Have Nerds Become the New Cool in the 21st Century?

I was recently lecturing to a class of students at Indiana University when it suddenly dawned on me: are Nerds really becoming the new cool for the 21st Century? During my lecture, I kept referring to one’s need to be self-aware, which I believe is crucial for enhancing one’s chances for success.

Unlike “Cools”, Nerds tend to be more authentic to themselves. They are not as concerned about what people think. They are more focused on how they choose to present themselves to others. Their intelligence and skills (e.g. abilities), not their fashion, dictate their identities.

Nerds pay attention to the details! They are not afraid to ask “why”. In fact, Nerds thrive on understandingthe why and occupy themselves with challenging the status quo, especially if something no longer makes sense, or even worse, becomes obsolete. “Cools” are way too concerned about “how” something will be perceived or “how” they will continue to “keep up with the Jones.” As a result, the “Cools” waste a lot of unnecessary energy trying to impress others, or even worse, trying to attract superficial professional and personal relationships that they cannot cultivate because they are constantly trying to maintain or improve their status or image instead of learning about the new things Nerds are already plugged into.

Nerds, on the other hand, attract like-minded people and choose to participate in groups and clubs because of common goals and a shared purpose. As a result, Nerds inspire and support each others’ successes.  They seek deeper meaning and connection with others, while at the same time, growing their network of potential employers, employees and business partners.

Nerds commit, they plan, and quite often execute their visions and goals, which is why so-many “Nerds” continue to attain such success within this new century of uncertainty.  They succeed because they choose to plan and thrive to be distinct. In his book, What They Don’t Teach You in the Harvard Business School, Mark McCormack asks why only 3% of all the Harvard MBAs make ten times as much as the remaining 97% combined. From his research he surmised that having clear, written goals for the future and creating plans to accomplish them was truly the underlying formula for their success.

In 1979, interviewers spoke with new graduates from the Harvard’s MBA Program and concluded:

  • 84% had no specific goals at all
  • 13% had goals but they were not committed to paper
  • 3% had clear, written goals and plans to accomplish them

In 1989, interviewers once again spoke with Harvard MBA graduates and:

  • The 13% of the class who had goals were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84 percent who had no goals at all.
  • Even more staggering – the three percent who had clear, written goals were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97 percent put together.

In my upcoming book, Growing Success: A Young Adult’s Guide for Achieving Personal and Financial Success, I discuss several tools and models that address planning and goal-setting, as well as awareness and good decision-making, which are imperative for enhancing one’s probable outcomes for success.

Look around and take notice! Nerds HAVE become the new cool. Just ask Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj, the cast of the hit television series, The Big Bang Theory. The cast and writers have made being nerdy cool.

So the next time you find yourself sitting next to a so-called “Nerd” in class, you better befriend him or her quickly because there is going to be a good chance that in next 10-20 years they will become your star employee, partner or BOSS.

As for me, I simply choose to embrace my inner “Cool Nerd” and continue to dedicate my time to helping you grow your success.