Written by: Lach Ravelo

Battle of the Brains: Street Smarts Vs. Book Smarts 


The battle of the brains is a debate that’s been going on for years, and it’s not likely to stop anytime soon.

Which is better? Street smarts or book smarts?

Let’s look into a few of the most common arguments and examine the real truth behind these claims.

Street smarts vs. book smarts – which side has the most advantage? 

The book smarts have their knowledge as their main weapon. They learned everything they have to know in school and excelled in it, too! 

Pop quizzes? Final exams? Aptitude tests? Book smarts can ace them all while half-asleep.

Street smarts also have a few tricks on their sleeves. Their years of experience have awarded them with the wisdom of the world, and they know how to make the best of every situation.

When two strong competitors fight against one another, it is a battle of two brains. In this case, it is a war between street smarts and book smarts.

Who wields more power?

Street smarts vs book smarts? 

Book smarts speak better, but they have less to say. Street smarts are more talented, and they do not need to study things out of a book. Borrowing ideas from other people is their skill.

But the question is, which of these two smarts have the bigger advantage? Who is more likely to make it through life’s pitfalls and hurdles? 

And more importantly, which type are you? 

Read on to find out who trumps over the other—the brainiacs or the know-hows.

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The Brainiacs: Who are Book Smarts?

Street Smarts Vs. Book Smarts 

Book smart—the name says it all.

These people have spent most of their lives with their noses deep inside a book—literally!

They’re the top-placers in an exam, the scholars with an outstanding degree, and the intelligent person who is most likely to win in a trivia game. 

By definition, book smarts are those who have flourished in an academic environment. If you identify as such, you’re the type who thrives in learning environments. You love lectures and have no problem reading textbooks from cover to cover.

As a book smart, you solve problems using your broad knowledge about the whats and whys. You stick by facts and approach matters from an intellectual point of view.

The main advantage of book smarts is that you’re a sponge when it comes to information. That means it’s easy for you to understand concepts and fill in the blanks of test papers. This skill gives you an edge when it comes to achieving graduate degrees, acing college applications, and creating a handsome résumé. 


The Know-Hows: Who are the Street Smarts?

street smart vs book smart

Street smarts may not always have straight A’s. But you can count on their first-hand experience to get things done. 

Street smarts are not afraid to get their hands dirty. If you identify like this, you believe that the best way to learn it is to do it! 

As a street smart, you’re an expert in handling practical situations in your day-to-day life. Your main advantage is your years of experience. This has trained you to adapt and be confident in whatever situation you stumble on.

Even though you weren’t a born genius, you’ve managed to gain insight from being in the real world. In fact, you don’t need to have a Ph.D.—you can rely on your gut instinct and skills in situational awareness

Having situational awareness means that you have a good grasp of your environment. You can interpret social cues and make sound judgments to solve problems. When the circumstance requires it, you can think fast on your feet and make improvisations on the spot.


Can’t Have It All: Weaknesses of Street Smarts vs. Books Smarts

book smart vs common sense

Street smarts and book smarts each excel in their careers through their own ways. But like any other human being, they have their weaknesses.

Here are some of the weaknesses that street smarts and book smarts experience:

  • Book smarts have trouble with dealing with ordinary, everyday tasks. Their practical skills and common sense needs a little more improvement.
  • Book smarts are not so good at analyzing their environment. Because of this, they may come off as naïve and easy to manipulate. 
  • Book smarts are harshly called “smartest dumb people.” This is because they can have difficulty in ordinary situations.
  • Street smarts are often underestimated in work environments. The reason is that they lack high academic degrees.
  • Learning environments can be a hard place to flourish in for street smarts.
  • Academic requirements and school settings can be quite a challenge for street smarts.

Of course, not all of them are always true. 

Some book smarts are good at handling practical circumstances. There are also street smarts who are knowledgeable about their practice. It all depends on you and how you handle yourself in this demanding world.


Who’s the better genius? Street Smarts Vs. Book Smarts

book smarts vs street smarts

The debate on who is a better genius has been a subject of conversation for the longest time. But based on the opinions of people from the internet, the majority is swaying to the side of street smarts.

Author and speaker Scott Berkun believes that street smarts have always had the upper hand. He says that street smarts are survivors—they’ve been to the heart of the battle and came out alive. 

He says, 

“You’ve been tested and have a bank of courage to depend on when you are tested again.”

Berkun also adds that street smarts don’t need other people to show them the road. They pave their path towards success. That initiative awarded them with a great experience.

Book smarts, says Berkun, are merely good followers. They can abide by the rules and answer questions. But, they can be inadequate when it comes to applying what they know. 

Even Ashley Fern echoes the same sentiment. Fern shares that she knows a lot of people who went to school. But those people aren’t precisely Einsteins and Edisons when it comes to the actual job.

She says, 

“A college degree may help to open the door to a better job, but street smarts are what allow you to succeed once you walk through that door.”

To her, having the skills of a street smart is more significant. They can think logically, adapt to their surroundings, and work well in socialization.

For most people, street smarts certainly have the edge. Indeed, your expertise is not tested by how well you memorize information. It’s measured by your ability to roll with the punches of life outside the book. 


Who are well-known Street Smarts?

Are you still unconvinced that street smarts are the big dogs? Well, these people might prove you just that. Here are some street smarts whose names are now star-studded with success:


The Face of Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg 

book smart vs street smart debate

When Mark Zuckerberg was in his college, he started to code Facebook in his dormitory room. After realizing its potential, Zuckerberg then dropped out of college to focus on the social media website. He was a sophomore then.

Even though Zuckerberg didn’t finish his degree immediately, he was a tremendously skilled engineer. But as a street smart, he had an instinct that what he had in his hands was an opportunity. Zuckerberg grabbed that chance and capitalized on his discovery.


A Record of Success: Richard Branson

what is better book smart or street smart

Richard Branson’s headmaster in school once told him that there were two ways he could end up: in prison or as a millionaire.

All his life, Branson had a tough time coping with school because of his dyslexia. It was at the age of 16 that he decided to drop out of his academics completely. But that doesn’t mean that he gave up—no, he was looking to become an entrepreneur.

At 16, he started a magazine entitled “Student,” which was his first-ever business venture. That got the ball rolling. 

In 1972, he co-founded the British record label called Virgin Records. This became the home of various famous artists and performers. Later on, he would open numerous Virgin Records stores that would soon be known as Virgin Megastores.

But his entrepreneurial gift didn’t end there. In 1980, he started a British Airline called Virgin Atlantic Airways. His success in these businesses has now made Branson a multi-millionaire.


The Dream That Worked: David Geffen 

Shrek, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda are movies that wouldn’t be possible without David Geffen.

Geffen’s school performance wasn’t good enough for Brooklyn College and the University of Texas. Just like Branson, his school difficulties were due to his dyslexia. 

But despite this setback, he was still able to bag the gold as a businessman. His first job was a talent agent, but with the help of his colleagues, he was able to start his management company. 

He later founded DCG Records, Geffen Records, Asylum Records, and Dreamworks Studios. Today, he has a net worth of 9.7 billion US dollars. It seems that flunking school wasn’t such a bad thing after all!

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How to become street smart

If you’re book smart, then it must be driving you crazy to see everyone on the street smart’s side. But don’t worry. The good news is, being street smart is something that you can learn.

Here are some tips to become more of a know-how about practical things:


1. Don’t stay in your comfort zone.

Tough situations can be challenging, but learn how to embrace them. They may be uncomfortable to be in, but they will allow you to grow. 


2. Be present.

is book smart better than street smart

Be aware of the things going on in your surroundings. When you are present, you become more in touch with your instincts. Not only does this make you safer, but it will also allow you to soak up more information about your environment.


3. Find ways to gain experience.

The only way to master your craft is to practice what you know. Be an active learner. That means getting your nose out of the book and getting to the actual work!


4. Grow your circle.

what is street smart vs book smart

Don’t shy away from conversations with people of different backgrounds. Being open to opinions and new perspectives can improve your critical thinking. Get as much insight and advice from them so you can enrich your point of view. 


5. Be disciplined.

You’re going to encounter a lot of hurdles and challenges as you go about life. But when you’re knocked down, you should always get back up. Focus on your goal and keep working hard.


Born Entrepreneurs: Are Street Smarts Better in Business?

what is street smart and book smart

You might have noticed that the wealthiest businessmen and the most successful entrepreneurs are street smarts. But if you think that only street smarts can win the entrepreneurial game, you’re only half right.

For Tim W. Knox, being book smart or street smart isn’t the determiner or the key to success. 

He says that it doesn’t matter if you have years of experience. Nor does is it essential if you have a high level of education. What truly measures you as an entrepreneur is your achievements.

Knox explains that education might make you look good in job interviews, but it doesn’t automatically grant you your victories. The same goes for the experience. An entrepreneur may have a lot of experience, but those experiences may be failures. 

And so the question stands: Who can do better in business?

According to Knox, having both education and experience under your belt can boost your chances of success. But, if you only have one of the two, or none at all, you can still make it as an entrepreneur.

A lot of multi-millionaire business people today never stepped into college. But a lot of scholars with advanced degrees aren’t exactly living the life they wanted either.

So how does one get to the top? The answer lies in your hands. 

You may possess tools such as money, experience, education, connections, or luck. But it’s how you use these tools that will give you the advantage.

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The best of both worlds: Becoming a Book Smart and a Street Smart

can you be street smart and book smart

It’s time to throw in the white towel. 

Instead of pitting one against the other, why not be a mix of a book smart and a street smart? Each smart comes with its weaknesses, but each has significant advantages, too. Adapting the best characteristics of both sides can make you a well-rounded person.

Excelling in academics and having a broad knowledge can size you up. But if you don’t apply what you’ve learned, it will be all for naught.

Having years of practice gives you wisdom and strength. But without studying the technical aspects of your work, you can be lost. 

Street smarts aren’t guaranteed to win all the time. Neither are book smarts. But if you strike a balance between both, you will get to where you want to be.

Study hard and study well. And after that, go out in the real world and test your abilities. The journey to success always starts with a step.

How about you? Are you more of a street smart or a book smart? Share your thoughts in the comments down below!

Street Smarts Vs. Book Smarts Creativity Mesh



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