096: David Wood | Overcoming the Shiny Object Syndrome

David Wood is the Founder of Focus.CEO. He built the world’s largest coaching business with 150,000 followers and was ranked #1 on Google for “life coaching” out of 23 million results. He is the author of Get Paid for Who You Are, and has taught laser focus to leaders at Facebook, Square, Warner Bros, Salesforce, and Colorado Prison Inmates. David has appeared on CNN Headline News, Forbes and has done over 120+ podcast interviews.
In this episode, David talks about why you should get rid of the “IF ONLY” mentality, how you should leverage your time to feel like a superhero, and then double your time over the next 12 months. We then talk about how to get rid of the Shiny Object Syndrome through the worker/CEO inside your inner traffic control system. Check it out!

David’s Learning Journey and Masterminds

The Mastermind Effect:  02:36

Let’s get moving into it. The ability to learn and access people drastically changed over the last 10 to 15 years. When you and I were younger, they were textbooks, teachers, family, friends, co-workers, and the world around us. But that’s a sliver of what’s possible. How is your learning changed from your early years versus today?

David Wood:  02:59

When I was a kid, I don’t remember how I learned. When I was about 15, something happened in my brain. I don’t know what it was, but I started coming top from my classes. Then when you get to university, they always said that no one’s going to ride you. You have to be self-directive, which will tie into our topic today. You have to have your own discipline. You have to generate it; otherwise, you’re going to be lost. I had to learn at university how to push myself, and I tried to slide. I said I don’t mind cruising through university with C’s. When the first round of exams came, I was so stressed that I wasn’t prepped. I had to stand up and leave the exam room, go to the bathroom and try to calm down. I learned that caffeine and exams don’t mix for me at all. I want to be prepped. I want to know what I’m doing.

At the age of 27, I did a personal growth course. It taught me that I didn’t know a lot. The course showed me how to learn because it cracked me open. I started a whole journey of self-exploration and sitting with gurus and teachers.  It woke my appetite, and that’s been super helpful.

I found that I love learning for the sake of learning. If I’m going to study Spanish, I’ll go to Colombia and immerse myself. When I wanted to learn salsa. I took 30 lessons in 30 days. When I wanted to learn Balinese, I found no courses, and I created my own course.  I hired a guy to come and sit in my house and read out the book to record him. Then I’d read out the English part of it. I’m really into deep immersion to learn something. I don’t like to lose. If I’m playing a game, and I’m losing, I’ll go and get myself a coach, and I will study that thing. I will keep playing until I don’t lose so much.

The Mastermind Effect:  05:21

I love that the immersion of what took place at the age of 27 transforms into where you’re at today. I talked to someone about it the other day. Do you ever sit there and say, “Man, why didn’t I do this at 20?” Why didn’t I do this at 15?” What’s your comeback to that if you had done it at an earlier age? How do you get over that “why didn’t I started earlier mentality”?

David Wood:  05:50

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. But the second-best time is today. I wish I discovered the landmark forum, which is the course that early on for me up. I wish I discovered it at 17 or 10 years earlier; I’d have a 10-year headstart on my growth.

We can take those learnings and the things that we wish we’d done early, and we say, “what can I do today.” I’m a huge fan. If you’re running a business or have a job or have a relationship and want it to be better, you can study today. So that ten years from now, five years from now, a year from now, you’re not going to say, “If only I’d hired a coach. If only I’d done a program on learning how to laser focus in my business. If only I’d gone and studied relationship intimacy.” There are things that you can do in all of those fields that we have no idea of. You’re not going to know until you learn it, and then you’re going to go, “Wow, wish I’d done that ten years ago.” That’s what I’m saying. Don’t wait.

The Mastermind Effect:  07:03

Don’t wait but get over the “if only I had done this” started today.

David Wood:  07:07

Yes. Twenty years ago, it was too late for that. What are you going to do today that ten years from now you don’t have the same complaint?

The Mastermind Effect:  07:14

We’ve got more ways to take in information than ever before. Some people use a mentor, accountability buddy, a mastermind, online courses, and a lot of ways to learn. In essence, who are you currently learning from? And more importantly, how did you connect with them?

David Wood:  07:32

I like programming, and I decided I want a hobby. I’ve started learning Flutter. I’m taking a Udemy course on flutter, a language programming language, to create my own apps. Then, I want to create a chatbot that can ask you profound questions. That’d be cool to type in the chat, and the robot would ask you a deep question, kind of like journaling. So, I’m doing another Udemy course on Google dialogue flow.

I got excited about podcasting and podcast marketing. I’m writing a program right now to copy the entire Apple podcast database to do some real research in that. Now to do that; apparently, I got to learn Python. That’s another language. I found a coder in India who knows way more than I do. He’s tutoring me. He both writes the code, but he’ll also help fix my code if I have a problem and make a mistake.

I just finished working with a dating coach. I’m single, so I hired a dating coach and started working with me on clothing. She started working with me on getting my online profiles right up and running. Yesterday, someone reached out, and she said, “I want a relationship with you.”

There’s a computer game that I’m playing. I love it, and it’s like a meditation. It’s also super fun, but it’s intense. I wanted to get better at it, so I hire a coach to show me what I’m doing wrong because I’ve got blind spots and things I can’t even know.

In summary, I do use courses. I do go and get tutors. I do work with coaches. Four months ago, I had five or six coaches at one time. I had a therapist, a dating coach, and a branding coach. I’m also in a men’s group right now

The Mastermind Effect:  10:24

The best coaches, mentors, the best people who have these masterminds and are growing them learn from other people. If you go out and you look for a coach and ask them if they have a coach, and they are like, “Don’t worry, I used to have a coach, but I don’t have one right now.” That should be a red flag.  The best people realize you need more than one person to help you get through life and to help you move the needle. That’s why having a result leader versus a thought leader is so important; someone who can help you get the results, help shorten the gap, cut out the noise, bring in the signal, and get you from point A to point B.

David Wood:  11:07

I like the metaphor “you can’t read the label from inside the jar.” You need someone who’s out outside you to spot things. Sometimes with my coach is another coach I’m working with the business. I just went and signed up for his program. Sometimes I’ll be talking out something and asking for a solution. And as I’m talking it out, the solution will appear.

The coach might not even have had the idea, but it’s in that space. I’m like, “Well, what am I going to talk to my coach about?” That’s a start. That’s a win. If you are like, “I already think what’s most important in my week? I’ve got a problem with this.” That’s another win. Now I know where I want to breakthrough, and then we start talking about it. I’m like, “I need to bite the bullet on this and call ten people and make this happen. Or I need to go and get feedback from an expert on this, or whatever.” And the coach says, “All right, good job. Great.” It could be that simple. Without that coaching space, I may not have that conversation. I’m just inside the jar going along doing my business, which is fine.

If entertainment is your goal,  I don’t think there’s any need for coaching or outside support. You can have a lot of fun responding to emails and just feeling busy each day. But if you care about progressing in your career,  you want your business to make more money in a shorter period of time, and you want to leverage your time so you can have more time off, then we got to get some outside input, a bit of discipline and a bit of focus.

The Mastermind Effect:  12:38

A lot of people get stuck and sometimes don’t know how to execute what’s in our head. You made a comment about you can’t read the label from inside the jar. I’m going to have to implement that. How have masterminds and coaching helped you when you’re looking to reset and get unstuck by utilizing the group’s overall knowledge?

David Wood:  13:21

I do have a kind of a mastermind now. Sometimes even when I’m coaching my clients, I get ideas as I’m going through.

For example, yesterday, I’m coaching someone, and he’s getting more intimate with his wife. I offered him a practice that he could try. And he’s like, “this is good, and we’re getting a lot closer from doing this practice.” And I said, “Do you have a regular date night?” He said no. I said, “Well, you can wait and hope that you’ll both feel like it at the same time; that’ll spontaneously happen. Or you can be deliberate about creating a structure to support yourself.” As I said that, I realized that I could apply that to my own life.

There’s one example in my men’s group. I’ll share what’s going on. It’s often just in speaking it out and witnessing that I will have some insights. But they might share something too that I didn’t see.

The Mastermind Effect:  14:54

If you think about it, you can either be the person who can explain why the bicycle moves forward.  The engineer, or the person who gets on the bicycle, just rides it. The lesson that I hear out of is to get on the bicycle, just start riding. You don’t need to explain and go through the process of why the wheels and why the chain and why you’re able to stay upright. Get on it, ride it and figure it out from there.

David Wood:  15:18

I did this course with the Landmark Forum. There’s the power of the group dynamic, witnessing everything. I stood up once in tears because everyone talked about curing world hunger, creating world peace, and rescuing like a million animals. And what you’re creating, I don’t care about any of that. What’s wrong with me? And I was crying.

The teacher said, “Well, where did you get that story that you don’t care about any of that?” That’s when I flashed in front of the group. I realized I was getting all that from my past. The whole theme of the course was that your past is running your future. At that moment, I got a glimpse of just this blank canvas; who knows what I’m interested in. And as it happens, talking to you now, I can look back and say what I devoted the last 25 years of my life to service. I did care about what happens in the world.

Self-Education and David’s Reality


The Mastermind Effect:  16:27

When you stop using your past as a crutch to define your present near future, you’re able to reframe that past, change your present, and be the person you want to be as you go along in the future. The beautiful thing is that coach or mentor in that group you were in could change and let you reframe your past to change your present and future beautiful. Thank you for sharing that.

Masterminds and coaching, they’ve been around for a long time. Probably the first one was the apostles. Then Benjamin Franklin creates something called the Judo Club. And then Napoleon Hill writes a book on it. I’m talking about self-education. Self-education has been around coaching, masterminds, mentors, self-paced, and all that kind of stuff. It’s been around for a long time. Where do you see the difference between self-education versus standardized education? Where do you see the parallels goal moving forward?

David Wood:  17:26

It’s changed so much. We used to think that to get a good education, you had to go to college. Now in the US, it’s rough. When I went to college in Australia, it was free. I don’t have $100,000 in student loans to pay back. And then, on top of that, I was blessed to get a scholarship. I went to free college, and they paid 10,000 -12,000 a year for my rent to stay at this residential college. Here in the US, you incur a debt.

For some professions, like, if you’re going to be a doctor, being self-educated probably will not work. But for a lot of other professions, particularly running your own business, you don’t have to play that game anymore. It’s the information age. You have almost unlimited information available for free. There are university courses you can do, and you might be able to do university degrees online for free.

Sometimes, if I care about something, I’ll go to Udemy, and I will pay. They’ve got specials all the time. You can get a course for nine bucks, 20 bucks, 25 bucks, or 100 bucks. Someone has spent 200 hours creating an ordered and structured course, so you can go and do that, which I can call self-education.

I coach a lot of parents on conversations with their kids. I understand the kid might want to go to Harvard.  If I am a parent, I’d be pretty reluctant to pay for Harvard. I need a compelling reason to want to invest so much. Also, as a business coach, I’m a big fan of bootstrapping. I don’t like plans where you’re investing 50 grand in an untested product. I’d rather put in one grand to test something, see if people like it. Then, from the revenue you’re generating, you start investing back in the business. That’s my thing. So, 100 to 200 grand for college education,  not on my watch

The Mastermind Effect:  19:49

I agree with you. I had that old mindset because I did go to the traditional route. We have a six-year-old who is very active in the businesses we have and knowing what’s going on and conversations. He asked me when did I start my first business. Because of the conversations we have with him, he’s already starting to think like an entrepreneur.

David Wood:  20:33

I’m generally stingy with money. I want to have an excellent reason to spend. We’ve got to be careful to keep the purse strings too tight, particularly with cheap information these days. If you want to be a coach, we got to be up and running. If you’re already a coach and you want to do better, he’s got a program for 1500 bucks with a money-back guarantee. My program for entrepreneurs is eight weeks. It is $1650, and it comes with a guarantee. How can you not spend that amount of money on an education, particularly when comparing it to university education that can be hundreds of 1000s of dollars and may not give you what you need to get clients and get customers? I’m assuming if you go and do an MBA, you will get great training. That’s awesome. Let’s be specific. What kind of training do I want? Let me go and get a course that specifically does exactly what I want for my kind of person. There’s so much available

The Mastermind Effect:  21:57

I saw a huge shift a couple of years ago. That’s why one of the things that we’re building and launching next month is The Success Finder to help change the face of self-education. There are so many things out there unless you want to be a doctor, a nurse, or an engineer. Do you want to come out with a quarter-million dollars in debt? I’m just going to leave that for the people listening out there.

Typically when someone invests in their future, they’ve got a better than a vague idea of what the outcome will be. They have an expectation.  What should people expect when they reach out to David and enter your reality to work with you?

David Wood:  22:39

You should expect that we’ll start with money, but we won’t end there. That’s important. I spent the first half of my life learning about numbers and systems and business being a consulting actuary, consoling to Ford, Chanel, and Sony Music in New York. That was exciting for me. That was like one half of the puzzle. For the rest of my life, I spent learning about emotional intimacy, vulnerability, leadership, communication, how to have difficult conversations, motivation, and influence.

If people only want money, do not come to me. There are plenty of coaches that can help you with that. If you want money, and you want to leverage your time so that you feel like a superhero, you’re nailing your goals, and you can double your time off over 12 months, then we should talk. But that also isn’t the end of the picture. I care about how you’re showing up in the world.

The most fun for me is the conversation with my client where we talk about his business, and right now, he’s bringing in over a million a year. Then he’ll be like, how do my relationship with my wife be awesome? That we get into that, that’s fun for me. When a client just got diagnosed with cancer, and she’s freaking out, not knowing how to handle it. I held space for her and her husband to navigate this. And we ended the call with, “Given that information, what game are you going to play? How are you going to show up in the world?” And she wrote to me recently and said this diagnosis is the best thing that ever happened to her.

You should expect we’re going to look at all of you. Yes, we’ll go for more money and for more time off, but we’re going to look at anything that will have your life be better.


The Mastermind Effect:  24:36

Absolutely. Who doesn’t want that more time off and find a way to spend for yourself, with your family, friends, and solving problems? That’s super impactful. The people that you work with, I’m sure they surprise you from time to time. Please give us a success story of someone that went and worked with you specifically.


David Wood:  25:02

Bradley Long comes to mind, and I have the permission of some of my clients to share their names. He was doing well, and he was bringing in about 60,000 a month. He has an online business. He said, “I have shiny object syndrome, I have trouble focusing, I wake up, and I get into email. I do this, and I do that. I’m really busy, but at the end of the day, I look back, and I don’t think I moved towards my goals.” His wife is thrilled that he is talking to me because she knows that this could help a lot. He had the humility to be willing to ask for help.

We work together for a year.  He cut his hours in half, moved his family to Costa Rica from the UK, had his fifth child and now worked on their six, and started breaking records month after month. He cracked 100,000 for the first month in revenue and kept going up while working half the time. I say that because I always want evidence before trying something else. I want evidence that this is working for people and will work for me. It worked like gangbusters.

Another example is Laura Belmas, who I just challenged to bump her conversion rate because she’s getting a lot of website visitors, but they weren’t buying. Now, she sent me an email saying they just boosted conversion by a whopping 25%. It wasn’t rocket science. It was sitting down and facing what she knew for a year that she should be doing.

Sam Page also comes to mind. This guy came to me, and he wanted to boost revenue by 25 to 50%. After two weeks, he had a flash because we kept looking at it for two weeks. He’s like, “I know how to boost it 1,000%. Now I’ve got the plan. I see in three years, and it can be 1,000%. Is it going to be hard? Yes. Can I do it? Yes, I know exactly what needs to happen. I’m going to have to get in your team for this.” Then a month later, he said he has now freed up 20 to 30 hours a week of tasks I used to do. Can you imagine what that would do for your business that 20 to 30 hours are freed up? You can then either go and spend it with your family,  write that book, and go to Costa Rica. You might put that back into your business, but now you’re working much higher. I’m an efficiency geek, and that was just massive.

The Mastermind Effect:  27:44

I had a huge breakthrough in the last year with one of my coaches just saving me an hour a day. That turns out to be 365 hours a year or 15 full days of my life back by eliminating an hour and shifting it to the people working on an activity. That’s amazing when you can geek out on the efficiency part.

Let’s wind back real quick. You mentioned something in there, and I know this is one of your key areas. I always used to think that only entrepreneurs get shiny object syndrome. But I don’t believe that anymore. I think people in general, a human quality or characteristic is to sit there because of social, or magazines or TV shows and be like, “Oh, I want that. I want this.” What do you think creates the shiny object syndrome? How can you recognize it before you go far down the rabbit hole?

David Wood:  28:48

I think “shiny object syndrome” is a natural functioning of the brain. The brain sees all possibilities, and it sees all these different options. That’s what it’s meant to do. Otherwise, we die. We wouldn’t evolve as a species. It’s wonderful that the ego is trying to help.

I’ll give you an example from this morning. I’ve got my list of tasks in front of me. I wrote down seven or eight things. But then, when I started work, I wanted to do all of them. It’s like there was no traffic controller. I believe we have two big personalities within us. We got 20 but two big ones. One is the worker who could sit down and get a task done with direction. Then the other one is the CEO or the traffic controller; they can make these big decisions. And I wasn’t implementing that today. Finally, I went back and said, this task is the only thing I do right now. I set my timer for 25 minutes. That’s how I generated focus. Then once that thing was done, I went on to the next thing, but that took discipline and it took the traffic controller. It’s natural for the brain to find the shiny object.

If you want a sense of peace and want to achieve more in less time, we’ve got to stop bringing in the traffic controller, which is just having some focused time for that, that part of you to come out. I call it a CEO date with yourself once a week. I invite you right now to pause the recording. Suppose you listen to this and go back and put it in your calendar once a week, CEO date 20 minutes. Here’s what you’ll do during that date. You’ll look back on the week, and you’ll celebrate everything that you accomplished.  I guarantee you’ve done ten times more in the last week than you’re going to remember. Literally, stand up, just do a happy dance for like five seconds. Then look forward to your eight-week goals. If you don’t have those, we need to talk. We’ll look at your eight-week goals and just see what I will choose to care about for the next seven days. I’ve got it up on my board. I’ve got the hopper, which is stuff that I’ll get to at some point, but they haven’t made it into this week. Then I’ve got the things that are my priority for the next seven days. That’s what I work on. That gives me a sense of peace and a sense of focus.

I’ll start doing something that’s not on that list. That’s where you want to challenge yourself and say, This is a choice point. Is this support important enough that I want to bump something that’s already on this list? I’m going to bump this, move it around, or exercise some discipline. Step away from the task put it back in the hopper. It’s not in this week, and get back on track.

The Mastermind Effect:  33:16

How you framed shiny object syndrome isn’t something in the way that I had looked at it before. Thank you for sharing that and giving something actionable. Here’s the thing that I love. You’ll have people to get you all riled up and like you feel motivationally unbelievable. But then, you are like, what am I supposed to do? Listen to what David just told you. He sat there and said, “Here’s shiny object syndrome. Here’s the why, the worker and the CEO.” So I urge you to listen to what he said. He gave you an action item that can help change your personal and business life.

Creating Success


The Mastermind Effect:  34:40

In our solo shows, we talk about success and the pillars of success and what it takes to be successful—mentorship, coaching, partnerships, experimentation, willingness to fail, and willingness to define success. When you define success, you, in essence, define failure. What do you feel is one key ingredient for building success?

David Wood:  35:13

I think you just mentioned, and the biggest one is you need to know what it looks like to define it. For me, success is feeling happy. If I’m feeling positive emotions like feeling content or feeling good, that success for me.  I believe that drives maybe 100% of human behavior. We want to feel better that everything we do is just designed for that. We think money will do it.

If you’re choosing your goals for 2021, don’t start with what you want to achieve. Start with how you want to feel at the end of the year. If I’m feeling like right now, I call it success because my head feels pretty good. I’m happy with how I feel in my body, and I’m having a good time talking to you—that success for me. So once you know what it looks like, you can work backward and work out what you need to be doing.

I give you an example of that. When I did this visioning process, and I worked it out, I want to feel lit up and inspired, and my heart open. That’s what I want to feel as much of the time as possible. The answer was I need to be coaching and training more. When I’m coaching someone, helping them put those puzzle pieces together, and they walk off, and their life gets better, that’s a win for me. I was like, “How do I get more coaching more training in my life?” And then we work backward from there.

The Mastermind Effect:  36:59

How do you want to feel today? It’s a question that the way you phrased it is something I want to bring to our dinner table.  I think that conversation goes into a lot of different realms. It sounds like a simple question, but I don’t think we do it.

David Wood:  37:23

One way to break this down is the “what” channel versus the “how” channel. “What” channel is what you’re doing. The “how” channel is how you’re going to be or who you’re going to be as you’re doing it.

The Mastermind Effect:  38:28

I think there’s always new ideas brewing when times are good. It’s easier to win when the world is winning. Ingenuity, creativity, and innovation come when we feel the squeeze, and the world is still feeling the squeeze. What are you working on right now that’s going to take place over the next 12 months that excites you?

David Wood:  38:52

I’m a real geek when it comes to data, particularly relational data. I’m working on this code for the podcast marketing engine. I’m calling Charlie right now. I’ll be able to say, “Charlie, tell me every podcast host who has been on Brandon’s show that’s a fit for me.” And Charlie will spit out a list.  That’s a lot of work for a researcher to try and do, and I’m hoping that we’ll be able to do this in a matter of seconds.

I’m working on writing a book called Name that Mouse. The elephant is not the only animal in the room. The elephant is I see it, you see it, no one’s talking about it something really big. But many creatures in the room are much more subtle. For example, I was late for this podcast. If I didn’t say anything, I’d be thinking, and I wonder if he’s a little bit annoyed that I’m late. That’s one mouse. Unfailingly bit embarrassed about it, and I hope I didn’t inconvenience him. Those are two more mice. The book is all about name that mouse. Just name it as you notice it. That’s the first step. You want to bring that into the conversation, so the other person can relate with you and knows what’s going on with you.

Then, I have the Samurai Program. I’m creating the content week by week, and I got four out of the eight lessons already done. The next one is on converting the sales, so when they come to your website, they buy from you. It’s fun to create content and training and then see people’s faces and see the response like, “Oh, that’s a missing piece for me. I’m implementing this with my whole team this week.”

Those are three projects I got in mind for now.

The Mastermind Effect:  42:00

Last one, what is a tip, a tactic, or an actionable item, that if someone listening today,  implemented it over the next 30, 60, or 90 days, would see a real impact on their personal or business life?

David Wood:  42:18

I’m going to pull one from what we’ve already talked about. It’s so important having 20 minutes once a week and the discipline to show up for that date with yourself. That’s a game-changer. Just even if you choose the seven-day targets and then choose not to follow them, at least you’ve got some awareness around. This is what will help my business. I’m either going to do it or not.

I highly recommend that you book sprints in your calendar. I think two hours is a good chunk of time. Thirty minutes sprint to useless to me.  Maybe five or six of these sprints during the week where there are no phone calls, your computer cannot ping you, you cannot even see your email inbox, your phone’s on Do Not Disturb, and there’s a sign on the Office Store. Your family knows not to disturb you because you’re trying to focus. Then treat that as a work meditation, set your goal, and set your timers.  I like even if it’s a two-hour sprint, I set 25-minute timers. I’m a huge fan of the Pomodoro method. All this is in the checklist.

Crank it out, two hours of focus time, and you’re going to feel so good. At the end of it, saying I did that and it’s moving me towards my seven-day goals, which is moving me towards my eight-week goals, which is moving me towards my 12-week goals. I’m deliberate about my time. That’s integrity, and that feels good.

The Mastermind Effect:  43:54

We were deliberate about what we were here for today. As I say, lead with the give mentality. Give back. Give actual items back. We’ve got the founder of Focus.CEO, David Wood.

Tweetable Quotes:

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. But the second-best time is Today.” – David Wood

“For me, success is feeling happy.” – David Wood

“If you’re choosing your goals for 2021, don’t start with what you want to achieve, start with how you want to feel.” – David Wood

“If you care about progressing in your career, you want your business to make more money, you want to leverage your time so you can take more time off, then we’ve got to get some outside input, a bit of discipline, and a bit of focus.” – David Wood

Resources Mentioned:

Connect with David on Facebook and visit https://focus.ceo/

Check out David’s Gift Basket at https://focus.ceo/giftoptin/

Be one of the early adopters of The Success Finder! Download it from the App Store or Google Play Store.

You can connect with me, Brandon Straza, on LinkedIn, Instagram, or send me an email at brandon@thesuccessfinder.com. I’d love to get in touch and talk more about personal development and how you can live past beyond your limits.

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