By Robert Pagliarini

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 would produce the highest value is as a strip mall and not a house. In other words, other two-bedroom houses in the town might be worth $200,000, but for the house on the busy street, an investor may pay $600,000 just for the land in order to build a strip mall.

When you use the other eight 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 that usually don't tap into our core strengths.

This is why creating during the other eight 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 eight 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 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 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 checkbooks 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 video games).

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.


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 eight 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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