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 V.20 No.28 | July 14 - 20, 2011 

How-To Review

Street Smarts

How to make a shiv, er, rent an apartment

Street Smarts: Beyond the Diploma

Jim Randel
Rand Media Co.

The review copy of Street Smarts: Beyond the Diploma is apparently a leftover from a graduating class of a business college. It has a special cover and is addressed to the soon-to-be-joining-the-job-market student. The book purports to be for the recent college graduate.

Upon reading it, Street Smarts seems geared toward people headed for careers devoted to the pursuit of lots of money. If you’ve chosen this lot, then you have already made your pact with the dark lord. And so the title is somewhat misleading. The phrase “street smarts” invokes things like how to fashion a crude weapon out of a lunch tray while in county lockup, or how to win at three-card monte, not how to rent an apartment or invest in real estate. The book is more Wall Street than The Street. That’s probably a good thing. If you’re learning how to survive on the streets from a book, you’re in serious trouble.

The information is all rehashed, recycled and regurgitated self-improvement literature. It says so in the introduction. Sports legends spout feel-good nonsense. There are the requisite sound bites from philosophers, business leaders and politicians. It's a condensed How to Win Friends and Influence People.

The phrase “street smarts” invokes things like how to fashion a crude weapon out of a lunch tray while in county lockup, or how to win at three-card monte, not how to rent an apartment or invest in real estate.

There are also some quasidisturbing moments in Street Smarts that speak to the crooked salesmen of the world. One “lesson” espouses the importance of getting people to nod in agreement through simple manipulative techniques. Say things like, “I know you will love this car. Now we just have to find a price that works for you,” or “I'm sure this is as important to you as it is to me.” Once you get the person to nod, you have created a “mini momentum.” And then you have them.


Such appeals to flattery would not be out of place in a self-help book called Janis Gets a Job: A Practical Guide for the Upwardly Mobile Psychopath. Even the chapters on how to not get conned seem like lessons on how to con someone else.

But it's not all grift. A good deal of the book attempts to impart knowledge on how to get along in the world after college—rent, bank accounts, credit, being organized, using humor judiciously, blah blah blah. At times it reads like instructions on how to pass as a human, for either the aforementioned antisocial types or Earth-bound aliens.

Writer Jim Randel says in promotional material for his publishing company, Rand Media Co., that Street Smarts is intended for an audience used to reading on cell phones and online. QR codes sit at the bottom of most pages. (These can be scanned by smart phones, and they presumably give more information. I'll never know as I own a disposable roadside bomb detonator / coke dealer phone.)

The information presented in the book is probably too concise to be of real use to anyone. The author calls his approach “less is more.” Life is too complicated for one-page lessons, but there’s a website for more detail. There’s also a disclaimer that no book can do everything for you; it can only give you the tools. Thanks, a lot.

Street Smarts: Beyond the Diploma might conceivably help a college graduate who lives alone and lacks critical social skills, like how to shake hands. (Firm, but not overly so.) The Unabomber comes to mind. It is doubtful, however, that he owns a smart phone.


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