The Revolution in Cool: Why Doing Real Sh*t is the Next Big Thing

Found this post of Nathaniel Whittemore highly interesting:

There is a revolution in “cool,” and more than any other shift in the cultural zeitgeist, has the potential to change the world.

Historically, cool has been fundamentally about not caring about things. Anyone who went to high school passionate about academics, music, or just about anything other than sports knows how true this is. And this mythology, propagated by media and perpetuated by young people everywhere, created an incredibly powerful dampening force on passion, commitment and engagement.

To care about things was to be an outsider; abnormal and strange. Of course, the dirty secret is that almost everyone, if you get them alone and away from the pressure of their cliques and society at large, is passionate about something.

But there is a change afoot. All of a sudden, giving a shit is cool. Being passionate is cool. Getting involved is cool. Being creative is cool. Building real things is cool.

The evidence of this is all around us. More and more, celebrities are using their cultural cache to create empires of involvement. Oprah is the spiritual forbearer, and people like Jay-Z, with his $400m + empire of labels, companies, and charity work and Ashton Kutcher, who is quietly funding the next generation of the consumer web, are prototypes. But it’s not limited to a few people…It is quietly becoming the new normal.

What’s more, there is a new class of people who get involved first and then get cool because of it. Far more than celebrities getting involved and carrying cool with them, this is the evidence of the seismic shift. charity:water’s Scott Harrison, Invisible Children’s Bobby Bailey and Jason Russel, FEED’s Lauren Bush are just some of the examples.

Just today, TechCrunch covered a new Gap campaign which features actors, models, and…the founders of Foursquare? While there is much “celebrity” within our insulated technology world, as much as we’d like to think different, consumer web entrepreneurs aren’t usually elevated as celebrity barrons of cool in the general cultural consciousness. Put differently, Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai being in a gap ad is a B.F.D.

Some of this cultural shift is, I think, the natural reaction of a generation against the enormity of the problems being left behind for it. But there are some key individuals and organizations curating this shift, as well. None stick out as clearly as the Summit Series. The organization began a few years ago as a gathering of a couple dozen cool young influencers – a cross section of entrepreneurs, creatives, and social change agents. Since then, their events have grown in size and influence.

At your average Summit Series, you’ll see a famous actor talking with a nonprofit founder about their cause, while a tech entrepreneur listens thinking about how their products could help. They are now the must attend events for the under-40 set, and blister and pop with the passion of a generation where “changing the world” and “cool” are totally synonymous.

It’s hard to overstate how important this is. Our world is facing crises of epochal proportions. We need everyone discovering their passion and creating value. This is not a choice: that has to be cool, or else I just don’t know how we dig out.

Luckily, the trend lines point towards a powerful shift. I hope for all our sake it continues.

Posted by Nathaniel Whittemore on Nov 11, 2010 in Human Capacity

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