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Finding your passion

As I sat in the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, Warren Buffett and his partner, Charlie Munger, discussed a topic they've discussed numerous times.

Frequently, a student asks what occupation they should pursue in order to be "successful" in life.

No matter how often the question has been posed - the answer is the same. Munger rattled the answer this time - "Find what turns you on. I have never succeeded at anything I didn't like."

Buffett has spoken about finding your passion - whether that is as a school teacher, engineer or some other occupation.

To all of the optimistic kids trying to find their way in life, I concur with Buffett and Munger.

However, that does not mean that finding your passion is easy. For me, it involved stumbling, struggling and beating my head against walls.

I went to college to be a veterinarian. I loved animals and brought home every stray in the neighborhood.

However, after one year of college, I lived in the science lab, studied seven days a week and was miserable. No matter how much I studied, I couldn't get it through my thick skull. Despite enormous hours studying, I was only pulling a 3.3 GPA - not nearly high enough to get into vet school.

I was beginning to believe my parents dropped me as a child or let me eat lead paint.

My mother steered me in the direction of the Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation (JOCRF.org), which performs rather unique aptitude testing.

Johnson O'Connor was an industrial psychologist. His research focused on the belief that all humans are made with a unique set of skills. Furthermore, O'Connor believed he could test and measure a person's skill set and then match them against the needs of different occupations. In doing so, people would be matched with an occupation in which they were most naturally gifted and therefore should perform at a higher level - leading to a direct correlation of happiness in an occupation.

Frustrated and ready to drop out of college, I made the trek to Johnson O'Connor for two days of testing. It was unlike anything previously experienced.

In high school, I took many preference tests that asked superficial questions such as "Do you want to be inside filing or outside digging a ditch?" The tests were easy but answered nothing. I knew how to trick the outcome to conform to preconceived notions already in my head.

Johnson O'Connor, on the other hand, was very abstract - I could not tell what they were testing for. As such, I could not manipulate the answers. They tested my vision, hearing, manual dexterity, personality and ability to think three dimensionally along with many other tests. At the end, I was exhausted.

However, the outcome was illuminating . and frustrating.

The tests revealed my lowest natural abilities were in the sciences. The psychologist I was working with commented it was no surprise that I was struggling and unhappy.

The conclusion and the foundation's recommendation instead pointed me in the direction of the business world, working with people.

We never discussed the business world at our dinner table growing up. It was foreign territory. However, I was so unhappy at that point in my life, I gave it a try.

I returned to college for my sophomore year as a business major - a topic I had never studied. The results were incredible. I studied less, had a lot more fun . and my grades never fell below a 3.8 GPA after that. Although it still required a lot of work - I enjoyed it. The fact that my grades went up so dramatically further confirmed I was headed in the right direction.

Although some people are fortunate like Buffett to find their passion early on, most of us need a little help explaining how we are made and what to do with the skills we have.

Furthermore, the average college student changes majors three times. With each change, the cost of an expensive endeavor increases that much more. Although the pursuit of your life's passion is a noble one - it is probably wise to make your time as efficient as possible. Finally, second to my college education, two days of testing at Johnson O'Connor have been the best investment I could have made.

Dave Sather is a Victoria certified financial planner and owner of Sather Financial Group. His column, Money Matters, publishes every other Wednesday.

Originally published May 28, 2013 at 5:03 p.m., updated May 28, 2013 at 9:20 p.m.