Back to all posts

Video: Actions > Words + Planning

advance the ladder video Nov 09, 2017


At the men’s Advance events (  ) we outline a simple process to help you move from where you are to where you’re designed to be. 

The process is simple. So so simple that I’m routinely surprised that it’s not more commonly used. 

Here it is:

First, you’ve got to admit where you are now AND decide where you want to go

The problem with this is that a lot of us don’t like where we are. 

Sure, maybe we’re happy about some parts of our life (i.e., we’re crushing it at work) but not other areas (example: our  marriage  is on the rocks, or our health took a backseat to the late night hours we spend cranking out all of that work). 

At the Advance we encourage guys to define where they want to be in multiple areas of life. Face it, we’re not just workers. Or husbands. Or gym-guys. Or entrepreneurs and creatives. Or just fathers. We’re all of that. 

And, sure, some areas are more important than others… hence, the need to plan all of them and make sure it all fits in line with our greater priorities (read more about the reality of tradeoffs here, for more insight on this:

The second part of this first point is sometimes problematic, too- admitting where you want to go. Seems like this would be a no-brainer, but it’s actually difficult to nail down.

Here are two reasons why: 

One: most people don’t stop and actually think about it. Yes, a lot of us talk about being “held back” from our dreams or not getting our fair share. But, really, can we articulate what we’re being held from? What would the best case scenario look like for you?

Two: there’s something mental about our “future self” that causes us to envision that person as a SEPARATE entity from who we are now. That is, we often see that person in our minds as a DIFFERENT person. We fail to realize that the person THERE is the person HERE… and that the FUTURE VERSION of us is simply the logical outflow of the story line we live today. 

  • It’s why people don’t plan for retirement.
  • It’s why they don’t think about maintaining and accelerating their health- only “fixing” it when things become problematic.
  • It’s why we rarely invest in relationships (particularly, spouse and kids) until something “breaks” and all hell comes crashing down- i.e., the wife tells us she’s not happy and is contemplating divorce or the kid starts smoking pot. 

(You can read more about this here:

After you decide WHERE you’re headed, build the map back- from there to here

Here’s where a lot of planning jumps the tracks. Rather than mapping the plan from the end BACK to the beginning, a lot of people take a shot at it “from here to there.”

Reverse engineering guarantees that the steps you take will actually help you arrive at your destination precisely BECAUSE you start at the destination with your planning… 

It’s almost like you say, "This is my goal..."

  • What has to happen for that to occur?
  • And what has to happen for that thing to occur?
  • And what has to happen for that to occur…?

For instance, if I want to take a flight from Birmingham to Miami, I would need to board the plane.

  • But what has to happen for me to board the plane?
  • And what has to happen for me to have a ticket?
  • And what has to happen for me to have that money set aside in my checking account?
  • And what has to happen for…

See how it works? 

If I want to invest in my marriage, I need a weekly date night…

  • But what has to happen for that to occur?
  • And what has to happen for the babysitter to be here?
  • And what has to happen for me to have a place to go eat, a movie or play to watch, or something else to do…?
  • And what has to happen to mark our calendars “off” from everything else and “on” for this evening?

Yeah, you got it. Simple.

As you start working through this process, you’ll realize that it all breaks down  to one step at a time. Not three. Not seventeen. Just one. 

(In another post I wrote about my home renovation experience. At first, I was overwhelmed. Then it hit me, guys with no high school diploma figure this stuff out every single day and become master carpenters. Surely, with some of the education I have I can go get a book, learn what the steps are, and crush it. In the end, I learned that every thing you do to renovate a house actually breaks down to… get this… ONE SINGLE THING AT A TIME. Turns out, you can reverse engineer that, too. More about that here:


The biggest issue = actually DOING SOMETHING

Now, here’s a HUGE word of caution: creating a plan sometimes creates such a sense of excitement and achievement that we forget to actually take the real steps. 

Furthermore, telling people about your plan can get you such dramatic and encouraging feedback that it’s easy to ride the gratification of that pre-action praise that you never do anything with your plan :-(

Just remember this: the map is not the journey! The journey is the journey; the plan is just a plan.

I’ll be honest. For a while, I got stuck in perpetual planning mode. I’d make a plan, put it on paper, and never implement it. It’s almost like I became so enamored with the plan on paper (they often look GREAT, don’t they, with all of their bullet points and flow charts and results highlighted at the end!) that I never got into the grit of starting…

Don’t be a perpetual planner! At some point you have to take action and start stepping- even if you don’t have all of the information, still have questions, and don’t think you‘re as qualified as you hope to be.  Planning is important, but your results come from action- not analyzing!

(And, remember, everyone swims underwater- there are always LONG moments of doing the unseen work before hitting the prize/stage/goal/dream/whatever-

That said, walk it out…

One of the tools we use at Advance helps you break this down into manageable steps

Let me back up and give you a quick tool that will help you implement this and begin crushing one of your dreams today. I’m going to show you how to build your own bridge. 

No worries, it won’t take long. In fact, at during the first session of the Advance (the “what” session- listen to my chat about this at we actually give guys about 3 minutes PER DREAM to outline the steps for 3 dreams. That’s right: we do this in less than 10 minutes for 3 disconnected goals. 

For each area of life in which you're defining a dream, you need to know the following:

Let’s break it down and discuss all three areas.

First, the destination / where you want to be. This is the goal, the dream. It’s something like:

  • A specific rank / role in your business
  • A specific weight
  • A time in a 5K run
  • An “on fire” marriage
  • A growing relationship with your kids

Note: a lot of people dump “poo” on goals that aren’t specific and measurable. The reality, though, is that some things just CANNOT be measured. 

You can measure your weight, but how to you measure a marriage? 

You can “measure” your income or your role in your business, but how do you grade a relationship? 

For some areas, you’re going to have to be as specific as you can YET embrace the tension that something aren’t definable in tidy terms. Define what you can, and move on. (Remember, the most important thing isn’t your plan, it’s the process of living that plan out!)

Second, the support beams /  the elements comprising the bridge. This holds the bridge in place. These are usually “categories” of things- but not actions. 

Notice the graphic below. A few years ago I decided it was the to lose some weight ( ). Actually this was part of a larger plan to “get healthy.” At the time, I’d just turned 40, my body was racked with chronic issues, and I was aging way too fast. 

So, the destination was “get healthy.”  It’s the “far side” of the bridge. But, for more chart here it’s on the left side. It’s the big goal I’m trying to reach. 

There were three categories I decided I needed to work on in order to make that happen. These were the support beams for that bridge. They were:

  • Lose 40 pounds
  • Build muscle (guys begin losing muscle mass and testosterone at the rate of about 1% per year after they eclipse 30 years old)
  • Get my body systems in line- including a burnt out colon, a choppy digestive system, and brain fog

Now, look back at my list AND NOTICE THIS: none of these supports are action steps. They’re just categories. 

A lot of people STOP at these support beams, which is why they never make any progress towards their goal. Or, it’s why they’re in constant “Ready, aim, aim… aim… aim…” mode, but never pull the trigger. 

Notice the list again- they’re not actions. They’re just categories. 

This means I’ve got to move to the third area…

Third, the planks / the steps you take. This is the surface of the bridge itself. These, really, define what goes on top of the supports- they’re specific actions that make things happen. 

Let me just choose one from the list above. Let’s look at the “lose 40 pounds” support beam (category). The actions I did were…

  • Exercising every morning
  • Writing down what I ate, my body weight for the day, and how I felt (this kept me true to my goals and made sure I didn’t cheat)
  • Foods- I made some predetermined decisions about what I would eat, not eat, etc. AND I stuck to that plan (see

You can make progress with actions like that; you can’t make progress with categories any more than you can cross a bridge that just has support beams but has no surface upon which to drive. 


You can do this with any dream

Every bridge can be broken down into a few small pieces, a few easy steps…

Let’s go back to marriage. The categories might me a regular date night, getting on the same page about finances (which is one of THE top 2 marriage-choppers, the other being sex), and creating a shared calendar to make sure you’re moving together on the same page rather than running in random directions. These are things Cristy and I have implemented. 

Yet these all need actions to make them happen. Yes, the above items are just categories, support beams. 


For date night your actions might include choosing a recurring time (no worries if it doesn’t work out one week- just reschedule it. By having our set night on , we rarely plan anything on it. And when we have to, we just schedule another night to get away together). And finding childcare. And deciding where you’re going to go, what you’re going to do… 

For getting on the same page financially, it might require that you create a budget, that one of you begins recording everything and printing reports for the two of you to evaluate each week… and for you to work on specific goals towards debt or other things you’d like to accomplish that require money. 

For getting on the "same page" in life… well… we set up a shared calendar on our iPhone. When she adds something, it syncs to me; when I add something, it syncs to her. We also sit down once a week and talk through upcoming calendaring issues for business and home, so that big events don’t take us by surprise. 


Your turn to live your dream

Now it’s your turn- 

First, whittle your dream down to a few words or phrase. Use the far left column. 

Second, decide what “categories” or support beams you need in order to uphold that dream.  Use the second column.

Third, write the specific actions you can take for each category in column 3. 

And, no, each dream may not require 3 categories of 3 actions each. Some may require more; others may require less.

Then, fourth, most importantly, TAKE ACTION. Doing it always gets your farther than not doing it. And, let’s be honest, if we make a few missteps (which we all do), we can adjust our plan as we move forward, right?


Never miss a new post + podcast!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.