Cool and awesome (and why you can't be both)

Guest post by Catherine Caine.

I am the Queen of Awesome. My partner – known as The Dude – is the Arch-Duke of Cool. I’ve learned many things from the last decade of observing us in the same situations.

Awesome is expressive and unreserved.

Delight, wonder, awe and joy are the compound ingredients of awesome.

Awesome is a toddler with their first balloon, wide-eyed and amazed, waving their arms and shouting laughter. There is no way to be awe-struck and leave no visible sign, and there’s nothing you could possibly mistake it for on someone else’s face.

You know exactly what’s going on in the head of someone with a lit-up face. Nothing is hidden.

Cool is unexpressive and reserved.

Whatever is going on inside the heart and mind of cool? You’ll never know.

Cool is neutral, tells you nothing, plays it mysterious. Cool is the leopard, regarding you from a rock. What the hell is the leopard thinking? You can’t tell, and that’s fascinating.

And since you can’t tell what cool is thinking or feeling, cool is mysterious. Unknown. Intriguing.

Awesome is likeable.

Grin at someone and they will almost always grin back.

Awesome is open, vulnerable, non-threatening; fun and colourful and safe as a Playskool toy.

Most people like awesome, although many don’t respect it much.

Cool is attractive.

Stare with cool regard at someone and they’ll take two steps back, and then stare in return. For ages.

Cool is closed, mysterious, unknown. We’re pack animals and we rely on non-verbal cues to know what’s going on. Someone who produces minimal cues freaks us out and fascinates us.

Do they like you? Can’t say.

Will they attack us? Maybe?

Do they approve of this? I don’t know!

Cool gets the respect (tinged with fear) because they hold power over us. No-one is desperate to please the awesome person; they’re already pleased. But almost everyone unconsciously tries to impress the cool one, to be the Elizabeth to their Darcy.

Awesome has more fun.

Both the enjoyment that caused the delighted face, and the enjoyment of spreading the feeling and increasing the joy in a room.

Cool has more power.

The rare approval from cool is electrifying. (They chose me! They chose meeeeee!) People will try harder, spend more, put in much more thought to get it: it’s rare and valuable.

So which is better?

Well, of course I’m biased and prefer awesomeness.

But honestly, neither is empirically better. You might chose awesome with your family and cool at work (if you can manage the incredible self-regulation to accomplish both).

Awesome is preferable if you want joy more than power.

Cool wins if you want influence more than delight.

Either way, you have to decide. Because clearly you can’t do both at the same time.

Catherine is working to increase the awesomeness of the world at Cash and Joy, a website about world-changing marketing. Her latest offering, Goddamn Radiant: transform your relationship with marketing, is clearly counter-indicated for cool people.

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