The MESSY Middle
The zone between launching and finishing.
I dread all the work it takes to finish a project.
I love dreaming, innovating and launching and getting it out there. And I love looking back on a finished product or project.
But that stuff in between… that’s the messy stuff for me; editing, tweaking, adjusting, fleshing out all that detail stuff, details, details… help! Recently I went through a process from Michael Hyatt (Your Best Year Ever). I didn’t know this issue had a name… its the MESSY MIDDLE.
I confess that I have a strong aversion to the “MESSY MIDDLE.” (My grand son won’t let me use the term “hate.”)
I’ve been hoping (down through the years) that no one would ever notice that I don’t like those middle things— but cats out of the bag… they noticed (for years), and now I’ve noticed (I am admitting it).
Whether it’s due to perfectionism, aversion to details, or just an inability to maintain enthusiasm for the long haul, I have come to realize that there are many of us out there who have some of these same challenges that must be overcome to produce work that matters.
So… first important insight about attacking this topic: Pretending that our aversions don’t exist, won’t get us anywhere. Next comes identifying what actually are the roadblocks that must be overcome?
Here are THREE that I have identified for me, along with ways of diagnosing / treating what I’ve found to be my common barriers to completion. Maybe they can be of help for you.
1. Believing Nothing is Ever Finished
The battle: When you’re convinced that you are “settling” by finishing, because you know that something can always be made better, you won’t finish. The strength of “continuous improvement” has now become your enemy. This WILL cause you to lower your standards in other areas; missing deadlines, loss of integrity, falling behind on other responsibilities and feeling stressed all the time.
What I Should do: I have to clarify the cost of trying to do everything “ideally.” I also have to admit that by always keeping the “I can make it better” door open, I am impacting the chance for others to use and replicate my learning. If I keep changing it, they can never take it, use it, impact others.
2. Losing Excitement Before Finishing
The battle: Abandoning projects at 75%, or even 90% produces 0% benefit for others. When I begin to wane in my enthusiasm, think about what the loss results of all that labor; the help I know my project or product can and will be, goes right down the drain because I refuse to push to the tape.
What to do: I am beginning to tell myself now (self-talk)… “Terry, you are in the “RED ZONE” (American football term). Time to score. Finish it!
Also.. Partner with persistent people. If you struggle with maintaining the energy to finish, find the individuals who insist (sometimes to the point of annoying you) that you must push through. Schedule the help and their accountability. Positive peer pressure can help push it through.
3. Knowing Others Could Do it Better
The mental battle: Sometimes I “fear” finishing because I know of others could say it better, produce it better, impact others in a greater way, than I can. I can actually think of names of leaders out there who I know have worked on this same topic, and will imagine them reading my stuff, or trying to use my tools, and I hear them say: “This is weak Walling!”
What to do: Re-frame the conversation inside of me. If we feel like our external success determines our internal value or worth, then the results of each new project will never be what they can or should be, and in the end I will never finish because I can’t open my self up to that kind of rejection.
To help us overcome that mindset, we need to change our thinking:
“I am a decent ______ (coach, writer, leader, synthesizer, etc.). This is not a question of whether anything that I do could not be done better by others. This is an issue of stewarding the gifts/insights God has entrusted to me, and worshiping him with my life. I need to always strive to do the best possible work I can, but success is not about the comparison of myself to others, but in choosing to be me, and to be satisfied, with who God has made me to be.”
Well those are my BIG THREE!
They are some of the causes of getting bogged down in the MESSY MIDDLE. What did I miss? What are other traps that us non-finishers fall into that you could add to the list? Got any?
(Source: Genesis thinking for this blog was sourced from a blog I read on http://www.99u.com)
© Terry Walling 2013