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Chris Coumo was too much about being one of the cools kids and not enough about being a grown-up

Posted by John Reed on

One of Chris Cuomo’s problems, it seems to me, is he wanted to be cool. And that is more of a problem because it is a middle school/high school impulse and the target audience is the former kids with whom you went to middle school and high school with and their birth-year peers at all the schools you did not attend.
This desire to be thought of as cool by your old middle- and high-school classmates and those birth-year peers is common, but it usually goes away when you go off to college or out into the post-school adult world.
Kathie Lee Gifford used to do a cruise-ship TV commercial where she enthusiastically belted out the lyrics to “If my friends could see me now” which is from the Broadway musical Sweet Charity. I think it contains an unspoken, more powerful feeling of “If my middle and high school ENEMIES could see me now” when you have some success in the few years after attending those schools.
My review of Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad best-selling piece of crap book accuses him accuses him of being permanently psychologically disabled by his middle school enemies. He says he did not get invited to the birthday parties and such when he was a kid in HI. I suggested going back there and standing outside those schools and looking at the current kids might shock him into realizing that the opinions of such long grown-up children as to which of their classmates was cool are about as insignificant as can be.
Obama is another guy who has this problem. Unlike presidents like Reagan and even Biden, Obama was not class president in K-12. He went out for basketball and was a benchwarmer. Not a big man on campus.
He also had to deal with being half-African, abandoned by that father, and to a lesser extent by his white mother who chose to leave him with her parents for most of his childhood. That is a mess and unmentioned enemies in school are probably a part of it.
Chris Cuomo may have been considered a cool guy in middle/high school. His father was governor of NY at the time. Obama was impersonating a cool kid in the White House, but never seemed to really believe he was, notwithstanding all his mic dropping and other pathetic attempts to be retroactively elected most popular in his high school class.
But the problem with both of them is they should have forgotten about such childish nonsense in their 20s. And if they were still psychologically scarred by that in later life, they probably should not have jobs like CNN head anchor or President of the United States.
People who WERE considered cool in middle/high school often have an opposite problem. This is addressed in my book Succeeding where I admonished readers not to draw overly firm conclusions about themselves from their early success or failure.
I have a number of West Point friends who WERE all everything in high school—team captain, class president, most likely to succeed—and in college and adult life they did quite well and did not let either their K-12 popularity or their adult success go to their head.
But we all know people who were considered cool in high school and that turned out to be their peak. In some cases, because they never recalibrated. They assumed they were big successes in high school therefore they did not need to do anything different thereafter. They tend to stop going to the reunions. John Stossel once did a show about this and organized a little reunion of his to talk about it. The former coolest guy in his class refused to attend saying he did not remember Stossel or any of the other attendees at the reunion. Of course not. They had not been cool enough in high school.
Yeah, you DO have to do something different to succeed beyond high school. Coolness in K-12 is decided by children based on the K-12 equivalent of the office politician at the adult water cooler. A little high school athletic success is nice for being considered cool, but it is generally decided on teenage cafeteria politician skills.
Also, when you move from high school to college, the competition in all respects becomes much stiffer. I was used to being one of the smarter kids in K-12. Then I went to West Point. Ha! It was a lot harder to be considered smart there and at Harvard Business School. Ditto athletics and leadership at the higher levels.
I also saw this trying to be cool to the K-12 crowd as an Army officer and as a high school coach. Army officers often pander to the troops, who are teenagers and less mature ones at that, by using currently hip-with-teenagers expressions and trying to live up to a macho man Hollywood war movie officer image.
I was a high school coach in the 90s and 2000s. Some of my baby boomer peers were coaches with me. And many of them tried to be one of the cool kids by wearing baseball caps backwards and getting tattoos. I was embarrassed. When you are in your 50s, and still trying to make 14-18-year-olds think you’re one of them and cool, you need an intervention.
They taught us at West Point that you could be friendly with your troops but you absolutely could not be friends with them. A lot of high school coaches and teachers never learned that lesson. K-12 needs grown-ups and if you are a coach or teacher, you are one of the grown-ups, NOT one of the kids.

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