Shiny Object Syndrome: The Entrepreneurial Equivalent of Chasing Squirrels


Chances are, if you’ve got an entrepreneurial spirit and a creative mind- you’ve experienced “Shiny Object Syndrome” (SOS) at some point in your career. This phenomenon isn’t a diagnosable condition, but rather a business term used to define a tendency to be easily distracted by new ideas. The “shiny object” catches your eye and can take your focus away from the task at hand- like a curious child might hop around between shiny new toys at a dizzying speed. Or, how dogs can be easily distracted by one of those pesky squirrels.

Do any of these sound like you?

You explore every new idea that sparks your interest- without any real long-term planning or consideration of the feasibility or sustainability of the idea

  • You get excited about a new project before completing your current one- leaving many loose ends for you or your team to sort out
  • You have a strong fear of missing out (FOMO) on the latest and greatest opportunity for success
  • You have a collection of unused domains, half-finished courses, and vision boards, galore- but no real plan for how to execute any of the ideas
  • You pursue the latest marketing fads- never sticking with one strategy long enough to see the results

Let me be clear, being open to new ideas isn’t inherently bad- it is part of what makes a successful entrepreneur. So, what’s the problem with chasing new ideas, then? Glad you asked!

SOS becomes a real problem when chasing “squirrels” happens at the expense of tending to the needs of your current business. As you’ve likely learned by now, building and sustaining a successful business requires planning, dedication, and focus. If you “step away” from your business to entertain every new idea that piques your curiosity, you risk losing momentum, clients, investors, and even your hard-earned cash.

If you’re not following through on projects or commitments, there is also a risk to your personal wellbeing. When we don’t get the chance to see a project through to the end, or see our dreams come to fruition- we aren’t getting to feel the sense of accomplishment and pride that comes with knowing we’ve reached a goal. We can feel like a rat in a wheel- running and running with no tangible reward. The effects of that can be damaging to our mental and physical health. If you have employees, there is a real risk they can be confused, feel stressed out, and worry about their future with your company. 

If you can relate to any of the things I’ve mentioned, so far- it may be time to sit down, reflect, and get to know yourself better.

So, how can you avoid SOS while honoring the inner curiosity and creativity that has served you well in your business endeavors? Here are a few practical tips:

  • Don’t let FOMO drive your decisions. Have a list of short and long-term goals- and commit to evaluate every new opportunity against those goals. If the shiny new thing doesn’t align with an established goal, it may not be the right time to pursue it. Put it on the back burner- let it sit and simmer while you do your research. You can save yourself from costly mistakes with a little reflection before you act.
  • Follow the road map you’ve created. Stick with a project until you’ve completed it. Make sure you’re hitting your established benchmarks and realizing your short and long-term goals. Unless there are very valid business reasons to do so, don’t abandon something before you’ve given it time to play out. Remember, jumping around can be costly/risky in many ways.
  • Gather feedback from trusted friends, mentors, and your team. Talk to them about what you’re thinking and be willing to listen and take their advice to heart. Often, someone else can help see the whole picture- not just the exciting 10,000-foot view, which is something people with SOS can struggle with. Your team will be grateful you included them in discussions, which builds trust and loyalty.  

Let me be clear- I am not saying you should never take calculated risks or follow your gut on a new opportunity. Obviously, there are those rare squirrels worth chasing. So, allow yourself room for innovation when it is warranted. Just be sure you take time to fully evaluate the merits and risks of every new opportunity, so the squirrel doesn’t get the better of you.

FOMO is real, and it can skew your perception of a situation. Golden opportunities that require immediate action are few and far between. SOS is real, and it can be damaging both personally and professionally. Work on being self-aware so you can avoid these harmful tendencies. Your business (and mental health) will thank you for it.



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