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Be Cool

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Be Cool

Be Cool

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Our This I Believe essay this week comes from Philadelphia born jazz bass player Christian McBride. McBride studied at Julliard but left after a year to tour with trumpeter Roy Hargrove. He has accompanied hundreds of musicians, from McCoy Tyner to Sting to Kathleen Battle. Today he leads his own band.

Here's our series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.

JAY ALLISON: For many of our essayists, belief acts as a kind of stabilizer in the frenzy of modern life. Certainly true for Christian McBride. Modern life gets him heated up and he finds relief in his personal credo.

Here's Christian McBride with his essay for This I Believe.

CHRISTIAN MCBRIDE: believe people have become tighter, meaner and less tolerant than ever. I never remember people being so uncool. I don't remember people getting the third degree because they decided to wear brown shoes instead of black. If you get too close to someone on the road, they want to get out and shoot you for possibly hitting their car. What's wrong with these people?

I believe it pays to be cool. Most people in this day and age are always terribly stressed and hypersensitive to absolutely everything. They will age quickly. Cool people stay young forever.

Ten years ago, cell phones were still a luxury. People still had landlines for their primary phone numbers. Remember when it was okay to have dial-up? Now, people don't even bother asking for a home number anymore. Is it because we're so busy, people don't even bother being at home anymore, or is business so important that people need to get in touch with you upon demand? Didn't people survive just fine not being contacted by their boss while having dinner with their families?

As for the Internet, it amazes me that when you walk into a Starbucks, it looks like CompUSA with all the doggone laptops with people stressing out over whatever. When people need to work on stressful work related issues on their laptops, they go to Starbucks to drink coffee?

Me, on the other hand, I'm cool. Why do I know that? Because I sleep well at night and I work with people who apparently like to work with me.

Now let me make something very, very clear. I'm not always cool. I've had my meltdowns in life. Once I had a musician in my band who was a little less than cool - he was flat out lazy. After 15 months of playing the same music, he never bothered to memorize it. Instead of pulling him aside and addressing the situation like a rational person would have done, I let him have it like I've never let anyone have it before.

After it was over, I realized that I'd cleared the room. Everyone was so scared or annoyed that they just left. Well, lazy guy left the band and has never spoken to me ever again. I'm sorry for that. I wish I could have that moment back, but I can't. I can only learn from that and I try very hard not to have another meltdown, ever.

Pleasing everyone doesn't always mean saying yes, or that's great, or no problem. Sometimes you have to say the opposite, but with a clear, sensible and gracious tone. Being cool is not what you say or do, but how you say or do it.

So I say, be cool. You'll see more. You'll learn more. You'll make better decisions. You'll be happier.

ALLISON: Christian McBride with his essay for This I Believe. McBride says that along with Miles Davis and Muhammad Ali, the main influence on his guiding principle of coolness is his grandfather.

MCBRIDE: He's ultra cool. My grandfather rules, man.

ALLISON: If you'd like to contribute an essay to our series or search through the thousands that have been submitted, visit our Web site,

For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.

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