Are You Following the Cool Kids Online?

Are You Following the Cool Kids Online?

I have a confession to make: I don’t want to be rich and famous.

Well, that’s not quite accurate. I do want to be rich, and a little bit of fame never hurt anyone. I just don’t want to become either according to today’s cool kids standards.

By cool kids, I mean the online gurus out there telling you what to do if you want to succeed. Their list of advice goes something like this:

If you want to succeed, you need to own an online business. It doesn’t really matter what kind or whether a smart entrepreneur would think it’s even remotely viable – just pick your poison and away you go!

(Of course, if you fail miserably a few months down the road and end up $10,000 poorer, you can only blame yourself.)

If you want to succeed, you need to become a technological expert in less than 3 months. 3 weeks is even better. Oh, and you have to know it all – video, podcasts, webinars, websites, copywriting, HTML, YouTube, iTunes and even membership course software with all its complex joys.

(And if you can’t quite get it or don’t really understand what you’re doing or have trouble figuring it out, you’re a dinosaur. Get with the times.)

If you want to succeed, you need to wrap yourself in a false veil. You’re in business because you care.  So tell everyone that all you want is warm fuzzies and world peace – don’t even mention you need to pay the bills.

(But when the bill collectors call, do be sure to offer them a fresh daisy and a blessing of the season. They’ll appreciate it, I’m sure.)

If you want to succeed, you need to be a master of one and a jack of all trades. Wait, forget that. Be a master of all trades and a complete overlord of empiric domination at whatever it is you do best. Then figure out how to be even better because the competition will toast you alive.

(While offering you fresh daisies and blessings. After all, they care.)

If you want to succeed, you need to come out of your shell and show yourself off. Yes, even if you’re an introverted hermit. Host seminars and speaking engagements and get on stage for presentations, even if it’s trial by fire. Everyone does it – don’t you?

(Well, no, probably not. After all, you just got set afire by the competition.)

If you want to succeed, you need a following. A big one. Huge. A hoard of little girls, all a-squee as they line up to catch a glimpse of your face. 40,000 Twitter followers. 1 million Facebook fans. And don’t forget every other social media platform that just launched.

(Yes, that’s right. Do everything you can to be a superstar on every single one that whips by at the speed of light. Don’t leave a single one out.)

If you want to succeed, you need to live THE LIFESTYLE. Become a minimalist. Be location independent. Free yourself of all earthly possessions. Shun your employer’s faithful weekly paycheque and embrace the uncertainty of freelancing from anywhere in the world. You can do it. Anyone can.

(Which is why it’s quite likely that if you stick with your day job, you’ll soon get a nice promotion.  Everyone else is moving to Thailand to work off a laptop.)

If you want to succeed, you need not one damned great project – you need at least 10 on the go. At all times. Anything less and you’re not keeping up. Slacker.

(Anything more and you’re making everyone else look bad. Except Red Bull – they’d probably love you.)

If you want to succeed, you need to jet-set the world and fly to all sorts of cities at the drop of the hat, just because you can, for no particular reason. Speaking of cities, you’d best have a pied-à-terre in one of the most expensive major cities out there, by the way. Anything else and they’ll just laugh at you for being a pauper.

(Sorry. Living in a small, unknown town and enjoying a low-cost lifestyle is completely out of the question. Except if it’s somewhere in Thailand, that is.)

If you want to succeed, you must never, ever admit any mistake, screw-up, weakness, fault or flaw in your personal character. Unless, of course, you can play it up and use it to your advantage.

(Story-selling, anyone?)

So they say.

I say differently.

No one makes your rules. No one gets to tell you what your version of success should look like. No one is allowed to push you faster than you feel comfortable with. No one gets to belittle what’s important to you, no matter how humble or modest a dream it might be.

Sure, listen to what the cool kids say.  There’s some great advice out there, but take it with a grain of salt. Think about what people are saying rather than just going along with them because of who they are, or who they want you to think they are.

At the end of the day?  Your success is your success.

You get full power to define it, shape it and work towards it in the way you feel is best for you.  You get to decide what you’re going to do and what you’re not going to do.

And if that’s completely different than what the cool kids say is best for you?

Screw ’em. Your life, your rules.

Now go enjoy your day.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. Hey James,

    That felt good, didn’t it? 😛

    Seriously, though… I totally agree. I wish the internet was filled with more “this is how I did it” and less “this is the only way to do it.” More buffet choices and less one-size-fits-all meal. Some people preach that their way is the only way to make it online – a way that includes massive, impossible action for the throngs of wannabes.

    “You get full power to define it, shape it and work towards it in the way you feel is best for you. You get to decide what you’re going to do and what you’re not going to do.” Exactly.

    Thanks for the pep talk, coach!

    • I think it’s natural human behavior to assume that if we feel something is cool or fun, that everyone will think it’s cool or fun. And we call people to join us on this cool, fun adventure!

      Which is all fine and well – it’s when it becomes a MUST and you look down on others for not following that it becomes a problem.

      (And yes, it did feel good!)

    • I like the buffet analogy. I’m also tired of the “This is how I succeeded, so it *must* be the way for everyone else to succeed.” I like to collage different strategies from different examples and sources to create what works for me.

  2. James: Wow, my head was spinning just reading this post 🙂

    I’ve been one of those “cool kid” followers (was I supposed to admit that?) but I felt like I didn’t fit in with that crowd so I quit following and decided to start blazing my own trail…

    Not sure where it’s going to lead yet but I DO know that I can’t do what the cool kids are doing; it just doesn’t work for me.

    Thanks for an enjoyable post!

    • Sometimes blazing your own trail can be rough – I mean, you need to know how to use the machete and that proper hiking boots are in order, right? So listen to the ‘cool kids’ to get the gist of what might be good to know… and then decide if you’d prefer something different. Like, say, a chainsaw 🙂

  3. Really wonderful article, thank you. You are completely right.

  4. Smart and sound advice. The thing that the “cool kids” miss or just don’t understand is the power of focus. Find the thing that you do well, and that solves a problem for an easily identifiable audience, and do this. Resist the urge to do the other things. Do your thing with passion and focus.

    When I became owner and took over day-to-day operations of Red8 Interactive it was doing a bit of this and a bit of that for anyone who would call. I got rid of all the extraneous stuff: design, motion graphics, kiosks, etc., and focused the team against digital production for advertising and digital agencies, and web design firms looking for a highly reliable, high quality resource to take care of the build side of things. Our average monthly revenue has more than tripled in three years by doing less.

    • Oh, I think the cool kids understand the power of focus very, VERY well. I’ve seen some of my peers accomplish phenomenal goals with laser focus indeed, and they do serve their clients and customers very well because of it.

      But hey. We don’t all have the same amounts of time, energy, interest or desire. Someone may get laser focused on building a course, let’s say, and do it in a month. With kids, a day job and a mind that tires easy, someone else may need 6 months and 2 assistants to accomplish the same.

      Nothing wrong with that!

  5. I hung out with those cool kids… the bullying in that circle is horrendous! Talk about keeping up with the Joneses’… there’s more flash there than Ryan Lochte’s mouth.

    Then I left and started my own thing… slowly and hung out with others who built slowly (well not slowly but evenly!). What a difference. Two years and three magazines later I’m still ‘evenly’ building but the personal satisfaction — and sense of success — is far greater.

    Cool kids… today’s flashy new thing. … destined for tomorrow’s junk pile

    • “….more flash there than Ryan Lochte’s mouth…”

      Best. Blog. Comment. Ever.

    • THAT IS IT EXACTLY: Keep up with the Joneses. Else you’re a scab on the face of technological society and doomed to fail!

      It’s bloody nasty, it’s extremely pushy, it’s fraught with arrogance and it drives me nuts.

      Then I close the computer and go outside in the real world, where it’s plain to see that most people actually don’t work like that or live like that. Kind of nice to be able to get some perspective!

  6. This is probably one of the best blog post I’ve ever read. You say it how it is. I have been feeling quite disillusioned recently.Thanks James.

    • You’re very welcome, Carole. That’s one reason I wrote this post – to help people stick with what they DO love without getting disillusioned that they have to do more just because the cool kids say so.

  7. Thailand is the place, eh? Isn’t that where Shangi La was?

    It is amazing how everyone is supposed to be an expert on everything. Even when the everything changes every single day.

    It is rather funny isn’t it? or sad…or frustrating… or crazy…

    • It is sad. It’s sad because while we’re having all this shoved down our throats… depression is on the rise. Stress is knocking people out. Rage is up, discouragement is high, and no one seems to be happy anymore.

      Hmmm… I wonder what would happen if we stopped putting so much pressure to perform on ourselves!

  8. Eric Roberg says:

    A most excellent post, James. Spoke to me very much. Thanks! 🙂 -er

  9. Finally someone with the guts to speak up! Great punch lines James. I’ve been seeing a lot of what you’re talking lately. True the market is saturated with blogs, webinars, online miracle business models but you are one of those authentic, true to yourself pro. I’m tweeting your post right now.

    • I try to stay true to myself! There are times where I do catch myself getting caught up in trying to do something cool or trendy and realize, “Wow. I just wasted 30 hours of my workweek learning how this worked, when I could have been doing XYZAB instead. Time to come back to reality!”

  10. Preach it Sister! 🙂

    You forgot the bit about doing all those things around a family, kids, schooling etc. And having that great business, along with both quality and quantity family time. And if you complain that you’re overwhelmed, stressed, or can’t do it all then you’re not working hard enough.

    It’s YOUR business. Decide what success means for you. Then plan out how to do it, one step at a time. You don’t have to keep up with the Joneses, they’re not even in the same street. Your business, your life, your way.

    • LOL! You know, as I was writing this list and adding all the “if you want, you need to” items, I realized how easily it could grow into a 5-page tome. But boy, did you ever nail it with the kids and family. That’s so, so true.

      (Ever notice that most of the cool kids being followed don’t have mortgages, children or caring for aging parents as a responsibility?)

  11. I call them creeps.

    It’s better to stay out of their orbit completely. 🙂

  12. *gets down on knees and bows in the general direction of Canada*

    “We’re not worthy, we’re not worthy…”

    Brilliant post, James. And while I to think I hang out with a lot of cool people (especially on Twitter), I don’t think I need to follow all their advice. After all, I’m not trying to be like them.

    I’m trying to be like me.


  13. I think I needed to read this article today. I’ve been so worried about trying to hustle hustle hustle that I think I started losing sight of the bigger picture.

    Thanks for the breath of fresh air.

  14. That ending just reminds me of the a quote from the movie “Legends of the Fall”. If your completely lost please just go check this it out –

    Very nice and makes me want to keep plugging on with my own rules! And of course just screw ’em!

  15. The trouble with cool kids is that they’re so shiny and attractive. Their shine completely blinds us to the fact that they might not have it as together as we think or even be worth knowing much less following.

    If you asked me why some particular blogger was cool, I wouldn’t be able to give you an answer apart from him having a popular blog.

    We need to change our definition of cool. To me, the cool kids are ones who don’t use their blogs to amass a great following but to attract clients. In my experience, they’re the real deal.

    Oh and James, you’re super-cool! 😉

    • This right here:

      “Their shine completely blinds us to the fact that they might not have it as together as we think or even be worth knowing much less following.”


  16. Hi James,
    Hope you are still feeling warm and fuzzy after my previous comments on SEO/copywriter marriage?

    Good post – very reassuring. There is no point in me following the cool kids. I’m 57 and live in the sticks. A little village 4 miles from Cheddar, in Somerset (England)…where all that cheese came from. The village was briefly famous in 878 for the Treaty of Wedmore, after King Alfred defeated the Danes and saved the kingdom from the invaders, see . That was over 1000 years ago and nothing of note has happened here since.


  17. Love this.

    This is why I constantly stress to people to not try to do everything, but pick what resonates and what you can start with and go from there.

    Learn from people you trust, and find your own way. And make your own rules.

    Something I see a lot is people being obsessed with how much they’re getting done. And for me, it’s not about getting more done, it’s about enjoy what’s here, right now.


  18. The countless numbers of gurus online is such a bore. Again and again, random names pop up online, all touting their latest product or whatever they’re trying to sell. Obviously it works, because it just goes on and on. I guess some people have a natural desire to believe these gurus, who are just like snake-oil merchants were.

    Thus, it’s refreshing to read a blog from somebody who doesn’t proclaim to be an expert at everything they do – shame there’re so few about!

  19. Ha! I love the edge and the blunt truth in here James. Youre right, you can learn different things from others in the space, but their definition of success is going to be much different than mine.

    Their bucket list says they want to hike the Appalachian Trail until their beard grows long enough to cut and use as a blanket for starving kids. Thats not me nor can I grow a beard.

    Ive written about this on my site. Everyone is an entrepreneur of their life and career, but everyone isnt going to start a location independent business, your skills may be best at a day job and you can have success there. I enjoy my day job and I like writing on the side, Im in control of that and its working for my wife and I.

    Think about your goals,not the cool kids goals, what makes you happy.Write those down. If you believe writing on the side will stay that way forever and youre happy with that…Do it, and your a success. Being in the cool club is nice for the beginning, but your gut will tell you right away if youre happy with it.

    Love the truth oozing off your pen James 😀

  20. I started following some “cool kids” in hopes of learning to build my online presence/business. I wanted some sort of step-by-step example. But the frustrating truth is that the method was different for everyone, so no obvious, clear path to follow. Some of them simply had a lucky break at one point; others were using techniques that aren’t exactly open and honest. If it’s just about the money and fame, I guess the “cool kids” methods could work…but if it’s about the passion, you need a serious dose of heart in your strategy.

  21. A timely post, James. I’ve just been writing about having the confidence to do things your way over on the Number Whisperer’s blog – there’s no single recipe for success and only you know what it looks like. Wish more people would say the same.

  22. Preach it. I’ll be passing this on to all of my colleagues who are doing great stuff but feel they MUST do social media as well.


  1. […] Feeling overwhelmed, tired and fed up of all the things you need to do if you want to succeed in online business? This article takes a closer look at what you "should" do – and why it doesn't matter.  […]

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