Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.


When I look at Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, there’s one word that doesn’t come to mind.


Here are these immensely successful men who epitomize cool in the way that Donald Trump epitomizes Californian surfing life.

Indeed, the more I think of the enormously successful, the ridiculously wealthy and the staggeringly powerful, I rarely think of them as anything other than wearing dad-jeans at the weekends and reading spreadsheets in bed.

I wondered why this might be. And then I was struck by an article in the Independent that crowed: “Cool Kids Can Become Losers In Later Life, Study Finds.”

Devouring this more deeply, I discovered this chilling thought was stimulated by a University of Virigina study entitled: “Whatever Happened to the Cool Kids? Long-Term Sequelae Of Early Adolescent Pseudomature Behavior.”

We should all worry about our long-term sequelae, as well as our non-sequelae.

However, if we want to be successful, we should all hope that we weren’t terribly cool at school.

It seems, according to this study, that peaking too soon in popularity can put too much pressure on the sensitive teen psyche.

“Over time, these [cool] teens needed more and more extreme behaviors to try to appear cool, at least to a sub-group of other teens,” the study’s authors declared.

This apparently led in some cases to extreme behaviors of the criminal kind.

This study has been described in various British newspapers as “new.” However, it came out in 2014. Still, it spanned 10 years of work, so perhaps there is truth buried inside.

When you look back at the cool kids in your high school, how many ever really did something you admire, something extraordinary, something beyond expectations?

And how many times did they flame out or, even worse, become low-level actuaries or IT staff?

As the study put it: “Early adolescent pseudomature behavior was linked cross-sectionally to a heightened desire for peer popularity and to short-term success with peers.”

So if you want to become a long-term success, perhaps it helps if you aren’t too influenced by the fads and fancies of a world that turns over its cool-tables faster than McDonald’s.

Especially when you’re in your teens.

Even those in tech who have risen to great fortunes at an early age — Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Zuckerberg — exude about as much cool as the man no one talks to at Starbucks.

Indeed, when you look at some of the most successful businesspeople, they made their money out of such exciting things as insurance, business software and, glory-be, payment methods.

However exciting it is to be too cool for school, it may be that it’s the dullards who make the fortunes.

I mean the apparent dullards, of course.

Published on: Aug 1, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.