6 Reasons Being 'Book Smart' Is Always Better Than Being 'Street Smart'

Photo: Imagens de Ricardo Valadares via Canva
woman being book smart

So many folks say, "Street smarts are what helped me succeed in the world," but, on the other hand, book smarts are often thought of as the lesser cousin to street smarts.

I'm lucky enough to be considered both book smart and street smart. But after years of struggling with only street smarts, I knew I needed something more to rely on — I needed book smarts to round me out, so I began college in my mid-twenties.

While working full-time in an office job, I devoted myself to my studies. I would accept no less than a 4.0 GPA and that mindset was what I thrived on. After graduating with my BA, I went on to earn my Master of Fine Arts degree. All because I prioritized being book smart.

What does it mean to be book smart?

Being book smart means you have strong academic knowledge on a variety of subjects, often gained from reading, formal education, and studying. However, people who are solely book smart often don't know much about the real world and the people who live in it.

People who are book smart excel in tasks that require analytical thinking, memorization, and comprehension of complex concepts. They also tend to perform well in academic settings.

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Here are 6 benefits of being book smart.

1. You have self-confidence as your best accessory.

I've felt more confident in all my pursuits since I gained book smarts. I have bonafide knowledge to back me up, which makes me feel more legit and qualified for any work-related experiences, and also in general everyday situations.

Street smarts were never reliable when it came to feeling prepared and confident as I walked into unfamiliar situations. Instead of feeling like I'm building a house out of straw that could tumble at any moment, with my book smarts, I feel like what I'm building has a solid foundation.

2. You don't have to worry about being disproved.

My street smarts could always be disproved by someone else who happened to be more street savvy. It was a dog-eat-dog lifestyle where I could trust no one.

With book smarts, once you got it, you got it. When you have actual, verifiable knowledge to back you up, no one can come along and knock your facts on their face.

With street smarts, you feel like you're always on the defensive, but with book smarts, you can relax and rely on the knowledge to do the work. I have proof of what I know now, but with my street smarts, I was always being pushed around and proven wrong.

3. You have proof of your success.

I'm a more productive member of society with my education and knowledge. I can go out into the world and really make a difference as opposed to when I had only my street smarts.

I had to go out and hustle to make a buck. I was never sure how long any single gravy boat was going to float. It's a whole different playing field when I have those pieces of paper hanging on my wall to prove what I'm capable of.

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4. You never stop learning.

Street smarts helped me to survive in the moment, but book smarts will help me in the long run. Street smart living is all about teetering on the edge of a great abyss of temporary success or accidental total destruction. My book smarts, however, have given me solid, long-term knowledge that will never change.

Street smarts can only take you so far down the road, but book smarts build upon book smarts. You get smarter and smarter, enabling you to grow. And let's face it, book smart is something you can bank on, while street smart is more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants level of value.

5. You can actually have a career you enjoy.

When I had street smarts, I had jobs and had to always be ready to bounce to the next one. Now that I have book smarts, I have a career. Each successive job I've had builds on the last in terms of responsibility and wage-earning power.

Yes, there are always going to be those few lucky folks who make a million with no schooling, but the majority of successful people have a college degree paving their way.

6. You find deeper meaning in life.

Since I gained book smarts, I look for deeper meaning, and isn't that really what the point of life is all about? I make connections between things and people and ideas where, when I only had street smarts, the only connections I made were between people and whom I could hustle next.

Imagine street smarts and book smarts in cartoon form: street smarts would be a city block wearing boxing gloves, its face would sport a black eye, and it would always be on the defensive, always having to keep moving. But our cartoon book smarts is a book with glasses on, legs crossed, lounging back in a chair drinking a cup of latte. Reading, studying, absorbing, connecting.

Your choice: Who would you rather be? It's either each person for themselves or people working together, sharing ideas, learning, and helping. Growing in trust or growing in fear? You choose.

Like anything in life, it's great to have a balance between the two. I was lucky enough to gain my street smarts first and then build upon them with my book smarts. Now I know how to protect myself in the real world while also having a certain sense of credibility and assuredness in my value as a productive member of society.

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Sheila Hageman is a writer who has appeared on The Today Show, ABC News, NBC News, and programs with Bill Cunningham and Anderson Cooper. Her writing has been featured on Salon, Mamalode, Mom Babble and The Huffington Post.