How to Get What You Want by Being Street Smart Instead of Book Smart

You don’t need a high IQ to understand how the world works

Niklas Göke
7 min readNov 26, 2020


Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

There are two ways to be smart: One is to have a high IQ, the other is to be good at getting what you want.

The former contains an element you don’t control — genetics — and while you can read many books to make up for it, maximizing intelligence alone has little use in the real world. Being street smart, however…

In 1862, Mark Twain was stuck in a silver-mining town in Nevada. A notorious slacker, he was quickly fired from the only job available: shoveling sand. His buff roommate, however, hadn’t found work, and so Twain sent him to the mine, telling him to ask for work without pay. After a few days, word got out about the productive “intern,” and soon, he earned enough for both of them — and Twain went back to reading, writing, and eating stewed apples.

Now I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of smart I want to be. Since it doesn’t rely on intellect alone, being street smart is mostly a decision — a philosophy, if you will. I thought long and hard about what I could teach you that would actually make you smarter, and, rather than facts and figures, all I could see were three ideas underpinning this philosophy.

Here they are. May they help you get what you want and make the world a better place along the way.

1. Principles Beat Knowledge

Neil deGrasse Tyson once told a story about interviewing two job candidates. Both were asked: “How tall is the spire on the building we’re in?”

The first person said: “Oh! I know this! I studied architecture and memorized all the heights. The spire on this building is exactly 155 feet high.” As it turns out, that’s the right answer.

The second person said: “I don’t know, but I’ll be right back.” She goes outside, measures the length of her shadow on the ground against the shadow of the building, and, after comparing the two, says: “It’s about 150 feet.”

“Who are you gonna hire?” Tyson said. “I’m hiring the person who figured it out. Even though it took that person longer. Even though the person’s answer is not as precise…



Niklas Göke

I write for dreamers, doers, and unbroken optimists. Read my daily blog here: