Johnson O'Connor: Finding Your Purpose

What should I do with my life?

As existential questions go, this one's a biggie. Each of us, to varying extents, continually wrestles with answering it as we make our way in the world.

But tackling such a big question is really hard, and often overwhelming for most of us. How do we know where to start? How do we know what we truly enjoy? What we're truly good at?  What truly fulfills us?

Having solid, science-based data points to help guide us in our our exploration and decision making would sure be useful. Especially with the big decisions, like what to study in school, what type of career path to choose, and how to play to our strengths in what we do.

The good news is: there are testing services out there designed to offer such help. As many of you know, I went through a fairly radical career transition when leaving my executive job at Yahoo! to partner up with Chris and co-found Peak Prosperity. The insights I learned from these testing services were instrumental in giving me the clarity and the confidence to take such a non-traditional jump.

And no test was more valuable to me than the aptitudes test offered by the Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation. Here's what I had to say about it in my book Finding Your Way To Your Authentic Career:

I have to spend a moment here discussing the Johnson O’Connor test. Yes, this test is significantly more expensive than the others. But in my experience, it was the single most useful test I took during my transition.

In the 1920s, Johnson O’Connor was commissioned by General Electric (GE) to develop an aptitude test that could match its employees with work for which they were innately fit.  Back then, an employee often spent their entire career at the company, and GE leadership hoped to get better performance if employee talent was better matched to its nature.

The tests O’Connor created worked extremely well. Later, in the 1930s, he created the precursor to the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation (JOC), which has been administering and improving the tests ever since.

What I like about this approach is that it is extremely data-driven, and they have been iterating it for almost a century. Hundreds of thousands of subjects have gone through this process over the decades, enabling JOC to refine procedure to the point where the results are extremely predictive relative to competing methods.

The testing process consists of 6 hours of exercises designed to empirically score your natural ability across a number of specific skills. These exercises are wide-ranging; some are conceptual, some manual, some visual, some musical…some you have no clue at the time what they may be testing…

But after your 6 hours, you then have a 1.5 hour session with a specialist who synthesizes the output from your results.  I found this extremely helpful, as have the people who initially put this test on my radar. While the JOC folks don’t promise you’ll have an ‘epiphany moment’, your odds are pretty good here. The goal of this exit consultation is to make sure you have a rock-solid understanding of the attributes that will most determine your career success and happiness. The researchers also do their best to help you identify potential professions or industries that are well-suited to your specific profile. So you leave the experience armed with bedrock insights about yourself, along with one or more paths to go explore.

There are JOC testing facilities in many major US cities. So if you decide you want to take the exam, you should be able to find a center within driving distance.

I've been long interested in conducting a deep-dive into the Johnson O'Connor approach for the Peak Prosperity audience, and am excited to finally be able to offer one now. I think the material here is especially worthwhile for parents of teens, college students, those considering making a career change, and folks approaching retirement.

Click the play button below to listen to my interview with Steve Greene of the Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation (43m:18s):

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I'm putting some additional thoughts together, but initially I would say this: It doesn't matter whether or not you are considering a career or other major life change, or what stage of life you are in. You should take it.
I found, and continue to find, the insights provided by the JOC test series invaluable.  

Make sure you audio record the results/debrief session, you will want to refer to it later.

Great interview Adam, and very good questions.
The timing couldn’t be better for this subscriber! Two kids who will now go through this JOC testing next year - one 17 year old who is smart as a whip but unable to decide on a major and another 21 year old who will graduate without knowing what she really wants to do…Maybe the results will end up saving me money in the long run by getting them focused much sooner than otherwise.
Thank you for coming up with a broad range of subjects and especially ones that educate and give actionable information…

I appreciate the sincerity of this post – both in terms of Mr. Taggart and the interviewee – but in my view (and experience) this sort of thing works for 1 in 20 and leaves the other 19 wondering why they wasted their time and money.
I personally went through a somewhat similar experience, having left Wall Street in my late 20s – looking for a more meaningful and creative work and life – and signed up with a fairly well known (at the time) firm that presented itself in a similar way to what's described in the podcast. To be sure, it was a different organization, different testing procedures, etc. I don't wish to confuse or conflate the two.

Nevertheless, I went down a series of tests and consultations with a counselor, and within the first week it became clear to me there was no there there.There were lots of airy and nebulous hints and suggestions about the kinds of jobs you might like and be good at, a few personality tests, etc. But absolutely nothing that did what I needed most, which, in hindsight, I realized was a network of personal connections and individuals with some degree of influence ready to understand my goals and dreams and willing to help a young person with a break. Few are so lucky and I wasn't. 

A few thousand dollars later and I was in the same place I started. "What do I do now, to fill the day and earning a living?" Earning a living was the hardest part. The course revealed nothing to me I didn't already know and the insights it provided were, I thought in hindsight, superficial and vaporous utopian bubbles of thought.

Years later and after painfully having recreated a professional existence in a field I don't love in a job I don't love though which offers some degree of financial security, it's clear to me that what makes for fullfillment and happiness, to a large degree, is a nurturing work environment, good colleagues and a company willing to recognize your value as a worker and a person. The development of this test at GE way back in the day suggested that work environment possessed all of those to some degree (not to romanticize it), but if you're already in you're a dam sight better off than on the outside looking in and wondering how to get in. 

What you do is important, to be sure, but for most people with average ability across most things, it's less important than who you do it with. Few are so lucky to "find their bliss" there. Most soldier on. Understanding how to contend with that in a healthy way is a hard challenge after you've realized there's no utopia that waits for you if only you understood the secrets of your soul. You need a job. Period. And sometimes that comes with loads of compromises.

Does that mean this sort of thing is a waste of time? Absolutely not. But the ones who find nirvana after it are far outnumbered by the quantity who don't. One last thing while I'm "ranting". Throwing this sort of thing at a teenager seems to me parental malpractice. Most people actually need to experience reality to understand who they are. Most don't find themselves until into their 20s or 30s in any meaningful way. So much depends on who you encounter in your path and the kind of friendship and spiritual presence they impart upon you.


Interesting. Take away's for me:
1.Validates Proverbs 22:6

  1. Made me revisit Frank Sulloway's, Born to Rebel, on the importance of gender and birth order on early childhood development.

  2. Letters behind your name allow you access to supply managed occupations, not satisfaction in your life. 

  3. Read to and with your kids and grandkids - teach them what a dictionary is and how to use it. Vocabulary is essential for awareness.

  4. Agree with Craazyman - I have a "tested" child with an honors in science, driving a delivery van,making a DECENT income and is having a blast.

6.Concentrate on your health, stay active and enjoy your family and friends. 

  1. Test, if you have $750.00 to piss away and use it to your advantage.

Its important to know what you’re good at and how to exploit that. The only problem is finding the opportunity to start. How many thousands of people with the resources and aptitude to start an enterprise are simply unwilling to take a risk on the organised crime casino we call the modern global economy??
Perhaps that’s the wrong perspective. Maybe turning to white collar crime is the answer. Learning to focus on the skills that benefit an attitude of exploitation rather than capitalism would be key. Sadly I’m pretty sure I don’t have the aptitudes that will make me the expert sales predator I need to be to prosper in business these days.
Fundamentally therefore I would argue that attitude is more important than aptitude. In an economy that controls us opportunity and success will be found in learning how to be a better sociopath.

Aloha! The myriad of self awareness propaganda that has flooded our collective consciousness since EST days has one common thread. CASH FLOW IS KING! I find it disconcerting to see the gurus of these various movements over the decades living lives of luxury on the bank accounts of the defeated muddled masses.
If there was one of these programs that truly worked then we would have all paid our entry fee and be living in Nirvana by now … oops … leaving Nirvana and now headed to Zardoz! One size does not fit all and one guru is one too many! It goes back to the human condition which is why all government fails and which is why at least our Founding Fathers realized that if indeed all governments fail then the best path is the path to less government so that when the failure happens, when not if, it becomes a lesser failure and not a World War. A smaller government is always easier to fix and reform than a Titanic Godzilla government. Makes sense to me, not "monarchy or dictator sense" but "common sense". Common sense is the sense of the common man, but even that is corruptible. We're human …

So SELLERS BEWARE because there are many of us BUYERS who have given up buying. Either because we no longer have discretionary funds to experiment with or we have exhausted our sense of authentic self and now are content following our own misguided path free from revelation and judgment. We're just plain tired of the inexhaustible bullshit that permeates every nook and cranny of living the damn American Dream.

We're so tired of watching a long line of "lesser evils" debate the economy and politrix on TV followed by an even longer line of pundits and analysts deciphering and debating the debate and who won the debate as if winning a debate means the "lesser evil" is less evil now than an hour ago! In the fourth November we only find the "Hope and Change" we confidently voted for turns into the same raging lunatic we voted out of office the prior year. DAMN! Fooled again-n-n-n!!! But Roger Daltry promised me when I was 17!!! Off to Vietnam we go … Do not pass GO and do not collect $0.02l!!

For cryin' out loud LEAVE US THE HELL ALONE!!! Let us exist in the light of unfettered Freedom for once in our miserable ass damn life. It's our inalienable … right??? YES, PLEASE … go away and leave us to our own devices like it was in the days of the Garden of Eden. Maybe we have been lied to since Adam and Eve. Maybe the apple was not  sin, but blissfully free life. LIFE!!! Maybe the snake had two heads … one head was Obama and the other Bush! Maybe if Adam and Eve would have stomped the crap out of that snake the apple would have tasted a hell of a lot sweeter!!! Maybe … maybe snakes fly!

We are always lured and ruled by sociopaths. These sociopaths have a long lineage stretching all the way back to Rome, to the pyramids, to the Garden. As big as the Earth is there seems no place to go to escape the gurus and presidents. We have all been crucified by the nails of technology. So we hang on our crosses in despair waiting for the next guru to sell us the next alluring version of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life"!  In the key of Fminor! Sing it Sigmund!!!

SELLERS BEWARE we are coming for you in the night right after our clocks strike thirteen! The End

To each their own.
I read the book and took the test. Any you know what? I found the test results to be perhaps the singular most valuable professional insight I've come across in my life. Period.

Using the insights learned from the JOC test, I walked away from a six figure salary to do my own thing. And no matter how it all turns out, I couldn't be happier about it, and I'll never regret that decision.

PS - I agree completely with you about the whole sociopathic rule thing - which sucks.



Aloha! But how do you know you're happy … that you could have been happier if you did not take the test? You'll never know what could have been? You chose a path.
Whose yardstick do we use to measure "happy"?


Maybe we just choose to be our own "happy" now.

With my past life in Third World countries it seems the poorest of the poor, by our standards of poor, are happier now. They don't take tests! Maybe their happiness is acceptance no matter what income or strife is.


My dog does not ponder happiness. My dog has no guru. Maybe dogs are more highly evolved. Maybe we should think like dogs if we knew what dogs think. HA!! The curse of being human!!! Its endless BS!!!

When my daughters were in high school, the local utility company offered a free seminar for high schoolers who wanted help choosing a career.  The program  lasted a few hours and was based on your answers to general written questions. The answers were divided into 3 categories, it helped you figure out if you were a detail oriented kind of person, a people person,  or a self starter.  Based on what category you fell into, certain careers were suggested.
This happened 15 years ago and it was so impressive, that I remember it to this day. Every high school student should be required to go through that type of session to help focus one's future energies in the right direction. Major time and heartache saver in life.   

Hey Adam-
   This is meant purely as constructive feedback. 

   I wish we had been told that the test cost $700 right up front, vs not hearing about that until several minutes into the podcast.  The topic interested me, so I listened.  But I kind of felt suckered several minutes into the podcast when I found out we were talking about something that cost $700 (unlike the Myers-Briggs test, which -I believe- one can take for free). 

    Yes, you did say:

"I have to spend a moment here discussing the Johnson O’Connor test. Yes, this test is significantly more expensive than the others. But in my experience, it was the single most useful test I took during my transition."
But that wasn't explicit about the cost, and I was still surprised at the hefty $700 price tag.  I felt like I'd inadvertently found myself in the middle of an infomercial.  I stopped listening at that point.

   I make no judgment on the quality of the test, or the potential value that may be derived from the data it provides, and the insight those who take it may derive from that data.  It may well be worth $700 to those who take it.  I just wish we had been given that pertinent information up front, to help us decide whether we wanted to listen to the podcast or not.  Some folks here don't have a discretionary $700 to spend.  And even some of us who do, may have enough other higher priority prepping expenses to have made the $700 a deal-breaker for us, up-front.

   Many of us here place an awful lot of trust in you and Chris.  And it is very, very well-deserved trust. So the last thing I want to have happen is to find myself second-guessing whether material posted on the site is strictly informational, or if it involves buying a product.  I know I would greatly appreciate being given that information up front.

   Thanks for the listen.  Respectfully,


Johnson O'Conner Research Foundation

[quote=JOC]The Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation is a nonprofit scientific research and educational organization with two primary commitments: to study human abilities and to provide people with a knowledge of their aptitudes that will help them derive more satisfaction from their lives by discovering their natural potential.

Since 1922, hundreds of thousands of people have used our aptitude testing service to find direction in educational and career planning, whether still in school, seeking employment, or making mid-life career changes.[/quote]

As an aside, I consider it a "sign of the times" that people are so jaded. 

The testing my daughters took through the free utility company seminar, did help them find out that they wanted to work with people. I then set some ground rules for their education.  If they would find a practical career and be gainfully employed, I would refund the cost of their education after they graduated with college loans.
One is now a successful chiropractor and the other works at Stanford in the medical field. Both are thrilled with their careers and I have paid their education in full.  Neither wasted time trying to "find" themselves, and neither one of them dragged out the college experience incurring excessive loans.  

For Adam - if you hadn't taken the JOC test series and followed through with the findings, would PeakProsperity exist?
[Adam: answered in comment below]

Pinecarr -
I appreciate you sharing the feedback. I thought I was pretty up front about the cost (per my quote you included, as well as addressing it clearly in the podcast), but I'll be sensitive to mention it from the very get-go in future articles.

A few thoughts/comments:

Quality testing has a cost to administer. In the JOC testing, a human researcher is putting you through each of the tests in the 7 hours worth of testing. That person then pours through your results, and then sits down with you for another 1.5 hours of processing through them. That's nearly 9 hours of dedicated work from a trained specialist. Add in the overhead cost of the testing center/testing equipment/etc, and the ~$700 cost does not seem unreasonable.

The Myers-Briggs test you cite is not administered in the personalized custom way the JOC testing is. It is also not free. It costs $45.95 to take online through the Myers-Briggs website, and $150 if you request personal feedback through MB's endorsed specialists. It is also much less specific and less actionable than the insights JOC yields, in my opinion. Yes, there are a number of free "Myers-Briggs lite" test to be found on the Internet, but the Myers-Briggs Foundation does not endorse them and there's not a lot of value to be gained from them (again, in my opinion).

I liken the difference between a test like the Myers-Briggs compared to the JOC as to dropping into a gym vs several sessions with a personal trainer. The first is more affordable, but just gives you access to the premises. The latter costs a lot more, but gives you a clear understanding of your fitness profile and a customized plan for improving it. It's up to the individual to choose which is best for their needs, based on their goals and resources.

There is no business relationship between JOC and I clearly stated this in the podcast, but since you didn't listen all the way through (and others may not have, too), I want to re-state it here. From the transcript:

I appreciate you thanking me for my endorsement. But really, I guess I should be thanking Johnson O’Connor the man himself were he still alive. Again, it made such a big difference in my life. And if anybody is curious who is listening, we do not have any sort of business relationship with Johnson O’Connor. This is just really coming from me personally with the value I found in my experience there. 
Is $675/$750 too much to spend for the kind of insights the JOC returns? That's a very fair question. Clearly, I think it's not too much, or else I wouldn't be shining so much light on it. In my opinion, the life benefits you enjoy by making better self-tailored decisions (what to study, what career to choose, what skills to rely on, how to focus your time, etc) are in such vast excess of the cost that I think this is a no-brainer if you have "the ability and the means to do so", as I stated in the podcast. For those who truly can't afford it financially, I still think there's value in knowing such tests exist out there -- perhaps they can find other ones with similar methodology at a better price, or revisit the decision when/if they have budget to do so.

Would exist if I hadn't taken the JOC test? (Time2Help's question) Hard to say with absolute certainty, but in my heart, I don't think it would. still would, but I don't think I'd have made the jump to partner with Chris and create something much bigger. Learning my JOC results was a water-shed moment for me: the insights clicked into place for me in a way that, for the first time, gave me line of sight as to how taking the riskier but more authentic path could end as a "win". Without that, I'm sad to admit, I may not have had the courage to take the leap, and probably would have taken one of the "safer" options on the table. Had I, I'm confident I'd still be wrestling with the inner angst that was always there before starting Peak Prosperity. As we often say: When your actions are not aligned with your values, anxiety thrives.

Are there other tests worth taking out there? Or is this simply a JOC love-fest? Yes, there are numerous tests that yield helpful insights. I talk about a number of them in my career book. Gallup's StrengthsFinder is a good one to look at. I'm a big fan of taking as many as you're able, as well as working with a career coach to help you interpret the results and decide how best to apply them in your life. In my opinion, they all contribute pieces of the puzzle that help you get a better understanding of what makes you tick. But I focused on JOC in this podcast because I personally found it to be the single best value for the insights gained vs the cost (and it sounds like Time2Help agrees)


I appreciate you listening to my feedback, and taking it in the constructive manner in which it was meant. 




From where I stand, is the subject of testing more an issue about "me", or is it about "us"? After almost 50 married to the same women and all of my kids, gainfully employed and none of them in jail (yet), I wonder how my JOC score would  have influenced me? 

God grant us all His grace, That we may all obtain from Him what we stand most in need of: A blessed END.

H.J.C. von Grimmelshausen,  Simplicius Simplicissimus


There was a charity in NY that ran a displaced homemakers workshop, where I (recently abandoned by my ex) took the JOC testing for free. It took all day and then another half a day to go over the results.
The priceless and unexpected insights about who I am and what I was suited for and where I would be happy made me who I am today. For example, I had no idea that I loved research. I chose a direction and a career based on who I was. Had I not taken the testing I would have chosen based on the advice of family, friends, and culture. My life has been a fulfilling series of working toward goals that made me love my work.

I cannot recommend JOC testing highly enough.

I'm surprised at some of the apparent resistance to the idea that testing can help us make better decisions.
I had expected that a community rich in INTJ's would have loved learning about such an empirical science-based approach to better self-understanding.

Oh well. As Time2Help says, to each their own…

But from my perspective, it's never a bad thing to have more (good) data to base your decision-making on. Especially for the big decisions that will impact your quality of life.

The insights the JOC test yields are not commandments. You can either choose to consider them when making life choices or not. It's up to you.

To fear that they'll somehow force you down a wrong path is to duck your responsibility for what you do with your life. 

Does this test guarantee you'll have a life of unending happiness simply because you took it?  Of course not. 

Rather, it's a lot like the blood testing Chris has had done. With the information he learned about his own internal bio-chemistry (e.g. which foods trigger allergies), he's been able to modify his diet to feel and perform better.

In my experience, the results of the JOC testing enable you to make similar positive modifications to your overall life. To align your actions better with your natural likes and abilities.

And it's important to note that making the modifications is as important as the insights themselves, On their own, the insights aren't going to do anything for you. It's you who has to intelligently apply them in your life.

It's like weight loss. We all know how to achieve it: eat healthier (in both quality and quantity) and be more active. But the challenge comes in the discipline and the doing. The same is true here. 

It's not lost on me that the biggest resistance is coming from folks who have not taken the test. And that those who have taken it (Time2Help and myself), are big supporters. Perhaps that's confirmation bias, but we've been applying the results we received and are happier as a result. If folks want to argue the other side, I'm all for it – but I'd prefer to react to a thoughtful critique of the JOC methodology. It's difficult to craft a useful response to comments like "I took a different test and it didn't work for me" or "sociopaths rule the world!"

Lastly, just to be clearly on the record: I could not disagree more with the comment about this being a bad thing for teens.

My position goes back to the title of this response: Data or no data?

Which is worse:

  1. the current educational model where kids sit through nearly 2 decades of having information pushed at them, with no structured assistance with mapping their strengths and interests to the career choice they'll have to make after high school or college?
  2. providing them with empirical, science-based insights about their natural aptitudes and their inherent motivators, and identifying potential "good fit" activities for them to explore before having to commit to a life path? 
This is a belief here, but I think approach #1 is largely responsible for why the majority of Americans end up in jobs they dislike.

And it's also my belief that, as a father, it would be "parental malpractice" NOT to give a child the option of approach #2. Indeed, in close second to providing love & nurturing, helping my kids develop an actionable self-understanding is my top prioritiy.

But, to each their own…


Aloha! I am not surprised that the large amount of favorable JOC comments come from those who took the test. Still the idea of "tests" altering your future to me has a potential to be dangerous. I did not take the JOC test, but I took other tests that give "insight", but what value  do you assign to that "insight" in terms of planning your future course? Insight from test results narrow focus. To me the complexity of life is an advantage not  a curse. There are more opportunities now for an individual human than ever before in human history. While you narrow your focus how many missed opportunities are unseen? Of course you will never know. Sort of the "life-happens-while-you're-planning" syndrome!
Since anecdotal examples seem to be the norm here I will offer that my aunt Grace smoked and drank gin and never exercised her entire adult life and died at the age of 102. Is there a test in the world that she would have taken that would have given her the insight to drink and smoke in order to live longer? It is highly doubtful as most tests have a bias. How can they not?

If I use my own example I bounced from import biz owner(age 17) to electrician to general contractor to ag farmer to tv producer to tv studio partner and in between I have written for two financial blogs and spent four years as a volunteer in homeless shelters. Now I am on the cusp of giving all that up to take care of my ailing mother. Test or no test there is always a sense of duty and honor that must override your own needs and desires.

You know … what test did Bernie Madoff take? What tests did our political leaders take? The mess of the world is at nose bleed levels so I say to the gurus of government and business "All your best thinking got us here"!

All that aside doing tests is "insightful". It is the part where you decide how much of your focus you ascribe to a single test that concerns me. The human body and psyche is so complex and when you add in the complexity of life on Earth it is unchartable in my estimation. My advice is do the test, JOC or any other you feel is worthy of your time and funds, but more importantly have a balance and be open because ultimately those who can "recognize" the true value of an opportunity are the ones who stand the most chance of success and happiness. No matter your definition of happiness. In my case my life proves that "detours abound"! I had to just learn how to go with the flow and be happy no matter if my perceived goals were attained or not, tests aside. In my own case I have almost lived 90% of my life doing the complete opposite of what everyone advised me to do. Most people throughout my life advised me to get a corporate job! I did take that advice, but I owned the corporation instead. It has been a cycle of finding a niche that was under served in most cases.

The most time tested path to survival is "adaptation". If you have the "adapt gene" you have a huge advantage. All you have to do is learn the skills. No matter. Time is coming whereby human history has to repeat pathetic past practices. Be open, be aware and carry on bravely …