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Over the last 10 years in my career as an internet marketer, I’ve met hundreds of entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and successful business owners through conferences, retreats, masterminds, coaching programs and business partnerships.  I love attending these events… its so inspiring to me to hear about what other people work on, what makes them tick, what they are passionate about, and it opens my eyes to business ideas and niches that I would never have dreamed of.

But the unintended side effect of many of these encounters, is that I walk away feeling more inspired by other peoples projects, than my own.   Looking back at the times this has happened to me, its not so much that I was actually more inspired by the other projects than my own, its just that being so engrossed in my own work made me feel numb to the excitement of it, which made it a lot easier to be excited by the work of others.   Just about every entrepreneur I have talked to has this problem in some form or another.  I call it shiny object syndrome.   I’ve heard others call it entrepreneurial ADD.

While in the trenches of working on making our current projects a reality, we catch a glimmering of something seemingly more intresting and exciting – it catches our eye and leaves us wanting to ditch our current project while we pursue something new and more interesting.

I could be a case study for this condition.   My attention span for a project is often only a few months before I want it to evolve into something new, or to take it in a new direction, or a implement a new marketing approach.

Fear of Failure

I once heard a talk given at a conference studying failure in correlation to processes and stages of growth (for the life of me, I wish I could remember who it was that referenced this).  They discussed that there are 3 distinct times that failure happens in business most frequently.

  1. People fail right before they get started – Or put more bluntly, they quit before they even had a chance to fail.
  2. Others fail right before they are about to discover success
  3. Lastly, failure often occurs when people walk away from a teaching moment – They experience minor failure and choose to walk away rather than take a lesson from the loss

Fear of failure is such a profound concept – no one would rightfully admit to it, but deep down for some of us, the idea that success could come and change our life our life as we know it, can cause a subconcious freak out.   Shiny Object Syndrome gives us an “easy” out if we are fearful of the impact that some measure of success might have on our life.  If you just change your focus to something else, then you might not have to deal with the change and unknown that will come with success.  I mean after all, you can come back to what you were working on before, right?

Maybe…   maybe not.

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Share the Wealth!

Sometimes when the entrepreneurial ADD creeps over us, and we long to change our focus into a new area of our business, or to launch a new product, or start a new project, we think that by doing so, that we need to cease the previous work, as we delve into something new.   But often times our new ventures will still resonate with your current client base or audience, so don’t feel like you need to make a break from them in order to move into something new.   Bring them into your new venture with you, you’ll have an instant audience who trusts you, and can prove to be a fantastic test market for your new ideas.

Learning to Let Go

When working with clients, I almost always coach them to see a project through to completion  – after all, no one wants to feel like they wasted time and money that will be for naught.   The lessons learned from both a successful launch as well as a failed launch, can provide more value to you and your understanding of your market, than anything else.

But from time to time, it has become apparent that Shiny Object Syndrome creeps over me, and for a very good reason.   I’ll be working on a project that I am just not passionate about, or not invested in.   Its in these times that I’ve learned to listen to my heart, and heed the warning when it really is a case of needing to let go.

A few years ago I was working on a project developing a plugin for WordPress.   Initially I was super stoked about it.   There was a huge need for the product, nothing like it existed.   As I began working with developers, things got more and more complicated.   The programming was getting botched.   Partnerships were going sour.   The copy for the sales page just wasn’t hitting the mark.   Month after month passed on what should have been a 6-8 week project, and I got to the point where I wanted to work on just about anything else, BUT this plugin project. Fates seemed to be aligning in another direction and despite a fairly significant investment, I ended up cancelling the project – and the day I gave up the pursuit, I felt such a sense of relief and renewed purpose.    It was not meant to be, and I was ready to let it go.

As entrepreneurs, we face these distractions on almost a daily basis.   A great practice is to keep a business journal, so you can jot down business ideas or “shiny object ideas” as you have them.    This way, you can go back and look into fulfilling those exciting new ideas as soon as your current project is complete.   We need to learn to discern those longings, and recognize the times that the shiny object distractions are pulling us away from something that should be seen through to completion, or if they are pushing us toward something better.

Do you suffer from shiny object syndrome?   Leave a comment below and tell me about waht your current “shiny object” is!