The Messy Middle | Scott Belsky

Summary of: The Messy Middle: Finding Your Way Through the Hardest and Most Crucial Part of Any Bold Venture
By: Scott Belsky


Venturing into the complex world of entrepreneurship or artistic pursuits can be an overwhelming experience, with intense ups and downs. ‘The Messy Middle,’ a book by Scott Belsky, delves deep into the challenges faced during the journey to success. From finding your direction to staying motivated amid seemingly insurmountable obstacles, this book serves as a torchbearer in arduous times. Providing concrete advice on harnessing the power of self-awareness, playing the long game, optimizing your work, and maintaining momentum despite setbacks, it equips readers with the tools needed to navigate the volatile middle stages of a bold undertaking.

The Messy Middle of Venture Creation

The journey towards successful completion is full of highs and lows, but it is the messy middle that is incredibly volatile for any worthwhile venture. Scott Belsky, after founding his online platform Behance, went through a messy middle of his own, during which it seemed like his whole project was on the verge of falling apart. The mid-section is all about finding direction, making progress, and then stumbling again. Weathering the lows, enjoying the highs, and pushing yourself to ensure each low isn’t as low as the low before are critical in achieving successful completion.

Staying Motivated on the Road to Long-Term Success

Pursuing entrepreneurial or creative endeavors comes with long-term goals and hardships that offer little to no external rewards. Humans are wired for short-term rewards, leaving us vulnerable to loss of motivation during ventures without immediate outcomes. The solution is to manufacture short-term rewards without compromising the primary long-term goals. Personalized short-term goals ensure fulfillment and create camaraderie with employees or team members while offering motivation to keep going. Manufacturing these rewards is the key to avoiding discouragement and staying the course.

The Power of Self-Awareness for Entrepreneurial Success

In an entrepreneurial journey, self-awareness is critical to understand how the highs and lows can influence your decision-making and impact your project. During the peaks, overconfidence may lead to ignoring good advice and signals, while the valleys may lead to blaming others and ignoring feedback. Founders with the most potential for success remain self-aware, seek constructive criticism, and integrate suggestions into their operations.

Playing the Long Game in Business

The human brain is not wired to project chain reactions, neglecting to lay the foundations for future accomplishments. To play the long game, one must disregard the usual principles of productivity and spend significant time building strong working relationships with potential collaborators. Business leaders should invest time, energy, and money in those who have great potential to add value to their business in the future, even if their current ideas or projects aren’t viable. Unfortunately, history is littered with business leaders who didn’t have the foresight to play the long game like Blockbuster, who refused to buy Netflix for $50 million. To succeed in business, we must adopt long-term focused behaviors and invest in relationships that may not pay off in the short term but will yield fruitful collaborations several years in the future.

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