Notes From The Messy Middle
There’s been a robbery.
That’s what people are going to think when they step into this house and see this mess, I say to myself as I surveyed the rooms in my house.
Clothes strewn across the bed. Cardboard boxes scattered in the hallways. Clutter sitting on top of clutter. No clear surface in sight.
Is moving houses supposed to be like this?!
Post-honeymoon, Ben and I gave ourselves exactly one week before starting back at work to move houses and (physically) smush both our lives together. To sort out the clutter, buy new furniture from Ikea, and turn our house into a home.
Knowing that March was going to be chock-a-block full with projects, and determined NOT to work in chaos, I rolled up my sleeves and put together a plan.
- Declutter the bedroom on Monday
- Sort out the front & main living room on Tuesday
- Re-organise the kitchen on Wednesday
- Clean out the office on Thursday
- Rest and be done on Friday
Then Thursday rolled around. And instead of pulling together the final touches so we could sink onto the couch and marvel at our beautiful home ―
We couldn’t walk down the corridor without tripping over empty cardboard boxes (because our recycling bin was too full).
Tools and nails littered the floor, creating the world’s most painful obstacle course.
The bedroom and living rooms still looked like a cyclone had raged past and came back for round 2.
I had no office to work in (because we needed the spare room to stash the overflow of boxes).
And with the self-imposed deadline coming up, I began to lose my cool.
No matter how many hours Ben and I sorted, vacuumed, organised – nothing felt done. The more we unpacked, the more mess would appear. It felt like we were going backwards, doomed to be surrounded by clutter.
It’s kinda like running a business.
We have a clear vision of the finish line based on revenue goals and milestones.
We get hopped up on motivation and adrenalin to get started.
We map out a seemingly straightforward plan (like following someone’s step by step launch calendar or business plan).
We slam into roadblocks.
We realise we’re missing a pivotal piece so we have to detour and start another mini project before we can proceed with the main one.
We run into a slower month than usual where we get zero bites on our lead generators.
We see a dip in our launch or revenue numbers and we wonder if we’ll ever sell anything again.
We question if we really want to be known for the niche we’ve carved out for ourselves or whether we should burn it all down.
And no matter how many hours we put in, all our efforts feel like it’s pulling us further away from our goals.
So we spin, spiral, and forget which way is up.
And we usually end up pausing, shelving dream projects, and trying to move onto something else.
But I couldn’t pause Operation: Move House.
Walking through the house was like navigating a minefield of boxes and stuff. So. Much. Stuff.
But when I unloaded my concerns onto Ben, he calmly sat me down and said:
The corridor and garage overflowing with boxes? It’s because we bought a ton of flat-pack furniture we need to make our lives easier.
The tools and nails strewn on the floor? He needs them to build said furniture.
And the stuff all around us? Was because we were slowly getting through the mountain of packed boxes.
Right now, I am waist-deep in the trenches of the messy middle.
Right now, I thought I’d be somewhere radically different in my business.
I had planned for things to unfold sequentially ― just like the business owners I admired from afar. To spend each year hitting a new, flashier milestone, leapfrogging into bigger ponds, and seeing visible growth on growth on growth.
And for a while? Things really were going to plan!
But in the last 6-10 months, I’ve felt more uncertain than ever about what I want to do and how to move forward.
And despite continuing to plod along, it feels like there’s been no progress. There are only half-baked ideas scribbled down on paper. Projects shelved. Things left undone, and chaos all around me, as I try to figure out which direction is forward and up.
But like Ben said:
Maybe that’s part & parcel of the process.
If I ever want my house to feel like a home, I had to be ok with unpacking boxes and dirtying the counter tops.
And if I ever want to create a business that matches my vision, I have to be ok with sitting in the mess for a while.
I once read that there’s no beauty without chaos.
Where there’s artwork, there’s a studio covered with paint splatters.
Where there’s masterful documentaries, dozens of footage have been left on the cutting room floor.
Where there’s a riveting sales page, there are 10 shitty drafts.
Where there’s babies…
You get the picture.
And when it comes to our business?
We have to word-vomit our ideas first before packaging them up into something palatable.
Break a few systems to test if it’s truly working or if it can be fine-tuned.
Pull our products and frameworks apart, so we can put ‘em back together again.
Spread our offers on the floor and take stock so we know what to keep and what to cull.
If there’s mess, there’s progress. It means you’re on the way to figuring stuff out.
Mind you, I know that’s not easy to remember.
Even though we know rationally that growth isn’t linear, and progress isn’t a straight line on the map ―
Sometimes we forget.
We panic when we see dips.
We second guess ourselves when we see others moving gracefully from point A to B to C while we’re floundering.
We see mess as something going terribly wrong.
If everything was always clean & pristine, it likely means we aren’t creating. We’re stagnant and frozen, too scared to touch or move or do anything out of fear we’d mess up.
And I don’t know about you…
But I’d rather be messy if it means I’m on the way to creating something beautiful ― than stay stuck in a clean environment.