Founders! Have a Fear of Missing Out and Shiny Object Syndrome?

If I could meet anyone from history (excluding to disprove some rather prevalent myths :), it would be Leonardo. I would love to know how he focused and decided where to spend his time.

There are few if any more important questions/deciding factors in our lives. And while most of us are not Leonardo, we all suffer from similar afflictions, hence the topic of today’s article.


Focus is hard for me. My mind is constantly racing and tackling new problems, which can both help and hurt productivity.

But more important than being productive is doing “the right” work. This is such a difficult concept to both wrap your head around and follow.

We all live with horse blinders. We choose a goal and race towards it, rarely pausing to reevaluate. While this mentality wins races, is it a race really worth winning?

That is the question.

Conversely keeping our heads up causes distractions. “Am I sure this is really the race/path for me?” Second-guessing kills yourself progress and prevents success.

So if I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t what is the balance?

This is a question for da Vinci.

History is all about being heads down

There is only ONE Renaissance man. And even with a more broad view, very few accomplish greatness in multiples disciplines.

While I am not an advocate of assuming averages, it seems fair to say that focus is key to extraordinary success — hence why I won’t invest in founders with multiple side projects. If you are not 100% focused on your startup, your odds of success plummet.

Commitment presents two problems: current and future opportunity costs.

What other options would you have now and what if something better comes along?

Asking what if is almost always a bad thing. There are infinite what-ifs, the implications can be paralyzing.

Founder’s fear of missing out

As a founder, if you fear you are missing out on something, there might be a big problem (see next section).

If you have taken investor money, especially from VCs, you may not have an easy out. But the same is true if you built the business yourself.

Is the opportunity cost of “missing out” more than you would lose by abandoning your current project? That is the question.

But as we said before, focus seems to fuel success. Bouncing between projects leads to subpar results, trust me — been there, done that (apparently so has Jack Dorsey).

Do you see shiny objects?

There are two reasons founders get distracted: self-sabotage or lack of conviction; everything else boils down to one of these.

That is the most important question any founder ask.

I’ve definitely been a self-sabotager

We become whatever we believe we are. Anything we accept (or tolerate) from ourselves or others tells us what we think we are worth.

If this sounds psychological or a bit too woo woo, it is. But it is also true. How often do we (or others we know) come so close only to throw it all way?

Alcohol, drugs, oversleeping, fast food, affairs, procrastination… there are plenty of examples that affect all areas of life.

That said, let’s focus on business. What do you earn? What are you worth?

What if someone offered you 10 times as much, or offered to acquire your business for 10x what it is worth…

You would probably feel a little uncomfortable, and there would probably be a little self-doubt.

“Am I really worth 10 times as much?” or “Do I deserve this?”

These are obvious indicators of your perceived self worth (financially), especially if you second guess yourself.

If this is you, can you detect similar patterns in your past — ways you subconsciously sabotaged your ability to succeed?

This issue is especially prevalent with women and is a part of the reason fewer females get funded than men (in addition to obvious disparity in VC community).

Women are generally more modest than men when it comes to themselves and their abilities and typically have smaller egos.

“Why try to build a $1B business when I can probably build a $100M one?” (This internal dialogue destroys big dreams).

The venture is a game of power laws. Go big or go home, that is how funds get returned.

Unfortunately I can’t help self-sabotagers. The only thing I will say is that if you find yourself suffering FOMO and identify as a self-sabotager, that is a GREAT thing. It means you are getting towards your goal and success is in sight.

Get some support, bust your butt and go for gold. You have already proven you can do it, now just keep grinding.

Are you obsessed with success?

The best startups are obsessed with success. They HAVE to solve this problem and NEED to see a solution in the world. This isn’t a passion project. This isn’t a hobby. This a mission, and many founders fails here.

If it isn’t an all-consuming driving force, it can be hard to survive the inevitable startup slumps. Starting a business is a rollercoaster, only “insane” are able to hold on and keep the end in sight.

This was always my weakness as a founder, I wasn’t obsessed with my mission. I was determined to build a business and make money to avoid having to find a job. That isn’t a enough, eventually you succumb to success. Eventually the problem of survival is solved and the mission is much less motivating. There is no changing the world, there is no greater good. It is about me and money and freedom.

Motivation always wanes, obsession never fades.

Masterminds, mentors and coaches

Regardless of which boat you find yourself in, outside support is critical. This can be investors, fellow founders (not co-founders), advisors or even business/personal coaches — depending on the situation.

Every top athlete has a team of trainers to help them perform their best — entrepreneurs are no different. In fact, I’d argue founders play a more challenging, lucrative game and thus need even more outside help.

We all know we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. Who are your 5 and how are they helping you reach your goals…?

I will leave you with that food for thought and an unspoken challenge. If this article struck a chord with you, you probably know what to do…. And I’d love to help you as a coach crush your goals and achieve your dreams.

Closing thoughts

You don’t have to be perfect. If you understand yourself, evaluate your goals and progress and have others outside your organization keeping you honest, it is hard not to succeed eventually.

Slow and steady sucks but it also wins the race. If this is your race and it is a race worth winning, figure out your focus issue and make it happen.

Actions speak pretty damn loud.

Go build something awesome.

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