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BIG SHINY OBJECTS


“The greatest challenge is to stay true to our charter and to keep doing what we’ve been doing and not be distracted by the innumerable shiny objects on the roadside.” – Greg Glassman, founder CrossFit.

It was a beaut of a Saturday morning. After my habitual cold morning swim, I jumped in the car to go pick up our nanny Elsabe, and my 4-year-old Matie usually comes with me, still in his Superman onesie.

I had some firm priorities. Get going at 7.45 am so she doesn’t wait at the side of the road outside her house but allow for a couple of minutes to stop at a petrol station on the way there to pump up the spare tyre, which was looking a little flat.

Life never quite works out how you plan, though. The first petrol station I pulled into had an issue with their tyre pump, so I needed to reroute to another one. I would now be slightly late, and I wondered whether I should just go get her and do it on the way back. There is increased risk by driving further with a flattish tyre, but I thought it was a risk I could live with.

Our route also took us past the fireman’s station. Now, anyone who knows my kids knows that firemen, fire trucks, the red glitzy awesomeness of it all…it is irresistible to them. So, of course, as I drive up to the second gas station still weighing up options, a fire truck pulls up in front of us.

Now I am deeply gripped by option anxiety. Matie is going nuts, should I stay with the fire truck or go pump that tyre? If he is going in the same direction as us, the road splits into a double lane, so we could pull up alongside and I would make my kid’s week with a prolonged view of his heroes. Or do the responsible thing, and let them go, so I can secure the tyre and safety? I sweat this problem as much as I sweat the menu every time I sit down at a restaurant, terrified that I will, once again, make a wrong decision and want my dining companion’s meal more than my own once they arrive.

As the stars aligned, the fire truck decided to also pull into the petrol station. This made things incredibly easy. I figure Elsabe would now wait no more than five to ten minutes for us, but I don’t make a habit of it, and a decent apology would cover it. In the meantime, I pumped that tyre, and Matie could ogle the fire truck and its occupants for a whole extra two-three minutes. We got going again, picked up Elsabe (who was fine), and even did another drive by the station for good measure on the way back.

What’s the point of this story? Well, as an Enneagram 7 (an Enthusiastic Visionary) I am constantly needing to reel in my affection for new projects. I have a textbook proclivity for BSOs (Big Shiny Objects) and the mundane, the routine, the daily grind that happens once the sheen of the new thing wears off is my kryptonite. My workpiece is to settle into the “boring” and “routine” and to avoid getting distracted all the time.

When I did a full ten months of CrossFit back in 2015, I was struck by the discipline of the brand. Other gyms often lost their way, trying to do too many things, pushing supplements or extras, or too many membership options at you. I’ve seen so many of them fail over the years, most notably the Health and Racquet Crowd back in the 90s. But CrossFit is a worldwide machine of consistency and staying on brand and message. It is the biggest gym brand in the world by a factor of 10. So how do they do it?

Focus. Focus on what’s important, focus on what they’re there to do, focus on making you stronger in there so you can be better out here. There wasn’t a massive shop full of gear or powders, the entire focus in a spartan environment was on doing the work.

I try. But I reckon I’ll never build a worldwide chain, I like chasing those bright baubles too much. My thirst for newness and desperate aversion to sameness means that sticking to your lane has never been my thing. What I do think is valid in my case, is to identify which BSOs make sense for me.

That fire truck made total sense. My priorities were clear when I set out in the morning, but I needed to adjust because of unforeseen occurrences. That meant that I would either be unsafe or be late anyway. And if a BSO aligns with either of those, what the hell. Let’s chase it, and make my underlying purpose (happy kid) come forth.

Big Shiny Objects are fun and can make a lot of sense in your current framework or strategy. The iPhone, BMW electric cars, and Harvard virtual coursework are not things the founders of these places set out to do – but they made perfect sense as a next step, but also felt quite risky at the time. Knowing when to shout “carpe diem!”… ahh, grasshopper, that is for each of us to figure out…


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