The messy middle. What it is and how to work through it.
So you may or may not of heard the term ‘Messy Middle’ thrown about before. It’s starting to be discussed more but up until recently it has been more of a case of people shouting more about their beginnings (which is exciting) or their ends which is either a celebration or a reflection of lessons learned.
The messy middle however isn’t quite as exciting but it’s important as it is what takes up 90% of your business journey.
So many people get confused, anxious and often quit when they can’t understand why they haven’t had the overnight successes that they have seen everyone else shout about.
Let me tell you now that the overnight success does not exist.
Every single person you follow or look up to who only talks about their successes and appears to of just come out of nowhere is bullshitting you. They will have their own story filled with challenges, disappointments and failures until finally something clicked.
But trust me it did not happen overnight.
Success in all it’s forms takes action, grit and stamina.
And that is what the messy middle is made up of.
It’s the wilderness of business.
And its hard. Let’s not beat around the bush here, nothing worth having was ever easy and the same goes for your big dreams. What I don’t get is why there is a level of shame around this stage. Like we are only enough once we have made it over the finish line.
The people I work with are all in their messy middle’s and they are the most inspiring people I know. It takes a certain type of person to start something, stay consistent and not loose sight of the end goal no matter what is thrown at them.
AND THAT SHOULD BE CELEBRATED
So lets break it down into those three key elements…
Ok so this is where you need to take responsibility for yourself. You will not get from where you are now to where you want to be without action.
So many people have an idea, make a plan (usually in some new pretty notebook) and then don’t take action. There is usually a ton of reasons for this maybe they don’t want it bad enough, they lack confidence or they live in a fantasy world where they think they made this thing or offer this service and the customers are just going to come out of thin air and the bank balance is going to overflow.
Sorry sunshine it doesn’t work like that.
You actually need to do some work.
And I am not talking about busy work. I am talking about intentional action fuelled by your passion.
You need to master your craft, fine tune your customer service and be visible.
EVERY . SINGLE . DAY
If you do that then over time you will start to see those wins roll in. They will be small at first, maybe you will even overlook them but slowly and surely all that action will start to accumulate and gain momentum and suddenly you will be achieving your goals.
Now this is where the other two elements come in…
This is a common characteristic in all entrepreneurs. It takes serious grit to survive the messy middle, to get up every morning and go out and take that action. you need grit as the backbone to your intentions.
Grit is dusting yourself after a failure, pivoting and then trying again.
It’s the ability to look past the emotions and learn the valuable lessons from our mistakes and rejections.
Grit is water over a ducks back, it’s not letting anything distract you from your goal.
Don’t get me wrong we all have our shit days, you know the ones where it feels like you are climbing the mountain and the top isn’t getting any closer? We all face this and we all have to dig deep and deal with it.
You need grit for the times when the resources aren’t there, for when you don’t hear back from that potential client or for when you don’t quite know how the bills are going to be paid.
The reason you need it is because this messy middle is not filled with rainbows and unicorns and you need to be able to stay focused no matter what.
Yep have a cry, feel your frustration but then turn it around and channel that energy into moving things forward, don’t quit the world needs what you offer.
Ok so you have a plan and you have the gritty determination to see it through. Brilliant.
Now sadly this isn’t a sprint. This is a marathon and you may need to keep going for months maybe even years for some people before you get to where you want to be.
And this takes stamina. I think this is probably the hardest element of the messy middle. Especially for us modern day creative entrepreneurs who need instant gratification.
We all know how it feels, day after day filled with Instagram posts, blogging, networking plus the work we need to actually do IN our businesses. It can really feel like things are not moving fast enough for us and this is where so many fall.
Lets think of things like an athlete. You need to train yourself and nurture yourself to maintain stamina in a healthy way and this means not making yourself sick because you work 18hr days 7 days a week.
That way of going ends in mental and physical health problems. Been there and got the t-shirt.
You didn’t start your business to make yourself sick.
So many of us treat ourselves in a way that would lead to a law suit in a employment role and think it’s ok.
Go back to your plan, break it down into monthly, weekly and the daily chunks that are manageable and block out time for you and your self care.
Me for example I do work 7 days a week BUT I have every morning to myself with the horses. That is my precious time for me. I need light, movement and my animals to function so I make sure that I get it. I also don’t generally work past 6 and I try to eat reasonably well and go to bed at 10pm. Boring??? Yep! But it allows me to maintain my stamina.
Another little hack for stamina is a win book! Or jar… can be anything you like. Every time and I mean every time something brilliant happens in your business write it down, acknowledge it and celebrate it. Doesn’t matter how big or small that win is if you actually make a note of them they will nourish you. And every time you feel like you are not getting somewhere sit down and read them, remind yourself that you are doing so well and that even when it feels like it’s not the goal is getting closer.
So I hope this has helped you and given you some tools for navigating the messy middle! Remember everyone’s journey is different just by simply taking that first step into creating a life you love you are already well on your way to an extraordinary life.