Who are more likely to achieve success – book smart people or street-smart people? This debate has recently been brought to prime time by Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice”. Each week, the book smart and street-smart teams face off in various challenges. Each week, a different team has won the battle. So when it comes down to having the best people in business, is one better than the other?
Before getting into this debate, let’s look at success for a moment – what does it mean? To many street-smart people, success may involve freedom to do what they’d enjoy and family and a circle of close friends. It may also involve some level of income that sustains the family. For book smart people, success is more likely defined by the number of degrees, the awards and grades, and a level of achievement at work. With today’s educational system, book smart people are programmed to climb the corporate latter. This programming was designed into the educational system during the beginnings of the Industrial revolution. When it comes down to it, street smarts people are more likely to follow their gut and book smart people are more likely to follow their logic. Does either lead to more success?
The debate boils down to whether a leader is born or made. Street smarts are who were born with a specific set of leadership skills while book smarts are those who’ve gone through a formal educational process of some kind to obtain additional leadership skills.
In my experience as an immigrant who survived the streets of Brooklyn, New York at the age of 10, I greatly appreciate the street smarts I’ve learned. With each passing day, I see that uninhibited drive create innovations that’s outside of the conventional wisdom. At the same time, having multiple advance degrees, I also understand the advantages and disadvantages of being book smart. Although I was never much of a book reader, I’ve learned to love reading – not just from a pleasure point of view, but also as a source of new experiments in life in which I am constantly engaged in. From the street smarts perspective, ideas enter without barriers. The book smart enables me to create a foundation on those ideas and build credible research studies that further humanity. Utilizing both can help you create abundance in success.
As an immigrant, what are you? Coming to this country, you’re more likely to be street smart. For whatever reasons that brought you to this country, you followed your heart. As you got here, the system of business works much on the principles laid out by book smart people. There’s a hierarchy of rules and regulations you must follow, whether it’s to start your business or work for some corporation. You probably have realized that to get ahead, some form of education is needed. But beware… don’t let any system kill off your street-smart instincts.
Let’s define these concepts a bit further. Book smart people are those with lots of theory and understanding based on research and education. Street smart are those who knows how to navigate through various ‘streets’. They know how to test the streets and learn from experience. There are a few points to consider.
#1. What a successful immigrant needs to acquire is a combination of both. You cannot succeed continuously without both street smarts and book smart. Learning the theories and how the system works is the foundation for your success. It is also the entryway into a workplace. Once you’re there, your street smarts will help you navigate the culture and the hierarchies of that workplace. Street smarts are likely to increase the rate at which you move upwards in the organization.
#2. Looking at the latest research on effective learning – it includes both book and street smarts. Constructivists’ educational theories promote a sense of individualism within a well–defined system. When given a set of theories, you take it on your own to create meaningful work. You figure out exact how those theories fit into your life…and yes, they ALL fit into your life in some way. From there, you can see beyond the surface behaviors and watch for the complexity of knowledge and human behavior. You can see the motivations, the values and belief systems at work. Possessing street smarts is the application of that book smart knowledge in a fast paced setting such as the boardroom or your workplace where many values and belief systems are at work.
#3. Passion and Drive are two characteristics of people that you cannot train. As an immigrant, these are typically natural to you. You could not have arrived in this country without a passion for life. Your belief in something better gave you a dream. With a unwavering drive, you worked hard to get to this country. This is the essence of your power. Where you direct that power will be reflected in the success you achieve. With street-smart people, this drive is inherent in their need for survival. Most street-smart people will go after something they desire without thinking too much about it. Other wise, the thing they desire will be lost to someone else. On the other hand, book smart people have a different type of drive – a drive to achieve. They’ve gone through substantial schooling to reach a level of achievement. So which is more important: the drive to achieve or a need for survival? Are they not the same beasts, but with different cloths?
According to the poll on the NBC, 52% believes that the book smart team has the best negotiators. This illustrates that there is little difference between the two teams. Even though there is a 2% advantage for the book smart team, it has limited statistical significance. As you develop your life here in America, consider the importance of both street and book smarts. The world is never a duality of black or white. The balance of everything is the key to your success in business. As an immigrant, I’d encourage you to obtain as much book smarts as you can; that doesn’t mean go to school necessarily. Rather, it’s about the constant learning from experts such as books, videos, CD, seminars, workshops, coaching, etc. Then use the street smarts to put that new knowledge to work and create new knowledge from it. Always be taking action to do something different. Life is an experiment where book and street smarts are put to the test…
If you do the same as you’ve always done, you’ll get what you have always gotten… so change your reality by doing something different everyday…and see how fun life can be.