Stuck in the middle comes from an observation by Harvard strategy professor Michael Porter regarding companies that attempt to compete on two fronts that are mutually exclusive. This results in the company not being able to focus their energy towards a single objective, and thus not performing in an optimal way. In a general principle this comes back to the fact that a Jack of all trades is a master of none. When men find the manosphere, they find the biggest self-improvement community on the internet, that deals with self-improvement in many areas of life. What started with the simple scripts of presenting yourself as a high value male, has morphed into a community focused on constructing high value men.
Many of the men who enter this sphere find themselves wanting in multiple regards. If they are lucky there is merely one glaring issue staring them in the face, but often there are a mix of psychological, physiological and social issues that they find themselves having to resolve. In an effort to rectify these issues rapidly, they find themselves frantically attempting to improve on every front at once, only for their willpower to run out and the inevitable backsliding takes place. Much of the time I see this written off as weakness on the part of the individual man, rather than poor planning in the initial stages.
The sheer volume of red pill literature these days is so immense, and a man who is recently awoken from the blue pill illusion is rapidly made painfully aware of the many bricks that built the walls illusion and that he must now disassemble. This wall that served him throughout his life consists of mindset, physiology, psychology, habits, principles, learned scripts, innate scripts and many other pieces that in their totality serve as the causality of his life. His view that karma sorts out everything, that he doesn’t need to exercise and eat real food, innate issues with self-esteem, the habit of putting other people before self, or principles about how to behave all work together in synergy to create a weak, sick, submissive, supplicating man.
This wall that in some regards was constructed as a means to sequester himself within his own world, where he is safe and comfortable, as the 48 laws of Power says about fortresses
The world is dangerous and enemies are everywhere— everyone has to protect themselves. A fortress seems the safest. But isolation exposes you to more dangers than it protects you from—it cuts you off from valuable information, it makes you conspicuous and an easy target. Better to circulate among people, find allies and mingle. You are shielded from your enemies by the crowd.
When faced with reality that this wall obscures his view of the world, and forms a construct that leads to him undertaking actions and making choices that were at best ill-informed in an effort to remain in control of imagined risk, he often undertakes to deconstruct in a day that which was built over a lifetime.
The inherent problem with attempting to correct many things at once, often with drastic measures is that nature has an inherent way of requiring a certain amount of time to be sacrificed. Anyone who has every gone on a diet is familiar with the fact that weight loss is not linear, and that one cannot undo decades of neglecting one’s energy balance in a few weeks. To do so requires tremendous sacrifice. In “Outliers” Malcolm Gladwell outlines the 10.000 hours of deliberate practice one must allocate to a field of specialization in order to be an expert, and the fact is that after potentially decades of poor habits, you are an expert in these bad habits. In order for your new habits to become your default system, they must be brought up to a level where they rival your previous version of system software, otherwise it’s easy to slip back into old bad habits.
Thus, expecting to rectify the mistakes made here will take deliberate practice to an extent where it at the very least represents a significant proportion of your time spent with the old habit. However, it also appears to be an innate human tendency to want to rectify perceived grave errors rapidly, especially when one sees an upside and very little downside to doing so. In a way this is what often happens when an old corporation that has a large amount of accumulated bad habits gets a new CEO, as the new CEO has little personal investment and no sunk cost in “How we have always done things”, he is free to change this and experiences few hangups about doing so, however he also often finds that changing old habits is like removing a tattoo, that which took a couple of hours to put on, takes weeks worth of expensive treatment to remove.
The CEO himself may have few sunk costs and little personal investment in the old ways, but the rest of the organization may be heavily invested in, and reliant on the old methods and processes. This mirrors how a person who decides to go on a low-carb diet experiences side-effects for a while until the body recalibrates to burning body fat instead of dietary carbohydrate as its fuel. Alternatively how a person who goes from not working out at all, to 5 sessions of heavy weightlifting per week will struggle to move after the first day due to delayed onset muscle soreness.
This is the classic “New Years Resolution” problem, wherein a person decides to make drastic changes in a very short term. Lifting weights, eating real food, cutting back on alcohol, getting quality sleep, and maintaining a social circle are all important aspects of a quality life, however attempting to implement all these changes at once increases the risk of failing at every one of them. This error is very closely linked to the time error covered in the preceding section, and consists of attempting to make many significant changes at the same time. A man may find the manosphere, see the error of his ways and attempt to change everything about himself at once. This means going from not working out at all to working out 5 – 6 times a week, from not eating right to eating right for 100% of his meals, changing his mindset, working on his posture, and body language, and many other things.
In a way this “shocks” the system, but it also creates a large workload that must be managed. A person who adopts this route must learn training, nutrition, body language, and various other things in a short period of time, and implement these successfully as part of his life. This multi-tasking process often leads to a predictable “multi-failure”, as the person finds themselves unable to ingest, internalize and implement the new way of life at the same time. At first, results are bound to be very much worthwhile, and motivation soars, yet at the first setback that comes as a result of “too much, too soon” motivation crashes and the progress is often lost.
This mirrors the way startup companies often fail, in that as they grow rapidly they stay to feel the growing pains and the increased workload, which has a negative effect on motivation and progress. If they are unable to secure the necessary resources to handle the ongoing business processes, they crumble under the weight of their success.
Summary and Conclusions
The classic example of stuck in the middle is the company that attempts to compete based on both price and differentiation. Winning the price war means that you must cut various frills attached to your product, whereas winning the differentiation war requires a focus on frills to drive up perceived quality and value. The title of this post is based on the fact that trying to do too many things at the same time often leads to mediocre performance at best. Perhaps the classic example is the new trainee attempting fat loss and muscle gain at the same time. While this is arguably possible, it often leads to erratic behavior in a new trainee, where one day they are focused on losing fat, the next on gaining muscle, their diet and training program reflects the goal confusion.
A CEO I once worked with shared a view with me that the most efficient route to success is to have two ideas in your head at once. First there is the long-term strategic view dictated by your mission, second comes various forms of low-hanging fruit that can be secured without much risk or loss to your progress towards fulfilling the strategy. The idea of the low hanging fruit in terms of improving sexual market value are things such as getting better haircuts, grooming properly, making small wardrobe improvements, in general things that on their own do not grant a great increase in value, but also consume very limited amounts of effort and time.
A trainee may get a whole new wardrobe to improve their style, then rapidly find it outdated as a result of either size gain or loss. They may be on a strict diet, yet find themselves constantly exposed to dietary and alcoholic temptations as a result of spending most of their leisure time in bars and clubs to hone their game. Such constant vacillation between goals ensures that the probably of reaching them is reduced. This is one of the reasons why many recommend cutting old friends and family members that engage in concern trolling, reward poor behavior and various other things out of your life.
Other activities are those that your long-term strategy are based upon, but that require long-term and large investments in terms of time and effort. Losing weight, gaining muscle, changing your diet, implementing new habits into your life, bettering social skills, learning game and various others. These are the foundation of the new person you are changing into, and as such they must be solid, well-thought out and implemented in a manner that secures longevity.
An observation often made of many who seek out the manosphere is the desire to learn game, and adopt the red pill so that they can secure their oneitis and then move back to “just be yourself“. This is reflected in every gym across the nation in January where there is a sudden influx of people seeking to fulfill their New Years resolutions, only to watch their numbers slowly trickle down until few are left. The change from the blue pill illusion to the red pill theoretical framework, for these men represent in their mind low-hanging fruit to secure the object of their affection, so that they can realize the fantasy they have been sold.
However, this is a mindset variant on yo-yo dieting where the work put in is undone at a rapid rate, because there was no permanent change made. The people are stuck in the middle between their deadly sins. They find themselves permanently moving through Dante’s Inferno, never truly progressing as they are stuck between virtue and vice. Their gluttony fighting temperance and sloth struggling with diligence, instead of making incremental improvements towards a better life.