My Guidance Counselor Had It All Wrong

I'm not sure this story has any purpose ... stop reading now if you're looking for a big lesson this week.

It was Grade 12.

I walked into my Guidance Counsellor's office for my fancy dancy "Career Aptitude Test".

The results were a huge letdown.

I thought I was going to hear that my razor sharp skills made me a perfect fit to be the first Canadian Astronaut to land on Mars.

Or that I had the math and science talent to discover a cure for world hunger.

Or that my negotiation skills made me a perfect fit for Canada's representative to the United Nations.

You know, something big, something fun.

But out of the faded, old, crummy, dot-matrix printer came a report that said:

Would make a good fit for: Engineer (any discipline) or other math related professions.

And then my guidance counselor's words were something like, "We recommend the University of Toronto, but there are many good schools that you could qualify for."

Did I mention he was also the football coach?

H-U-G-E letdown.

My guidance counselor had it all wrong.  I don't think it was his fault though, he was following the script given to him by the school.

And not that there's anything wrong with Engineers but the delivery of the message fell pretty flat.  I'm sure other Engineers were inspired into their craft by some amazing mentor ... I wasn't in that category.

So that was it.

Years of high school boiled down to 60 minutes and one print out that didn't resonate with me ... at all.

After switching from a Chemistry major in University when I realized that I didn't like looking at a calculator eight hours a day ... I went on to graduate with a major in Psychology and a minor in Sociology.

Got my only A+ on an essay about Karl Marx ... seriously.

Looking back it seems ridiculous that my only A+ would be on an essay about Karl Marx but that's a topic for another time.

Met my wife in Psychology class ... so that worked out!

And after a few years of sheer panic, nightmares and frustration in the workforce something hit me.

I remember thinking ... "boy, I wish I could go back to high school and have someone ask me these questions:"

1. What kind of life do you want to live?  Like where do you want to live, in what type of house and what does your day look like?

2. OK great, now, write down all the career choices that you think you're interested in.

3. Cool, now here's what each of those jobs will pay ... write it down.

4. And here's what the life you described in question #1 will cost ... write it down.

4. Look at your annual pay and then look at how much it costs to live the life you want.

5. Happy?

6. If yes, then proceed as planned.

7. If no, great, at least you know right now instead of when you're 30.  Because by 30 you'll still be in debt with student loans and you'll have new debt ... like car loans and a mortgage.  Before you know it you'll be 55 buying a Harley Davidson and going on a road trip.

8. Now, go back to question number 2.  Remember, the world is your oyster.  Let's look at ways you can follow your passion and make a great living all at the same time.  Following your passion will keep you happy and young.  You'll have to work hard ... there's no free lunch, but it will all be worth it.

9. Adjust lifestyle choices as necessary.

Those little questions, I'm convinced, even in high school, would have got me thinking.


What I did was...

Finish University, get a "good" job and map my life to what my job would afford.

Uh, not fun.

The only passionate thing about my "good job" is that I passionately hated it.

I'm willing to work hard but if you put me in an environment where my growth is capped I'll get frustrated pretty quickly.

I'll start sleep-walking through my corporate daily grind.

Which is kinda what I did towards the end of it.

It was groundhog day, every day.

This idea of mapping out a career you are skilled for and then taking on mountains of school debt to get there is rather ridiculous.

Why not design the lifestyle you want and then learn the skills, in the area of your passion, that will allow you to live it.

This would create a lot more entrepreneurs, a lot more small businesses, a lot more happy people.

Am I missing something?

But I've learned something else.

It's never too late to do this.

It may mean burning the midnight oil for a while but it's worth it.

I know one thing for sure...

My kid's lives won't be boiled down to a career aptitude report!

Until next time ... Your Life. Your Terms.

p.s. We're in the Greater Toronto Area ... if we can help in any way speak to kids about this type of stuff we'd be honoured to.  Just send us an email to


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0 comments on “My Guidance Counselor Had It All Wrong”


    I will be contacting Emily to see how you can come to speak to my son's High School - Lorne Park Secondary

  2. If you do I will bring my son and any of his friends I can get! He's at Rosedale School of the Arts.

  3. Excellent article. Our children should learn more at school instead of the usual "get good grades in order to secure a safe and secure job". That's how they are conditioned to think.

  4. This is a great article! I experienced a similar fate. Graduated with a business degree. I don't regret it, as you take all the positive lessons you learn and apply them when needed. I am still in the banking industry. At 26, it is not bad (they have recently doubled my salary) Good but, I only have one thing on my mind! Save for my 3rd rental unit. It seems I have hit a brick wall and I am looking to explore new options. I have recently purchased your yearly course and as always "am eager to keep learning."

    I know I don't want to keep working at my job for the next 35 -40 years! So I am taking action (Positive Cash flow properties and creating business ventures is the way to go!)

    Thank you Tom and Nick for doing all that you do! It truly helps knowing someone has gone through what I am currently going through and you guys came out on top!

    Thanks for Sharing!

  5. Hey Ricardo, with your attitude and work ethic you'll be knocking out home runs in everything you do. Keep at it!

    - Tom

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