Borrow These 7 Street-Smart Traits To Enhance Your Impact & Influence In The World

Worldly intelligence doesn't have to come via formal education

Image courtesy of South_Agency

Being street-smart has always been considered "sexy".

Not just because people who are street smart are generally depicted to be wearing a Schott 618 Perfecto motorcycle jacket looking like Marlon Brando feeling cool as a cucumber.

But because generally being “street-smart” means that there are shortcuts, hacks, and secrets involved with getting things done.

Generally, when someone is called “street-smart” or someone uses a “street-smart” move, it causes the onlookers or observers to grab their foreheads and mutter the proverbial,

“Dang — I should’ve done that…”

These are 7 street-smart traits that can help change the trajectory of your life and help you get ahead.

Your FICO score follows you everywhere

Wait until your 23 to get your first credit card.

Or 24...

Really anything, after you’re 21 years old, would be advised.


Because most individuals aren’t taught the fundamentals of credit — especially when young. According to, the average American holds $8,398 in credit card debt.

I remember, years ago, when I told a coworker that I got a “free” flight (paid with my miles) to visit my family in Chicago. He was a younger kid. He asked me how this was possible. First — I told him I pay off my credit card every month (I don’t buy things I cannot afford). I asked him about his debt situation. He told me he was about $8k in the hole (not surprising). I calmly responded to his question with,

“You paid for my ‘free’ plane ticket home with your credit card debt.”

If you never ask — people will never say "yes"

Ask people for money

Why does society still have beggars? I’m not trying to be cheeky or a bully — it’s a legitimate question.

Because it works. The Law of Averages says so. I’m not advocating for quitting your job, moving to Skid Row (5th & San Pedro, perhaps), and finding a spot in DTLA to set up your begging shop.

What I am saying, however, is if you’re getting into business (starting a side-hustle perhaps), you’re going to need to muster up the courage to ask people for money. Just putting your product or service and hoping you’ll get sales isn’t the answer. A business textbook can tell you all the fancy ways of calculating the target-market fit, customer acquisition costs, and all other metrics that are hard to pronounce.

But it cannot teach you how to get in front of an audience, put out something of value, and ask to get paid.

Be your own gatekeeper (when it's necessary)

You have to learn to say “no” to people. People generally care about themselves, more than they care about you.

Well — perhaps you’re the exception. Because, damnit! People keep asking for things and you just keep telling them “yes” without any regard for your own needs.

I get it. It’s uncomfortable to tell people “no” to their requests. But you’re going to need to if you want to retain your own energies and work on the things you need to work on (rather than working on other people’s things).

The biggest joke of them all

Laugh when someone makes fun of you

For two reasons:

  1. When someone makes fun of you, it diminishes what they’re saying (whether in public or just one-on-one).
  2. It allows you to not take what you’re doing too seriously.

You can be a prisoner of your own insecurities if you choose to. But that’s the key, you have the ability and agency to hold grudges, make things personal, and take things too seriously.

Take it from me — I’m an insecure fool. I get in my head a lot: I overthink, I procrastinate, I lull on the past, I play over scenarios.

With all of that, however, people say I come off as confident. My girlfriend always tells me I’m an Alpha (and trust me, she knows the real me). I think a big part of that, is because when someone in the room tries to put me down, I laugh along with them. People only have power over you if you allow them.

The most common thing binding all humans together

Learn food

Food is universal. It’s one of the few things that every human being has in common regardless of their race, religion, creed, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.

We all need food to survive.

We’ve seen recently how the state of the world can change at a moment’s notice:

  • A global pandemic.
  • Freak winter storms in traditionally temperate climates.
  • Riots, protests, and attacks on the nation’s capital.

Sometimes, the supply-chain gets put on pause.

A Tufts University survey noted that almost a third of Americans don’t know how to cook.

Furthermore, a San Antonio Texas Dominos Pizza restaurant ran out of a weekend’s worth of food in 4 hours after the state was met with extreme weather. Some of the patrons that called in had their order rejected because the supply line ran out with this particular restaurant.

The ability to understand food, be able to identify ingredients in a pantry, and execute on cooking a meal for yourself (and others) is a skill that not only will help with your survival but at higher levels will help by impressing your network.

The quiet one with the best questions always wins

Let others speak more in conversation

We all want to be the life of the party. We have the best ideas, the most important opinions, and the latest gossip.

If you want to stand out from the crowd, ask questions to the people you’re engaging with. Furthermore, ask them questions about themselves. Like I already said, people love talking about themselves.

Use deeply rooted biology to open more doors of opportunity

Are you familiar with Robert Cialdini’s principle of reciprocation? Cialdini, author and Arizona State Research Professor, notes that “people are obliged to give back to others the form of a behavior, gift, or service that they have received first.”

Now, if you want to make a positive impression on someone — make sure you don’t ever come empty-handed. This doesn’t mean spoil someone with gifts just because you can, but find ways to make an impactful gesture. Human beings are “wired” to want to return the favor.

Not only is this a way of getting something back from someone (it’s a technique that’s used a lot in marketing) but it’s also a way of growing and nurturing a developing relationship.

Whatsmore, think about the ways you can make a gesture in a job interview that will yield some reciprocation. This is why people send “thank you” cards. It’s something that invokes a feeling of care and reciprocation.

The difference between being educated & intelligent

Having a degree is cool.

It shows you’re able to put your mind to something and see it through.

It doesn’t always note intelligence, however. Being street-smart is really about being able to navigate the world. Knowing a lot of information is only useful if you know how to apply it to make your life and the lives of the people around you better.

People notice when you see the world in a way that allows you to take shortcuts. When you’re able to see a system that most people adhere to and essentially “hack it” and create something better.


  1. Be wary of your relationship with credit. You can overextend yourself and the systems are created to keep extracting you of your resources. By staying ahead of your credit, you expose yourself to the freedom to make decisions without a nagging fiscal raincloud.
  2. If you want to get ahead in your business — you have to muster the courage to ask people for money for the things you've created. Asking for money for the work you create often feels "salesy." The only person looking out for you is you.
  3. You have to say "no" to keep your energy intact. So many people pull your time energy and resources towards them. Sometimes, you have to deny that and look out for yourself. By saying "no" you establish your individuality.
  4. Laugh when people try and make fun. Their words and actions become powerless.
  5. Learn food. Learn about food for survival and also learn food so you can connect more deeply with your fellow humans.
  6. When you ask more questions of the people around you, you tend to become the interesting one. When people feel they're interesting, you've won.
  7. When you give, you get back. This is something deeply rooted in being human. As a human, when you are given something, you feel compelled to give back. That's why people bring wine to a dinner party (apart from drinking it, of course). The gesture of gift-giving and reciprocation is deeply rooted in our biology.

Like this? Then check this out. It’s here to help you upgrade your current life situation with inspiration, motivation, and more actionable ideas.

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