Book Smarts vs. Street Smarts – How To Balance The Two

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Mar3

While having a degree from a prestigious Ivy League Business school is a great accomplishment, it doesn’t guarantee business success. That’s because “book smarts” can only take you so far. In reality, the most successful business leaders are those who have a mix of book smarts and street smarts when becoming visionary executives.

Unfortunately, many people tend to think of book smarts and street smarts as opposite ends of the spectrum—if you have one, then you do not have the other. But that’s not true. Anyone can have a mix of book and street smarts. The key is to use your emotional intelligence to pull these two opposites together and harness them for your benefit. Think of emotional intelligence as the glue that cements the facts you learned in school with the real life experiences you have day-to-day. Ultimately, relying on a mix of book smarts and street smarts will allow you to foster important relationships, build your network, and tackle those sweet, sweet deals you’ve been dreaming of.I really do not have a magic formula on how to balance the two elements of business success; the following are key strategies on how to achieve it.

  1. Display your confidence. People can smell confidence a mile away and feel it in the air. But confidence doesn’t mean arrogance. True confidence is built with an awareness of personal limits and a willingness to seek help when necessary. When you have confidence, you have a willingness to do what you must to succeed. You decide exactly what you want to do, know what you are capable of doing, and follow-through when the time comes. Your prospects, customers, clients, and co-workers want to see business leaders with confidence and all the scruples of someone who is guided by a large amount of book smarts, street smarts, and most of all, emotional intelligence. BE AUTHENTIC!

  2. Harness your communication skills. Your ability to assess a room, to speak to everyone as if you are addressing each person individually, is what gives you that competitive edge and ability to close deals. Your book smarts likely taught you about the technical details of effective communication, such as how and when to make eye contact, how to gesture appropriately, etc., but your street smarts will enable you to know that in order to establish a relationship, you often have to follow the lead of the other person. Your street smarts are what allow you to really connect with others. BE ARTICULATE!

  3. Know that you are your greatest asset. One of the greatest keys to balancing book smarts and street smarts is knowing that you are your own best asset. To be an asset, you need to think outside the box and on a global scale. A degree doesn’t necessarily make you an asset. What makes you your own best asset is the fact that you will accomplish, you will achieve, and you will do and commit because you believe in yourself. With this focus, you have the ability to make hard decisions in business, a willingness to invite feedback from others, a great passion for your work, and a maniacal customer focus where you view the customer as the employer. Armed with these qualities, you’ll have a greater instinctive drive for closure and the skill needed to secure the final contract. That’s a true asset in anyone’s book! BE APPROACHABLE!

  1. Stay smart. Remember, just because someone has book smarts doesn’t mean they have common business sense, and common sense is a large part of street smarts. While it’s natural to admire the work of Ivy League graduates because they are highly intelligent people, the fact is that sometimes the system fails. Academia is, of course, important, and we should all support the goal of education; however, an MBA alone doesn’t guarantee success or ensure you’ll always have a job and achieve success. It takes more than book smarts to thrive these days and compete on a global environment while playing the game.

In order to ensure your long-term business success, you have to look at your arsenal of weapons, including everything you learned in school and the experience you picked up in professional work and volunteer hours, be savvy about which of those cards you play when you are encountering new people and new situations. Be honest, authentic, and articulate, because balancing your book smarts with your street smarts and harnessing your emotional intelligence is the key to true and lasting success across all levels of the organization and your career.

The article was originally published by TheGrindStone.com on March 3rd, 2016.

Benjamin Von Seeger is an entrepreneur, frequent C-suite member and telecommunications veteran with twenty years of global business experience. His book The RiVal: Play the Game, Own the Hustle, Power in Competition, Longevity in Collaboration (out now) draws on vast personal experience and proven philosophy to inspire a new generation of businesspeople and students. Visit his website BenjaminVonSeeger.com and follow Ben on Twitter @benvonseeger.
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