Tag Archives: belonging

How to be popular: Life Lesson #27

The secret to popularity.

The first popular kid I remember from school was in 4th or 5th grade. From then on, the popularity contest ran full swing until graduation night, populating the hallways of highschool with “in” kids and everyone else, “cool” kids and everyone else. These were rarified airs to travel in, and being included was dizzying.  Why is it then that so many of the “popular kids” were actually quite unpopular with the rest of the world?

To credit my high school, the playing field and measuring sticks for popularity were not as delineated as in other fine institutions of social learning. Something about being in an international environment changed some of the rules.

In college, the game was still there. To be popular, you had to be attractive, confident, put together. But if popularity wasn’t your goal, you could just be you.

Somewhere in my 30ies, I achieved popularity. Not because I was suddenly the favorite of a whole ground of strangers I was forced to associate with because of the educational environment forced on me by my situation. Rather, I was popular because I knew a lot of people that I liked and who strangely enough, also seems to like me.

Once I learned that perfect hair, teeth and abs were history after high school, I started enjoying being me a lot more. And ALL my friends are popular. At least with me.

Life is not school. Life Lesson #26

Life is not school.

“Man, I got in trouble for that one.” A friend told me about something he was called onto the carpet for at work. Really? In trouble? Define that, will ya?

School, particularly the western model, begins around age 5 with kindergarden. For a minimum of the next 13 years, and often longer if college and post-grad are undertaken, we are graded on everything from attendance to attitude to academic aptitude. There’s a measuring stick. Don’t do it right, and you’ll get sent to the principle’s office, or head master, or dean, or whomever.

That mentality is carried over into adult life. It took me a long time to realize that I wasn’t being graded for most of what I did. Sure, there are performance reviews, sure there are promotions, but beyond that, most of life is not graded. Life is meant to be lived.

What makes a great dad? The scale and definition is as unique as the individual being parented. What makes a good husband, friend, employee?

In school, you don’t get graded on loyalty, or innovation, or character. You get graded on spitting back certain content, and perhaps at more advanced institutions, correctly discerning authorial intent, and discerning patterns. The fields are endless and so are the measuring sticks.

You’ll never be graded on a walk in the park, or enjoying a sunset, or standing in awe of seeing your first elephant in the wild, or holding your first child with tears flowing down your cheeks.

Life is not school. The most beautiful moments are rarely graded. They are lived.

Learn to talk to a human. Life Lesson #24

Learn to talk. (credit to my older, wiser brother, Stephen Porter, on the original idea here).

I speak 6 languages. Not fluently, and I have an accent in most of them. Swahili was the most recent one I learned and what a fun, challenging experience. My sixth language though? Digital media.

You may be a “digital native” . You don’t even remember Windows 95 and Compuserve. That doesn’t excuse you from this one.

I understand lol, I know that ALL CAPS IS YELLING, and I try to keep up with what the digital cultural metaphors are.

But just because you speak digital doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn to speak to people. Having a conversation is about valuing the person in front of you. At 40, I get irritated when everyone at the table keeps checking their phone. Which means that I’m often irritated at myself.

Can you have a conversation? A lengthy conversation, that’s verbal, personal and face to face?

Try it out. If you are struggling, google it. You should know how to do that, right?