We have all heard someone describe their friend as “book smart” as opposed to “street smart”. Many valuable things can be learned in the classroom or from reading about it in a book. This is how the vast majority of us learned the skills that we use every day. School taught us how to read, write, do math, discuss history, and argue our points. While these are valuable skills, they are only half of the equation. The truly capable person is one who balances their ‘book’ knowledge with being street smart. In contrast to book smarts, street smarts are lessons, information or stories that can only be gained through experience.
Think of street smarts and book smarts in terms of a courtroom. Book smarts are the facts, evidence, and events that make up the backbone of your case. Street smarts are the ways in which you deliver your argument, present your information, and influence the judge and jury. Without book smarts, the most suave and charismatic persona has nothing tangible to say. Without street smarts, the best argument falls to pieces and fails to make it into the hearts and minds of the jury.
If we look at some of the most accomplished and influential individuals in our society, we see that they have a balance of both book and street smarts. Take entrepreneur Dean Kosage for example. As he described in a recent interview for the podcast Unmistakable Creative, he was raised in an alternative lifestyle with his mother and brother, growing up on boats off the coast of Florida. This childhood, free from classrooms and teachers, gave him ample opportunity to learn street smarts. He had to learn to catch, kill, and cook his meals; read people, and quickly evaluate the risks of any given situation. When Dean entered high school later, he didn’t possess much of the working knowledge his classmates did, but “when it came to critical thinking, logic, and patterns, [he] was far more advanced than many of the other kids in school.”
This ability, paired with the traditional schooling he received in high school and later in life, are what make Dean such an effective entrepreneur. He has successfully been able to incorporate the lessons he learned on the water with the formal education he received at school. This, in addition to his innate tenacity and ambition, gave Dean Kosage the perfect combination of qualities to become a leader in the business world.