Having two kids under four means I have the privilege of reading Pete the Cat stories by literary genius James Dean. My wife appreciates that the characters are always kind to each other and that each story ends with a simple and impactful life lesson. I agree with Michelle’s insights and also think that Pete exudes coolness. Whether you’re a parent who gets this, a parent who is in search of literature for a budding reader, or an adult who needs to re-connect with your childlike sense of wonder, I’ve got your back. Here are six lessons about being cool from Pete the Cat. (I think there are spoilers).

Be yourself

“If you want to be cool, just be you!”

In “Too Cool for School” we learn about the social pressures of dressing and behaving like others want us to, even if it doesn’t feel right. Pete gets overwhelmed – almost suffocated – by multiple layers of clothes until realizing that he’s only wearing everything because he’s trying to make other people happy. According to Fast Company’s Mark Lukens, “[f]reed from the struggle to maintain the illusion of another person, you’ll lose the discomfort that a lie brings and release the energy once committed to the disguise.” Unleash your full potential by being your true and awesome self.

Be open

“Cards are just a way of showing you care. Hanging out with you … that’s way better.”

Pete’s friend Callie shares that gem of a line with him while they eat Valentine’s Day cake. It’s a big deal because the story, “Valentine’s Day is Cool”, begins with Pete saying “No. Valentine’s Day is not cool.” Callie schools Pete in the art of giving and gratitude improves his attitude. “Though our brains may be wired against us, we can change the way we think over time,” says Forbes’s Kristi Hedges. “If you want to expand your observations, you first need to start paying attention.” Listen deeply to your friends and colleagues and be open to understanding the world from their point of view.

Be curious

“You were with me the whole time, thinks Pete. What a cool adventure!”

In “Scuba-Cat”, Pete explores the ocean on a scuba diving adventure. He is very interested in finding a seahorse, but it’s hard because the ocean is big and he’s a cat. A stingray, turtle, blowfish, eel, crab, swordfish, jellyfish, whale, angelfish, octopus, and a seahorse all cross paths with Pete while he swims through kelp and caves. Even though he couldn’t see the seahorse, he was still interested in the things that he didn’t expect to see. “By being curious you will be able to see new worlds and possibilities which are normally not visible,” says Lifehack’s Donald Latumahina. “They are hidden behind the surface of normal life, and it takes a curious mind to look beneath the surface and discover these new worlds and possibilities.” Being curious during your walk home or your next one-on-one will open your mind and introduce you to cool new ideas from places you might not expect.

Be bold

“Sharing is cool.”

When people get hungry we might make a sandwich. When Pete the Cat gets hungry in “Pet’s Big Lunch” he makes a sandwich big enough to share with 12 other cats. Being bold and constructing an incredibly large meal allows Pete to share his food with friends. According to HBR’s Christopher G. Meyers, “creating a common space that individuals recognize as the gathering place for sharing ideas and experiences lays the foundation for these interactions to unfold.” Sharing not only feels groovy, but it also enhances community potential, especially when you make space for it.

Be inclusive

“This was the best picnic ever,” everyone says.

“It was the best picnic because you guys are the best friends ever,” Pete says.

And no one can argue with that.

“Cave Cat Pete” is a weird, time-traveling adventure that requires Pete to coordinate an inclusive picnic with a whole bunch of dinosaurs. While everyone loves picnics, Pete’s friends bring a variety of opinions to the table about what makes gatherings fun. Ethel the Apatosaurus, for example, brings salad to the picnic, but this presents a problem for T. rex and Al the Allosaurus because they eat meat. The picnic doesn’t start off well. The carnivores are looking past the salads and sizing up the tastiness of their friends, flying dinosaurs are peeking during hide-and-seek, and Skip is sneezing up a storm. Once Pete drops a fresh beat with his rockin’ dino-pals, though, things change for the better and everyone has a great time. “Feeling excluded sucks. And while you can’t control how other people treat you, youcan control how you make others feel,” recommends The Muse’s Lily Herman. “So when you’re in the power to be the inclusive person—by all means, be it! (And hey, it’s probably not too bad for your karma.)”

Be groovy

“I cannot count all the things you do.

I know it’s all because of you –

Yes it is –

That I love music and I love art

And I love you with all my heart. Yes I do.”

A hallmark of Pete the Cat stories is his ability to rock on with his pals, which makes things groovy for the characters in the stories as well as the readers. “Rock on, Mom and Dad” ends with a heartfelt original song from Pete about how grateful he is for his parents. Call it being weird, being cool or being groovy, but leaning in to what makes you different and expressing your groovyness is at the core of being cool. I’ll leave you with a wonderful line from a wonderful article by 99u’s James Victore:

Fearing to expose themselves, they’ve excluded WHO they are from their work in order to make it fit in and look normal (read: perfectly professional and seriously bland). My very loud lesson is, “Put your weird in your work!” Sometimes, all we need is someone to give us the courage and permission to be weird professionally. After all, if your work appeals to everyone, it moves no one.

Make your day a bit groovier. It’s what Pete the Cat would do.

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