I grew up watching two polar opposites – my mom was incredibly street-smart but not educated past college level. My dad, on the other hand, knew little about “the real world” but was very studious and has a master’s degree in his field.
Based on this example, and many others, I’m confident in the claim that being street smart is better than being book smart!
And here are the reasons why:
Before we get into the benefits of being street-smart, let me start by saying book-smart people are highly intelligent in their own right. But, and this is a big but, there’s only so much you can learn from books!
And this leads me to adaptability.
Sure, you can read about it, you can even read step-by-step guides on how to be adaptable.
But nothing prepares you for it like living through it!
In the real world, things move fast. You have to think on your feet and be prepared to react or change plans at a moment’s notice. Only experience can prepare you for this.
2) Street knowledge
I once met a girl whilst traveling through Italy…she was from Japan and she had a huge book that listed all of the top places to visit in Florence, and how to navigate the language.
She never left her book behind, and after each day of exploring I’d return to the hostel and she’d ask where I’d been.
Since I’m an experienced traveler, I’d reveal all the little hidden gems I’d stumbled across, while she complained that everywhere she went was packed with tourists and overpriced.
I told her to get her head out of the book and start exploring for herself!
You see, books can be helpful up to an extent, but having street knowledge can open you up to many more possibilities!
I’ve learned through numerous trips, solo and with friends, how to travel cheaply, smartly, and safely. I’ve got an instinct for dodgy areas or people, and can smell a tourist trap from a mile away!
But I never would have developed these skills from books – you need to be out in the field, picking up on different energies, observing what’s going on, and learning for yourself!
3) Survival skills
Now, I know what you might think about this one – can’t you learn survival skills from a book?
Yes – technically you can learn about scams and dangerous people, natural disasters, and what to do if someone is trying to rob you on the street, all from books.
But street-smart people have grown up in an environment that forces them to be on top of the ball – they know which areas to avoid, which people look suspicious, and how to avoid a scam!
And it’s simply because they have had more exposure, more real-world experience.
Rather than trying to recollect what the book told them to do in a dangerous situation, they spring into action based on instinct!
4) Social skills
In addition to knowing how to handle themselves in dangerous situations with dangerous people, street-smart people, in general, have better social skills.
Let’s take my parents as this example:
My mother worked on market stalls for a lot of her life. She can talk to pretty much anyone she meets on the street and navigate tricky confrontations when needed. She has a good feel for people.
My dad, on the other hand, for as friendly as he is, lacks the same awareness. He doesn’t read the room, he talks on for too long, and will easily befriend the wrong sort of person!
That is until mom comes to drag him away.
You see, her experience in dealing face to face with different people has developed her social skills, more than my father who spent most of his life with his head in books!
As well as having good social skills, you’ll find that most street-smart people are incredibly practical.
Rather than focusing on theories, these types of people opt for solid decisions and concrete ideas that will help later in life.
I call them “the go-getters” because they don’t wait to be guided or told what to do – they’re in the end stages of their master plan before book-smart people can even get pen to paper!
And this is something that they use in other areas of life, too:
6) Transferable skills
That’s right, the vast variety of skills that street-smart people cultivate over their lifetime helps them in different areas.
For example, social skills help them navigate relationships with others, but could also land them different types of jobs since they’re good at dealing with customers or high-maintenance bosses.
Being adaptable is something that can be applied to every part of life, whether it’s at home, at work, or in relationships.
Now, this isn’t to say you can’t learn transferable skills from reading – you can learn a lot! But the speed at which you apply it to other areas of your life is definitely increased when you have real-world experience!
7) Creative problem-solving
And following on from the last point, being street-smart can also make you better at problem-solving!
For example, my inlaws are farmers – they aren’t highly educated. But I’ve seen how they find solutions to problems using their hands and whatever junk is lying around.
My book-smart father, for example, would be completely stumped on how to unblock a drain using a coat hanger or how to jump-start the car without assistance.
But those who have learned to be resourceful and think out of the box?
They tend to be a lot more creative and vibrant in their solutions!
8) Quick thinking in tough situations
Being in a tough situation can throw anyone off – especially if it’s unanticipated.
With that being said, I’d rather be in the company of a street-smart person than a book-smart person when faced with difficulty!
That’s because street-smart people have got their education from, well, the streets.
They’re used to being around diverse groups of people, getting into different situations and learning how to manage them, and of course, building experience and intuition.
They’re quick to adapt and very resourceful.
And as a result of that, they’re better at:
Think about it this way:
If everything you’ve ever learned comes from books, you might still find it daunting to put your education into practice in the real world.
But if everything you’ve ever learned comes from experience and being around different people and different situations, you’re more likely to throw yourself into new experiences!
Street-smart people are willing to take more risks because they have built up faith and confidence in themselves through their experiences.
They know what their personal limits are; what they can succeed at and what should probably be avoided!
On the flip side, those who rely on books for their information may lack the spontaneity to get up and do something out of their comfort zone.
10) Increased confidence
Now, in the last point, we mentioned confidence – it’s clear to me that those who are street-smart tend to be more confident than those who are book-smart.
Of course, there can be exceptions. But many of the successful people you see today didn’t have great educations, in fact, many of them dropped out before college!
The truth is, the more you experience in life, the more your confidence soars.
You have to take risks and be brave…sometimes it’ll work in your favor and other times it won’t.
But regardless, every single experience or interaction you have serves as an important life lesson!