The Truth About The Messy Middle

Success In The Messy Middle

My Christmas list this year was heavy on books. Go figure. If you know me, that’s like mentioning water is wet or the sky is blue. Even though I can buy them for myself throughout the year — and trust me, I do, in droves — for some reason I just can’t resist asking … for … more … books.

The week between Christmas and New Years is actually my favorite time to read. Some people go on vacation, others completely check out or binge watch Netflix (sounds awesome by the way). I tend to read at least one book from cover to cover.

Two years ago it was Scott Adams’s book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big (One of my all-time favorites).

Last year it was Tim Ferriss’s new release, Tools of Titans.

This go-round I read two books actually. The first was The Gratitude Jar because first and foremost, I am committed to making gratitude a habit this year.

The second was a autobiography that I’ll admit, kind of caught me by surprise. A breath of fresh air or a bucket of cold water — depending upon which way you look at it.

You see, as a kid I used to love biographies. In fact, when it came to books, that was about all I ever read. For whatever reason, I never got into comic books, mysteries, or fantasy novels. Rather, it was either a story of someone’s life or the newest edition of Beckett Baseball Card Monthly

This year though, I’ve got an itch to dive back into biographies. And, over break, I decided to test the waters with Chip Gaines’s book Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff. 

In case you’ve been living under a rock the past 4–5 years, Chip and his wife Joanna own the Magnolia brand. And they are the brains & braun behind HGTV’s hit show Fixer Upper.

Truthfully, I did not have high expectations for this book.

On the show, I find Chip’s brand of extreme silliness kind of lame. I half-expected this story to follow suit.

So why bother asking for the book?

Well, very good question.

Maybe it was Chip’s baseball background, which I was recently made aware of. Ironically enough, he and I grew up with similar aspirations of baseball stardom.

In his book he writes, “To me there was no scenario in which I didn’t end up playing college ball and then going pro, no matter what the odds were … Baseball was my trajectory. It was my plan A and there was no plan B.”

That sounds eerily familiar …

Gaines spent a couple years as an aspiring a walk-on at Baylor before ultimately his dream was snuffed out. This, a couple years before I arrived on campus at UT.

Maybe it was my general intrigue about empire that Chip and JoJo are building just 100 miles north of here. Their model of business (i.e. 7 different spokes of business around one central brand/hub) is one that I am looking to emulate — on a much smaller scale. For now. 

I find it amusing that despite going from 10 employees in 2013, to almost 500 employees today, Chip still refers to it as a “small” business. “For now it’s more like a young ballplayer with tons and tons of potential but a long way to go to be considered one of the best,” he claims.

Or maybe I was just plain curious about whether it’s truly as easy as they make it seem on television. You know, the whole overnight success phenomenon.

Here’s the answer: It’s not.

Easy, that is.

What they don’t tell you on television is that Chip’s been running his construction business for almost 2 decades. Dang near went bankrupt a couple of times too. Or that Joanna first opened Magnolia Market back in the early 2000’s before deciding to shut it down in 2004, taking an 8-year hiatus and spend more time with the kids. Or that in 2015, after finally getting their finances “into the black,” they went millions of dollars back into debt to purchase and renovate The Silos.

Then again, I suppose “the messy middle” doesn’t really make for good TV. And yet it’s where many of us — even the most successful — operate a good deal of the time.

As someone (me) whose plans will undoubtedly take him out into the deep end of the pool this year, I admire the Gaineses’ ability to take bold and courageous action without losing perspective and grace. To essentially put everything on the line for one dream.

To step out of the play-by-play and remain focused on the bigger picture. The final score.

As Chip writes, “the heroine is no different than you and I. No one is born that way. It happens through a willingness to make small, brave decisions … a lifetime of courageous choices. And you start by choosing to have a little more courage today than you had yesterday. Quit dodging hard things.”

In other words, to make the lasting impact, you have to work outside the boundaries of comfort and convention.

Ohh-rah. Here we come 2018 …

Embrace the mess …

Deep breaths …

Don’t look down!

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Ryan France

Ryan France is a native of Austin Texas, father of two, super-early riser, avid reader, admitted podcast junkie & bulletproof coffee addict. In a past life, France was an aspiring professional baseball player. Today, Ryan is an entrepreneur, author and relentless innovator of the real estate industry. Read more on the "Who is Ryan?" page.