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Shiny Object Syndrome


Over the years I have bought numerous courses, tools, and whatnots in my pursuit of entrepreneurship. If I had to ballpark a number it would be close to $10,000 in the last ten years. That is a crazy high amount of money. What makes it even more crazy, is that for the most part none of these helped my career.

Recently I heard of Shiny Object Syndrome, and it quickly resonated with me. Simply because I had this in the past and it is something I deal with even to this day. What is Shiny Object Syndrome, the best definition I found was from Joel Runyon over at Impossible.

“Shiny Object Syndrome (Objectivius Shinium Syndromus) is defined as the attraction to objects that exhibit a glassy, polished, gleaming or otherwise shiny appearance. Something as simple as a reflection in your peripheral vision may easily distract your attention. Over time, you’ll find that your attention to said object is directly correlated to it’s shininess and your attention fades as the shininess wears off”

My problem was that in the past I didn’t know what I wanted to do online. I made my first dollar online back in 2004, making signature tags for forum participants. Have a look at some of the stuff that I did back in the day. This then migrated to making signature tags and email templates for an application called Incredimail, which is a application that is similar to Microsoft Outlook and Apple Mail. This was my first side hustle, where I brought in $500-$1000 a month, charging $1 for the customized signature tag. It was also the place where I made my first website. I honestly loved doing this, but belonging to 100 yahoo groups and getting over 1000 emails a day was a little rough.

From this experience brought my love for entrepreneurship. That is where I started my journey down the rabbit hole. I dabbled in everything online… from e-commerce & dropshipping to google adsense and affiliate marketing.

I am certain that if I stuck with just one or two of these, I would be in a different place than I am today. I had SOS bad. I would jump to whatever was new or exciting. I would buy a “guru’s” latest product, start it and never finish it.

This process was a never ending cycle even to this day, as the old “gurus” left new ones arrived and I ended up buying more products. Well this post here is a declaration that this STOPS NOW!

One of my favorite people I follow online is John Lee Dumas from the award winning podcast Entrepreneur on Fire (which I listen to religiously) has a saying that I fell in love with.


Follow One Course Until Success

This is my new mantra.

Now you might be wondering what this has to do with my debt journey. Mostly it doesn’t, but in a way it does. I am going to focus on more of my money making skills and stop pursuing the Shiny Object. By doing this, I believe I can double my income in the next year. I will try to use the courses/books I already own before resorting to buying new ones.


  • Reply Sarah |

    Jim, I think it is a good idea to stay the course in life. I love the idea of entrepreneurship (as an elementary teacher, it seems fascinating), but we can end up spinning our wheels if we don’t stick with something. I hope you find something if this is your passion. I certainly have seen lots of success stories online of those building their own brand and business.

    May I also add that this post was so clear and well-written. And I think it has a lot to do with debt because good steady income will help to drive those bills down.

  • Reply CanadianKate |

    These lines resonated with me:
    “From this experience brought my love for entrepreneurship.” and
    “I am certain that if I stuck with just one or two of these, I would be in a different place than I am today.”

    In my experience entrepreneurs are people who have a love for an idea and the drive to bring it to fruition (or obvious failure, but they don’t give up until failure is irrefutable.) It is the love of and belief in the idea not the love of being an entrepreneur that drives them, entrepreneurship is just the vehicle that allows their idea to come to fruition. Once on the way, some entrepreneurs hand over their ‘babies’ to managers and move on to the next startup, while with others their business evolves as times evolve. But in all cases they didn’t start out saying “I’m an entrepreneur, what can I do?” They started by saying, “This is what I believe will make a difference in people’s lives and I want to build a business that does that.”

    Sarah’s desire to make a difference is to be a teacher so she’s carrying that passion out within an existing system. People can follow their passions as part of a larger workplace but for entrepreneurs, there is no workplace that will allow the growth of their idea.

    Working for oneself isn’t necessarily being an entrepreneur. Being an entrepreneur implies creating a business with the risk that your investment may cost you not just benefit you. When we started our business, we weren’t entrepreneurs. My dh had a contract to get us on our way and there was no financial risk at all. Over the years, he has used the business as a vehicle to create new technologies and those now make him a bit of an entrepreneur in my mind. But not a full entrepreneur. There were many times when industry friends wanted to come work for us and help promote the technology we were developing but we stayed away from that because we weren’t willing to take on the risk and responsibility for paying others if our initiative didn’t work out. A true entrepreneur would have added employees in order to grow the business and spread the technology wider. We aren’t that kind of risk taker and given our salary last year (and 2000, 2001, 2008, 2009) that was definitely the right decision!

    For us, being independent is enough, we don’t need to be tied to anything (not even our own business) unless we choose to be. Entrepreneur friends of ours are now envious of us because we are in semi-retirement and traveling for pleasure while they are still chained to the business and can’t spare the money or the time to travel as we do. On the other hand, they are the ones with the big homes and fancy cars. We never changed our lifestyle from middle class in order to save for this day.

    • Reply Jim |

      In my opinion every entrepreneur has a different definition of what entrepreneur means. But I think you nailed on a huge point when you said, “But for entrepreneurs, there is no workplace that will allow the growth of their idea.”

      You also nailed it on the head, when you state, “Working for oneself isn’t necessarily being an entrepreneur.” One of the first set of books I read were, Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad series. In the book Cashflow Quadrant, he talks about the four different types of way to earn money. For the most part, I am in the Self Employed Quadrant, with some aspects in the business owner quadrant. I want to work totally in the right side. I want to put systems in place that will continually earn income for me.

      Thank you for such a thought provoking response!

  • Reply Kerry |

    Jim, I’m with Canadiankate here. Buying into other people’s programs with an ill-thought out goal of “entrepeneurship” only makes other people rich. Successful working for yourself comes from having an idea you believe in, skills, and a vision. Oh, and it usually takes more than the steady 40 hours a week working for a company or someone else that you decry as so terrible. And it’s long term.

    This is like the dad in “Little Miss Sunshine” with his terrible inspiration program that’s really just his own get-rich-quick pyramid scheme he can’t get backing to sell to other suckers.

    I was reading a really good book by Danny Meyer called Setting The Table. He started a restaurant group in NYC, and he’s been very successful for 25 years, and he’s a third generation entrepeneur. Everything he does is organized around his philosophy of hospitality, of being a part of the community, of graciousness. It takes him 3-4 years to open a restaurant. He is picky about who works for him and who he partners with, and it’s always in a long-term relationship. You should really read theat book and think about what your personal fundemental philosophy is, and how it applies to work and business.

    • Reply Jim |

      Thanks Kerry. I love reading books, especially when they deal with a topic I am very familiar with (restaurant), I will check out the book.

  • Reply Meghan |

    I agree with all three of the above posters. My thoughts are this: there is a difference between being an entrepreneur and being a business owner. Entrepreneurs find an undiscovered need and fill it, following someone else’s path may be business ownership but it is not necessarily entrepreneurship.

    I think Jim is right in evaluating himself as having shiny object syndrome, he has spent years running around looking for the golden goose instead of staying one course.

    CanadianKate, I wonder if you might share your dh’s average work-week when he was first building his business? Here in the U.S., the average entrepreneur works 70 hours per week building their business.

    • Reply Jim |

      I agree and disagree here Meghan. I think there is a difference as well, but I don’t think entrepreneurs need to find an undiscovered need and fill it. I believe that every market has room for people to come aboard. Where they stand out is when they make a unique twist to it or when they bring their own personality to it. I also believe that you can follow someone else’s path and it could lead into entrepreneurship. Franchises are a perfect example of this. You are buying into either a system or the branded name.

    • Reply CanadianKate |

      My dh keeps his time-sheets on a spreadsheet so I tell you for the past few years. The beginning of our company was 17 years ago and those records are on archived backups so not at hand although he says he easily worked 300 hours a month back at the beginning or any time we have a good contract.

      In April of this year he worked 112 hours (28 per week). We are in semi-retirement (he works when work falls in his lap but doesn’t stress when work doesn’t fall into his lap.) As well, this April that number is down as we were preparing the house for sale. May we started packing and got possession of the new place (while still desperately trying to sell this house.) He still averaged 25 hours a week.

      He semi-retired in 2010 so here are his monthly hours from 2013 and 2009 (after and before semi-retirement.)

      2013 March – 192 (~48 per week)
      2013 Feb – 217 (~54 per week)

      2009 March 251 (~63 per week)
      2009 Feb 217 (~54 per week)

      We work with an international client base and our office is in our home so the business line can literally ring at any time. For the past 3 years he’s been working for the government of NZ which means his work week for them starts after I’m done preaching on Sunday afternoon but ends on Thursday night around 11 p.m. In between, while NZ is sleeping, he’ll be doing his other work. And there are two weekly conference calls he hosts for his technical committee, one on Tuesday night, and the second Wednesday morning (so that one of the two meeting falls during daytime hours no matter when in the world his committee members are located.)

      On the other hand, we usually take an hour each day to walk to the general store for our mail and a visit with the post mistress and there’s no need to go to the grocery store on weekends because we do our shopping (and often take a long lunch) during the weekdays. I work Sundays (I’m an itinerant preacher) so it is great that he can often take time off on my sabbath (usually a Tuesday) and we can do things together. Our son works shift work so they often go to movies on weekday mornings since my son is almost always working evenings and weekends so can’t go out with friends.

      When I was in hospital, he worked from my bedside so I wasn’t alone.

      So, yes, there are long hours but it was all for us and we can manage our time in a way that suits us. The kids recall he was always home as they were growing up. Nothing is farther from the truth, he was on the road 6 months of the year but when he was home, he was here when they got home from school so they remember him as always there and we traveled with Daddy when school was out. After the kids left home, I spent 5 years traveling with him and we’d work overseas for a month at a time, traveling from client to client in order to reduce the number of trans-oceanic flights.

      It is a lifestyle that works for us. We gave up having a cottage or boat or swimming pool or anything that required maintenance because we weren’t around to use or take care of things. But we saw the world.

      On our first month-long cruise, my dh said he was lucky to be able to take a month off work to travel. I pointed out that ‘normal’ people get 119 days off a year so taking 28 wasn’t a big deal. Normal people get weekends plus 3 weeks vacation a year – at the beginning, he was lucky to get 1 full week of ‘holiday’ each year (even then he was checking email daily.)

  • Reply Denise @ My House, My Rules! |

    This is a problem so many people have. One thing that i think many don’t realize is that starting your own business takes a lot of time, money, and luck Very few people can quit a job, start a home-based business, and be a complete success. Especially not overnight. I have a rental business that I manage on top of a full time corporate job, plus some small side-gigs to bring in ‘fun money.’ My home-based business takes almost as much time out of my week as the corporate job, yet it doesn’t pay as well. Yet. I stick the course because I know in time the rewards will be there, but not without a lot of luck and work in the meantime, I think too many people assume home-based businesses will make them financially self-sufficient overnight. Most won’t. Many never will… few will in time. But when the instant gratification isn’t there people get impatient and move on to the next ‘shiny object.’

    Great post, Jim. You have an interesting angle to write about with the path you have chosen in life. I look forward to hearing more about your successes and struggles in this regard.

    • Reply Jim |

      So true here Denise. I think you need either lots of time, lots of money or some of each. I hear you I put in much more time doing all my side hustles than my main sources of income. And to be honest they really don’t bring in close to what my main source does. My problem is that I dabbled in too much and didn’t stick my feet firm in the ground on any.

      Thanks for posting Denise!

  • Reply Muhree |

    Do you think that perhaps your attraction and distraction from shiny objects could be something more along the lines of ADHD? I’ve got it and find that I’m very attracted to shiny objects and find my concentration completely breaks when I spot one….just a thought.

  • Reply Jim |

    I don’t think this is the case Muhree, I believe it was more on the lines of knowing what I want, but not finding the right agent to pull it off. What I mean to say is, I went from different courses hoping to mimic the success of the author, when in actuality not many of them really resonated with me. That is the reason I probably haven’t found the success I wanted.

    • Reply CanadianKate |

      Jim this is going to sound harsh but true entrepreneurs don’t have time to sell courses telling others how they succeeded. If someone is selling their system to success, they are most likely selling snake-oil.

      • Reply Jim |

        Doesn’t sound Harsh at all Kate, but I think we have different opinions about this. Would you say that Robert Kiyosaki isn’t a true entrepreneur? I don’t think they are all courses per say, but systems. True entrepreneurs find that it is easier to trade money for time. By making these courses they realize that they only have to do it once and sell it over and over again.

        • Reply AP |

          Robert Kiyosaki is not an entrepreneur. He almost certainly made his money from book sales, as well as speeches, classes, etc. It’s unlikely he made any real money before he published his first book, despite his claims of a real estate empire. Note that he’s never divulged any details about his investments.

          read John T. Reed’s takedown of him here:

          • Jim |

            This could very well be true AP. He might have faked it till he made it. But now he has a system in place, where the book deals, the speeches, the classes all come into play. This in my opinion makes an entrepreneur.

  • Reply oc budget |

    Keep thinking outside of the 9_5 jobs!
    Sometimes focus is great but hope you still keep that creativity flowing.

So, what do you think ?