And Book Smarts End Up as Employees
I am a Book smart type of guy. My parents together with my siblings ridiculed me for being a nerd in school. I graduated at the top percentile of my batch — both in high school and college. I studied diligently and never missed a day in class.
I finished the course civil engineering with flying colors. After graduating, I passed the board examination and secured my professional license as an engineer.
My father, who’s a successful entrepreneur, studied the same course. He was also known to be a diligent student but failed to make it on top of his class. He finished his course but never passed his licensure exam. Today he associates himself as a businessman rather than an engineer.
It’s not weird for our family dinner conversations to turn into debates, and it’ll end up with a litany on how street Smarts Rule the world and how book smart people end up as employees. This conversation always triggered me.
What are they talking about? What kind of civilization will we live in if everyone was academically challenged? People who we fell in love with science, philosophy or mathematics — their life’s work govern every fabric of society: medicine, engineering, or politics.
But I understand what they’re trying to say — street smart kids end with up with deeper pockets than book smarts.
I have tons of cousins and friends who are all making a killing with their business ventures despite not finishing their education. I have a cousin who couldn’t finish his degree for ten years. Another friend of mine who got kicked out of our high school. And a high school batchmate who barely graduated.
Gary Vaynerchuk is one of those guys — he doesn’t read any books, and he flunked school.
But some people are on the other side. These kids are always highlighted to have dropped out of school — Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. They dropped out not because they were failing school, but because they had a massive opportunity in front of them. I doubt it that they were flunking their subjects and that they weren’t book smart. These kids are, but they managed to emerge as successful businessmen.
So which camp do you belong? Are you team book smart, or team street smart? Is it mutually exclusive?
I woke up this morning and sat down on our balcony. I meditated, and the answer manifested in my mental chatter. I finally understood what my parents were trying to tell me.
I need to look at it from a different perspective. My article on the three archetypes helped me see it clearly. Three people you need on your business are the technician, manager, and entrepreneur.
Street smart people are incompetent technicians, and they’re forced to hire people better than them to do the work. Book smart people would instead do the job themselves cause they can learn fast, but this deters their development of an entrepreneurial skill set.
Street smarts are forced into a corner of entrepreneurship, while book smarts have the freedom to learn technical skills.
Mark Zuckerberg coded FaceBook together with his dorm buddies. But it wouldn’t be where it is today if Mark is still coding every feature they’re releasing. He needs to let go of the technical reigns and start dealing with entrepreneurial problems.
Book smarts need to give up their technician pride and start learning the entrepreneurial ropes. Resist the urge to do everything yourself and begin delegating legwork. I wish you luck in shifting your mindset.
Talk to you soon my friend.
Why Street Smarts Rule the World was originally published in The Ascent on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.