Messy MiddleDec 16, 2021
Feeling like you’re in a funk, but don’t know why?
You may be in the messy middle.
This post is about the messy middle: what it is, how it happens, and how to pass through it with grace and class.
What is the messy middle?
My fellow academic and entrepreneur, Dr. Chad McAllister1, had a podcast interview with Scott Belsky, the author of the book, The Messy Middle2. I admit I didn’t read the entire book (must know where your energy is best invested), but I never forgot the title. According to Belsky, the messy middle refers to the time after a big event, such as a new product or service launch, but before there is any (sign of) success.
In science, there’s no such thing as a positive without a negative3.
In the Spirit, there’s no such thing as a problem without provision4.
To me, the messy middle is that time between recognizing (or having, but not recognizing) a problem or weakness and receiving the provision or solution to the problem. This is the time when doubt, fear, despair, frustration, impatience, and a general feel of lack or blah may set in, even for a generally positive, upbeat, inspired person.
How does it happen?
How do we get ourselves in the messy middle?
As entrepreneurs, we probably spend more time in the messy middle than anywhere else, and more so than anyone else, whether we realize it or not. Entrepreneurs, by nature, are foundation builders. We may be able to see something grand for the future. But, we begin with a blank screen, empty lot, white space. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. Other people may come alongside to pretty it up, but that’s after we get it out of or off and ground.
Recently, I recognized I was in the messy middle of it and thought my experience and outcome might be helpful to you.
I felt just blah. I’m not talking about the neutral feeling of contentment that entrepreneurs feel when nothing too crazy is happening. I’m talking about that feeling of slipping…like I’ve got a toe on the slippery slope that leads to negativity, then to worse.
Over the past few years, by listening to my Spirit, I’ve overcome so many things that held me captive for so long…depression, body image issues, shame, performance orientation, among others. I have SO much to be grateful for. So many loose ends have been tied, dreams have come to fruition. In the past two months alone, mountains have moved. Reading my journal from three days before, I was super high-vibe, feeling so in the flow with my Spirit.
Why? Why was I feeling so blah…so melancholy?
Then, after a good night of sleep, I woke with the solution to a problem I didn’t even realize I had. I felt a lightness I hadn’t felt in a few days. It hit me. I’d been in the messy middle and didn’t even realize it. I had an unsolved problem, which resulted in my feeling helpless and blah, which lowered my vibe. The problem kept popping up over the past few months in different ways. The provision showed up this week in a few different ways. It took some rest and quiet for me to receive clarity on the answer (actually see the provision for what it was.)
It’s one thing to be in the messy middle when you know it. You’ve launched a product or service, now you’ve got to generate sales. You’ve found the solution to your accounting dilemma, now you’ve got to convert all your data.
In my case, I didn’t actually recognize that I was in the messy middle until I had passed through it.
Had I actually asked my Spirit for the answer (the provision) to my problem beforehand? In this case, no, I hadn’t. It just lingered and got bigger. Thankfully, our Spirit loves us enough to give us answers even when we don’t specifically ask for them.
However, I’m not one to take my Spirit’s graciousness for granted. I don’t have time for going ‘round the mountain’ more than once…if I can help it. So, I did ask my Spirit what else is lingering that I’m not recognizing? I was guided to a series on Regeneration, by Graham Cooke5, for helpful activation, which I’ll paraphrase below.
How do I pass through the messy middle?
As avant-garde entrepreneurs, we need a mix of practical and Spirit-guided tools so that we can pivot to our next point of innovation and operate at our best. Here are some suggestions for passing through the messy middle:
Rest. Rest is our weapon against the blahs of the messy middle and major life challenges. We are naturally more positive when rested and less positive when tired.
Quiet. Noise deafens us to the answers and provision that we, as entrepreneurs, need to build the foundation, or pivot to the next innovation. What is noise? Other humans, our inner-ego chatter, distractions, the intense need of the people surrounding us.
Eat or smell grapefruit and orange. This is a “happy” smell.
Better yet, get some grapefruit essential oil (or any citrus), and put it on pulse points, like your wrists, neck, or the bottoms of your feet.
Get out your journal and pen. (Writing tends to be better than typing. Plus, there are no distractions that come from devices.) Get into a quiet space. Take 3 deep breaths (This lowers your blood pressure and helps center you with your Spirit.) Ask your Spirit two simple questions:
- What do I consider a place of weakness (problem, challenge) you want to be with me in?
- Who are you (What is your provision) for me in this place?
By asking and receiving answers to these two questions, the middle actually becomes much less messy. When we know and believe we are guided by our Spirit, who is working for us and in us, even (especially) while we’re sleeping, then it’s less about “performing” (what we do) and more about “being” (who we are). It seems counter-intuitive to what the world says, but less is truly more when it comes to being an Avant-Garde Entrepreneur. Your Spirit is your secret weapon, which provides the provision, which always exists when there is a problem.
You can’t have a negative without a positive, or a problem without provision.
Since you may not have time to come back to this post, click here for a free printable quick card with the questions or here for a free printable activation that you can add to your journal, or use to start one!
I can’t stress enough the importance of journaling. Not sure where or how to begin? Download this free 5-day prompted journal to get you started! Why 5 days and not 7?
Well, I knnnooowww you! And if I gave you 7 days and you didn’t do all 7 days, you’d either feel like:
I can’t do this.
This is not fun.
This is too hard.
I don’t have time for this.
Instead, we’ll start with 5 non-consecutive days, meaning you don’t have to do it five days in a row. Just do them as you can…as it feels good! If it doesn’t feel good right then, don’t do it. Come back to it later. Remember, “It doesn’t have to be hard to be right.” ~TB
Click here to get the 5-Day Prompted Journal
1. McAllister, C. (n.d.) Product Mastery Now. https://productmasterynow.com/mastery/
2. Belsky, S. (2018). The Messy Middle. https://www.amazon.com/Messy-Middle-Finding-Through-Hardest/dp/0735218072
3. Savini, A. (2020). The early experiments of Alessandro volta and the Seebeck effect. URSI Radio Science Bulletin, 2020(372), 52-55. https://doi.org/10.23919/URSIRSB.2020.9240106
4. Cooke, G. (2011). The Art of Thinking Brilliantly. https://www.brilliantbookhouse.com/products/the-art-of-thinking-brilliantly-cd-set
5. Cooke, G. (2021). Regeneration. https://brilliantperspectives.com/regenerate-1-in-christ-were-bound-to-gods-nature/