Stages of Man


I was once presented with the following model from one of my friends and mentors and it stuck profoundly in my mind. It’s since been proven true time and time again.

There seems to be something fundamental with age that every man (and woman) goes through that we simply cannot escape. Although there’s nothing scientific about this model it seems to persist with enough strength for me to present it and extract some personal value.

In the following model there are Five Stages of Man (a person’s life):

  1. Foundation: 0-20 years
  2. Preparation: 20-30 years
  3. Initiation: 30-40 years
  4. Domination: 40-60 years
  5. Consolidation: 60-?

It begins in Stage 1, where 0-20 years you are building the foundation for who you are and what you will become as well as what you will do with your life. You are still learning the basics of life, work, and relationships. You don’t really know anything about vocation, jobs, or passion and desires. You may have tasted it a bit but that’s all you’ve got as this is just the beginning.

Between 20 and 30 years you begin preparing yourself for the future and the life very much ahead of you. Heck, you may have tried a few jobs and learned some great lessons but you’re still not even close to being “there” yet – and you feel it in your bones, a gnawing at your soul that this is “good” for now but not “forever.”

Then between 30 and 40 years you start being initiated into what your focused area of work will be – you’ve experimented and have learned a lot about yourself, your world, and your relationships. You are, at this point, very much an adult and you’re looking to “lock-in” on that “one thing” that’ll keep you happy and prosperous and valuable to society – you’re getting ready to do great work, the work that you were destined to do.

It’s between 40 and 60 years that we see the period of “Domination” – this is where you thrive and where you are at the top of your game. You’re kicking butt and taking names. Your best work comes out of this period and you’ve reach the maximum vocational flow – you’re not wasting time doing things that do not matter – you’re operating fully and you are full of life and life is responding in turn.

And finally in Stage 5, after 60 or so, you begin consolidating your learnings, your experiences, and bringing them altogether in an effort to export back into the next generation. You’re also consolidating your efforts since you don’t have much energy nor interest to be “at the top” of the ladder any more. You’re looking at retirement or passing the baton to those that will come after you. You may end up writing your memoir here or compiling your experience into an archive of sorts. You’ve done great work and reflection is easy at this point.

This is a neat model and one that I’ve found personally satisfying and extremely frustrating at the very same time. You see, you and I know that we are meant to live and work (and we desperately want to live and work) in the “Domination” stage but many of us, much younger than 40, simply can’t out due or hurry time. We must wait and be patient for that time to come.

And this kills us because we want to be dominating everything, today! We see others in this stage and ask ourselves Why can’t I be doing what they are doing (or see the “success”) like they are? The simple fact is that we’re not old enough, haven’t experienced enough, and are not ready for the next stage.

Remember, this is just a model – the actual years may go up or down depending on the person but it appears to be consistent for nearly every single person.

Here’s an activity for you: Think of some of the people you admire and respect, that are models of excellence and who you became aware of at the very top of game. How old are they? Most likely they are (or were) in their Domination stage.

Just take for example these two:

Steve Jobs was successful financially when he was in his early 20’s. But he got shamefully fired, took time to be prepared and initiated in his own person and his own unique craft, and came back to Apple when he was 42 to absolutely destroy the market and lead Apple, Inc. to be the most respected company on the planet. Material wealth wasn’t the metric for domination – it was his product development and his vision that matured. He was 42 when he came back, at the right time for his domination stage.

Bill Gates, Steve’s contemporary, had a very similar story and was very successful financially with Microsoft. He was a multi-billionaire by the time he was 40 and he stepped down from being the CEO when he was 44. He then became a philanthropist and he entered his domination stage. It’s fascinating because it’s quite apparent and obvious that he is a far better philanthropist than he was ever a software programmer and he’s changing the world in bigger ways than he ever did at Microsoft. Steve Jobs even said himself that Bill is “far more comfortable in philanthropy” than in software. If you put aside money as the metric of success and domination then Bill entered his domination period between 40 and 60 years of age.

And the list goes on and on and on.

Fascinating, right? Most of the people I admire “hit their stride” between 40 and 60. Even young prodigies, like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, have a lot to learn about being a mature human adult and it’s quite possible (and very likely) that their domination stage is still yet to come.

What does this mean for us who are not “there” yet? It means we must practice patience, practice preparation for the future instead of trying to force the future to happen, and be at peace that in a lot of ways it’s just simply outside of our control. This is a good thing but that doesn’t make it any easier.

Trust me, I know. I’ve just entered the Initiation Stage and I feel it every single day. I feel like I’m just reached the tip of the iceberg and I’ve been given a sip of what’s to come and it kills me that I still have much to learn, much to grow, much to experience.

Honestly, I’m the most frustrated because it requires me to wait. 10 more years before I start kicking serious ass?! I say to myself often. Ugh! Hey, it is what it is.

Some things for you to consider doing:

  1. Write down the names of the people that you admire and that you want to model after. How old are they? When did they really hit their point of “Domination”?
  2. What will you do with this new information? How will you manage the challenge of “time”?
  3. Are you in your period of Domination? What do you need to take it even further?
  4. Bonus: If you’re interested, read this fascinating article that supports the Stages of Man Theory: Late Bloomers.

Finally, this is some of the stuff that I walk through with individuals as I coach them to greater success. I’ve got a few slots open right now so ping me if you’re interested.