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Street Savvy vs. Book Smart

Does education or business sense make one successful?

November 30, 2015 9:23 am

In answering this question we need to first interrogate what the word success or successful means to a person?

Obviously the answer varies from one person to the other. Success means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Is it power, fame or fortune? When a gardener raises his daughter to be a headmistress at a high school, his daughter is successful because they have moved several notches up. When parents who ran mom-and-pop shops raise their only child to be a CEO of one of the largest and listed telecommunications companies on the continent, they would deem that success. When a hotel chambermaid raises her son to be a revered chef with a chain of restaurants and a programme on the food network channel, that chef is successful.

Yet, others look at success from a point of whether or not one has met their goals. Goals are personal and vivid to an individual. Once they are met, that individual will obviously consider themselves successful.

SONY DSC, asked 62 business leaders what success meant to them. Here are six responses from some of them;

  • “Success is a moving target. I don’t think we ever achieve “it”, at least in our own minds. But I do know this, if you think you have achieved your greatest success you clearly have decided to stop pushing yourself.”- Mike Michalowicz, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur
  • “Success is the freedom to live your life as the great big fat adventure it is – and the wisdom to understand that all you have to do is to choose to do so.” – John Jantsch, author of The Referral Engine and owner of Duck Tape Marketing
  • “Success means happiness.”- Ben Casnocha, Author, My Startup Life
  • “Success is the ability to do what you love every day. This may sound simple but what you love changes over time and having the ability to change what you are doing to match your passion is true success. This has nothing to do with money, wealth or status as each person has different passions and loves.” – David Hauser co-founder of the
  • “To me, success means working toward my dreams. As long as I keep moving in the right direction I feel successful.” Cara Newman, Editor, Young Money
  • “Success to me means creating and maintaining balance in my life. It’s important to work hard and accomplish your goals, but it’s critical to remember to take care of yourself – exercise, eat well, spend time with friends, family, and loved ones. A balanced mind is a smart mind!” — Monique Peltz, Marketing Coordinator at Young and Successful

Read more responses here.

What makes one successful?

The responses of these CEOs are varied, and yet these CEOs are all successful dollar millionaires. Even the educational levels of these CEOs vary. Their appetite for calculated risk in business is at different levels, and the business astuteness demands from the diverse sectors they are operating is incomparable. As a result, this clearly shows that whilst being both street savvy and book smart is the ultimate ideal state, being either book smart or street smart can still get one to their ultimate goal of being successful.

Richard Branson and Bill Gates were university drop outs. Zimbabwe’s global icon and well renowned Patrick Mavros was a high school drop out whose parents allowed him to leave school because Patrick had convinced them that “the teachers are interfering” with his creativity. The President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma has no Matric and yet he made it to the Presidency, the top job in the country.

On the other hand, Phuthuma Nhleko a significant shareholder in MTN and recently appointed Acting CEO, is a Civil Engineer armed with an MBA. He owns a private equity firm and possesses a wealth of corporate finance experience, a clear case of being both street savvy and book smart.

The point is, education can be a necessary ingredient for a person to be successful in life, but many people in sub Saharan Africa, for example, do not have the opportunity to finish school because of budgetary constraints at home. Many, armed with only, razor sharp focus, determination, perseverance and undivided attention to what they are doing, have soured and reached the apex of their goals to become successful.

Increasingly we are seeing already successful people opting to take time out to study so that they can add academic credentials to their success. Part of their motivation is to achieve the ideal state where they are perceived to not only be street savvy but book smart as well. Often, this need for education has been prompted, because in other corridors of power where they spend cutting deals, those who possess the ideal state like Phuthuma Nhleko, Cyril Ramaphosa, Dr Vuyokazi Mahlati and Wendy Luhabe, and Gloria Serobe of Wiphold, are more revered.

So whilst education can be an enabler and necessary ammunition to have as one climbs the success ladder, it is not a pre-condition for everyone’s success. There are many ways to skin a cat. The most important ingredients for success are timing, determination, hard work, focus, discipline, consistency and an insatiable hunger and thirst to reach the dizzy heights of success.

Author: Gloria Ndoro

Street Savvy vs. Book Smart Reviewed by on . In answering this question we need to first interrogate what the word success or successful means to a person? Obviously the answer varies from one person to th In answering this question we need to first interrogate what the word success or successful means to a person? Obviously the answer varies from one person to th Rating: 0
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