Do people ever tell you they are too busy to go to meetings or training programs?

We had a lot of both at the Village Companies* and yes – people complained.  I mean really – how were people supposed to make their goals if they had to spend lots of time  attending classes and meetings, and reading books and articles to prepare.  But Jim, Bob and Kay were dedicated to learning and development for all on the staff and they ignored the rumblings.  They knew that the time away from working on goals “today” would mean making more goals “tomorrow”.  And of course they were right.  Most of the time.

In one training session, we watched a video during which Rosabeth Moss Canter said :  “Everything is a mess In the middle.”

That was at least 20 years ago.  Over and over since then, that phrase has helped me and many others make goals or complete projects that otherwise might have been abandoned because of the mess in the middle.


  • the mess in the middle of a recent fundraising campaign.  The goal seemed unreachable, volunteers were tired and needed to get back to their pay jobs.
  • the mess in the middle of a recent team retreat when several participants were questioning the very basics of the purpose of their work.
  • the mess in the middle of changing over from an old system to a new and improved system.
  • the mess in the middle of moving from one office to another.

It’s times like these that Nervous Nellie, Self-Doubting Sally and Panicked Polly “show up” in my mind.   Or perhaps as real people.  Real or imaginary goons who say goop like:

  • Aha!  See.  I told you so.
  • You aren’t qualifed to do this. 
  • Nobody in this office is qualified.  
  • Why are you even doing it anyway? 
  • It was a stupid idea to begin with.

Does this ever happen to you? 
Pretty easy to start believing it, isn’t it?
Might as well quit.  It was a stupid idea anyway. 

Before you quit, I hope you will remember “Everything is a mess in the middle”.

The phrase has repeatedly saved me and many others from the doubting, panicked, worrisome goons, freeing us from the mental and emotional mess, so that we could focus on finding the way out of the REAL mess and then push through the middle to the end.

Read that sentence again.    It’s important.

Hopefully you aren’t dealing with a mess right here in the middle of 2012.  But if you are,  or next time you find yourself in the middle of one, remember:

 Everything is a mess in the middle.

A calming and confidence building power tool for pushing through the middle of the mess, to the end of it and to success.

*The Village Companies included  WCHL, University Directories, The Print Shops, The Village Advocate, The Triangle Pointer, Tar Heel Sports Network, Four Corners Press, Village Printing, Village Graphics, The Print Shops, 2 radio stations in Wilmington, NC,  2 radio stations in Lexington, KY.   

Jim Heavner (CEO), Bob Woodruff (COO), Kay Norris (President of the Publishing Division) were highly dedicated to learning and development for all on the staff.
Despite the not-enough-time complaints referred to above, they didn’t waiver on their commitment to training.
I  hope you won’t either. 
Even a bite-size bit like “Everything is a mess in the middle” can have huge impact for years and years.

P.S.  Is there a training program or training moment that has stuck with you for years?  I’d love to hear about it.

Articles of Interest:

10 Steps Out of a Mess
10 Important Things To Do Mid-Year