what knowing 50 state capitals can teach you about shiny object syndrome

the more I look at it, the more this fundamental truth I first heard from Eben Pagan is true:

pretty much everything about business is COUNTER-intuitive.

Just look at anyone who gets promoted into a managerial role:

they’re pretty much guaranteed to do the intuitive thing and completely f*** it up bysantanna-mexican-president

… either being too nice (hey, we’re all pals) or …
… too dictatorial (hey, we can’t be a Mexican army where everybody is a general …)

[I’m quoting here, apologies if you’re in the Mexican army…])

Well, turns out, there’s a real world application of this whole ‘counter-intuitive’ thing:

the shiny object syndrome

You’d intuitively think, that people who ‘know a lot’ should be less curious about the last few remaining pockets of unexplored knowledge.

In practice, however, they’ve observed that if e.g. you know 17 out of 50 state capitals, people tend to be happy with their knowledge.

But someone who gets 47 out of 50, tends to be unhappy with their knowledge, and we all know what happens when you’re unhappy.

You try to fix it … by e.g. getting MORE information.

The more you know, the more you’re likely to want to have even more information.

Totally counter-intuitive, but witnessed every day.

So, I guess, time to reflect: if you’re tempted to buy another ‘how-to’ guide, ask yourself:

is it because I’m looking to fill a very specific gap in my knowledge base – something I can and will take action on right away …

… or is it because you already know far too much and you’re annoyed that you don’t know this newest bit of information?




  1. Hey Veit,
    You speak directly from and to my heart. As often You break a very comprehensive subject into easy to digest and understandable words. i´m using some kind of categorization with colors in outlook and you can be sure that i marked Your mail regarding this article with a red “must have follow up” mark to have it always prepared (especially the last two paragraphes) if i´m thinking about buying another shiny object/ course….
    THX for that

  2. I sometimes feel like if I don’t get the latest information I will fail and as always I never get anything done anyway it is almost like Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

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