Growing up everyone wanted to be “one of the cool kids.” The cool kids were the one that rode every trend. In my school, it was the kids with Polo Boots, Dr. Marten’s and Gibraud Jeans. My parents worked extra hard and got me those things because growing up, I felt like that stuff would define me, it’d make people like me.
When I’d get a new outfit, I always wanted to go to the teacher’s desk extra times or sharpen my pencil every few minutes just to let the whole class see my brand-new outfit. The other kids liked it, but the other kids had a lot of money, so they bought it too, and more outfits. I couldn’t keep up… and it sucked.
But as the years went by, I started caring less about what the cool kids were doing and cared more about what Baylor wanted to do. The cool kids went mudding on weekends (you get a big truck and drive around through the mud, don’t ask me why that’s cool, I haven’t figured it out yet.) I stayed in the gym with my sister while my mom put us through dribbling and shooting drills for hours. The cool kids got loud audio systems for their cars and rode around bumping their music. I preferred to go to the library with my dad and get the latest books.
I was content not being “the cool kid,” I wanted to be a legend. The cool kids weren’t doing legendary things.
Then I went to college at Baylor. Again, I fell into the “wanting to be a cool kid” trap. We would go to the mall and buy “middle of the mall” Chains and thought we were balling. We all got the 24” chain and then Nelly made 30” chains cool, and we had to try and get those. We rocked Platinum Fubu with Fat Albert on the shirts and had to keep our hair braided. No matter what we did, there was always something newer, something cooler, something more expensive we had to try and get to be “the cool kids.”
Mitchell & Ness started releasing expensive Throwback Jerseys. But that wasn’t enough; if you wanted to be the cool kid you had to order the custom jerseys with Gucci print on the numbers. I couldn’t afford those, so I ordered “Gucci” fabric on eBay and sewed them on my Receiver gloves so I could stunt in front of my teammates. By “stunt” I meant pose, I couldn’t even afford that fabric at the time, my college girlfriend had to help me get it.
But gradually, I stopped caring about the Rocawear, Chains, and Braids. I started realizing I wasn’t like my teammates, partially because I wasn’t on scholarship yet and couldn’t keep buying that stuff, and partly because deep down, that stuff I was wearing didn’t feel like me. I didn’t even look good in it. My friends were fresh; they could rock it and make those trends look dope, but not me.
I started going the other way. I begun to embrace my individuality. In football practice, we’d spat our cleats (Spat is to tape up your cleats), and I’d draw different designs on mine just to have fun with it. I became more boisterous in my beliefs and thoughts. I photoshopped my head on the Heisman trophy and hung it in my locker because I was convinced I was going to win that or the Biletnikoff (best wide receiver in the country) award. I didn’t let the fact that my coaches weren’t giving me much playing time stop me from believing that.
Some people called me crazy, well most people, but some of my teammates did believe in me, not that I would win a trophy, but that’d I’d amount to something because I was staying true to who I was. And it felt good…to be me.
I started reading even more. I couldn’t afford books, so I’d go up to Barnes and Noble and read. I’d put a bookmark in the book and put it in the back of the shelf so I could come back the next day and resume where I left off. I taught myself how to produce music, how to audio engineer music, how to create a website and graphics. We had a rap group comprised of Football Players called “The BU Allstars.” We were great. I miss those guys.
People graduated and got jobs, I stayed in Waco and continued to learn for two more years. Just reading and perfecting my musical craft. I wasn’t doing “cool kid” things, I was learning. My best friend J and I spent our time creating business plans instead of “cool kid” things. We presented an idea to the Athletic Director at Baylor. We were convinced he would give us hundreds of thousands to develop the idea further. He didn’t. Looking back, I see why he didn’t. But we were ambitious. We started another business, selling websites AND real estate. Yes. We convinced ourselves they were similar. We didn’t have any money, we weren’t licensed at all for real estate, but we read a lot of books and focused on it.
We never bought or sold a house, but we worked our tail off and continued to learn. We created “the Really Real show” which was an online streaming audio program of us just talking about current events. People at Baylor loved it. “It was different.” We were just ourselves. This was back in 2005. It’s safe to say we unknowingly invented the podcast. No one was doing that back then.
Over the years, I’ve continued to avoid being the cool kid. I’m not into trends. I don’t buy the latest Jordan’s, Bottles at the Club, or participate in the online bashing of people. I read two books a week instead of the latest gossip. I listen to audiobooks instead of the trendiest music. I don’t buy the coolest clothes; I prefer a plain black V-neck t-shirt. Nine out of ten times, that’s what you’ll see me wearing.
I’m not fancy, I don’t try and impress anyone, I work hard to simplify every aspect of my life. I don’t focus on likes, fans and trying to make people “follow me.” I focus on spreading a message that allows people to believe in themselves so that they don’t have to rely on someone like me. In a picture perfect world, I become so effective in my videos and messages that I get zero likes because it’s so powerful that people jump off the computer and take action in their lives immediately. THAT’s the DREAM.
That’s not the popular thing to do. It won’t make me a cool kid, but you know what…
Somewhere in some small town, a kid without any resources or connections is sitting in his or her room with a big dream. That kid recognizes that he or she is different from all the “cool kids.”
I live my non-cool kid life, publish my non-cool kid books, fly around and get paid to speak my non-cool kid message…. just to show those dreamers that you don’t have to be a cool kid to change the world.
Baylor Barbee, a Kid with a Dream