Zak of All Trades: Four simple tips to being/staying uncool

When I was young, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer probably would have depended upon what stage of life I was in when you were asking.

I went through the presidential phase, where my one and only desire was to grow up, become president and change the world.

Another stage I flew through was the scientist phase, which allowed me to dream of growing up, discovering the cure to some disease and changing the world.

And of course, I went through the "whatever dad is" stage, where I wanted to be a carpenter like my dad was.

Just ask my dad, though, and he or I could easily tell you that God played a fun trick on me by granting me no carpenterial wisdom at all. (Dad calls it common sense; I disagree.)

But deep down, if I could have verbalized my deepest thoughts and my deepest desires, there's really only one thing I wanted to be when I grew up, and that one thing was cool.

I wanted to be cool. All of my potential future jobs were only prospects because, deep down, I thought the people who did them were cool.

I know a lot of people think the President of the United States is an idiot, but I always had a sense of respect for him, whoever he was at the time, for making the tough decisions that can change the world. I still do have a lot of respect for him.

Who can argue that being a scientist who finds the cure for cancer wouldn't be cool?

And what little boy doesn't want to grow up to be what his daddy was? There's nothing cooler than that dream.

But, none of those career choices panned out, as you know, and my path led me back to my hometown, where, as you also know, I serve you as the editor of your daily paper.

A pretty cool job? Yes, I certainly think so.

But here's another thing I learned along the way: Having a cool job does not a cool person make.

I had it all wrong when I was growing up. I wanted to get a cool job, because I was convinced that being a scientist or an astronaut or a dragon slayer (yes, I had a dragon slayer phase) would make me cool.

It didn't happen. All of my jobs have been cool. I've worked as a resident assistant, a campus minister, a kitchen worker, a maintenance lackey, a carpenter's assistant, a TSS and, now, as an editor.

All cool jobs. Zero cool factor passed along to the one doing the job.

So, as an uncool person living in a cool world, I figured I could at least offer some advice for those of you who are like me: uncool and stuck that way.

Here, then, are some tips on how to be (and stay) uncool.

• Tip 1: Stay out of any and all cliques.

This one is a big one, and one I've been unknowingly training for my entire life. You see, I wasn't an entirely unpopular kid growing up, but I was what some of my friends referred to as a "clique bouncer."

It sounds pretty cool, right? Someone who can kind of fit in with the athletes, kind of fit in with the nerdy crowd, and even kind of fit in with the "bad kids."

Turns out, though, on the blueprint to being cool, clique bouncers just
don't cut it.

Apparently, part of "being cool" is, in fact, being part of a clique. The "jack of all trades" mentality apparently pushes you outside of cooldom.

• Tip 2: Clam up in social situations.

Now, this one seems like it'll take a bit of work, but it probably comes naturally to you.

There are lots and lots of folks who are good at meeting and interacting with new people. If you want to stay uncool, though, you should go out of your way to make sure that you learn absolutely nothing from these individuals.

Part of being cool is definitely encapsulated by the recognition of
when it is "hip" to start up a new conversation.

This extends into one's dating life. I have never gone up to the bar and talked to a girl who I don't know (one, because I don't hang out in many bars anymore, and two, because I'm just not cool, calm and collected enough).

Point is, if you want to stay uncool, stay to yourself and just kind of hang out away from the crowd. It's always worked for me.

• Tip 3: Find at least one sport you're terrible at playing.

While this is not an absolute necessity, I've got to say that it will certainly help you in finding your uncool equilibrium.

Playing sports is typically associated with being cool. Perhaps it comes from the fact that we watch sports growing up and see grown men making millions of dollars playing the games we played in our backyards.

I doubt that, though, as it seems that cultures like the early Greeks and Romans tended to look up to their athletes and think they were cool, too (so cool, in fact, that they would throw them into a ring to wrestle
wildlife. And by wildlife, I mean lions).

I grew up playing roller hockey and shooting hoops in the driveway and such, so it's not that I'm terrible at sports.

But my favorite sport to watch and be a part of is the one that I simply can't play at all: baseball.

I can't hit a 47-mph fastball; I can't hit the broad side of a barn throwing from third base to first base; and I can't get a glove on a grounder to save my life.

Therefore, I am perfectly qualified for uncoolness in the sports arena.

• Tip 4: Stop caring what other people think about you.

If life has taught me one thing, it is that the uncool people have every chance in the world to be happy, and that their happiness might just be the one thing that makes everyone else think they are so uncool.

It is not the cool thing to do to dance through the puddles in your driveway or sing at the top of your lungs in your bedroom, but it just might make you happy.

It is not the cool thing to do to miss a three-point shot in basketball so badly that it misses the entire backboard, but it just might make you take the time to laugh at yourself.

It is not the cool thing to do to write poetry about that girl you fell in love with years ago but never had the nerve to talk to, but it just might make you feel better on a rainy day to do so.

It is not the cool thing to do to go to the grocery store wearing silky workout shorts, a dressy jacket, a winter hat in the middle of summer
and camouflage boots, but if it's comfortable, I say go for it! I can tell you from experience that it's well worth the strange looks you'll receive!

Because here's the thing about being uncool: It's the cool thing to do.
They may never tell you this, but so many of those "cool kids" have, at least a time or two, sat back and thought, "Boy, I wish I could be more like that kid who just doesn't seem to care what other people think of him. He always looks so happy."

If you're happy in your uncoolness, it'll most certainly encourage others to stop worrying so much about what other people think and start worrying more about how they can be the best person they can be and pass some of that on to others.

These aren't the only tips I can offer to being uncool, but if you can nail down Tip 4, I truly believe that you'll be well on your way to being "uncool" when you grow up.

Truth is, the president was a kid who got made fun of when he was a young, too; that scientist who finds the cure for cancer one day was probably harassed by people in high school for being a nerd; and while my dad didn't pass on his carpentry skills to me, he did teach me that not caring what others think goes a long way for making you happy.

Uncool people can change the world, too. Stay uncool, my friends.

Zak Lantz is the editor of The Spirit, is incredibly uncool and wants to stay that way.