9 Ways To Keep Your Cool


Steve McQueen on a motorcycle. Heath Ledger as the Joker with his head out of the cop car. Paul Newman at a pool table. Pink on her dirt bike, snarling at the camera. These are some images of cool. You know what it looks like when you see it. But how does it feel?

Cool is unflappable. Cool never loses it head or runs its mouth. Cool handles its business.

To say you’re feeling cool kinda means you don’t give a fuck (about what others think, about how something appears, whether or not you’re understood, etc.) but if you consider the fullness of the meaning, that’s way too simplistic. They aren’t the same thing, but one can do both, be cool and not give a fuck. Look at Robert Mitchum. He was cool. He did not give a fuck. And we all know to not give a fuck, literally and figuratively, can make one very desirable since they’re unreachable and aloof. We want what we can’t have. And they won’t let us have it. But we’re mixing up social cool with emotional cool. There are really two forms, there’s when others think you’re something of a badass, this is socially cool; and there’s when you’re the one with ice water in your veins, that’s emotional cool. Both versions are based on your attitude.

Just like super fanboy, Quentin Tarantino, we all love cool. We all want to be cool. Now, when it comes to being cool socially, you have to figure that out all on your own because it’s different for each person. What’s cool about one person can’t just be grafted onto another person like a tattoo, if you try to borrow someone else’s coolness, it works about as well as a toupee. Don’t attempt to be cool. Just do you. Be interesting and interested. And you may bump into being cool along the way.

When it comes to “keeping your cool,” that’s something you can learn that because the same life hacks work for everyone. The goal is to remain cool under pressure, to stay above the fray. But how do you stay above it all in a world that’s fast changing, rushing fluidly forward and always yanking you back down into the steady flowing miasma of everyday emotions? It ain’t easy. But it can be done.

Stay Grounded

I’ve burned down a kitchen, a detached garage, started a 41-acre wildfire, I’ve survived three car fires, and once put out a house fire with a garden hose (I actually didn’t start that fire). When the firefighters arrived after I’d put out that most recent fire, they asked me why I was willing to rush into a burning house with just a garden hose. I told them about my history with flames and said fire is basically my spirit animal. And it really is. I run hot. Like a fire, I can flare up and lose my cool. It’s always embarrassing because it’s so visible. I’m not someone who gets violent, or starts cussing or insulting people, I just burn up and my eyes look like they’re smoldering. It sucks. But thank Shiva, my yoga-teaching friends taught me to ground myself. Using their grounding technique, I picture something like a marionette string, a fine thread extending out of me, penetrating the earth like a finger into fresh soil, and then I imagine the thread pulls taut. As I feel the cold of the earth, my fire subsides. Find a method/visual that works for you. The more you do it, the easier it’ll get.

Don’t Reach For It… Grasp What You Want

When you really stretch and reach for something you lose your balance. You’re on your tip-toes straining to grab what you want or desire. And you do so, tenuously. It doesn’t matter if it’s an apple high in a tree or a person you’re crushing on who doesn’t even know your name. If you reach too far to get what you want you often totally lose your cool. It’s better to grasp. You don’t want to put a lot of obvious effort into what you want. It’s best when you’re as effortless as possible. Don’t reach, grasp. Grab with a firmness and confidence. If you ask someone out and they say they’re busy, you can suggest a second day. If they’re still busy don’t suggest a third, and a fourth day you could go out. You’re reaching. But if you suggest that second day for a date and they say they’re free, calmly make plans. Grasp the opportunity. Don’t reach for it. You can use this approach everywhere in your life: work, romance, home, school or play.

Take The Longview

Let’s say you have a shitty roommate. And you go away for the weekend. When you get back late that Sunday night you find out your shitty roommate let their friends crash, and more importantly, fuck in your bed. Don’t freak out. Don’t lose your cool. Your lease most likely only lasts a year. You can lose that roommate in a matter of months. But if you lose your cool you may do something costly, or stupid, or that you deeply regret. A good way to employ the longview is to let the clock help you keep your cool. Before you respond in a heated conversation count to five in your head. Count to ten before you send that text. And count to one hundred before you send that email that will be the third unanswered message from you in a row.

Find Your Feet

The funniest thing to me about Europe is how the people, men and women, look you in the eye and then look at your shoes, then back up to your eyes and by the time you meet their stare again, they’ve decided what type of person you are. It’s like we’re dogs sniffing each other’s asses. But I gotta say, it’s a major time-saver. Not only does your footwear indicate your social coolness, but your feet determine your attitude- and thus, your emotional cool. How you stand says everything. And that starts with your feet. When your head or your heart starts firing with up passion, jealousy, anger, irritation, whatever’s trying to kill your cool, pay attention to your feet. Taoists recommend a meditation where you breathe through your feet. Sounds crazy as hell but I’ve tried it and that shit works. Imagine pulling air in through the soles of your feet, then imagine the air rushing through your body, up to the top of your scalp, and then back down to your feet and you exhale the stale air then take a second inhale through the soles of your feet. And repeat. Obviously, you’ll still be breathing through your face but just try “breathing through your feet” and see if it works for you. Either way, pay attention to them, it’ll be easier to keep your cool and choose to stand tall or walk away.

Only Imagine Positive Outcomes

Actors go out for auditions. The smart ones learn once the audition is done, it’s important to evaluate how it went, they tell their agent or significant other, their roommate or goldfish, but they externalize the experience. They get over it. When you make an experience into something like a story or memory you structure it. It takes on shape and weight. But the actor’s trick is to assume the best. Most of the time, they have no idea if the casting director will call back or not. But let’s say they have another audition that day or later that week, they don’t want to carry any negative feelings into their next opportunity. Since the result of the first audition is out of their hands, they just assume the best. When you’re given two notions of how things will play out, and you can’t affect the outcome, why fret about the negative option? Like an actor, assume it’ll work out in your favor. Be cool with the possibility of rejection. Don’t let fear or regret or worry ruin other chances. If you don’t get a call back, no big deal. You’re already on to the next opportunity.

Visualize Ice Water In Your Veins

I know. It sounds childishly simple. But creative visualization works. We’re only beginning to understand the mind-body connection. There seems to be a mental effect on the body based on what you believe and imagine. So if that’s happening, use the process to help you keep your cool. When you’re heating up, imagine a snowmelt river rushing through your arteries, pumping through your capillaries, let the icey coolness extinguish the fire burning you. Sounds like something you’d hear some kid rolling at a rave recommend, but try it and you’ll see. Or if ice water doesn’t work for you, imagine whatever cool substance you want pumping through your vascular system- whatever cools you down. It could be a 7/11 Cherry Slurpee.

For Extreme Cases: Do The Opposite Of Whatever You Want To Do

If you want to grab your phone and call, don’t. If you want to text, hide your phone. If you want to stay at the party, it’s time to leave. If you think you should wait for them to approach you, go over and initiate a conversation. If you’re getting pissed and you want to yell obscenities in their face until their skin is glistening with a patina of your angry spittle, instead show them your back and walk away. Whatever instinct you have, do the opposite. And do it as intelligently as possible since it won’t be your habit. But try it. Whatever you want to do, do the opposite.

Get A Role Model (and Emulate The Shit Out Of Them)

If you’re constantly failing at critical moments, get yourself an imaginary friend. There’s an old Hollywood saying: Fake it ‘til you make it. Well, here’s how to make that work for you. Pick someone you think is cool, like supercool, like Tarantino fanboy you think this person is a walking badass sort of cool. In critical moments, when the embarrassing tears are about to run, when you hear your voice catching, when you’re standing there with crazy intense eyes and anyone with 20/20 vision can see you’re losing your shit- with all your mental might yank back on the reins of the team of your emotional horses and ask yourself: What would X do? Picture them handling that same moment. Just let the scene play out in your mind. Then do your best impression of what you just imagined. Stand like them. Move like them. Speak with the same certainty. Imitate them until you find whatever feels natural for you.

Remember It’s All Just A Walk In The Park… So Don’t Trip Out!

Don’t be that guy. Don’t be that gal. You know the one. They’re at a party and they’re telling you how they totally don’t care that their ex broke up with them and then they continue to tell you how little they care, and they go on and on about it for the next twenty minutes, until you finish your drink and have a legitimate reason to abandon them in the emotional minefield that is their broken relationship. That person lost their cool. Every last drop. Don’t judge them. They’re emotionally overwhelmed and they’re unaware of how much they’re hurting or at least they’re trying to deny it. If you wanna keep your cool, you gotta be honest about how you feel. Deal with it appropriately. Don’t spill your emotions all over others like you’re some drunk uncle at a wedding reception. Be cooler than that.

Remember shit will be cool again in the future. Be confident that everything will work out fine for you, even if for the moment you’re embarrassed, you’re angry, hurt, you feel cheated, neglected or mistreated. You’ll keep your cool if you stay centered and you balance yourself so that you aren’t awkwardly reaching. Just grasp what you can. Use your feet to provide a foundation for your attitude of strength. Make sure your focus is grounded. Be like a meditating samurai. And if you use these life hacks you won’t trip out as easily or nearly as often. Eventually, you’ll develop a fluid habit of keeping your cool.

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image – Luis Hernandez