The Jackdaw Syndrome: Running with the next shiny idea

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This morning, once again I was eating my breakfast rather mindlessly, my thoughts jumping from one branch to the other on my mind-tree. The television was on, again, as usual. Chariots of Fire was playing…I was not really interested in the movie, but happened to glance once in a while, when suddenly one sentence jumped out at me, “ Your mind is so full of running that there is no space to stand still”. While I am sure the context of the film was different, it hit me with the force of a jack hammer.

When was the last time you stopped and took stock of all that you have and all that you have done?

You know Earl Nightingale has famously spoken about the ratio of success to failures.

Let’s take 100 individuals who start even at the age of 25. Do you have any idea what will happen to those men and women by the time they are 65?

But by the time they are 65, only one will be rich,
four will be financially independent,
41 will still be working,
and 54 will be broke – depending on others for life’s necessities.

Now think a moment: Out of the 100, only five make the grade! Scary, right?

And I know that if you are in your twenties and thirties or even in your forties, 65 seems oh so far away…but time seems to be moving at a much faster pace, these days. Remember, it feels just like yesterday when you were a freshly minted twenty five and today you are already 35, 40 or whatever.

Here’s my message of Doom: “Can you imagine 4,000 years passing, and you’re not even a memory? Think about it, friends. It’s not just a possibility. It is a certainty.” – Jean Shepherd – 1975 

So why do so many fail?
What has happened to the sparkle that was there when they were 25?
What has become of their dreams, their hopes, their plans?

While there are plenty of reasons for failure, (read my earlier blog), I believe the two most important ones are Consistency and Perseverance.

This keeps coming up in my various coaching sessions, with my private clients and in group coachings. It is not the lack of ideas or plans that causes failure. It is too many ideas. Now you may ask me, is there something as too many ideas. If your mind is going to hop from idea to idea like a Jackdaw in search of shiny pieces, then the answer is yes.

I like to call this the Jackdaw Syndrome.  You know you have it if you are excited and latch on to the next , newest and brightest idea…and then you let go of it when the going gets a little tough or inconvenient.

You know you the Jackdaw Syndrome if:

  • You have signed up for every available marathon, half marathon and then dropped out
  • You have fresh new  ideas on paper, but nothing converts in to something solid
  • You change your work out routines every month, and are the first one to sign up for the newest fad: Acro yoga-am on! Keto diet –Count me in! Fruit Detox- Sign me up!
  • You have 20 business ideas on paper, but no businesses.
  • You have domain names, but no built up websites
  • You have bought the latest training, but have not logged in as yet.

People with The Jackdaw syndrome are excellent starters, but never finish. Is this you?

Well, you have company. MILLIONS of people suffer as well. I myself am a recovering Jackdaw. A life strewn with various ideas, projects, people, businesses, it will look like a scene out of Hansel & Gretel, except this time, we don’t necessarily come back to our abandoned ideas.

And this is the main reason for failures in our life. The skill, ability and desire are there: it’s just that something stops us from moving forward.

There are some common themes at work in people with this syndrome:


  • Knowing you should be working on something, but putting it off again and again.
  • Starting projects, but never quite finishing them.
  • Feeling unmotivated or unable to proceed, even when there are lots of exciting opportunities.

Unfulfilled Dreams

  • Dreaming of doing something, but never doing anything about it.
  • Feeling stressed and anxious, and perhaps suffering from unexplained depression or panic attacks when trying to achieve something important to you.


  • Using aggressive rather assertive communication and not taking steps to change this.
  • Destroying relationships with others (family, friends, co-workers) with anger, resentment or jealously.

Feelings of Worthlessness

  • Exaggerating other people’s achievements, and diminishing your own.
  • Taking even unfair or misguided criticism to heart.
  • Letting others put you down.

So how do we reverse this? Remember what I said in the beginning: Consistency and Perseverance. And Focus.

If we are so busy running around all the time, we will end each day being busy and achieving nothing.

So first things first: Find a moment of pause. Take stock. Which idea would you like to work on first?

Most of us with The Jackdaw Syndrome, love the ideation part…but follow-through is lacking. So make a commitment to complete what you start. You know what the idea needs, right? ACTION.

You will notice that once you put down an action plan, things will start moving in to completion. What will also happen is a cacophony of “You can’t do that!” “That’s way too difficult!” “If you try, you’ll probably just fail anyway.” These statements sound as if they’re coming from a tyrannical and cruel person with a mission to destroy your self-confidence. Unfortunately, all too often we are the tyrant to our own selves.

This negative self-talk is something we have all probably engaged in at some time. When it rears its ugly head on a regular basis it, it can lead to self-sabotage, and can stop us achieving our goals and dreams. 

What’s worse is that we usually don’t recognize that it’s even happening.

When you feel that you can’t do something you should be able to do, or that you shouldn’t do something, even though you know deep down that you want or need to do it, self-sabotage is at work.

If you allow yourself to engage in negative self-talk, you erode your self-confidence and self-esteem. And with every failed attempt, you “prove” to yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t do the thing you want.

And as you continue spiralling down, you become more and more frustrated, discouraged, and angry with yourself. These feelings trap you and keep you from doing whatever it is you need to do to break free.

Most Jackdaws discard their dreams when the going gets tough. Which is why it’s a great idea to ask yourself: “Am I interested or am I committed?” If you are just interested you will do it while the novelty lasts, or while it’s convenient. However if you are committed, you will do WHATEVER IT TAKES.

Because, successes are not built in the in-between moments. Successes are built on the foundations of commitment, hard work, inconveniences and a will to take the puppy on the road. Of course the going gets tough….which is why only 5 out of every hundred ever make it.  Let’s change this number now!

(If you would like help in converting your ideas in to concrete plans, get on a call, sign up for coaching and see how life changes write in to

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