Even though I know about, and coach others on, transitioning from where you are to where you want to be, it can be a tough journey. Brene Brown describes it so beautifully when she talks about the messy middle, a concept she and Pixar well understand and that many of us have (or will) experience.
Last year, Brown gave a talk at Pixar Animation Studios, where president Ed Catmull (who helped save Pixar with Toy Story) and his team explained that the middle of the creative process is the hardest part. In the script, for example, it’s where the main character must face a tough journey to learn a lesson. That shaped her theory: You can’t skip the second act. “People don’t recount the middle of the story often,” Brown says. “[It has] the most potential for shame. But it’s where everything important happens.” Source: FastCompany website
Sometimes the messy middle is thrust upon us – our company folds or our role is made redundant, we have an accident that restricts what we can do, or we have carer responsibilities that limit our choices. Other times, it is a construct of our own creation!
I recently left a well-paid job, working with good people, because I had a heartfelt desire to focus more on creating caring organisations. I can lead difficult change projects and achieve the desired outcomes, and my strength in facilitating conversations to support clearer self-understanding, strategic insights and leadership effectiveness has been recognised. But as I think about the legacy I want to leave, being a louder voice in how we do our work, not just why and what we do, is driving me to do something different.
I want a kinder workplace and a more transparent one. I want leaders to role model and reward the values and behaviours most organisations espouse and place on the wall. I want to support communication that helps people understand the organisations purpose and align their own with it.
I want the quiet achievers, those who don’t seek glory and may never seek a different role, to be appreciated for their consistent, diligent work in ‘keeping the lights on’. I want talent programs to be inclusive and available to all who want opportunity to grow.
I want to see strategy really take into account the people elements and ensure alignment across the organisation so the silos, the conflicts, are minimised. I don’t want to move the problems from one part of an organisation to another, but rather see them surfaced, acknowledged, and addressed.
The messy middle is well and truly my space right now. It is tough, and my sense of shame in not immediately finding roles that provide an opportunity to be a louder voice is co-existing with my gratitude for being able to even explore the possibilities (which includes a thank you to my supportive spouse). In my shame, I sometimes imagine friends and others may see me as being selfish in wanting more than I had, because what I had was pretty good! I do remind myself it is a first-world problem, but it’s where I am and I write this to share, and own, it.
Note: If you feel you are ”bearing an untold story inside you”, you might appreciate this article by Brene Brown on the midlife unravelling.