016, Dr. Brené Brown made me and hundreds of others dance without caring about how we looked. This was, shockingly, hard to do. Then, she had us pull out our “cool” stance. I, along with many others, folded my arms in front of my body and gave my best “been there, done that” stare. This is a posture that closes off our body and our minds. “You’ve gotta stop being cool. Cool is an emotional straightjacket,” says Dr. Brown. So, that day, we all threw off our straight jackets and got right back to getting down on the dance floor.
Ever since this uber-inspirational speech, I’ve been giving this whole “stop being cool” thing some serious thought. This speech was months ago, but it’s a message that I just can’t shake.
Being cool does not give birth to creativity, innovation, ingenuity or genius. Rather, it stops them from becoming realities. Coolness kills creativity. So how do you stop trying to be cool? Here are five tips for how to let go and just be you.
1. Stay in your lane. “If you’ve got one eye on the other lane, you’ll just create something that someone else is creating,” says Dr. Brown. “If you want to be innovative, you’ve gotta keep focused on what YOU are doing. Don’t be concerned and distracted with what the maker next door is doing and, more importantly, what they’re thinking about what YOU’RE doing.“
2. Open your heart. “If you send your art into the world with an armored heart, it’s got no magic in it. It’s got no joy in it,” says Dr. Brown. Coolness, in its traditional sense, is a closed-off existence. To be authentic and pure in whatever you’re doing — from making neon-hued macramé owls to creating a beautiful tune — if you go in guarded, the beauty and authenticity are lost.
3. Don’t chase cool. “One of the most toxic things working against creativity is the pursuit of cool,” says Professor Welby Ings in his TedTalk on Divergent Thinking. Creativity is a journey. If you’re going down the road of trying to be cool, then you’re shackled to that idea. You won’t have the freedom to create something wonderful and unique.
4. Be true to yourself. If you’re too focused on striving for that elusive cool factor, then you’ll lose yourself in a cycle of cynicism and self-doubt. TRUE coolness — and yes, it really does exist — is something that happens organically. It isn’t forced or manufactured.
5. Don’t think about how others view your work. This one is hard, like really hard. There is a level of editing that we all do in figuring out if what we’re making is worthwhile. But when you overthink it — and wonder if it will be accepted as cool or not — you can lock yourself into a state of mental paralysis. Worrying too much about whether you’re creating something cool has stopped many a maker in their tracks. Think of all the awesomeness that we’ve lost out on because of self-doubt. The takeaway is simple: Without striving for cool, you become cool!
Which tip do you think is most important to keep it real? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)