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

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  855 ratings  ·  75 reviews


The Messy Middle is the indispensable guide to navigating the volatility of new ventures and leading bold creative projects by Scott Belsky, bestselling author, entrepreneur, Chief Product Officer at Adobe, and product advisor to many of today's top start-ups.

Creating something from nothing is an unp
Kindle Edition, 413 pages
Published October 2nd 2018 by Portfolio
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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Maciej Nowicki
May 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Messy Middle is about project management – specifically, the mysterious and volatile middle that nobody talks about. Scott Belsky, Chief Product Officer at Adobe, a product advisor and also an entrepreneur describes this part of the whole process as something extraordinarily bumpy that gets very little coverage on the news. No one really talks much about it, because it’s just a series of positive and negative bumps. On the other hand, everyone loves talking about the moment of conception, an ...more
Nov 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
After having read quite a few books on management and entrepreneurship, I'm slightly skeptical about picking up another such book on the off chance that it might be repurposing the same old advice. To be fair, a lot of things that Belsky mentions are common sense, however his examples are fresh.

The book deserves five stars because it's a complete psychological/emotional check list for current and would be entrepreneurs. More importantly, there are so many points where I felt he really hits the
Tomas Ramanauskas
Dec 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is full of “me”, but instead of drooling on about “the amazing me”, ever present in “I’ve made it, suckers” type of books, it is mostly about “confused me”, Belsky’s learnings in building Behance and painfully learning from himself and others.

Check it, it is a good stepping stone for those starting up or continuing their young businesses. There is a ton of generous advice which in no way pretends to be a cure-for-all.
Scott Wozniak
Oct 19, 2018 rated it liked it
I generally agree with everything in this book (minor quibbles on methods). But I was disappointed to find that it's pretty much a restatement of common leadership and entrepreneurial advice.

Endure through the tough times. Hire and onboard your people carefully. Build a diverse team. Focus on your best idea, don't try to do it all at the start. You get the idea. And it's not only been said before by others, it's been said better.
Apr 06, 2019 rated it liked it
The author, founder of Behance clearly has stories to tell but, alas, he has opted for sharing his opinions (in the “teaching” style) instead. Also tries to cover too many topics and ends up just scratching lots of surfaces. Example: makes a point about calculated small bets, then claims that “but sometimes you gotta leap”, then moves on to the next topic. No examples, no stories.

All that said, the beginning of the book is very good and the last hour about exits was both good content and great
Gabriel Alan
Oct 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Aimed at anyone involved in a multi-year entrepreneurial business, Scott Belsky offers a critical and deeply reflection about the trappings and misguided strategies of, as the lingo has it, "failing forward." This book is a wonderfully practical, thoughtful and (dare I say) "spiritual" guide for anyone in its intended audience. So why the three-star review? Simply because my life and goals only have peripheral intersection with the life of a driven Silicon Valley entrepreneur. I took what I coul ...more
Jacek Bartczak
Dec 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Something like a mix of "Rework" and "What you do is who you are". Observations from this book don't blow the mind but:
- some of them are quite unique - despite the fact I consume tons of business content some observations were new for me,
- if you implement them systematically on the daily basis it will help you a lot. Because of the same reason the risk that they will be treated like "I knew it, I just didn't implement it yet" is big
Mar 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Most valuable book for entrepreneurs
Matthew  John
Jul 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Note: this review is a lot more influenced by the content in the book than the eloquence or the way it's structured for consumption (in fact I felt the short sub-sections structure sometimes end up disrupting your flow of reading).

As a startup founder who has spent more than 3 years into building a company, The Messy Middle is the most useful and relatable founder book I've read of late. I think some of the reasons would be that
1. Scott was fortunate to bootstrap his first company that became a
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
"The lack of a map for the voyage ahead caused an existential angst that meant I felt the need to live and sleep with one eye on the compass."

"Attribute your wins to those around you, and be the first to take responsibility for losses."

"But comfort also breeds complacency. Periodic disruptions of various kinds provide perspective and make people stay fresh and alert. The only way to stay strong is therefore to keep shaking things up."

“Keep reminding yourself that success doesn’t mean you know wh
Natalía Papadopoúlou
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: entrepreneurship
I pre-ordered this book and I was waiting to answer a question I have had for a while: should I discontinue my company or not? This book is almost 400 pages and it has so many stories that whatever review I leave, it wouldn’t make justice. As a researcher I found it inspiring, packed with many things to think through. I didn’t find my answer and I think now that was never the purpose or intention behind it, there is nothing easy or simple in the messy middle!
Manas Saloi
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have read in recent times.
Inhye Baik
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Boni Aditya
I have read a book similar to this one, How to build a Billion Dollar App from the founder of Hailo Cabs. This book is written by the founder of Behance, detailing all the important milestones that he has gone though while building the app. This is a good book about how to deal with various dilemmas that a founder would face from founding to the exit, and everything in between. The book is extremely impressive, only towards the end it become a bit philosophical, and thereby a bit boring, when th ...more
Ramanathan Palaniappan
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
90% of startups fail and a small 10% make up for a majority of the generated market value (otherwise referred to as 10x growth). What do the 10% possess that the remaining 90% fail to do or recognize? There are a lot of factors at play but the middle of the startup journey is a very good predictor. In "The Messy Middle", Scott Belsky who founded Behance (a creative community that was eventually sold it to Adobe in 2012 for $150M) jots down all of his learnings while enduring the messy middle of ...more
Brian Sachetta
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Success is never a straight line. News outlets love to talk about overnight victories and catastrophic downfalls, but such triumphs and failures rarely happen in an instant. Instead, they take place during the messy, confusing middle of a journey — the part this book focuses on.

Personally, I found the subject of this book to be very relevant. I also think it's extremely important on a societal level. The media LOVES sensationalism because it sells. But most stories and journeys rarely follow fai
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I’d read his Make Ideas Happen, and I think this one is sharper, with lots of helpful nuggets, highly recommend. It’s the story of the often challenging time between launching a startup and an exit, where the path and process isn’t always clear. A story not often told (well), and packed full of insights from his time taking Behance from start to Adobe acquisition. Highlights for me:
- Simple is hard: “It is very hard to make a product—or any customer experience—simple. It is even harder to keep i
Oana Filip
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
I dare to say that I came across this book right on time. Therefore, no wonder why I genuinely resonate with most of the ideas presented by Scott Belsky. This read is more like a handbook that offers you the chance to come back and read certain chapters again and less like a chronological narrative. I admire that the author highlights this way of approaching it from the preface.

''Nothing should resonate more loudly than your own intuition'' is a line that sticks with me. In a world where we are
Jul 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
The management team of my company read this book together and discussed it as a group. This book is particularly well suited for this type of activity, because it is a collection of 2-3 page essays on management, leadership, and business topics. The essays are loosely grouped, but the author comes back to common themes through out. The author is a startup founder who got his company acquired, did some time at the acquiring big company and then moved into venture capital, so he has some good expe ...more
Mike Denton
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
With the irony fully recognized, it took me awhile to get through this book. I'd pick it up and put it down and pick it up and... That said, I think I have a good excuse for it. This book is clearly aimed towards the for profit world and I work for a nonprofit. I'd say that about a quarter of what Belsky wrote could - with a little stretching - apply to the nonprofit realm with some absolute nonprofit gems here and there. The other third was still helpful for getting in an encouraging mindset fo ...more
Diego Parada Herrera
The Messy Middle is a stage every startup and company goes through at some point of their existence. This book acknowledges just that and takes you through the steps to thrive on a personal, organizational and product level. Great insights and tips for every entrepreneur. The author uses personal stories as well as other known examples to get his points across. It is a read for entrepreneurs and leaders that want to advance their companies or organizations to the next level.


The Messy Middle e
Chandra Halim
Nov 25, 2018 rated it did not like it
I just read this book for like 5 minutes, and I just know that the author himself was rarely reading books. It’s so ugly, unrelatable, wordy, and full of insignificant phrase without the essence. I think he’s just trying to practice what he thought he perceived when he read one book, so that this book (his book) will look like the real book that was sold on the bookstore, that was read by the reader—I mean this book is trying to normalize itself and keep it real.
Believe me, I’m not that kind of
Feb 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: business
So many people are starting new things - new companies, new projects, new side hustles. Everyone gets excited about starting something, and finishing it, but what about what happens between those milestones? This book addresses that messy middle.

The book is divided into sections about enduring, optimizing, and approaching the finish line. Within each of those sections, there’s a series of “chapters,” which are typically not more than 2-3 pages long. Each chapter addresses a principle or lesson l
Matthew Finlayson
Feb 07, 2019 rated it liked it
The Messy Middle caught my eye in the bookstore. The introduction is compelling, the middle of running a company is an exercise is enduring and optimizing. I’m living that right now, so I was intrigued. Unfortunately, I didn’t read more of the book. Each section has a common topic, but the sections are composed of 2 or 3 page essays. It’s effectively like reading a series of blog posts and I hate the format.
That said there were gems throughout, I particularly liked his perspective on organizati
William Anderson
Jun 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The Messy Middle is in fact not about the middle. Its a sharing of anecdotes and experience from the founder of Behance about running a company and how to deal with its end. While written with a target audience of startup founders, they will find its enduring advice invaluable, and hopefully grounding, as a book of this nature is unique to that demographic.

For those in the business world at large you will find this to be a much more standard book focused on the learnings from a single persons s
Anna Gunn
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of my stand out books of the year. A reference book that I am glad I brought rather than had on kindle. This is one book I will make a point of re-reading every year.
Every page is a guide, with useful advice that isn't based with how-to's as every industry is unique - but rather with a guideline and reminders to take on as and when. Not unlike a fortune cookie - where its useful advice can be applied to every situation.
It's clearly an American writing this book, and from a creative side - an
Anupriya Singhal
May 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Its an absolute must read for anybody with an enterpreneurship dream/bone/plan in their mind body & soul. But it is even a more important read for the souls who are cogs of the large assembly line loke organisations because it is the age of innovation & innovation requires a different mindset. Amazing read!

My favourite quote from the book (was superrrrr difficult to choose though)

“The middle of a venture is like a lengthy road trip without windows. It is psychologically torturous to travel wit
Russell Yarnell
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Imagine someone wrote a series of blog posts about their struggle through a startup and never published them. They then reviewed them and edited to finish the story of what happened. Maybe the entry had a great lesson to be learned. Then the best ones were put into a book and that is The Messy Middle. Short little stories and entries to read and reflect.

I read the book in a linear fashion. Was tempted to jump around to suit my mood. This book is for the ups and downs in the middle.
Martin Broz
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One thing to take away from this book for me was to understand that there indeed is a messy middle in everything we do.

It started off very similarly to other books that I've read on the topic but as you keep reading this one, it all gets really fresh and mature. A lot of advice Scott gives in this book is somehow life advice too - encouraging you to build a healthy relationship with your company and work.

And I don't think this book is for founders and startups only. I guess that's what makes it
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-read-2019
What impressed me about this was how generous Belsky was in writing this; any 3 or 4 chapters would be, in the hands of stingier expert, a full 250 page treatise. You get a strong sense that Belsky stripped everything insight down to its leanest, meanest, most essential components and detailed them in a 3 page read-out. Belsky's been an entrepreneur, advisor, and leader for over a decade and it shows with the width, breadth and depth of insights here.

It's start-up porn. Read at your own risk. Yo
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