Why I’m Happy I Caved to Shiny Object Syndrome and Now Run Multiple Businesses at Once

Why I’m Happy I Caved to Shiny Object Syndrome and Now Run Multiple Businesses at Once

Shiny Object Syndrome is evil.

This is something you have probably heard over and over again.  If you search the subject, you will read all kinds of advice on how to stop shiny object syndrome, how to become more focused, and even how to shut down projects so you can hone in on what’s working.

Well, I’m here to provide a different perspective.

I’m HAPPY I’ve given in to my “weaker” side and gone after lots of shiny business “objects” over the years.  I’m not a productivity genius. I’m terrible at focusing on one project at a time, and I’ve started plenty of businesses that were a complete flop.

However, despite all of that, I’ve still managed to quit my job nearly 6 years ago from my six figure a year niche site business, I recently sold my software company for over 7 figures, and today I run a high six figure a year ecommerce business.  Oh yeah, and I have several other businesses that I run or am involved with as well.  (And all of that doesn’t even include this very blog and brand your are visiting right now…NichePursuits.com).

Business ideas are the shiny objects for me, and quite frankly I’m sick of all the negative advice about seeing a new idea and getting excited about it.

Excitement and passion are what drive success.  If a business idea is “shiny” to you…you just might want to think long and hard about turning your nose at the opportunity by being a good little boy or girl that is always focused on the task at hand.

You could be missing out on something big.

Now, you could obviously take this advice too far.  If you never COMPLETE a single project, you are just building half bridges that never get you anywhere.  There is a big difference here.  Complete a project and give it a shot in the wild, but don’t feel obligated to keep putting good money and hours into a project that may not be working, may not be as valuable as something else might be, or feel like you have to spend all you time on something even when it is a success (i.e. considering hiring a replacement for yourself).

Now with that savory little morsel of an introduction, let’s jump into the whole shiny enchilada.

Why Shiny Objects are Good

The very meaning of the word motivation, describes why shiny objects are good.  According to Merriam Webster dictionary, motivation is defined by: “the condition of being eager to act or work : the condition of being motivated.”

Shiny objects actually get you off your lazy behind and DO something.  They are motivating.  For many people, this is a very good thing.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to that wished they ran a successful online business.  When I asked them if they’ve ever tried, or even bought a domain name, they usually say “no”.

The desire to simply run a general side business is not motivating enough for many people to actually put in a little bit of work and do it.  However, sometimes when the stars align, a shiny glare reflects off a SPECIFIC idea that sparks something inside of people.

The light bulb goes on, the shiny object appears, the fire is lit inside of them…and they become motivated.  People finally stop reading, and start doing.

Passion and motivation are HUGE driving forces, and anything you can do to stimulate this type of action is a great thing…and that includes checking out the latest shiny object.

I personally tend to get excited about trying out new business ideas, and generally speaking, that has turned out to be a good thing for me.

For example, I started my Amazon FBA business about 2 years before I sold my software company.  Perhaps you could make the argument that if I had focused 100% of my effort and energy on growing Long Tail Pro (it grew significantly every year I owned it anyway), I could have sold it for a higher price.

But I could also make the argument that if I hadn’t started my Amazon FBA business 2 years, my income would be significantly less today after selling my business.

The other upside to pursuing additional business ideas is the income diversity.  If my software company had failed for some reason, I would still have my eCommerce business.  If my eCommerce business fails for some reason, I still have my niche websites, etc.

In general, if you look at what business ventures you pursue as a portfolio approach, the negative stigma of chasing shiny objects may not be so bad after all.

When Shiny Objects Become Bad

Now that I’ve hopefully provided a little bit of a paradigm shift, I do need to add a word of caution.

Just because pursuing shiny objects can be good sometimes, doesn’t mean that you always should.  In particular, if you are the type of person that only gets 25% or 50% of the way through a project and then changes course to something new all the time…then you might have a problem.

If you never give your new business idea the opportunity to even exist in the marketplace, how can you be so sure that the new NEW shiny object will ever get completed either?

So unfortunately, here’s a typical scenario.  First you hear about building niche sites, so you get really excited (a good thing!) for 3 weeks as you buy a domain, do keyword research, and write your first article.  But then you hear about selling eBooks with simple Facebook funnels and you stop the niche site idea.

After a few weeks dabbling with the infopreneur idea, you hear about someone making a KILLING with simple iPhone apps.  Apps are the way of the future you know!

So, before finishing your ebook idea, you start looking into the iPhone app idea.

Unfortunately, this is an all too common problem for people seeking out their next big idea.  If you are only building half the bridge and never completing your projects, you’ll never make it to the other side (income).

If this describes you at all, then perhaps you need to take a step back and assess the situation.  How can you both harness the excitement of shiny objects, but not sabotage yourself by never completing a project?

How to Stay Shiny and Productive (Plus an Example)

One of the problems that many people have is that they go into new projects with reckless abandon, they don’t have a timeline or budget set.  Simply putting these 2 things in place can help you stay on track and be much more productive.

So, is it really possible to try out multiple shiny objects (new ideas) and still be productive?  Well, let me give you an example of a company that is doing both.

Perhaps you’ve heard of, DigitalMarketer.com.  Ryan Deiss and Perry Belcher are almost the epitomy of individuals with shiny object syndrome.  If you were to take a look at the TONS of businesses that these guys are involved with, it becomes mind boggling.

DigitalMarketer.com has dozens of employees.  But they also run NativeCommerce.com – which is a portfolio of sites in various niches.  These sites include things like SurvivalLife.com (which makes over $1 million per month), MakeupTutorials.com and HowtoInvestYourMoney.com…and MANY other sites.

Oh and they own Hong Kong Tailors…yep a suit making business.

Oh…and the latest I heard (at Traffic and Conversion Summit), they were considering opening their own retail stores.

So, the team behind Digital Marketer certainly proves that you don’t have to just focus on one thing to be successful.  They see shiny objects all over the place and have gotten really good at developing systems to make them successful.

I should mention, that their 3rd partner, Roland Frasier is really the one that has put some discipline into their business by developing these systems.  It seems like if things were left up to Ryan and Perry, they would be like kids in a candy store and end up just making themselves sick.

As previously mentioned, I am in a similar boat with my own business (yet at a MUCH smaller scale).  I enjoy chasing various business ideas and it’s worked out well for me.

However, you need to have a plan.

First, set a timeline for how long you are going to devote to a new project…before you start another project.  So, you might decide that you are going to give yourself 2 months or 6 months to work on a project and then decide at that point if its worth pursing further.

Next, set a budget.  How much money are you willing to invest in this idea?

I think this is a critical step that many people don’t consider.  Is it a few hundred dollars or a few thousand dollars?

Once you determine your budget and your timeline, you need to stick with it.  Don’t get half way through a project and then suddenly switch gears.  This just wont give you the data that you need to really determine if the idea is worth pursuing further.

As you start to earn more money, the problem of shiny objects can become bigger or smaller depending on how you look at it.

On one hand, if you have more money you can pursue multiple projects at once by hiring.  In a simplistic example, you can build 2 niche sites at once instead of just one if you can hire people to essentially build the site for you.

In this sense, money can be a good thing.

On the other hand, you can still spread yourself too thin (in both terms of time and money) if you start working on so many projects at once that it becomes overwhelming.

So, once again it comes down to setting a budget and schedule.  If you have the budget for the project (which includes hiring help), then perhaps you should go after the idea.  If you don’t have the money for it; wait until you do.

Your Thoughts

Overall, I think the negative stigma that comes with “shiny object syndrome” is completely overblown.  The problem doesn’t lie in the fact that you get excited about new projects.

You should harness this excitement and power and use it to save the world to grow your business!  The times when you are motivated are the times that you should sit down and develop your plans, your budget, and your schedule.

Then stick to it.

The real problem with chasing too many projects at once is that you often never give them a chance.  Before the project is complete you’ve moved onto something new.

So, by all means, you have my permission to work on multiple projects at once…but only if you can afford to invest the needed time and money to see it through to completion.  And if your plan and execution works out like you hope, you just might have a few home run businesses on your hands.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Feel free to leave a comment below.

33 Comments for this Post

  1. Art Manville

    Art Manville

    I think it has a lot to do with where you are at in your online business career. A new person just starting out should probably hold their focus on one idea and make it successful. Or at least give it 12 months before trying something else.

    Once you have more success and experience then you can split your focus more. We started with a niche site a couple of years ago and that was enough. Now we are also into FBA and it is doing well as well. But we are lifetime entreprenuers so it might be easier for us than others.

    The big question: is that new shiny object a solution or a distraction. As an example we got enarmored with the idea of having an outside sales funnel for Amazon and spent a few thousand dollors on the idea before we decided either we were not committed enough or it was just a distraction from what was already working.

    Reply
    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Great points, Art. I agree…thanks!

      Reply
    • Edgar

      Edgar

      I could not have said it better, for newcomers or anyone starting out in business (not just online business) it is best to put all your eggs in one basket and watch that basket. Later on when you have cash flow or have put in place systems to run that one business, you can move into other verticals that take your fancy, but it is always advisable to work on as few projects as possible. Of course the more money you have, the more projects you can work on since you can hire people to help you so that you give the businesses the energy and time required without spreading yourself too thin.

      Reply
  2. Desmond

    Desmond

    Im not going to lie I had shiny object syndrome and I will admit I really didnt have a plan. I’m working on developing my mindset and setting goals. Most of the times I feel like a lemming (do you remember that video game) just walking around aimlessly. The good news is that I’m aware now and that I and that I dont have to be perfect just need to get it going. Great article read.

    Reply
  3. Ree Klein

    Ree Klein

    Oh, man, this post has my name written all over it! I am the queen of shiny objects syndrome and have struggled with trying to stay focused for years. I now call myself “Polly Pivot” because once I dive into a project, I often learn skills and info that cause me to pivot to a new idea.

    I always have several balls in the air and feel that if I would just drop a couple I’d see success much faster, but then, if something doesn’t work out, I have the other balls to focus on. Overall, I’ve come to accept that this is part of my personality. I have had some small-scale successes and have refined what success (read as profitability) actually looks like. I’m able to identify products and projects with potential faster than before.

    In truth, I’m in my fifth year of e-commerce projects and I think that this may be the year I gain some real traction. It doesn’t happen overnight. I still have hope!

    ~ Polly Pivot

    Reply
    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Yep, its hard not to try juggling lots of things at once. Hope you continue to gain traction!

      Reply
  4. Steve Allen

    Steve Allen

    Great read Spencer, thanks!

    This used to be such a problem for me. I have shiny object syndrome more than ever but it’s no longer a problem.

    I think I’ve had so much experience with shiny object syndrome that I’ve got my own little system on the go, to ‘stay shiny’ but keep my focus on the projects at hand. I might move onto researching something else for a few hours or so then come back to it in the future.

    Doing this enough has enabled me to work on multiple projects at once with my main focus sticking to one or two things. Now I don’t think a month goes by without adding another project to work on. I may just turn out like another Ryan Deiss yet, slowly taking on the world 🙂

    Reply
  5. Catherine

    Catherine

    This totally resonates. I have way more ideas then time or money and I don’t want to give up on some of them. This is my 4th year and last year I began to see a little bit of consistent income. Some random thoughts: Another benefit of SOS is you discover what fits you best and I know now what I want to focus on. Motivation and passion are crucial. I have had a great idea related to my profession for years and everytime I hear your cousin on a podcast (nrsng.com) I get fired up….for about 2 weeks. I can’t stick with it because I teach it all day for my day job, i don’t want to work on it in my spare time too. Finally, i think the other way to adapt to SOS is to try out doing apps, ebooks, courses, physical products…but stick to the same niche–make them part of becoming an authority in that niche.

    Reply
    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Yep, my cousin is crushing it. I do agree that trying new ideas with your same site/niche can be a great way to “cure” the shiny object tendencies. Just make sure you see the project through to completion.

      Reply
  6. Bhuboy Villanueva

    Bhuboy Villanueva

    I am among those with SOS that always leave it halfway through. Though i am now trying to focus my effort in one site first for at least 6 months or a year before starting a new one.

    Reply
    • Dueamp Song

      Dueamp Song

      I think the key word (once you get your business going) is diversification – just like you say in this blog post as well. It can be very dangerous to have all you eggs in the same nest.

      Reply
  7. Angela

    Angela

    What a timely post! I have shiny object syndrome and I am trying my best to control it. At least now I think am able to spot the get-rich-quick products usually found on JVZOO (and similar sites) and just stay away from these. What I usually buy now are tools that help streamline my processes and help me be more productive (some I buy off of JVZoo).

    Reply
  8. Eric

    Eric

    This is really weird…I was driving home from work listening the Authority Hacker “Why You MUST Avoid Shiny Object Syndrome” podcast–then, right in the middle, I get a Niche Pursuits email about this post. Must be an omen.

    Reply
  9. Derrick

    Derrick

    The shiny object syndrome motivates you to try an idea, and I have never seen this as a bad thing. It only gets bad when you don’t have the time or money to fully implement those ideas. But thanks to SOS, in the early stage you are gonna see ideas with potential, allowing you to streamline your focus on those few ideas. It’s possible to put equal focus on multiple projects if you have the resources i.e. you can outsource. Google is an example of a company with shiny object syndrome. They have tried out over 200 ideas, some which worked and some which failed. The company is everywhere from web technology to self-driving cars, mobile phones, etc. Larry even wants to venture into the airports repair business. But they started with search, the only product which gave them a springboard to billions of dollars in revenue.

    So I think depending on your resources, you can try out multiple ideas. The exciting thing about trying many ideas is that one or two will flourish even if others fail, which is good for motivation and pushing forward.

    Reply
  10. Chris Jensen

    Chris Jensen

    Great post! I love that you show both sides – it can be good and it can be bad.
    I think the key word (once you get your business going) is diversification – just like you say in this blog post as well. It can be very dangerous to have all you eggs in the same nest.

    Reply
  11. Bridget Smith

    Bridget Smith

    Wow. What a fantastic article as I have been experencing this for quite some time. I’ve always heard people say “Jack of all trades and master of none” I never wanted to fall into this category but I did because I kept going from one idea to another without giving each idea the time to develop to see what it could become. So I totally get it and I have been implementing your suggestions that I read about previously from another article and I am finally seeing results so that I can say with confidence “Jack of all trades and master of 5, 10 or 15”. Great, great article. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  12. Tunde Robot

    Tunde Robot

    Yea, you are completely right. The fact is, as an entrepreneur SOS is a very good thing. Diversification of income source is the best thing an entrepreneur can do.

    But SOS can be bad when you are just starting out. I think the key thing to remember or note is this, SOS is bad when starting out, because you have limited resources (you will need to focus all your resources of one project) but very good when you are established.

    But you must have a good skill to succeed with it, which is, setting up systems, so that you can outsource/automate the whole process, that’s where your money works for you.

    You will need to understand the process/method and build a sustainable business model off it.

    I am always reading about creating systems and how I can automate businesses, put it on autopilot.

    So SOS is bad at the early stage when you are still broke, and great when you have the money and people to work for you.

    Reply
  13. Zakaria Desai

    Zakaria Desai

    Never thought of it like that. Amazing what a bit of re-framing can do 🙂

    Reply
  14. Poot

    Poot

    Hi Spencer,

    I have a question related to affiliate niche sites:

    I have a niche idea and I want to do a niche site with some product comparison pages containing affiliate links (only for a part of the site). But first I want to have some traffic on my site before to put affiliate links in order to avoid having my account closed because I didn’t sell anything during 3 months. Is it a problem if in a first place I put standard link in my comparison table and then when I get some traffic I replace all of them with affiliate links? Or maybe it is something that google doesn’t like?

    Thanks

    Reply
  15. Liz

    Liz

    Love this! Sometimes we just need permission to know that things work! Shiny object syndrome is a thing for entrepreneurs especially! Thank you for distinguishing on the execution piece and the idea piece! Thanks!

    Reply
  16. HTPD

    HTPD

    Great Post!
    I have been a victim of this myself, Starting a project and abandoning it without even completing thus not letting it prove itself wrong or right. Up to a point, I had to stick with one until it started taking care of itself and moving to a new one.

    To me, having a broad portfolio will make me feel more at rest knowing that if one stream of income ceases today, I can still rely on others.

    The downside is, I noticed that when I focus on a single project, ideas are coming all the time, but when I am having many, my brain looses track so to say.

    I might never know what would have happened if I had stuck with one project and put all my time and energy into it.
    There is no split testing in life.

    Reply
  17. Travis

    Travis

    Excellent post. I am going through this right now and keep feeling guilty that I’m not focusing all my extra time on my side business. I have a full-time job, a side business, and a new shiny object.

    The side business already made over $20k in commissions this year, so it seems like I should be focusing on that one. That’s with about 34,000 unique visitors through yesterday.

    My new shiny object is currently all ad-based revenue, but the traffic is growing like crazy — over 100,000 unique visitors last month — and there is so much more I could be doing with the site to set it apart from the competition. It keeps pulling my attention because it seems like with a few tweaks I could get this one to be $10k+/mo instead of the ~$1k/mo it’s at right now. I have a couple ideas that can bring in lead and referral revenue, but it’s all I can do to keep a couple days ahead on content. I really need to hire out some of the tedious work (mainly writing) so I can focus on bigger projects that can lead to the next level of revenue.

    Reply
    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Sounds like you have a potential winner on your hands.

      Reply

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