There is a belief in the business world, perhaps the world at large, which places incredibly high value on freedom, ambition, adventure, inspiration and opportunism; all amazing qualities that can lead to a fulfilling career and life. In fact, these are some of the ideals I most value myself and have proven incredibly rewarding. However, if these qualities are pursued without strategy and patience, you may find yourself suffering from Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS) – definitely not the road to success, says author Derek Loudermilk.
Shiny Object Syndrome: what is it, how do you know if you have it, and what can be done to remedy it? Basically, SOS is succumbing to distraction and impulsivity like a child chasing shiny objects. You are unfulfilled, out of resources, overwhelmed and burnt out. I’ve seen this pattern in passionate entrepreneurs who are full of fantastic ideas and want to pursue them with abandon, and in people who jump from company to company always thinking the grass is greener on the other side. SOS is compulsively looking for the thing that is going to bring you money and success and distinguish you in your field, at the expense of completing projects, building deeper awareness of self, product-market fit, or acquiring expertise in a chosen field. Reputation and relationships may also be weakened as a result of SOS patterns.
If you are feeling impatient or restricted in your career, perhaps lacking in freedom, it might make more sense for you to increase your mastery of key skills rather than switching to a new company or role. More expertise leads to more value and respect, which leads to more autonomy and control over your work, which leads to more fulfillment. Getting insanely good at a few key skills will take you really, really far in your career. Ask yourself:
- What are three key skills that you could develop that would give you a big advantage in your field?
- What are the next steps for you to take in developing those key skills?
If you are chasing a number of new ideas because you are hoping it will give you more passion, think about this: passion for our work develops over time as we continue to grow our skills and meet challenges. Each time you start something new, you restart the passion building clock.
When my clients are considering a new opportunity, often the first thing I suggest they do is to interview someone who has walked that path before. You want to understand if this is truly the right opportunity for you – before you do it. Ask people with relevant experience what has worked well for them in their career, what you should expect, and if they have any ideas for you. Have them break down what they think it would take for you to be successful.
Finishing things is worth gold. I almost didn’t finish my book Superconductors, but I’m glad I did. The book your brother has been working on for 10 years still isn’t doing anyone any good. The things you finish, not the things you start, is the measure of a productive career. Additionally, if you are jumping from one thing to another, you keep yourself in a low value situation. If it is easy to train someone to do what you do in just a few days or weeks, you are in danger of being replaced.
To really make the difference in your career, you need to leave some space to jump on the right opportunities. If your plate is totally full and the opportunity of a lifetime comes along, you wont have the bandwidth to take advantage. Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor framed it this way, “An investor should act as though he had a lifetime decision card with just twenty punches on it.” Meaning, over the course of a 40 year career, you will only be making the decision to invest in something every two years. To translate that to your own career, you probably need to be saying no much more than you say yes.
Avoiding Shiny Object Syndrome is about refining, honing, deepening, reflecting upon, and mastering your self and your ideas so that you literally become the thing of great value. Balance these with that ambition, passion, creativity and adventurous spirit and you will be absolutely golden.
Superconductors: Revolutionize your Career and Make Big Things Happen by Derek Loudermilk is out now, published by Kogan Page, priced £14.99.