the sky floor

How to Unravel a Tangled Mess

June 21, 2021

Have you ever had a giant mess of necklaces, audio cables, or Christmas lights to untangle? Unfortunately, around here, it happens at least a few times a year. 

Yesterday my six-year-old daughter had a massive tangle of seven necklaces in a very tight and meandering ball, and she needed my help. As I sank into this snarl of rope, metal chains, and plastic, I realized that often in business and in life, we are handed similar messes – messes where you can’t see the beginnings or the ends of the confusion. Instead, all you have is a blob of intertwined concerns, problems, mistakes, and consequences. So how do you start to unravel the mess?

As I sat staring blankly for a minute at the twists, turns, and resulting knot in my hand, I just started to pull. You reach in for the tightest part and loosen what you can, trying to trace the lines and get enough slack to pull one problem through. This stage is all about faith. You have no reason to believe it will be possible to separate all of these intricacies from each other fully. 

Eventually, pieces start to give, and you can see the order in the chaos. The first piece comes out, and success seems possible, so you keep on pulling the threads. Moving and loosening each one a little more until you can see the next move. You have to jump from strand to strand to succeed because just as you are about to free one issue, another one needs attending to as it holds the final grip on the problem closest to a solution. 

Unraveling a seemingly insurmountable business problem or goal is the same way. You don’t have to see each move to start making moves. You simply need to know what you want in the end and start pulling on the middle. Of course, you can’t know which action is the right one to make next, but you can start with a next step that is in your control. 

As the pieces start to loosen, the following steps become more apparent, and eventually, you will gain momentum and realize your goal. 

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What big goal or giant mess can you start unraveling today by acting in faith and pulling at the tightest knots first?