What is Shiny Object Syndrome? How to Stop Falling For it.

Have you ever purchased something thinking it was amazing, but then were completely disappointed? That’s what shiny object syndrome is. 

Here is a great representation of what shiny object syndrome looks like:

what is shiny object syndrome

This before and after reaction occurs whenever shiny object syndrome works it’s spell on you. And I am certain, at least once in your life, you have experienced this too.

I don’t even have to ask “have you ever had so and so”, because this problem always happens, to everyone. And people who have seen this happen before can tell you that “Ah, seems you had a case of shiny object syndrome”.

SOS syndrome is extremely powerful and in every single case of it happening, after it takes hold, it’s hard to stop, but once you realize that it was a lie, then it’s too late:

1) People have gone broke because they let this emotion take control of them. Gambling and making foolish bets is a perfect way to describe SOS taking a hold of you. 

2) People have let it happen again and again, even when they knew better. 

3) And most people despite realizing that it’s happening, still haven’t learned how to stop it.

Now I can cover the countless areas that SOS syndrome strikes (gambling, dating, work, opportunities, ect…) but as this is a blog about making money online, I’ll keep the subject focused on how shiny object syndrome makes people continually buy scam and low quality products about making money online that sound like gold and how to stop falling prey to it. 

What is the definition of shiny object syndrome? 

I’ll use my own:

It’s an emotional reaction we ALL have when we see something that looks or sounds great and we want to get it without thinking about it first. It can be:

  • A great deal, or opportunity.
  • It can be a great story.
  • It can be an actual physical product.

But it sounds and looks so good, that the emotional response we get from just thinking about it makes us feel that we need it, right now.

Make money programs (where I most typically see SOS happen), clothing, toys, miscellaneous products, whatever the case is, shiny object syndrome hits us all, and it doesn’t matter what industry it’s in. It typically happens in certain subjects more than others, but for the most part, it’s a natural thing we all experience.

But this is also a condition that often leads people to act on that emotion and makes them do foolish things such as spend money on what very often turns out to be far less than what we imagine we’d be getting and don’t worry, it happens to everyone, including myself.

2 quick stories of some of my personal shiny object syndrome mistakes: 

Story 1:

In the make money online world, shiny object syndrome happens too often. In my case, before I finally realized I was letting it control my rationale and actions, I was buying up programs that would promise to make me quick money with basically no effort if I just spent $50 or a $100 or more.

And in hindsight, I got off lucky because today’s products often go beyond these prices as many are high ticket and those are GREAT at hitting you with the SOS sales pitches. SOS leads people to buy make money online products that make them spend $10,000’s sometimes.

See this case of a company called MOBE for example and read the comments. So many people fell for that program and even when the price tag of it was $10,000+, people still purchased it because the sales pitch. 

And let me tell you, the marketers/sales people who know how to sell well know EXACTLY how to exploit people’s weakness and bring out that SOS syndrome in the people they are trying to sell to, and let it take control of them.

I never kept track of how much money I lost falling prey to this, but I can tell you that it was a lot. In fact, when I made a list of all my major internet marketing failures I’ve had, MUCH of it occurred because I allowed SOS to take hold.

I also talk about these failures, and being able to succeed despite them in this article where I discuss my $1 million earnings in affiliate marketing.

Story 2:

I am actually a martial arts instructor. I received my black belt in 2017 after training for nearly 9 years. All throughout my time studying the arts, I would pay a lot of money for private lessons with some of the instructors at my school.

When I finally reached black belt level, I felt that taking more lessons with the same trainers would “finally have them showing me the real stuff”. 

I was at first disappointed to see that most of the material we were covering in our private lessons wasn’t exactly something “nobody knew about”, but rather basics and sharpening them (basic punches, kicks, ect…). While this made me bored to re-learn the same material, at first, this would later turn out to be an epiphany for me and help me turn down the knob on my shiny object syndrome. 

Overall, if I had to put an estimate on how much I spent to learn my lesson, it would probably be $20,000. 

Yes, learning from shiny object syndrome cases can be quite expensive, but I did make the right choices from these lessons and as a result, I was able to move forward. Most people however do not and they can even end up spending more. 

How marketers/sales people exploit shiny object syndrome:

As a marketer myself, I learned that there’s certain things “skilled sales people” do to trigger this emotion. Here’s some strategies they use (know these and avoid getting screwed by them):

1) They keep talking and hyping their sales pitch.

This is a tactic to get you to stop thinking rationally and only hear what they’re saying and if what they are saying is nothing but good, grand things, you’re going to start believing it.

2) They tell you that there’s a BIG sale going on if you act right now.

This also makes you stop taking time to think because it triggers the emotion of acting quickly, otherwise, the message is that you miss out. This is often used in webinar scams so be careful there.

3) If it’s something really expensive, they will point out the benefits…

And how quickly you’re going to make your investment back and even end up making much more. For example, how often have you heard the following message:

Such a message makes people think there’s “no risk” in spending so much money and it ensures that any doubts they have about investing in this don’t stop them from spending.

4) They exploit whatever problem you’re having and…

Connect with it by sharing their own, similar story, then tell you how they managed to stop the problem. This kind of sales tactic happens all the time in make money online programs. They always start by giving you their “personal” story of how they were poor, had no job, ect… 

This tactic makes a “intimate” connection with the person looking to buy the product and makes them feel the sales person is their close friend, since they had a similar experience and if the sales person, solved their same problem via whatever they are selling, you can too, if you buy it. 

5) The use big, inflated words to make you think the product is bigger than it really is. 

There’s certain words that people use to emit “shock” reactions to better connect with the person they are selling to. Some of these words are basically clickbait, and this method is used on more than just websites. It’s used on labeling, videos, anything that involves hearing and reading basically.

Here’s more tips on spotting scams I advise people use on everything they are thinking of buying. It’ll stop them from getting scammed.

How to stop shiny object syndrome from taking a hold of you (the 5 rules):

Our emotions can be so powerful that when they take hold, to quench that emotion, we are often ready to pay whatever, as quickly as possible to quench it.

But to stop it…

Rule 1:

You need to first recognize that this is an emotion and that very often the things you are led to believe are actually things that are happening inside your head and not in reality. Once you recognize this, the power of that emotion suddenly loses it’s fuel.

Rule 2:

Next, you have to recognize the 5 triggers I talked about above and listen for them when you are being sold something. Very often, it is the case that if you hear something that is associated with those triggers, that your emotions are being exploited and you have to be VERY careful, especially with the more higher priced products you’re being sold.

Rule 3:

It is a good rule of thumb to not let your initial emotions take hold when something that sounds and looks good to buy pops up in front of your eyes.

Rule 4:

Click away from that good looking site with it’s good looking product, research it, then come back. Trust me, that product/offer ISN’T going to go anywhere. If it makes money, the marketer selling it would have to be a fool to make it unavailable. 

Or keep the page open, then open up a new window and do research.

Rule 5:

Step away from the emotions and pitch, let rationale take over and let that that guide you to make the decision.

If you’re talking to a sales person, ask important, tough and often uncomfortable questions about what they are selling. The more they are trying to get you to stop thinking or the less they are patient with you = the less likely you should be to buy their product.

another shiny object syndrome example

My final thoughts:

Not everything shiny object syndrome related is bad. Sometimes, you can have a good sales person sell you a good product that actually meets the hype, but let me tell you, that scenario is extremely unlikely.

Take me for example, while I am a sales person and I pitch people make money online programs like Wealthy Affiliate, I still advise that no matter how much you trust me to still exercise the tips above. Ask me questions about it, be doubtful, but know that this is the right way to protect your wallet.

I personally try to stay away from writing to exploit these emotions in people, so when I write sales pages, I give my own, personal experiences as the proof of the sales page’s credibility, vs hyping it all up. I find that when a sale is made via this option that I know it was an honest one.

And if I’m on the other end of this stuff, I try to use the same tips I gave you guys above. I cannot begin to tell you how much money I’ve saved in the process. 

But what happens if it’s too late? And you let it take control?

In the worse case scenario, there are safety nets in place. So if you lose money to a scam because of shiny object syndrome, here are ways to get your money back.

If you have a personal story on falling prey to shiny object syndrome, I’d love to hear about it! If you were able to conquer that emotion, I’d also love to know how it worked out!

20 thoughts on “What is Shiny Object Syndrome? How to Stop Falling For it.”

  1. My addiction with shiny objects is probably free downloads of marketing stuff – whether it’s eBooks, cheat sheets or how to guides. Through many copies, I realized that they are all saying the same thing and worse, I kept getting a ton of emails from them. Some, I don’t even remember opting into.

    Some guides were good, but most were just bad messages which eventually forced me to unsubscribe. It’s simply overloading of information and doesn’t really help me to stay focused, so that’s one lesson I learned from this ‘syndrome’.

    • Hi Cathy, it’s actually not a bad thing when you freely opt in to get stuff like this, provide the value is good, but yes very often there is information that is too much for people to comprehend, even when it’s free. What’s worse is that most people do not practice this good sort of marketing or offering good quality and instead bombard you with emails like you mentioned trying to get money out of you. 

      In the cases where you got emails from people you don’t recall opting in for, odds are, someone else you opted to receive emails from gave away that email to them.

  2. Hey Vitaliy:

    I agree. The shiny object syndrome does tempt us all. Often, I find, I get sucked in when I am hungry or tired or feeling down. Maybe the antidote for S.O.S. is something like a well-loved, worn-out, old teddy-bear that you can go hug rather than purchasing yet another shiny object. A cup of cocoa might help too…

    • You know what Netta? That actually makes a lot of sense! People are less tempted to do foolish things when they are satisfied, not hungry and feeling well, so this prescription might actually reduce the odds of falling into a shiny object 🙂

  3. Hello there Vitaliy,

    I have also fallen prey to many shiny objects and have been scammed quite a number of times in the past. When I realized these people know how to distract my attention, I came up with a technique that keeps me focused on what I want to get, for the amount I had planned (reasonably).

    I create a list of factors I will be using and stick it on the screen of my computer, and whenever I come to a shiny object, I stop and look at the list. This helps me remain on track.

  4. Hey I really enjoyed this article, you are right about the shiny object syndrome. I don’t know how many times I see someone on a video showing their expensive cars and everything and not telling you how much it costs until you try to join. Then you think if you spend the money you can afford all of that, but that’s not the case. 

    • A lot of these same people you talk about actually rent the cars and houses, then fake living that life Justin, it’s another sad thing that also takes place in this business.

  5. I was like you, falling for programs that promised they would teach me how to make thousands of dollars overnight. After a few, I came to know that there was no quick way of making money online, but I still though there was just a SMALL PERCENTAGE chance that I could stumble across THE secret of making money online, so I kept at it.

    I now recognize scams and low-quality products when I see them, but I still sometimes feel drawn to knowing more about them, just in case it’s the real deal (even though I AM NOW CERTAIN that there is no autopilot or push button ways of making money online). However, I don’t buy into them AT ALL now, which I think is a great improvement on my part.

    • It totally is an improvement and as your own personal business is going to grow, you will start to develop your own personal strategies to cut corners Reyhana. However even when that happens, it won’t be a get rich quick scheme because you will have already built up the necessary experience and business to make all that work pay off.

  6. I wish more people would read this. Someone I know spent $1,200 on a course that wasn’t even worth that much, even though it did have a lot of valuable content. I see so many ads on facebook for courses, which may be legit in themselves but often have overlapping content and ideas or may promise more than they actually deliver.

    • Yeah Facebook is a common place for high ticket programs to be advertised, but you are right on how very often their training does not meet the value of their price. I personally found the best training on all this stuff to be inside Wealthy Affiliate, where the price of this info was HIGHLY undervalued.

  7. Hi Vitaliy,

    I really enjoyed reading this because I have had some bright and shiny object moments of my own. I guess I am an easy sale but after being several hundred dollars out of pocket I just may have learned my lesson. Thanks for this  post, your comments are well taken!

    • Don’t let these losses bother you Howard! As long as you realize the issue and don’t let those companies pull that off on you again, you’ll be fine 🙂

  8. Thanks for the tips. Luckily I haven’t really fallen victim to many of these (mainly due to the fact I’m cheap with my money), however I have seen many offers in the mmo world that I’ve really wanted to buy due to the sales page.

    One thing keeps me also from jumping on offers, is I believe anything worth achieving in life takes work. Be it making money, finding love, or getting healthy. 

    • That is a wise outlook Michael! I admit, I hadn’t though of applying that thinking to other areas but it’s a smart way to go!

  9. Hey Vitaliy,

    Just more good reading, I did get scammed several years ago really bad. It was by the Jeff Paul work in your underwear program, I was taken for about 20 thousand dollars, they kept saying well you have to have this and if you want to make money you have to buy that, and I kept putting more and more money into the program, (Shiny Object Syndrome). One day I finally started researching the program (I had noticed on the supposedly live conference calls I could never get through to ask my questions), and some other weird kinds of things, but I was new to doing Affiliate Marketing and I just figured that was how it went. My husband and I talked about it, and he said that they were the experts, and to just keep trying so I did, for about 3 years.

    Then after researching online I found out that the information he was sending in his packet with all the CD’s and Booklets and all were so outdated (about 10 years old). Then I came across a site that said Jeff Paul and his associates were sued by the FTC for millions of dollars I was just devastated as I am sure everyone who bought into their hype was too. I didn’t know they had shut him down, there were never any letters or e-mails or anything. I still have the tapes and the books just to remind me.

    I never received any refund or got any money back, and just tried to do it on my own for years, never making any progress, I would look at other programs, but was too afraid to take that leap till I found Wealthy Affiliate.

    I tried their free membership, and loved the program and the community, your review of the program hit the nail on the head. I visited your page yesterday, and came back today because I love your writing, and learned some things (yesterday) that I didn’t know. I will keep you bookmarked and wanted to let you know you have a fan.

    Thank you,


    • Hi Vicki, I’m very sorry to hear about this devastating experience you had. I know of Jeff Paul and in fact did once purchase one of his original work at home programs. I won’t go into details since I forgot the name of it, but I was very disappointed, and though I lost a little bit of money, it put me on the defensive with future programs I’d run into just like you said in your comment. 

      Your experience demonstrates the powerful grip that shiny object syndrome can have over us and can lead us to make poor decisions. I am truly sorry you weren’t able to recover your money but since you are already with Wealthy Affiliate, I can tell you that you’re with a truly good program now and I would not focus on this past experience you had but to rather let it propel you forward to success which Wealthy Affiliate WILL do if you follow their training.

  10. Wow you truly hit on a lot here and I have fallen in many of these traps. When you learn the lesson, however, you think twice and three or four times before deciding to buy in or not. And usually, it is NOT!

    It makes me laugh when the sellers make it sound scarce.. get in now or you will miss out.. or only 20 spots/products left, ect…

    But like you I have wasted a fair bit of money too. But I must say I am warier, I visit and revisit reviews to get fully educated on any product. Great article and reminder Vitaliy!


Leave a Comment