Friday, 19 December 2008

Street Smarts

I was up to my old habit of wandering around the city, alone with my thoughts. Walking down one of the streets in East London, I notice an attractive young blonde kind of strolling around, except she wasn't exactly walking in a straight line. As I get closer, I relaize that she actually didn't look normal, turning around as if looking for something. Passing by, there was a car with two guys also looking at the blonde with a bit of a surprise. As we both become aware of each other looking at her, I make the gesture and the dude in the car goes "Oh right", as we both realize the woman is obviously on crack, as he almost climbed into the back seat to get a last glimpse of her curves as the car pulled away and I keept walking.....

I keep wondering what it takes to be an entrepreuneur, like the Richard Bransons, the Donald Trumps and the Alan Sugars. I am not talking about the Larry Pages and the Mark Zuckerbergs, or the John Paulsons, Vladimir Potanins, or the Rothschilds , because all those people started from something: The Stanfords and Harvards, or the Politics and the Connections. Am talking about those people who cam from mediocre, or just plain ordinary backgrounds, and made their way, all by themselves, to the top. The husslers, the streak entrepreuneurs, the capitalists. I guess it takes a lot of things, and a shit load of luck, but all these people have one thing in common:

Street smarts.

They say a great salesman can sell t0 water to a fish. These people know all about grass roots- and grass roots is where it all is, because that's where the real hunger starts. It's a jungle out there, and everyone is out to get theirs, and if that's what it takes, get you along the way. It's a competitive world, and in order to survive it, one should know his way around things and people. You can have all the degrees in the world, all the money and all the connections, but to be a player (Billy Harris RIP), you have to be street smart. A street smart person knows how to operate with very little, in a cut-throat environment.

When everyone was a kid, we went through high school. We were all bullied at some point, we got into trouble, we got ratted out, but people survive. Although that's where you start finding your route: some take the bullying and the crap, and stick to the books. Others bully and are on the opposite end, but in the middle you got a few who are a bit of both, the role players. This is when they learn what it means to be on each end, and to survive, they do the talking, the walking, and try to make the best out any situation. In high school, it's all in the open. You know who the nerds are, and you know who the bullies are. You have rules, and you have enforcers. Well identified.

In the real world, this, sadly isn't the case. It's all fair game, and you don't always know who you are playing with. Street smart people can operate in any environment, because, they know how to work the players. It's a business man or a car dealer, they do the sweet talking, they do the bullshiting, they know the math, and they understand the psychic (and if they are good, the women, too). They can lunch it in Hackney or the Bronx tonight, catch the subway to Chez Charles and catch the stretch ride to the Ritz. It's all people, you just have to know who and what the person you are dealing with.

The one thing that defines street smarts, is to be able to think on your feet, literally. Not in the comfort of the boardrom or on a noisy trading floor, but when your wallet was stolen and your phone battery is the Saudi desert. The street smart, is the dude who can catch a camel ride, dine with the nomads, and find a charger for his phone. What people like Richard Branson can do, is not only that get to that boardroom meeting, but make friends with the nomad, who in some crazy twist of event, can end up being the heir Prince of Arabia, and send some some serious bailout money to one of your credit-crunched companies.
That LSE degree sure is essential in that board meeting, but that means jack all in the desert! That's when street smarts comes into play. The degrees and the money work for alot of cases, but when that no longer does, the street smart man, knows that when they are gone, he still has something to work with, because he has....the grass roots savvy, and knows, that his biggest asset, are the people.

No refs, no problem................

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