Friday, 13 February 2015

Street Smarts - Jim Rogers: (Part 1) Personal Developments Advice

Last month, I finished reading Jim Rogers Street Smarts. The book was published in 2013. I started the draft of this article long time ago, but its so hard to find time to finish it lately. The busy work and traveling schedule are the culprits. 

This is Rogers second book I had read. The first is “A Gift to My Children”.  I enjoyed reading Jim Rogers’ books. To me, the content is so insightful with great philosophical views about the world and life in general. Moreover, his book is so easy to read and comprehend.


Jim Rogers is the co-founder of Quantum Fund together with George Soros. Rogers travelled around the world three times in 1980, 1990-1992 and 1999-2002. For more about Jim Rogers and his journey, please refer to his website here.

Below is the summary of teachings from Street Smarts. I am going to split it into few parts. This article is the first part focusing on Personal Developments.

Successful Vs Smart – Hardwork and Persistence Makes the Difference

Jim Rogers think that hardwork and persistence is what makes the difference of being successful, and not just being smart.

"There is no such thing as enough. You just keep studying, or keep working, or keep researching, whatever the task happens to be."

“We all know smart people who are not successful; we all know talented people who are not successful. Persistence is what makes the difference.”

Importance of Bi-lingual

Similar to Lee Kuan Yew’s book “The Big Ideas”, Jim Rogers emphasized the importance of being Bi-lingual and to know the culture of the language origin. For instance, both his daughters are educated in Singapore and speak perfect Mandarin and English. 

 “I was adamant that my children not just be proficient in a foreign language, but they speak it like natives.”

“Being bilingual will not make dishwashers successful. But being bilingual is a skill that many people including me do not have, and that to smart, motivated, persistent people, it will be a great advantage.”

Study History and Philosophy

Jim Rogers also think that profound knowledge of history will let us have a macroscopic view of the world and let us understand what forces drives the market and how occurrences in one country affect the other.

The study of philosophy is also extremely important to enable you to think better for yourself.

"You know yourself better, if you want to accomplish anything in life - you must learn to think at a deeper, more profound level if you want to understand the truth. - the study of philosophy helped to develop these skill. Help to trained think for myself, outside the establish framework. Examine things in depth; examine every concept and fact, thinking around corners, to see what is missing!”

Importance of Having a Paying Job as a Teenager

A university study show that the single most important predictor of a happy life in adulthood was having a paying job as a teenager.

Decide if it is the Right Job – Not the Money

“Before asking how much you are going to get paid for a job, first decide whether it is the right job, whether it is the right place for you, because if it is the right place and you do the job right, the money will come. The money will find you, I assure you. The money should be the least of your questions.”

Importance of Apprenticeship

“I often explain to young people, I benefited from being an assistant. To learn by watching closely others. Nothing like an on job training. Many people coming into a job market think that they had done well for themselves if they manage to leapfrog an apprenticeship. The wise course is to start by working for someone else and to keep one's eyes and ears open.”

To be Lucky – Do Your Homework

Jim Rogers think that the only way to be lucky is to do your homework well.

"Luck favours only the mind that is prepared!" - Louis Pasteur

Be Alert to the World

Aside from the traveling widely, you need to be alert of the happenings, cultures, history, of the country, and speak to the natives. Not just admiring touristic monuments from places of interest.

“Always be alert to what's going on in the world. My antennae are always up!”

Be a Visionary – See Long Term

Successful people always see very far down the road – 15 years or more.

“Be a visionary. People with vision are people who can see fifteen years or more down the road. Visionaries are often ridiculed but they are the one that is going to be successful.”

“I have learned enough of myself to know that I am usually a year or two, maybe 3 years early. This was notable exception.”

Rolf’s View

What is the meaning of Street Smart (noun)? I had checked the web and realize that there is no single definite meaning. Below are some of the definitions.  

1) “The experience and knowledge necessary to deal with the potential difficulties or dangers of life in an urban environment.” 2) “The ability to manage or succeed in difficult or dangerous situations, especially in big towns or cities” 3) “Shrewd awareness of how to survive or succeed in any situation, especially as a result of living or working in a difficult environment, as a city ghetto neighbourhood.”

My ex-boss said this to me in the first year of my career. “Go and see the world. There are mountains to climb and rivers to cross!” 

Somewhat irrelevant, but below is a picture of me on the roads in China more than a year ago.


Above left is the picture of a very heavy fog I encountered during a car ride in China. It is an extremely dangerous journey with heavy trucks and double deck buses on the roads, traveling almost without line of sight. Any accidents can result in our vehicle being thrown into the Bohai Sea.

Above right picture, is the GPS map from my phone at that time, showing my trip from Tianjin to Yantai? What is supposed to be a 6-7h car ride of >600 km route, turned out to be 10-11h due to the thick fog. Crazy….

My Definition of Street Smart

To me, “Street Smart” is “being smart on the streets to survive and thrive - things that you does not necessary learn from books or in the classrooms.”

I encourage each and everyone of you (adults) now to stop staying at home and go out on the streets to learn more about our world and the people in this planet. 

What is your definition of Street Smart?


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