Updated: August 5, 2019
Have you heard of the Shiny Object Syndrome or SOS? I’ve met a handful of people who had it, and they didn’t know they did until I pointed it out to them.
I once had a bad case of it. And I still fall ill to it sometimes. But through the years, I’ve become better at recognizing its early signs, and have found effective ways to beat and overcome it.
But what exactly is Shiny Object Syndrome?
Tech entrepreneur, Jayson DeMers defines it as the disease of distraction.
Having it is similar to a small child chasing after shiny objects. And the moment they reach and see what that object is, they lose interest and start chasing the next shiny object that’ll catch their attention.
For investors and entrepreneurs, the shiny objects are new opportunities, new ventures, new strategies, new products, new platforms, or whatever’s trending and popular.
While there’s nothing wrong with exploring such, it however becomes counterproductive when these things happen:
You recklessly abandon current projects.
A friend launched an online store and was busy learning digital marketing to boost her sales. One day, a work colleague pitched the idea of putting up a laundromat at a nearby condo.
It was a sound offer, but it required time and effort, as most business does. And so she set aside her online store to pursue the laundry shop business, which they eventually had to sell because her business partner started losing interest after a few months of consecutive breakeven sales.
She then went back to her online store. But she already used a lot of her business capital on the laundry shop and had no more funds to build an inventory. In the end, she gave up on the store as well.
You seize opportunities without a clear plan.
When the stock market reached new record highs several years ago, a friend wanted to get into the action. He opened an account and started buying shares of whatever people said they were buying on Facebook groups.
Then the market started going down, and that’s when he asked me what he should do. Instinctively, I told him that he should stick to his trading or investing plan.
That’s when I found out that he had no clear strategy. He didn’t think things through. He just put money in the stock market because it was a shiny object that everyone was chasing.
You lose interest when things become boring.
Starting a new business is exciting. Learning about investing strategies is challenging. But there’s always a point when it becomes boring.
Properly running a business often means practicing a daily and monthly routine. While effective investing strategies are usually just a series of tasks that you need to follow regularly.
When these things happen, some people tend to lose interest and shift their focus on finding a new challenge — a new shiny object that they can chase. And often, this results to businesses that never reach full potential, and investments that gets redeemed too soon before it experiences exponential growth.
How do you avoid Shiny Object Syndrome?
There’s a fine line between choosing worthy pursuits and chasing shiny objects. I’m still learning how to identify which. However, I’ve discovered that these tips are extremely helpful.
Marinate ideas and let it simmer.
Once-in-a-lifetime opportunities exist. Nevertheless, I’ve learned that some great opportunities can actually wait for you. Meanwhile, others could pass and go, but eventually come back.
For me, this means that it’s never wrong to sit on an idea… to think things through. It’s like standing at a fork on the road, you are allowed to stop and think before choosing which direction to continue.
Weigh things carefully. And decide once you’re fully aware of what you’re giving up, what you’re losing, and what you’re getting if you choose to stay on your current path, or if you switch to another.
Plan before you pursue.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
While it’s important to think and act fast, especially in business, this doesn’t mean going out unprepared and without a plan. You need to know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how exactly do you plan to do it.
Remember this before pursuing a new venture, a new investment, a new strategy, a new product, a new platform — a new opportunity.
Set short-, medium-, and long-term goals.
When I’m busy on a new business, or a new project, I find it helpful to set milestones or goals. This keeps my motivation up, and it allows me to measure my progress regularly.
It also helps to set a mix of easy and challenging milestones, so you can see through that illusion, which feels like you’re not making any progress. This commonly happens when the euphoria of launching a new business fades, or when the novelty of an investing strategy starts to become boring.
There are no hard rules.
There’s no 100% solution to beating the Shiny Object Syndrome. Because of technology, and the massive amount of information that’s out there, it’s inevitable that a shiny object will catch our attention every now and then.
What’s important is that we become mindful of our actions. And be critical of our intentions when pursuing opportunities.
I once read that F.O.C.U.S. means Follow One Course Until Successful — and I agree.
For what we focus on, is what determines our reality. When we allow ourselves to be distracted, we end up with nothing but underdeveloped executions, mediocre results, and unrealized potential.