In 1986, I stepped onto my first construction site.
I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into.
I didn’t grow up with a dad, so I didn’t hang around the garage with tools, learning to build things.
It was the complete opposite. I was an introverted book nerd who spent most of my time at the library reading books.
But here I was, brand new tools on my belt, a hard hat on my head, and a lot of doubt on my mind.
As I look back, I had an amazing journey. I’ve worked on some of the most iconic buildings in Los Angeles.
To do this, I overcame challenges, fears, and conflicts.
After 35 years, I was able to retire in my mid-50s with a 7-figure nest egg and pension.
And I was able to do this because I treated my life like a construction site.
The Four Stages of Construction
In construction, jobs go through four stages for the project to succeed.
Stage 1 – Vision
Before one clump of dirt is removed, or one girder is installed.
Long before that, someone or some group had a vision. Something that they needed to see come to fruition in real life.
It could be for any number of reasons;
- An improvement in city infrastructure
- An arts center bringing more joy to people’s lives
- A research facility to further science and technology
- Housing facilities for a growing population
But ultimately, there was a vision of what they wanted to see come alive.
Stage 2 – Design
The vision is the what and the design is the how.
The vision is brought to architects, designers, engineers, and contractors.
Together, they come up with a plan, a blueprint.
This can take many iterations.
Aesthetic and logistical changes, conflicts, and compromises will come up.
Once it is all approved, agreed upon, and accepted, the construction can begin.
Stage 3 – Gather the Tools, Information, and Materials (TIM)
Every project needs TIM to get it done.
To be efficient and productive, a schedule is created on what TIM is needed when, and where.
Most projects need earth-moving equipment and concrete in the beginning.
Not lightbulbs and desk furniture.
For the job to run smoothly, a detailed project calendar is needed to have the right TIM and the right time.
But this is only an estimate.
Every job runs into challenges that were not anticipated or planned for.
So the schedule needs to have buffer zones to absorb these issues.
Stage 4 – Build the Team and Do the Work
And now the work begins.
Some projects will already have a team in place from previous projects. While others will need to build them from the ground up, not unlike the job.
No one contractor or team can do everything. Different teams with different skills make the whole project move smoother and faster. And with fewer mistakes.
There will be inevitable setbacks, delays, and problems.
But with the right teams in place, these can be kept to a minimum, keeping the job on schedule.
That’s a Construction Site But What About Your Life?
So how did I use this model to build my life?
And how can you do the same?
First, know what you want.
What’s your vision?
Picture yourself five years from now;
- Where are you?
- Who is with you?
- What are you doing?
- Why are you doing those activities?
- Why is this important for you and your life?
Good, that’s Stage 1 – Your Vision
Stage 2 – Your Blueprint, how to get there
Now that you have your vision, you need to make it concrete, without the Portland cement.
Sorry, a little blue-collar humor.
Take the vision and find out what will you need to achieve it.
Everything, or as much as possible. The more clear you are on what is needed to achieve it, the easier it will be to build it.
It will make a difficult task, easier.
The less clear you are can make a difficult task impossible.
Clarity is critical at this stage.
Stage 3 – Gather all the resources you will need to accomplish your project.
As I mentioned before, you don’t need all of them with you right now but you will need to know how to get what you need when you need it.
Make a list of all the resources you will need and note down at what stage you will need them so that you’re prepared and not wasting time looking for them.
Stage 4 – This is where most people fail, doing the work
Distractions, shiny objects, discouragement, and lack of commitment are all reasons why people quit.
On construction projects, you have contracts, obligations, and professional reputations to keep you to your word. But even then.
Projects can go belly up, or be abandoned for any of a number of reasons; financial, soured relationships, lack of skilled workers, etc.
To be successful, you have one of two options:
- Seeing your projects through to completion
- Letting a project go because it no longer will help you get to where you want to go
But it doesn’t mean quitting, getting distracted or bored, or letting fear stop you.
You can pivot, pause, and rest.
Just don’t quit.