The Messy Middle
It has been said that the two most important parts of every race are the start and the finish. The middle gets left out every time. There are more starters than there are finishers. Why? It is because of what happens in the middle. Finishers by definition have made it through the middle.
Over the last few years I have heard the phrases, “the messy middle” or “it’s a hot mess in the middle” a lot more. It was in the context of parenting originally but then I began to hear the phrase used in business.
In 2018, Scott Belsky wrote a book and gave a talk that was posted online discussing the messy middle. He suggests that to get through the mess, we have to be able to endure and optimize. To endure and optimize he suggests that we have to accept the burden of processing uncertainty and to compartmentalize insecurity work. We have to give up on things we have no control over and only worry about the things that are in our control. I call this the duck principle – If you can’t influence it, let it roll off your back. I know this is easier said than done.
There are things that happen to us. We can’t control everything (or most things). All we can do is have faith, hope, insurance and an emergency kit. There are other things that happen to us that we have something to do with. For those things, we have some authority, influence and/or control. We can change our attitudes and actions and by so doing we change the mess in the middle to things we are accountable for and things we are not. When we are accountable, we can control the impact things have on us. It helps us deal with uncertainty.
Once you are accountable and know what you are accountable for, we can control our response options or become response-able. Knowing your responsibilities gives you more control and allows you to focus on your part of the mess you are traveling through. You are able to look to the finish line and see how to get there.
In parenting, we have to learn that kids are hard. Some kids are harder than others. As parents we have loved, taught and protected (the responsibilities parents are accountable for.) Children, particularly teenagers, still exercise agency and make good as well as poor choices which believe it or not have no bearing whatsoever to the efficacy of your love, teaching or protection. They create messes that you and they have to deal with. Knowing your part in the mess and what isn’t your part, makes the mess more manageable.
In business, we have to learn that _______ (insert an area of business) is hard. Other parts are harder. As business owners, we have many responsibilities that we are accountable for. Working on those rather than the other messes we walk by that we aren’t responsible for helps us see the finish line and how to get there. David Goggins called this process “Embracing the Suck.” We are able to get through the hot mess in the middle with fewer distractions, a better attitude and come out the finish line having learned something.
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This blog allows you to experience the raw, gut wrenching drama of human conflict through accounting in each of its three stages: preparing to do battle, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.