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“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”
— Seth Godin

High School Hell

High School can be a difficult transition period for most kids, and I was no exception.  Over the course of 5 years, I spent time in three different high schools, in three different cities.  I would love to believe that despite the environment, strengths would eventually rise to the surface, and all would be ok.  However, the reality is much different and quite confusing.

During the whole secondary school experience, I don’t remember one of the educational professionals having a sit-down heart to heart, to assist me in coming up with a coordinated direction that complemented my strengths.  The push seemed to be in a direction of where my grades led, which is essentially the default setting.

Hindsight is 20/20 but everyone knows it has the benefit of experience.

My gut tells me that the guidance councilors today probably aren’t much better than their counter parts of yesterday.  This is a hunch and I might be wrong, but from my current experience, kids know technology, and yet, still have the same problems finding jobs as when I was growing up.  If the educational system is so good, and there are so many technological opportunities, why do the millennials have such a poor reputation?

Entrepreneur Versus Employee

Today I see many young kids manage to leverage social media to build a following.  Were these skills learned in school?  There seems to be a dramatic gap in knowledge which creates better employees rather than a problem-solving entrepreneur.  What happens if there aren’t enough jobs?

The sad part is that between YouTube, iTunes, and a few choice books purchased on Amazon, I could easily create a stronger curriculum than any of these schools provided at a fraction of the cost.  Some of these systems didn’t exist, in fact, the internet was starting to become a reality for the average consumer, however the principles of marketing, entrepreneurship, design, and financial intelligence has been around forever.

There is no excuse.

The Time Traveller

Tim Ferriss always asks his guests if they were able to go back in time and give themselves advice what would they say?  Many guests figure that they would leave themselves alone.  I disagree. For me, it would have been beneficial for a mentor to give me a nudge here or there to eliminate the aimless wandering.

What better mentor than a wiser, more experienced version of yourself to poke yourself in the right direction?

What better mentor than a wiser, more experienced version of yourself to poke yourself in the right direction? Click To Tweet

That imaginary mentor would have sat me down and had a hard conversation.  The session would list the things I loved and thought I had a talent for, and then made a plan to monetize these skills.  If I’d had to pick someone to help me, I’d have suggested some version of Seth Godin.

It’s a gentle art to give someone advice as a budding creative or entrepreneur.

Hopefully, I will be able to figure out the soft approach with my boys and be able to leverage the wisdom I have gleaned from a lifetime of studies.  It takes skill to recognize the right opportunities to teach and when to listen and let them make their own mistakes.  I know I cannot force them to travel down a certain path, but rather be a voice of experience.

The Role Of Sports

High school was problematic since my curling friends lived in one town, and I went to another.  Sure I had friends, but I had created some deep bonds with the kids at the curling club, and hung out with them on a regular basis on weekends, and saw them during the week at Tuesday junior curling.

We lived in Toledo Strawberry Valley, in other words, the name our family coined for the farm we worked.  Toledo was an isolated rural area roughly located between Smiths Falls, Ontario, and Brockville, Ontario.  I distinctly remember requesting a transfer to Smiths Falls District Collegiate Institute, however, the transfer was denied.  This pissed me off.  I had explained how unhappy I was to my counselor, but my reasoning fell on deaf ears.

I was isolated during those years and found comfort in learning and reading.

It was a love affair between books and computers.  I loved hacking around in computers systems, not under the guidance of the lab instructor, but on my own without anyone looking over my shoulder.  Athens had a Unisys Icon System, which used a Unix Platform.  This was different than other schools which had been using stand alone Apple computers or PCs.  The Unix system was a true network out of the gate.

Hacking 101

I got along with the teacher, but found him to be a complete bore, and didn’t really ask him for anything except for computer time.  I spent hours during my breaks learning network commands, and how to work my way around the system.  And this was a time prior to the World Wide Web and YouTube videos.  I imagine my teacher was suspicious as to what I was up to, and was probably monitoring remotely.

Long story short, I hacked the system but could not contain my excitement, and told a “select” group of friends.   Thus the problems began.  Immediately I created a superuser for myself with full administrative rights and included a couple of others.  Although I was careful, the situation quickly went south, and all hell broke loose.  Students started receiving random weird messages from “Mr. Nix” during class and quickly escalated when the entire password file was printed on the local print station.

It didn’t take long for Mr. Nix and his flunky to track down the ring leader of the operation, and I found myself banned from the computer lab for good, with a warning I should have been expelled from school.  I was never a rebellious kid and I thought this was excessive.

In my mind, I’d been curious rather than malicious as was implied.  The funny thing is that with all his superior computer ninja skills, Mr. Nix failed to detect the other super users in the system and my buddy still had complete access.

I will always remember Mr. Nix with a certain distaste.

Invest In What You Love

The only other highlight I remember from Athens was my adventures in Art Class.  There were two classes in particular that I loved.  The first was where a local wildlife artist taught a class on acrylic painting technique, and the second was a class on classical animation.  I learned a ton over the semester where we designed and finished a movie.

If I had to do it over again, I would probably advise myself to learn to write properly, improve typing skills, learn as much graphic design, continue to draw and then find a mentor to teach me business skills to tie it all together into a triple threat.  For all my years in school, the only entrepreneur I met with clear hustle was a young guy that owned three ice cream bikes.  We always thought he was insane trying to sell to kids at the park, but I now recognize that he had the recommended amount of side hustle.

Although I qualified for the advanced courses like English, Mathematics, and the Sciences, I really enjoyed the basic courses like “Gas Station Superintendent,” the metal fabrication course, and woodworking, where you actually created something of value.

Finding your Niche takes time, and wisdom, you’re not going to find it overnight.  One of the biggest obstacles is moving from a place you completely understand to something unknown.  You have the courage to take the step, but find you don’t have the required wings.  

Welcome to the world of falling on your face.

Mastering Transition

I’ve heard it said that entrepreneurs take the step out of the nest, and build their wings as they fall to the ground.  I think this is stupid and makes entrepreneurial activity sound dangerous and romantic.  For me, it’s about using the creativity of our minds to solve problems for other people and take advantage of huge opportunities that the internet brings.  I wasn’t born into a family of business owners.  Learning takes time, and it’s been a hard subject to grasp.  Despite my failures, I still think it’s worthwhile to seek an alternative to a job.

Although I’ve studied the craft of business, it’s not something I’ve been able to master easily like guitar, curling, or beer making.  Business eludes me at the moment, but I haven’t given up.  And frankly, I’m becoming comfortable with failure as part of the recipe towards success.

If I were to say that I have a strength, I think it’s in talking to people, having a great conversation, asking the right questions, even gaining someone’s trust, so that the conversation extends
past what you normally might find in into.  At the end of the day, there is nothing better than a good conversation.

So I ask questions and weave the responses into stories.  Maybe that’s enough.

This is my Niche.


If you’ve got comments or questions please send me a line at or @barleynectar on twitter.  

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