The debate as to which type of individual would be more successful in life will continue without resolution as there is no defined answer. Is it the person with theoretical knowledge, or someone with practical savoir faire? The answer, of course, is very relative, depending on whom you ask. But in the rewarding yet dangerous field of firefighting, should one fare better over the other?
A book smart person would be someone who’s academically inclined, like that schoolmate of yours who was perennially on the honor roll from first grade until high school graduation. Think of Egon Spengler from Ghostbusters.
Being street smart, on the other hand, means having the ability to quickly adapt to an ever-changing environment. Imagine the agile, instinct-driven protagonist whom we root for in action movies. Kind of like Natty Bumppo of the Leatherstocking Tales (or The Last of the Mohicans movie, if you haven’t read any of the books in the series). Now strip Egon of his proton gun and Natty of his long rifle and replace both weapons with a fire hose.
So, the million-dollar question for you is, who would make the better firefighter? Brainiac firefighter Egon or maverick firefighter Natty? Stick with me.
Even before children are taught academics, they learn street smarts. Look both ways before crossing the street, learn where the edge of the furniture is so as not to fall off, and always pay attention to where your body is so you don’t trip. They learn in this order to teach them about their surroundings and general safety. As children age, they continue to learn street smarts. Stand up for yourself and others, figure out and do the right thing, or don’t give up when you’re struggling to figure something out. Street smarts become invaluable to everyday life.
It can be argued that a foundation of street smarts is a must in order to gain book smarts, similar to how it takes both skills to rise through the ranks within the fire department. While the book smart must learn from instruction and reading, street smart people learn entirely from experience. They must try over and over until they figure it out. They “get their hands dirty” rather than just reading about how to do something. This has a distinct set of advantages; when scrubbing clean after a hard day’s work, remember these things.
Street smarts also bring the ability to be handy. Hands-on learning creates muscle memory; at first holding the fire hose seems foreign but it soon becomes second nature. This can bring a sense of gratification and success as well as producing concrete examples of the efforts put forth. Think of the way it feels to finally see fat turn into muscles after beginning a new workout regimen.
Having street smarts means you have the ability to trust instincts, or gut feelings. In more serious situations, gut instincts that have been finely tuned by real-world experiences can help make split-second decisions that can mean the difference between life or death of those around you. Sounds like the job of a firefighter.
Street smarts allows you to quickly understand your environment and those around you on a deeper level. Egon can be pretty useful sometimes, but Natty is useful all the time. Book smarts will aid in climbing the ranks, and are essential for fire chiefs and those in administration, but in the arena of firefighting itself, street smarts are a necessity.
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