Do Unpopular Kids Turn Out To Be More Successful?

Is it me or do the unpopular kids generally grow up to be more successful than the popular kids?


Talk about a personal topic.

This is clearly a sensitive issue because it involves something we all would like to think does not exist: the fact that there are cool kids and there are “uncool” kids.

And what that affect has on their lives.

But stick with me.

There’s got to be something here.

I know too many people (either first hand or having read their biographies) that weren’t in the ‘cool crowd’ growing up and went on to win big time in life.

They get stuff done.  They’re respected in their circles.  They make a difference.

They have a higher purpose about them that you can sense.  Somehow you get the feeling that they’re ‘going somewhere’.

But what am I saying here?  That there’s a segment of people out there that grew up super-cool and ultra-popluar, then went into the ‘real world’ and sputtered?

I’m not sure how to say this…but yes.

Let’s understand this one thing before we go on:

I have no particular bone to pick here.  I don’t want or intend for this to be a rant against cool kids (because if I’m honest I would have to admit to being that in some circles), nor do I intend for this to be a free pass for the “uncool” kids (again I’d have to admit to being that in some circles).

Having said that there seems to be a pattern or principle at work here that’s got me curious.

Let me give you an example:

“Johnny” was good kid growing up, but a bit of a social misfit.  Not from any visible fault of his own (he could hold a conversation and build a fort as good as the next) but for whatever reason he just wasn’t in ‘that group’.

As he grew into adulthood he want through a spell where he felt cheated, under-privileged, forgotten even, because he wasn’t popular.

But then time passes and something happens.  (This is likely the part where the secret lies)

And now he’s doing great.  He’s as respected as anyone in the community and there isn’t one classmate from ‘back in the day’ that wouldn’t trade places with him.

Before you try to determine who it is I’m referring to let me tell you, I just thought of 5 or 6 different people in a matter of a minute or so, people I know personally.  (Maybe they don’t all follow this exact storyline, but the premise is the same)

And that doesn’t even include the Wozniak’s, Einstein’s, Job’s, Roosevelt’s, Spielberg’s, and Swift’s of this world.

Check this out.

Jessica Alba ate lunch by herself in the nurses office so she wouldn’t have to sit with the other girls.

Zac Efron was a self-described geek and was treated like one.

Chad Michael Murray hated high school because he didn’t fit in and he didn’t have any friends.

We could go on, but you get the point.

The sad thing is for every less-than-popular kid that made something of themselves I can think of a crazy-popular kid who is now enjoying a life of mediocrity.

I know that sounds terrible, I’m not sure how else to put it.

What’s at work here?

I’m not entirely sure.

I assume it’s a quite a few factors really, I’m sure we’re just scratching the surface.

But taking this issue into consideration here’s 3 things I intend to do with my own kids:

1. Teach them social skills:

Not because I’m afraid they’ll be unpopular.  But because relationships require social skills, and the quality of one’s life is directly correlated to one’s relationships.

2. Train them the watch out for the underdogs.

I’m not about to set out to ensure my kids are unpopular, but by-George they better be watching out for those that are.

3. Make them work for it. 

Free rides in life do not a hero make.  I intend to allow my kids to struggle against their shells, not because I’m a heartless father, but rather because that’s what it takes to hatch properly.

Because I can think of few things more disappointing than raising the most popular kid in high school, and then watching his life fall apart in the real world.

If that were to happen I sure hope the unpopular kids from his class are hiring by then.

So what do you think?

Do you agree with my generalization that “uncool” kids tend to go further than cool kids?

Be honest with me now.

What do you think is at work here?

Maybe, just maybe, it’s not about having been popular or unpopular.

Maybe it’s about what you make of yourself. 

Entrepreneur, Investor, Optimistic Realist. Saved by Grace, Student of Life. Husband, Father, Son.

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10 thoughts on “Do Unpopular Kids Turn Out To Be More Successful?

  1. A factor here, might be this: ” Cool” kids spend a large majority of their time running with the crowd, worrying about what other people think of them, and not a lot of time alone for personal reflection to find out what their own talents/giftings/abilities and preferences might be. They’re always running on fear of man gas. “Uncool” kids end up spending a lot of time alone, which has it’s own negative effects, but allows them to practice creativity and find out about who they are. (Weird side note: I’ve noticed that a lot of the “cool” kids when I was 16-20yrs old, are the ones who have let themselves go and are sporting the extra weight and baggy sweats. Worn out focus? Purely observational. 😛 )

  2. The definition of cool in this post is (I believe) a sixteen year old’s perspective.

    For me, the definition of cool keeps changing. As in, I doubt if a group of sixteen year old girls would find Einstein’s hair just so so cute. But in other groups Einstein is the very definition of cool.

    I have nothing against sixteen year olds; they are really cool in their own way. After all, how great is it for an exciting adventure to consist of “hey man, wanna go to the mall?”

    Perhaps, the uncool kids have discovered a greater purpose in life than hair and clothes. The years are not kind to those who never transition beyond that. On the other hand, the kids who are interested in things of lasting value suddenly metamorphose especially after the mid-twenties or thirty. Who knew?

    Disclaimer: There is no merit in deliberately being unattractive or smelling. It merely should not be an ultimate goal in life.

    • Right on Frederick, so totally right on. I particularly like your thought about the ‘definition of cool’ and how ‘the years are not kind to those who never transition beyond that’. Thanks for sharing!

  3. You have to also define what the term “successful” means. Does it mean owning your own business? Still having a sexy body after three kids? Owning your own house?

    At a distance “Jake” might appear to be bombing out in the success category (after all, he is still doing menial labor digging ditches, and living in a rented house), but if you take time to get to know him, you learn that he feels he is winning at life because he has food and raiment and is content with what he has. And what you may not know about Jake is he had the opportunity to move up to back-hoe operator, but he enjoyed digging ditches and was so good at it, he is now making more money than the guy sitting up in the backhoe.

    When you look at “the gang” from back in the day, i think the unsung hero and the hidden reason for so many success stories is Mr. Glick. he was not only a teacher, he was a role model for us guys. He encourage us to take leadership and allowed us to innovate. Remember digging ditches across the ball field and taking stone from the driveway in trash cans to fill the ditches? How many teachers would have put up with the mud we drug back into the classroom? He did, and projects like that, that we came up with and executed on our own, laid the foundation for the leadership and problem solving skills that you see today.

    I think that is the key to success knowing in the back of your mind that there are people who believe in you. That, I believe, is the “it factor” that allows you to soar to unimagined heights.

    • Great points Dave. I believe ‘successful’ has little to do with ‘what’ you do (job, position, title, etc) and everything to do with how and why you do it. Because there have been plenty of janitors more successful than the CEO.

      Agree with you about Mr Glick. He’s one of the people that’s had the biggest impact on me of all time. He must have been genius or plain lucky, because looking back what he allowed us to do and the way he handled situations seems now like the best way possible.

      How could all of us honor him? Reunion? Be great to do something.

  4. If you are truly purposeful in life, you might not ascend to teenage grandeur. But later in life, it would serve you well. Or maybe, the popular kids feel sufficient and do not look for growth, while the unpopular ones search for answers; because they realize their inadequacy.

    I really like your teaching points for your children. I would like to instill those in my own children.
    I also like Dave’s point about success being available to all stations in life. (And failure).

  5. “I intend to allow my kids to struggle against their shells.” Can you offer some practical examples of when you do this?