Book Smart vs Street Smart, Which one is Better?

Most children grew up listening to their parents’ monologue, “Study hard. Get good grades so that you can get a good job and become successful later on.” This is not surprising since all parents want their children to be successful in life.  Some parents even take their achievement goals for their children to the extremes. It is a simple formula, study + good grades = success. Unfortunately, life is more complicated than that.

Do good grades really lead to success? It is true that good grades can help you land a good job especially right after graduation. However, good grades alone is not a guarantee for future success. A study shows that only 21% of successful people are straight A students, the rest were just ordinary students like most people. Even if you never stop learning, being book smart alone is never enough.

Image Credit: Mabel Amber, Pixabay

Have you heard of the riddle about the five birds sitting on a tree? One decided to fly, how many are left? If you answer four then you are wrong. This riddle is not a math problem. It is a life problem. The answer is still five. Why? Deciding does not necessarily mean doing. So, even if you have all the knowledge in the world, it is useless if you are not going to apply it in life. It looks good on paper but it does not necessarily apply to the real world.

Does this mean that being street smart is better? Being street smart means knowing what to do in situations that cannot be found in books. It is knowing how to deal with practical situations in life. Many people will argue that being street smart is better. Being able to navigate the intricacies of life is a sure way to success.

However, have your heard of the School of Hard Knocks? It is an idiomatic expression pertaining to a painful way of learning through negative experiences as opposed to formal education. To put it simply, it is learning the hard way. This is what most street smart people had to undergo, it is learning through a bad and painful experience.

So, which one is better? Being book smart or street smart? Confucius has the perfect answer.

Knowledge without practice is useless, practice without knowledge is dangerous. – Confucius

It is not a question of which one is better. Both traits are critical for success. Knowledge only becomes power if you know how to use it. You need to learn to apply what you have studied and read in real life. At the same time, it would be difficult and even dangerous to practice something that you have no knowledge of. You need to have at least a basic knowledge of what you are doing before you can improve on it. Do both and sooner or later, you will find yourself in the road to success.


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