Oh Look… A Shiny Object

As one of the many kiddos of the 80’s diagnosed with ADD and learning issues, I quite literally have millions of ideas running around in my head at any one time. There’s never a dull moment, I don’t nap well (or at all) and I really struggle with all the shiny objects…squirrel! 

In business, this can be both a blessing and a curse. Working with a diverse client load gives me the opportunity to hop from one thing to another, which I love, but has made for challenges when growing a team that doesn’t thrive in that environment. 

The biggest challenge comes when new opportunities present themselves. I’m usually all in, ready to say yes and get the ball rolling. As an eternal optimist, I only see the good things that come from this amazing shiny new thing and sometimes, fail to consider all the other things that one decision might impact. As a young entrepreneur, I fell victim to shiny object syndrome over and over again and as a result saw little progress in business growth and also wasted a ton of money. Eventually I learned a better way to navigate these tasty opportunities.

Yet, in the last several weeks the team here at Confluence Business Solutions has been hard at work on a new project that we’ve built and will be unveiling very soon. Was it in the business plans we made back in January? Nope, but it does something that our current plans were struggling to achieve. So when we made a decision to see where this opportunity would take us, we did so with caution, evaluating whether we were pursuing a shiny object, or innovating to grow.

While there is no shortage of information on the internet, it can be difficult to distinguish what’s truly worth your time. I often ask myself now – when faced with big changes in business or life- “What’s really shiny?” It seems like every day we hear about new trends that could potentially revolutionize our industries and change how people work together at home but then another article comes along saying this isn’t actually anything special after all…

So, while we are still just a few days away from sharing our really big and exciting news, I would like to share some of the questions that we use when it comes time to make a big decision. 

First things first…the best way to help avoid shiny object syndrome is to start with a plan. We are huge advocates for yearly business and marketing plans. Marketing plans don’t have to be an inspiration or intuition killer. They are designed to help you:

1. Set financial and product/service delivery goals for your business so you can create action items that will help get you there and

2. Create a flow for your content so when you’re busy or lacking in inspiration, you don’t lose all that hard earned momentum.

Simply go to the plan and do what it tells you to do.  And, there are two great things about a plan. They are not set in stone, so if something is really not working, or inspiration strikes, you have the freedom to change it. Second, it is the metric that you measure all opportunities against. For example, if an opportunity comes your way that you didn’t foresee when you were making your plan for the year, you use that plan as the metric as to whether its something you should pursue now, next year, or not at all. Here’s four questions to think about: 

  • Is this thing that I’m now interested in already in my plan for the year? 
  • Does it serve me in reaching my goals for the year?  
  • How does this new opportunity help or hurt my goals for the year or years to come?
  • What are the consequences of waiting until a future date?

With any new opportunity or initiative we take on, there’s an expense of time, money, energy, or all the above. There is likely some risk as well. An example is to make a big purchase for a mastermind  that you can’t afford. Or you commit to writing a book and run out of steam part way through. These can all be really scary when facing a brilliant opportunity or shiny object. So it can be really important to have a process for being able to decipher if something is worth the risk. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when it comes to the risks and costs associated:

  • What are the financial risks and benefits associated with this opportunity
  • What other costs/rewards are associated with this opportunity
  • What sacrifices will I need to make in order to make this opportunity work?
    • Is it worth it?
  • How will I feel about this opportunity six months from now, if I don’t pursue it?
  • What are the costs of not taking this opportunity?
    • Is it worth it?
  • Who else does this decision impact? 
  • How will this decision/opportunity impact my team?

Pros and Cons lists are the typical go-to answer for how to make challenging decisions, but they often keep us confined to our own thoughts and opinions. When you sit down and ask yourself the open-ended questions listed above, you are considering not only your own wants and needs, but those of others. They challenge you to look beyond today and beyond this moment, to the bigger picture. They force you to look at whether this is simply a shiny distraction designed to stall your efforts and/or sabotage your progress or something that will truly help you achieve your goals.

As entrepreneurs, if we want to be in business over the long haul, we have to be agile and innovative. The difference between a shiny object and an opportunity is often unclear. The best way to know which one you’re looking at, I find that it’s important not only ask yourself if the change will improve your business or life but also consider how much work needs done before making any significant moves forward with these changes.

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