Shiny Object Syndrome – why it’s hard to tell the difference between styrafoam and gold

What does a teenage run away, Buddhist monk, Geisha girl and Bill Gates have in common? They’re all connected to Christine Comaford whom I heard speak recently at the BCHRMA annual conference.  Don’t know her?  Here’s some background:

  • she ran away at 16
  • she’s a high school and college drop out
  • she was a Buddhist monk
  • she trained as a Geisha for a short time
  • Bill Gates calls her “super high bandwidth”
  • Bill Clinton has thanked her for “fostering American entrepreneurship.”

I took away tons from her workshop including what she calls Shiny Object Syndrome . We succumb to Shiny Object Syndrome when we get pulled off our path, our vision, our dream by something  irrelevant, off topic, and unhelpful.

The challenge is whatever is pulling you off our path initially appears seductive, attention grabbing and highly interesting, that’s why it’s shiny.

Alexandra Samuel, who blogs for Oprah, says to stay on path we need to have strategic tunnel vision.

I say we need to be able to distinguish between two kinds of shiny.

Golden Nuggets:

  • A golden nugget is something that catches your attention and makes you detour but in a good way.  You’re still going to reach your dream, your vision but the path you take changes because of a fantastic resource, connection, or unusual idea you’ve come up with.
  • Nuggets are great.  They’re valuable and lead us to our goal, just in a different way.
  • If we don’t pay attention to nuggets then we can be too rigid, sticking to a path for the sake of the path, not the destination.


  • Styrofoam is deceptive, it glitters in the sun but it’s trashy and terrible for the environment.
  • Styrofoam leads us off path and not in a good way.
  • Examples of styrofoam shiny are complaining about not having enough time (Tim Ferris of the 4 Hour Work Week says lack of time is lack of priorities), vegging out for hours on tasks that aren’t strategic or not having a dream or vision in the first place.

Tell the difference between gold and styrofoam and you’ll be strategic, focused and flexible.


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3 Responses to “Shiny Object Syndrome – why it’s hard to tell the difference between styrafoam and gold”

  1. Alexandra Samuel Says:
    May 24th, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Lee-Anne, I love your styrofoam/nugget distinction. Distinguishing between the two may be one of the toughest jobs we face, but I think most of us know in our gut when we’re detouring for something that is ultimately on-mission; as you put it, a nugget.

    Great post and thanks so much for including me.

  2. Lee-Anne Ragan Says:
    May 26th, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Your welcome Alexandra. Loved your presentation recently at Northern Voices. I think distinguishing between the sytrafoam and gold is easier when we’re tuned in and listening to our gut, as opposed to going with the flow. Sometimes going with the flow is easier however it’s not strategic. Styrafoam can look pretty enticing from a distance!

  3. Rock.Paper.Scissors.Blog » Blog Archive » What’s real? Take a second look to find the White Hot Truth Says:
    June 25th, 2010 at 9:17 am

    […] How do you tell the difference though?  What appears shiny and true can either be a golden nugget or a trashy piece of styrofoam. […]

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