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The Ten Phases of Achievement - Part 1

First in a two-part series, the Ten Phases will show you a timeless method to achieve any and all of your goals.
ten phases

This is Part 1 of a two-part blog series that shows a universal process to consistently plan and achieve any of your goals. 

Let’s get to it.

Like me, you might be a productivity tip junkie. I’ve read many articles, blogs and books about human performance, productivity, goal setting and all manner of things. There are all kinds of systems and tools like SMART goals, GTD processes, bullet journals, calendars, product and project management, productivity apps etc.

But they fail to scratch my itch. I'm trying to switch from productivity to purpose. I want a reliable system to create, prepare for, and achieve all of my goals. So I did a lot more thinking than reading and stumbled upon an obvious system for doing just that. The Ten Phases outlines this obvious process that people have been using for thousands of years so you can use it for and in your life.

To achieve anything and everything, you need a process that walks you through each of and phases of creation. You need something more than a tool for a particular phase, or a neat trick to seemingly bypass the hard parts. That’s the purpose of the Ten Phases of achievement. It slows you down so you can stop and feed, water, and smell each of the roses on the road to your success.

Construction Questions
  1. Design
  2. Survey
  3. Structure
  4. Engineering
  5. Plan
  6. Build
  7. Administer
  8. Arrange
  9. Operate
  10. Perform
  1. Why
  2. How Long
  3. How Much
  4. What
  5. When (each)
  6. How Many
  7. Who
  8. Where
  9. What’s Next
  10. Do it now?

The table above illustrates the Ten Phases starting with the example and lingo for a construction project. It’s special for us as it gives us active verbs that describe what we’re doing at each stage, and it details what happens in a construction project. So, to keep with the obvious, those are also the names of the Ten Phases.

The second column asks the critical questions that both drives, and gets answered in each phase. The third column shows that you can use this framework to analyze whole industries, not just construction. As you can see these Ten Phases are comprehensive if not universal.

After reading this, you will be able to diagnose what phases you’ve been skipping, which phases trip you up, and which phases you naturally gravitate to.

Now we’re going to walk through the Ten Phases of building a building. Then, in Part 2, we’re going to go through some of the main questions that a person asks and answers for themselves and others during each phase. Also in Part 2, you’re going to think of a few projects that you’re working on or have worked on, just to make the process experiential. Lastly, I’ll tell you how to apply the process to your own goals. And then we break for food.

Building a Building

To explain the Ten Phases, we’ll use the example of a couple getting a house built because that’s an easy example. The principles apply whether we’re building a house, a strip mall, a skyscraper, or a theme park. This order of principles also apply whether you’re building a fitter body, a healthier relationship, a profitable organization, a growing following, or a movement. But let’s just focus on building a house for now.


  1. Design - The designer determines the purpose and function of the building. For our getting a house built example, the designer is the person, couple, or family that says ‘I want a house’ and comes up with the criteria by which they will judge whether the house they’re getting built wins or fails. They create a list of criteria like how many bathrooms, kitchen space, garage doors, bedrooms, dens, play areas etc. And they make the final decision about what to include and exclude.
  2. Survey - Next, we have the Survey phase which has two steps, the wider view and the narrower view. During the first survey, let’s say, the couple figures out whether they want a house in the mountains, on a rural farm, or down in the everglades because they like alligators. Depending on the environment that surrounds the house, they’ll have to plan for a house with extra insulation, south facing windows, how far from neighbors etc. The second, more focused phase of survey looks at actual sites once they figure out whether they want to be near a beach, farms, everybody, or nobody.
  3. Structure - While or once they determine the place and assess the surroundings, they talk to an architect about the scale and structure of the building. The architect will ask them all kinds of questions about how many rooms, how many floors, bathrooms, pools, and how big all of these things will be so the architect can get a sense of the size or scale of the building. The architect takes this information and then figures out how thick to make the walls, how to insulate this and that. The architect will then create a layout and floorplan to approve, and figure out whether and how that building can sit on the parcel of land the couple chooses.
  4. Engineering - When the sketches the plans for the house, they’re also in communication with an engineer who figures out how the physics of the house comes together. They know about how much heating and air conditioning that size house needs, they can look up what r-values for insulation, what models of what brand windows will be most efficient or cheapest, how costly it’ll be to have bathrooms far away from the kitchen because plumbing materials are expensive etc. The engineers take the requirements from the client, and the drawings from the architect and turns this into a list of how much of what to buy to build the house.
  5. Plan - For the construction industry, the planning phase comes in when the couple hires a general contractor. Of course, there are companies that have architects, engineers, and do the general contracting themselves. Either way, the general contractors are handed blueprints, engineering considerations, lists of things to buy, and they break out their calendars to figure out what they have to order, and more importantly when those things have to show up on site to be immediately useful and not take up a whole lot of space for weeks.

Pause - Make it stop? By now you may be trying to figure out what all of this has to do with you and your goals. I know. But before we get to work on your goals, you need to see the whole process. Trust me, it’ll be much easier to analyze your goals once we finish this up.

  1. Build - While the general contractor figures out what gets delivered when, they’re also lining up the different contractors or staff to get the work done. Maybe Stephanie is out because she’s having a baby so they have to find someone else to put in the electrical. The GC looks for companies, teams, and people to pour the concrete, lay the brick, build the frames, put in pipe, put up drywall, and all the normal and special things that go on at a construction site.
  2. Administer - By now, in this example the house is built with all the finishes and trimmings. The couple thanks the construction company, gets the keys, walks into the empty house and christens it, with champagne of course. At this point, instead of the general contractor, they are in charge of who comes in and out of the building, as well as paying the utilities, and whatnots. Now they let the interior decorator and movers come in. It’s at this stage that the couple can start to actually use their house, converting it into their home.
  3. Arrange - Arrange can be a kind of two-meaning thing. The first ‘arrange’ deals with the floorplan that the architect draws up. The second kind of arrangement, which we’re talking about here, deals with the interior design, such as where the couches, paintings, cutlery, and bidets go. It’s likely that if the people had the bread to build a house from the ground up, that they also hired an interior designer to figure all of this out.

    You might protest and say ‘well on HGTV the property brothers do design too’. Yes, they coordinate everything from the renovation to the interior decoration, but they still follow these stages. 
  4. Operate - Once the furnishings and furniture are ordered and installed, the house is ready to be lived in. The couple open and stuff closets, dirty up the sink, set the temperature so the heating and cooling keep them comfortable, and flick lights on and off, and repurpose some extra closets. Let’s also, late in this example, throw in the notion that these people are loaded or some kind of royalty and hire a staff to perform all of the household duties. This staff orders and cooks the food, cleans the rooms and laundry, tends the garden, and all manner of activity. 
  5. Perform - So, all our lovely couple does is come in, sleep, wash, wear clothes and laze about.

As you can see, to get a house built, the couple has to deliberately move through each of these stages. Sure, they may hire consultants and contractors according to their expertise and performance, but the overall process stays the same. To achieve any and every one of your goals, you too need to walk yourself and whomever you’re working with through these same Ten Phases.

I was talking to someone about moving to a new city and getting a new job. They said “I don’t know nothing about the streets and how to take the bus to work up there”. To which I replied “well, neither does anyone else until they do it a few times, then it’s easy”. They replied “you right, you right”.

The higher skill of consistently achieving your goals requires that you deliberately practice. The core skills of achievement are designing your goals, building the systems and plans to implement your goals, then operating your systems and plans. Said another way, the core skill of achievement requires doing all of these phases correctly!

To kickstart your thinking about this process for yourself, you don’t need any new projects. The best place to start is to think of three kinds of projects you already have:

  • A project you’re working on
  • A project you’ve completed with wild success
  • A project you’ve failed at

Picked one of each? Good. Keep reading.

So here’s the exercise

  1. Get three lined sheets of paper and something to write with
  2. Write the name of the goal/project in the big blank heading
  3. Write ‘Design’ on the first line under the big heading
  4. Every third line from that line, write the title of the next phase
  5. Do this for the two other pages
  6. Now, write in notes, comments, and questions about what you have done, did wrong, would do, and/or need to do. There is no wrong, just fill up that three-line section with relevant thoughts

When you do this, you will re-interpret goals and projects that you have been working on. This will already reorganize how you think of achieving your goals as now you have a comprehensive method to analyze what went wrong and what went right. Making notes on each phase of each of these projects will give you the experience of going through this process rigorously.

You may also find that making these notes for some phases is harder than others. This also serves as a diagnostic tool to help you figure out what types of things you don’t think of, and what you usually fail at. Equipped with this specific knowledge, you can start intentionally working on those things. 

In Part 2, we’re going to add to this by introducing 5 questions per stage, for a total of 50 questions. Answering these 50 questions for your past and future goals will insure that you are many times more rigorous and methodical in your planning on how to achieve your goals. It will make sure you only choose goals that you are willing to make the time for, and that are worth your time. 

Get the Questions in Part 2


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