Discover Your Passion: What's Your Highest and Best Use?

Last Updated Jun 2, 2011 2:45 PM EDT

Live your passion. Do what you love and the money will follow. If you love what you do, it doesn't feel like work. You've heard this cute advice a hundred times, but what if you have no idea what your passion is? It's time you find out...

In real estate, there's a concept called "highest and best use" (HABU). Properties are valued based on the best use of the land that will produce the highest value. For example, appraisers may value a two-bedroom house on a busy street next to retail shops as if a strip mall occupied the land, because the best use of the property that produces the highest value is a strip mall and not a house. In other words, other two-bedroom houses in the town might be worth $200,000, but an investor may pay $600,000 just for the land in order to build a strip-mall.

When you use the other 8 hours to create, you must focus on your HABU -- your unique talents, skills, and experience that produce the most value. The dead weight that so many people drag around with them is their feeling of unfulfillment at work. Part of the reason for this lethargy is that most people feel underutilized and don't have the flexibility to do what they do best. We get boxed into positions and job descriptions that we can do adequately, but usually don't tap into our core strengths.

This is why creating during the other 8 hours is so much fun. You create your own job description. You are your own boss and you can focus on what it is you enjoy the most and do the best. You might not be performing at HABU during your working hours, but in order to maximize your chance for success during the other 8 hours, you need to focus on projects that use your best and most unique talents. Duh, right? I wish it were so obvious.

Over and over and over again, I see people starting businesses and getting engaged in projects that are so completely outside of their best use. They focus exclusively on what will provide them the "highest" value-that is, those projects that look like they'll make them the most money -- but they don't first consider what their personal "best use" is. I've seen guys who can't set the time on their VCR (I guess I'm dating myself) try to start technology companies. I've seen others who can't balance their checkbook try to start finance companies. I've seen somebody try to launch a video game application who had no gaming experience (and in fact, didn't even like games).

And guess what? All those ventures failed. Why? You have to be passionate about what you're doing or you'll give up after the first setback. The more you love what you do the more you will persevere. Also, when you capitalize on your unique qualities and gifts, you're making it easier on yourself. If you start something you're halfway into or that doesn't capture your talents, you're making it much harder to succeed.

Exercise: How to Discover Your Passion
So what's your highest and best use? Here's a simple exercise you can do that will help you pinpoint where you should focus. Make three lists. On the first list, write down all of the things you are good at -- everything that you do well and that you have mastery over. On the next list, write down everything you enjoy -- hobbies, special interests, games, TV shows, etc. Finally, list everything that gives you a sense of meaning and purpose. Now for the magic . . . find common elements across all three lists. That's when you've discovered your HABU. That's what you should focus on in the other 8 hours.

Don't go for the "sexy" ones just because you think they'll be the most exciting or have the most potential. Focus on those that feel right for you -- those that mesh well with your skills, interests, and greater purpose.

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(Landscape image by vsz, CC 2.0)

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    Robert Pagliarini is obsessed with inspiring others to create and empowering them to live life to the fullest by radically changing the way they invest their time and energy. He is the founder of Richer Life, a community of passionate people who want to learn and achieve more in life and at work. He is a Certified Financial Planner and the president of Pacifica Wealth Advisors, a boutique wealth management firm serving sudden wealth recipients and affluent individuals. He has appeared as a financial expert on 20/20, Good Morning America, Dr. Phil, Dr. Drew's Lifechangers and many others.

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