Business The biggest problem for today's entrepreneurs

The biggest problem for today’s entrepreneurs


Shiny object syndrome is the phenomenon of being distracted by new and exciting opportunities. For entrepreneurs, this can mean new business ideas, or products or services that are not part of their current business plan. They have an urge to try something new that someone seems to be doing successfully. Realizing that you are experiencing shiny object syndrome means admitting that your focus is waning and that you are drawn away by possibilities and the fear of missing out.

Most seemingly sudden successes took years, rather than someone spending a few hours on the latest technology and becoming a billionaire. But as visionaries, entrepreneurs can very quickly see the potential of a shiny object and fall in love with its potential at the expense of their main business.

Why is shiny object syndrome a problem?

Getting a business off the ground and reaching any level of success takes focus, effort and perseverance. While some companies can succeed as side projects, those that go furthest have the full attention of the founders. But founders can overlook the work it takes to make even the most glittering objects perform, and blast ahead without realizing the cost. In addition, shiny objects are especially attractive when the progress of your most important undertaking is slow. Or even if progress is rapid, if you have an underlying fear of success, the shiny object syndrome can show up as a form of self-sabotage.

Either way, succumbing to this common pitfall is a problem because it takes energy, focus, and attention away from core business. It also taps into a less useful way of thinking. Instead of one practicing consistency, sustained effort in one direction, and focus, they chase distractions, trends, and short-term dopamine hits.

It has never been more difficult to avoid shiny object syndrome because there have never been more shiny objects. When setting up a business, the founder must do three things: define its core product, know its ideal customer avatar, and find the only channel through which to reach these people. Once this alignment between product and market has been achieved, the task becomes to scale the business based on these three metrics, only deviating from the plan if there is a clear reason to do so. Spreading your efforts across multiple products, multiple customer avatars, and multiple marketing channels because you try every idea that pops up is bad news for the early days and will only serve to confuse you and your audience. Confused customers don’t buy.

What is a glossy object?

Shiny objects can be new business ideas or joint ventures that an entrepreneur might be tempted to start, especially in the early days when things are less certain or in the later days when they might be stagnant. Shiny objects can contain new technologies: AI, blockchain, automation and robotics. Shiny objects can arrive in the form of social media platforms, when someone hears the success stories of entrepreneurs on TikTok and jumps on board.

New developments and breakthroughs happen every day, and it’s human nature to wonder if you could take advantage of them. When you jump on the news or social media, you see everything other people are doing and wonder if you should follow their strategy. In such a rapidly changing world, with so many possibilities, have we forgotten how to double down on one thing?

Attending just one conference could mean spending hours talking about why you absolutely should take this particular money-making path. Participants leave with notebooks brimming with ideas that are full of potential. But distributed effort is not what made those speakers successful. They doubled on one until they saw the fruits of their labor. Focus is a superpower and that certainly applies to entrepreneurs. Those who crack the focus code will overlap those who don’t. Which camp are you in?

The problem with succumbing to shiny object syndrome is that it’s never over. As soon as you drop the ball on your main venture for that new shiny object, another will appear. Entrepreneurs chasing the next shiny object will chase forever, never committing to one path and never pushing it through.

How to avoid shiny object syndrome

Experiencing the shiny object syndrome does not mean that your existing business is worthless. It means you are human. But recognizing when a shiny object is and isn’t useful will help you stay on track. If you become enamored with the possibility of something new, train yourself to think about the potential of your current thing. It’s easy to think about the best-case scenario of something unknown, and harder when you’re faced with challenges every day. But remember what you’re working so hard for and how much progress you’re making.

If you hear someone talking about all the insane benefits they’re getting from this new thing, consider their agenda. Why do they make it sound so easy? Maybe they are trying to sell you something. Perhaps they underestimated the time they spent moving it. Then there is the preference for survival; what about all the people who jumped ship, went all in on the shiny object and didn’t win much? Be curious, ask questions, but be careful before changing your plans.

Avoid the shiny object syndrome by knowing your strategy and sticking to it. It may sound obvious, but with a robust and agreed-upon plan of action that you really believe in, you’re much less likely to stray. If you get pulled away, you forget the plan. In that case, make it front and center. Write your main goal on your bathroom mirror, make a desktop wallpaper of your roadmap to success. Don’t let yourself forget what you’re doing to fend off the shiny objects that keep appearing.

Another way to avoid the shiny object syndrome is to have a period of low media consumption where you deliberately avoid news and updates in favor of laser focusing on your business. This could mean unsubscribing from newsletters, logging out of social media, not booking appointments, and having your email handled by a VA. During this phase you have a clear goal and you know exactly what you need to do every day to achieve that goal. The Hermit Mode is a solid strategy that will give your venture the best chance of success.

Shiny objects often have an urgency because they are new and exciting, and the profit goes to the people who are quick to jump on them. After the early adopters come the mass market and the latecomers, by which time it will be too late for meaningful results. This can give a false sense of priority that you need to do something immediately. Really, there are very few things that absolutely need to be done right now. Even if your heart is racing and you can’t wait to crack, take a step back, sleep on it and consider your options only after you take stock.

Finally, before starting a new business or exploring a new technology, think about the downside. If you spend time in this new arena, where does that time come from? It must come from somewhere. If it’s not your current affairs, it’s your sleep, leisure, or family time. Do you really want to skip the gym to learn new software? Want to miss dinner with your daughter for a webinar on AI? Think about what causes a new interest to be added. Maybe it’s not so attractive after all.

Shiny objects syndrome: walk carefully

Find that sweet balance between intense focus and unlimited distraction. This means that by default, you opt out, say no, and get on with your main business and the product, customers, and channels it’s currently targeting. Keep an eye on progress, take your step at the right time, but don’t get caught up in what each opportunity can do for you. If you decide to pursue something, be absolutely clear about where that energy is coming from, and whether that’s a tradeoff you’re willing to make. Separate the real chances from the disguised distractions to tame the shiny object syndrome monster that wants to keep you small.

Shreya Christina
Shreya has been with for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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