Executive Insider

Name and Master These 5 Pillars of Your Life

Carolyn Buck Luce

Do you want the next ten years of your life to be epic? 

That’s the question at the heart of the Decade Game, a framework I’ve invented to help women discover a deeper and more powerful version of themselves that’s truer to their life’s purpose. 

At its core, the Decade Game is simple. It’s a continual practice of make-believe. You are both the designer and player of a game with an epic quest. The magic of your design is that it continues to evolve as life unfolds, integrating all parts of your life. 

The secret sauce of the Decade Game is that there are 87,600 hours in a decade. Even if you sleep eight hours a night, it leaves over 50,000 hours of awake time. Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 bestseller Outliers popularized the “10,000-hours rule,” originally coined by the Swedish psychologist K. Anders Ericsson. This rule posits that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in any field. 

So, let’s do the math. In the Decade Game, you can become a world expert in five distinct yet related domains of mastery in ten years and still sleep eight hours a night. These domains of mastery are the heart of the game and cover the five main areas of your life: Self, Others, Craft, Learning, and Contribution. They are the games within the Game. Below, I’ll explain why each pillar is important and how you can begin your journey toward mastering each. 

1. SELF

The heart of the model is YOU, the Self pillar. Your job is to do your psychological, physical, emotional, spiritual, and self-care work to construct your rehabilitation and remembrance of your best self. What is my internal journey of transformation over the next ten years? What do I need to learn and experience to be in right relationship and integrity with myself and my faith? What is the transformation work of my heart, body, and soul that I am committed to practice and master? How would I feel if I was not afraid?

Remember when you would go into a toy store looking for a great new game? The name of the game gave you an idea of the type of adventure you would be on. Each pillar needs a customized name, a title, for the way you would describe what the transformational shift would look and feel like if you were able to win in that game of your choosing. 

The name you give your Self pillar describes the seismic shift in the quality of your own presence at the end of a decade if you finally let go of the negative core beliefs that no longer serve you.  You are answering the “Who Am I?” question, “For me, I am…”.  And the title should be a delicious, juicy, and inspiring You. One player of the Decade Game, a software designer named Priya, rose to the challenge with the title “I Adore Myself.” What a declaration of sufficiency and power!

2. OTHERS

When you show up as your best self, then you are able to be in “right” relationship with the people you love. This is the second pillar of Others. Ironically, it is hardest to be your best, most evolved self with the people you love the most. That is where our deepest wounds lie. 

For many, this is the hardest pillar of all. This is the place to put into practice your own internal work of self-forgiveness, compassion, unconditional love, healthy boundaries, and emotional intelligence.

This pillar requires you to answer tough questions. What is my transformation work with my family, friends, colleagues? What is the repair work? What is the forgiveness work? Where am I doing their work instead of letting them do their own work? What are my healthy boundaries? How can I create conditions in the way I relate that invites them to be their best selves?”

Your OTHERS  pillar should be named for how you want to show up in a way that invites the ones you love to respond accordingly. You are answering the “Who Am I?” question, “For you, I am…”.The name will reflect the enhanced and transformed quality of your presence for them that is the result of your intentional work.  A Decade Gamer with a large extended family after 3 marriages named her pillar, “I am Oasis”.

Carolyn Buck Luce

3. CRAFT

While your Craft  may relate to your job, it cannot be reduced to it. Instead, your Craft represents how you choose to offer and package your unique skills, talents, techniques, knowledge, and gifts as your signature “work” in the world. It reflects your commitment to be a master craftsman in your field of interest—a master that can inspire others and can be counted on to bring “a thing of beauty” into the world. 

Ask yourself, what is your unique offering that reflects both the genius of what you do and how you do it in a way that brings forth goodness into the world? How are you a master craftsman amidst other colleagues who have similar technical skills or training, e.g., how do you differentiate? What is game-changing about what you want to “do” in the world? The objective of this pillar is to be fully equipped to grow in mastery in your career and/or your community.

Naming this pillar should be fun and illuminate a game-changing capability or capacity that isn’t mainstream today but will be an important agent of transformation. Maybe your Craft is to help build a capability that doesn’t exist today but will be essential to transform the current state of technology, or healthcare, or education, or communities. After all, many of the cool job descriptions today did not exist a decade ago. Name this pillar for the coolest job title you can think of for your decade business card.  One entrepreneur who loved leading leadership teams into the unknown entitled this pillar “I am an Expedition Guide”.

4. Learning

The fourth pillar is the domain of Learning. Although the act of learning is a key component in Self, Others, and Craft, it takes on a different meaning here. This is where you place all the experiences you want to have purely for the love of adventure, curiosity, pleasure, and erudition, like travel, art, hobbies, and reading. 

This is also the domain of unlearning, unknowing, and decolonizing your understanding of the world as you knew it so as to relearn from a deeper place of wisdom. This pillar guides you in an open inquiry. What gets my creative juices flowing? What hobbies have I ignored or experiences have I foregone because I was too busy?” What would I love to learn if only I had the time? This domain expands your horizons by being curious about what the world can teach you.

To name your pillar, start by listing all the “elective courses” of the experiences you would love to  have and the people/places you want to learn from in your imagined curriculum and fieldwork. Then name this pillar the title of your imagined PhD program or dissertation that describes your newfound mastery. Examples have included PhD in Compromise Through Gardening and Dr. of Shamanic Wisdom

5. Contribution

Contribution is the last pillar of mastery. In your first four pillars, you are building your own mastery. Here you are scanning for other masters in the form of leaders and/or organizations that are building their mastery in service of a purpose that is complementary to yours. And they need your masterful gifts, talents, and wisdom to be complete. 

Who are the impactful leaders and organizations that are doing great work in…? How can I focus my philanthropic approach over the next decade? Where can I contribute my superpowers to other master change-makers who need them? In this domain, you are contributing your best self to society-at-large.  Where am I willing to be “all in” with my “4Ws – my wealth, wisdom, work and worldly connections”?

This domain of mastery is most easily named by giving it the title of your imagined granting foundation or nonprofit that would reflect and telegraph to “grantees” the areas you are committed to invest in.   Past examples include, a) What Would Greta Do.org, b) Olive Branch.org, and c) CommunityTable.org.

Fit the Pieces Together

These five domains of mastery are distinct yet connected. Mastery in each influences the journey of mastery in the other pillars. They each pave the way to your decade destination. 

To increase your chances of experiencing an epic decade, you need to devote an equivalent amount of effort to name and pursue excellence in each of these domains instead of over-privileging one at the expense of others. For you overachievers, don’t get anxious. You don’t have to be working on each domain at the same time. You have all the time in the world—50,000 hours—to fit the puzzle pieces together in a masterful way.

The above is adapted from EPIC!: The Women’s Power Play Book. For more advice on the five pillars, you can find EPIC! on Amazon.


Written by Carolyn Buck Luce.
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Carolyn Buck Luce
Carolyn Buck Luce is one of America’s most respected and accomplished voices on women as leaders and their relationship with power. A sought-after speaker, she was appointed by New York City’s former Mayor Bloomberg to his Commission on Women’s Issues and has co-authored numerous articles in the Harvard Business Review on women’s leadership, as well as diversity and inclusion.

Across five decades, Carolyn has been a successful diplomat, Wall Street banker, management consultant, healthcare futurist, talent innovator, professor, author, philanthropist, wife, mother, and grandmother. Carolyn’s life journey navigating a man’s world has given her a unique perspective on living an epic life of meaning and purpose, regardless of the obstacles. Today, she uses her proprietary Decade Game to coach leading women around the globe to step fully into their power at home, at work, and in the world.


Carolyn Buck Luce is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with her through LinkedIn. For more information, visit the author’s website.