Friday, December 11, 2009


I just spent many hours on this announcement and 2 minutes ago sent it off to my heroic techie. Hopefully it will be sent out to my whole mailing list. I hope so because this is new and I need some reactions -- I even like those 'Out of Office' responses because they react so quickly! (Don't be shy about leaving comments if you have a moment -- even if it's to point out a typo. It's nice to know someone's there.)

Hi All

I believe this is a launch. Never used that word for anything in the past, though I'm sure I've launched things before. But there's something unusual behind this launch and I want to say it out loud to you. I'm doing this particular launch because, plain and simple - I don't want to market anymore.

I don't want to market anymore. I want to do the work I love doing but I don't want to sell it anymore.

Now, I know a lot of people don't want to market anymore, and I know that you have to do it anyway. Most of the time. But I've been doing my work and marketing it for a very long time and now I want to stop. Before I announce to you the change I'm beginning as of right now, I first would like to do some more complaining.

I don't want to send out lots of newsletters and emails saying 'Come to my party,' I simply want to announce it. I'll be happy to tell you when I'm running Resistance classes or IdeaParties on conference calls and give you the dates & locations for the spring and fall Scanner and the WriteSpeak program -- and then stop right there. After that I want to write newsletters about other things, marvelous things that I discover and want to tell you about.

I don't want to promote any of the books or audios or kits I sell on geniuspress either (and you might have noticed that I never have done so).

What pops into my head is what John Cusack says in the wonderful 1989 movie, 'Say Anything,'

I don't want to sell anything, buy anything or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or process anything sold, bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought or processed -- or repair anything sold, bought or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that.

That makes me laugh every time I read it. But here's my point.

To my great surprise, I'm becoming an old lady. Now, please don't write to tell me I'm not really old and all that stuff. I know, I know. Like all old people who were born learners and observers to start with, I know I'm getting smarter every year, and like all old people who are paying attention, I understand clearly what 'time limits,' means. As a result, I have a very clear picture of what I want to do in the coming few years while I'm still sturdy and bossy, and that is to tell you everything I know.

This is not a pitch. This is what I've been thinking, and it won't let go of me. So consider it the first of my announcements and you're welcome to ignore it if you like. You'll know if it's right for you or not.

Now, since I've never tried very hard to accumulate Wealth and build Empires, I'll still need income. But I'd like to be paid for what I teach, not for my marketing skills.

So, I want to announce some subscription/membership programs that will give you such huge discounts you'll come on your own and I won't have to do all the difficult, time-consuming stuff that I really can't delegate.

I'm also going to teach a year-long Master Class. This is big. This is about me trying to make sure that the best of my work will continue to be out in the world even if I'm abducted by aliens. It's designed mostly for coaches (you'll be certified when you complete the course) but I really hope to see teachers, parents and talk show hosts in it, anyone who helps people and wants to learn how to do what I do.

How to do what I do. I used to think it wasn't exactly teachable, that all I could do was let you watch me do it. But now, happily enough, I know how to teach it. Now people can learn it and use it to help other people. That's what feels really right at this time in my life.

If that looks right for you too, maybe you should be at this Master Class. I'm going to teach the most important of all the techniques I've developed, as well as showing you how to get a little bit famous, like I am. :-)

Everything starts in January of 2010. (If you've already signed up for any of my programs in 2010, you can still subscribe and get your huge & massive discount on those programs.)

Okay, here's what it is and here's the fee for each choice. (No, I don't do up-sells and I won't make you read 20 pages and click 10 links to find out what everything costs.)

(Toe In The Water) Level I Club - $600

If you want to learn as much as you can about knocking down the walls of your resistance as well as getting dozens of great brains to help you come up with ideas and info but you'd like a little anonymity and time to decide if you want to go further, this is probably the right choice for you. At Level I you'll be able to attend (or get the recordings of) all my Resistance and IdeaParty teleclasses in 2010 for free. I'm planning to do at least 10 of them.

You'll also be able to head over to and look at all the books, audios and kits and pick any or all of them (electronic or hard copy) for 50% of the price. (Incidentally, the prices haven't changed in years and I won't be slipping in there and raising them in advance, either.)

And if you'd like to halve the tariff for my new BigCheapWeekendWorkshop in NY in June (it's going to be terrific and I'm smiling as I think of it) you'll be able to do that, too.

Now, my math's not great but I figure you'll get at least $2000 dollars worth of goodies right there (and I expect to add more stuff -- like a CD of all my audio tips, for instance -- during the year). It's good stuff.

You'll get the most benefit (and make my life easier) if you sign up via Paypal before January 15. Ask everyone to give you cash for Xmas and you can probably make it work.

(Ready to Splash Around Big Time) Level II Club - $2400

If you'd like all the above but you really want to work with me face-to-face in a 5-day retreat in 2010, this is for you. At the same huge 50% discount you'll be able to attend one of the year's Scanner retreats (in some gorgeous locale). If you want to, you can sign up for the whole WriteSpeak program, too (which includes its own 5-day retreat). If you've ever wanted to be part of a really special community/support team, a retreat is where you'll find it. What happens after the retreats is as important as what happens during them. (Check out the testimonials on for Scanner Retreats and the WriteSpeak program and you'll see what I mean.)

For the Ready to Splash Around Big Time Level II Club you really do have to get in before January 15 because the next WriteSpeak Pt I Teleworkshop is January 16 and it's the prerequisite for the rest of the program). Now, my math, if this makes any difference, says that you will not only save the $2000 value of the Toe in The Water Club, but in addition, up to $3500 if you take advantage of everything above. (I'll send you either audios or transcripts for anything you can't attend.)

If you've already signed up for the April Scanner Retreat in France, or the Jan, Feb WriteSpeak program in New York and you want to subscribe at this level, that's fine. I'll be happy to get someone to figure out the math and make it come out right.

(Taking the Veil) Coaching Certification Master Class - $8400

Well, I don't really know much about taking the veil except from the movies. It looked all gallant and romantic with Audrey Hepburn, and wonderfully evil and powerful in The Blues Brothers so I'm pretty convinced of my own total ignorance here and I guess that's not really what I mean.

What I do mean is this: if you're ready to make a serious commitment to becoming the best counselor/teacher/helper/coach you possibly can be, by accessing and developing your innate talents and learning how to do pretty much everything I do, if you want to be part of a tightly-knit, supportive and brilliant community, and if you'd also like to make a better-than-decent living at it, then this is the right choice for you.
Some of you have watched (or heard) me guide someone through a 'self correcting scenario,' for instance, or take someone back to the source of their resistance (and often the source of their parents' as well) and you've seen the light bulb go on as they finally understood the true picture of who they are and why they do what they do, and how to change it in a profound way.

If so, you might be one of the people who wanted to know what was happening: 'How did you do that?' 'Why did you say this at this time?' 'How did you know that was the wrong path, how did you see the right path?'

If that kind of thing matters to you, the Master Class is for you.
Showing dedicated, talented people how to help others by fully using their gifts and showing them how to do everything I've learned to do and showing them how to make a better-than-decent living so they'll want to keep doing it for years and years -- that's how I want to spend my remaining time on this planet.

So as of today I pronounce that I insofar as I am able, I shall no longer market anything and all my newsletters and blogs will be about wonderful stuff I love to write about.

I'm going to put up some pages on Genius Press to spell out all the many details of this big new thing, like how to be interviewed for the Master Class and nice lists of what you'll get such as the Master Class will get free admission to the BigCheapWeekendWorkshop in June and you'll all get advance notice of any events I schedule. That sort of thing. I'll also explain that I won't be doing swaps or payments because they're too hard to keep track of, and how there's room for everyone in the Level I Club, but room for not so many people in the Level II Club and room for very few in the Master Class.

(Which is why I'm going to close admission as soon as I've hit the right numbers so I wouldn't stall about this too long.)

And there's got to be a whole lot more I need to explain.

But it's been a long day figuring this out all this and I'll never in this world get the extra information up on the website for at least few more days.


* You can say 'I know all I need to know, Count me in,' and go into Paypal and send a payment to my email address (if you don't have it, just hit reply to this announcement and me ask for it. I'll enjoy getting that kind of request.)


* You can hit reply and ask me questions, which I'd actually welcome because I know for sure I haven't worked out every detail and your bewilderment will make me aware of what's needed. As anyone in my WriteSpeak class will tell you, questions are very fine things.

I want you to use your talents and fulfill your dreams. I want that a lot. I think that's a good thing that I can do for you and for the world.

Okay, that's what I wanted to tell you.


To help you plan, here are the dates I know about so far:

The WriteSpeak Part I Teleworkshop: January 16, 2010, from 11 am to 5 pm (or so).

(I may schedule a second Teleworkshop before the retreat. Watch this space.)

The WriteSpeak Part II Retreat: February 12 - 17, 2010 in New York City.

The Scanner Retreat: April 6 - 11, 2010 in a medieval village in France

Another Scanner Retreat in Europe in the fall, when the weather cools down.

The Big Cheap Weekend Workshop, probably June 25-27, 2010 in New York City.

Okay, now you know everything I know.
Posted by Barbara at 9:20 PM 0 comments

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Why can’t scanners stick to anything? Why won’t they make up their minds? Do they fear commitment? Do they have learning disabilities? Are they hopelessly immature, shallow, afraid of hard work?

If not, why don’t they do something about it? Having so many interests is difficult by itself. Being criticized by people who don’t understand, and being worried themselves that they’ll never accomplish anything is not a great feeling. Until you understand what makes a you tick, the stress can be overwhelming.

So why don’t Scanners do something about it? They do. At least, they try.

Most Scanners really try. Many go to career testing services but, for the most part, the expectation is that they’ll use their greatest talent to follow a path of specialization. But that doesn’t work with a scanner:

“On every aptitude test I come out above average on everything, there is no one outstanding peak - they are all pretty high. This can be really difficult as I never know what to choose.”

Counselors explain that their clients have to choose a direction or they can’t take another step. But Scanners can’t choose one direction. It’s like telling a parent to choose one child to feed. It’s just not possible. A parent will find a way to feed all her children. And a Scanner is driven to follow every path that interests her. There’s nothing else a Scanner can do.

There are at least three reasons for this:

First, Scanners can’t have fewer interests. They’re designed to do more. Holding them back is like tying an athlete to a chair.
One woman said it clearly:

"I need my entire “system” of mind and body to be completely used. I enjoy doing different things at the same time. I feel good when my body is working at its limits. My mind is only happy when I'm learning different things at the same time. If I have to slow down or use only one part of me at a time, I get bored, worse than bored – I feel like a part of me is dying on the vine.”

Second, Scanners don’t want fewer interests. They light up when they see new things and want to investigate them. But, you might protest, we all want 5 desserts after dinner too, but we don’t get them, we grow up, you control ourselves, right? Wrong. Scanners want it all not because they’re spoiled, but for the same reason all your muscles, not just your arms or your legs, want exercise. They love variety because they have brains that process experience quickly and are ready for new subjects sooner than others. They have special abilities in many areas, they’re built to use them. That’s why somewhere inside a Scanner, although they hate to be stuck and don’t know how to justify their behavior, they secretly refuse to choose. They know they’re being stubborn. What they don’t know is that this stubbornness comes from intinctive integrity.

Third, a Scanner sticks his nose into many areas because he can. Scanners are smart and multi-talented, they’re divergent thinkers who don’t want to narrow the universe down to one formula but would rather help expand it. They don't typically need as much stability as most people because they're as secure as small children and just as curious. While most adults find change disruptive, even threatening, scanners thrive on it. They don’t mind being beginners as much as most adults, and while some are driven to master an an interest, as soon as they do, at least to their satisfaction, they're finished with it. The part that mattered to them is over.

What draws a Scanner, and why do they move on before they’re finished? What makes a Scanner tick?

Well, you could say they're a lot like bees when they go after honey.


Whenever someone tells me a scanner lacks focus, loses interest too easily, can’t find their passion or make up their minds what they want to do, I ask them to consider the honeybee. I’m pretty sure no one in his right mind would ever accuse a bee of lacking focus or losing interest too easily. No one says bees can’t make up their minds which flower they want to be involved with or that they seem unable to find their true passion. We assume that when a bee leaves a flower, it’s got a compelling reason to do so. Plain and simple, if it stayed at a flower for two seconds or twenty seconds, we understand it needed that amount of time to get what it came for.

Any bee that stayed at a flower after it had emptied it of nectar would be seen as derelict in its duties. When it comes to passion, I think we’d all agree that a bee seems very dedicated to its task — but it’s not passionate about any one flower, it’s passionate about gathering nectar. If you missed that point, you’d really misunderstand a honeybee.

In his heart every scanner feels the same as a honeybee about what he’s doing. But we’re not in the habit of thinking about it the same way. We simply assume that Scanner's have a problem if they don't devote themselves to a single specialty as long as we believe they should - usually for their adult lifetime or at least until the job is ‘finished.’

But if we don’t know why the Scanner is involved with this subject, we really have no way of knowing when he's finished. We can’t pretend to be helping Scanners to develop their considerable talents unless we’re willing to grant them the same benefit of the doubt we give a honeybee.

Somebody's sure to ask if this is why they get tired of relationships so fast; maybe being a Scanner is the reason they don't want to stick with anyone very long. The short and simple answer to that one, at least in the many cases I've investigated, is no. First, because in each case their are so many other reasons for the problem. Second because many people who ask the question aren't Scanners at all. And third, because I've queried many Scanners and most of them say they want one thing in their lives to be stable -- preferably their source of affection and companionship.

I'll talk more about that another time, but for now, don't bother explaining Tiger Woods' behavior by saying he's a Scanner. No way he's a Scanner :-) And don't fill up the comments with questions about that when I really want to answer other questions about Scanners. Or have I just told you to ignore the elephant in the room. Sigh.

Incidenetally, it never comes up at a Scanner retreat, even the ones we have in France :-) You can find out about the next one at or ask me here.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


When I said I don't have extra, unused stuff in my house, here's the reason. This is from an article I wrote in Real Simple but it originally came from Live the Life You Love, and there are lots more amusing but potent ways to dodge that kind of clutter - like getting rid of the stuff your grown kids have left in the garage by telling them you're moving to Spain and they can come for it or if they're too busy (they will be) after a week they can easily find it all at the local Salvation Army store.

In the book you'll also see that the only reason to get rid of clutter is to have open space in which you can create better clutter, Quality Creative Clutter. The kind I realized in my last post that I will never get rid of until I'm comatose (and not making any promises even then). We could call it "How to create open space in which to make a really big mess that's so awful that if you don't quit procrastinating you will feel as if you have sand in your speedos."

But here's the short version:

Toss 10 Things
Never waste a perfectly good day on a one-fell-swoop anticlutter campaign.
Instead, use this absolutely guaranteed, humane method: Wherever you are
at a given moment, find 10 things to throw away. Brushing your teeth?
Open the medicine chest and find 10 disposable objects—antique medica-
tions, someone else’s hair-care product, the shampoos you pinched from the
hotel on your last business trip. Reaching into a kitchen drawer for a cheese
grater? Pull the wastebasket closer and play basketball. Your home will be-
come more spacious and airy within days.
Barbara Sher
Real Simple Magazine

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


See, I have a lot of stuff, but I long ago cleared out everything I wasn't using or wearing and, in spite of that, my place, almost every room, is piled up with papers and books and a few magazines

I get brave and throw most of them out, too, every month or so -- but it's not easy because I remember being stuck in Turkey with no TV or radio and nothing to read. I'm aware that this isn't as serious as real traumas, but for someone whose list of Things I Must Always Avoid has 'Boredom' very close to the top, it's enough to have left a mark. (On that trip I did find one copy of the New York Times Book Review and read it over and over, even writing little sermons on various sentences.)

Okay, so I have a lot of stuff but none of it can be thrown out anymore. Hardly.

So organizing is the obvious choice. But that's where I run into a huge problem. It's not that I don't like to be organized, I do. I crave it. I even have a place for everything and frequently, sometimes twice a week, put all the things that aren't part of an active project into their proper place.

And I simply hate disorder. It's not indifference to chaos that stops me. I am disturbed by chaos.

The problem, in one sentence is this: only chaos will drive me to action, precisely because it is so disturbing.

If I want to remember to take a piece of paper or a book to another room, I simply throw it on the floor near the door. There's not a chance that I'll leave it there when I leave the room because having books and papers on the floor drives me crazy.

But a perfect, peaceful, beautiful, quiet orderliness will stop all my action, precisely because it's so lovely.

Instead, I sit in front of my computer and I'm surrounded like a drummer with three drum sets, by everything I could possibly need so that's it's often difficult to find room for my mouse to move its cursor (Note: I have a mouse pad the size of a large TV screen). I do this so I never have to stand up to get anything because that would break my train of thought. I sit surrounded by noisy, ugly clutter, but I have everything at hand and only stand up when I want to stand up.

(Aside, off the subject, because it popped into my head and is too good not to share with you is my favorite quote by Mae West: A shady type of guy, sitting behind his desk with a cigar in his mouth and the phone to his ear, tells her to sit down. And she answers him - please imagine the Mae West nasal voice and that cynical smile always on her lips - "Thanks. I'll sit down when I'm through standin' up.")

Okay, that smile gave me courage to continue.

I have many kinds and colors of file folders and binders and many dividers -- numerical, alphabetical and monthly - Jan, Feb, etc. I also have different colors of paper and a fine, heavy 3-hole punch, many varieties of index cards and blank books, paper clips, staplers, the works. When I decide to set up a new organizing system I never have to go to the store because I already have everything. And I really love to sort and organize my papers.

But if I put things away that are part of an active project, I might as well throw them out the window, because once things are orderly and my desktops and table tops are visible, I feel -- deeply in my mind, heart & soul -- that my job is done. Only the oddest impulse will drive me to look at anything that's safely in its folder or binder. It's all for 'later.'

For instance, I have baskets near my computer with scraps of paper in them, notes, almost always important (I coldly, without conflict, throw out notes to myself that are no longer important), things I want to remember, things I have to do, and I've put them in this basket so I'll go through them and even do them. It's a messy little basket so I'll be motivated to look at a few scraps of paper, but most of the time, because they're so nicely in one place, those notes stay in those baskets for many months.

And the papers for my next retreat are neatly stashed in a 3-ring binder, and that's okay, because I can grab it and take it with me. Well, some of it. There's always more than there was before, and the new stuff is something I'll need. (No, I really will.)

It's not my fault that there's always more new stuff. New stuff announces itself at every retreat because each retreat designs itself to fit the people who are at it. Sometimes a great exercise just doesn't fit, you can feel it, and another one you never thought of before will do the job perfectly. Me, I'm just following orders.

So, in addition to a nice binder, there's also one huge fat sloppy file drawer full of Scanner stuff. There's another huge, fat, sloppy file drawer full of WriteSpeak stuff um, plus a line of orange binders about 5 feet long on my 'work desk. (haha) I'm in the middle of a project to organize it chronologically this time but after about 12 hours of sorting on Sunday, I got tired of the project. Oh, I even have these 'tubs' which I can label and do some quick tossing of books and sheets of papers when I run out of steam for a real organizing project.

Now, why are the file drawers sloppy? Because the notes and scraps that weren't thrown away are all different sizes. That's what happens when you write down things by hand because you're far from your computer. Ideas do not always come in 8 1/2 x 11 form.

There's a third big project and it's kept in whole bookcase full of pink binders. And that's for the next book I'm writing.

One problem is that everything always comes first and everything has to be on top. Somehow, this seems essential. Not actually doable, but completely central to the entire effort of getting things done. Sometimes I use those clever time-organizing ideas I wrote about in Refuse To Choose, and sometimes I devise new systems right in the middle of the task. (If the task takes more than one day, you can change that 'sometimes' to 'invariably.' )

All I can say in my defense is that I do a lot of pretty good organizing with some things:

1) I always know where my keys are (and most other things,too)

2) I never miss a plane and almost always go to the right place

3) I'm a great suitcase packer and always have everything I need for whatever it is I'm going to do (except a hairbrush - I always forget the hairbrush)

4) There's nothing left to give away or throw away in any of my drawers or my kitchen shelves or my closets or my bookshelves.

But if you were an organized person looking at me in my environment you'd have to feel like you were watching a drunk walking on a high wire. You would be frightened. You would turn your eyes away and try to breathe slowly.

I confess all this so you'll understand a number of things. For one, how I come up with so many useful tossing and organizing systems (Check Live the Life You Love for the best tossing ones). In addition, if you are one of the organized people I want you to understand that some of us can't ever get organized or, if we do, it's only for a little while, during which we stand around not quite knowing what to do because we don't know where everything went.

I also tell you this so you will forgive your friends who are like me and find it in your heart to avoid judging and instead, honor their courage as they go through their often productive days leaving absolutely everything out like I do, right in my face, in a ghastly disorder that makes me nervous until I'm so miserable I just do it.

Yes I do have a place for everything, but I can never put it away because I'm not done yet. Ever.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

How to be an eclectic and quit fooling around

Well, yes, I said 'eclectics.'

You and I know we call them/us Scanners, not Eclectics, but Google still thinks that's a piece of equipment so I'm using that term, too, so the multi-talented people with lots of curiosity and a love of learning new things will find this and quit beating themselves up.

In case you're new to this subject, Scanners are people who are interested in so many things they can’t bear to limit themselves to just one. The rest of the world seems united in their opinion of this problem: it must be changed. Everyone knows that if you don’t focus on one thing you’ll never get anywhere. And most people seem pretty sure that if you’re interested in everything and lose interest in most things before you’ve completed them, that you are almost certainly lazy, shallow (ever been called a ‘dilettante?), self-indulgent and afraid of hard work. As a result you are un-deserving of respect unless you change your ways.

And Scanners try. They really do. Almost no Scanner tries to defend himself because they’re convinced that their critics are right. As a result they’re overcome with joy when they become unusually enthusiastic about something, because they’re hoping that this time they’ve finally found The One Right Thing and they’ll never again have to endure the despair of losing interest and inviting scorn again.

And it’s not only the opinions of others that make Scanners unhappy. They fear that they’ll never find what they want, that they’ll never use their abilities in any useful ways or make their contribution and the world will never know they were there. And one part of that is true: if Scanners don’t learn how to handle their unusual love of discovery and fascination with learning, they could waste their often prodigious talents.

But there’s no major in college called ‘Eclecticism’ and no advisors to direct them toward a respectable career so they’re left to float in their condition, unhappily unaware that many people are just like them – and that there isn’t anything at all wrong with any of them.

It’s all been a huge mistake, a temporary fad. There was a time, quite recently, when specialists were considered narrow, and the most admired person was ‘well-rounded.’ Since the days of classical Greece and later, the Renaissance, Liberal Arts, not specialization, were the signed of a learned person. From Aristotle, through Petrarch, Leonardo da Vinci and Goethe down to Ben Franklin, Isadora Duncan and George Plimpton, the love of learning and doing new things was admired, not scorned.

All of that changed very recently in the U.S., so recently that I was in college and remember it very clearly. To students of mating age, majors in philosophy, comparative literature or ‘science’ were admired and students who walked around with slide rules in their pockets were considered narrow, nerdy and otherwise socially undesirable, and the next day you couldn’t get a date unless you did have have a slide rule in your pocket. In fact, you looked like a fighter pilot and an astronaut while everyone else suddenly seemed effete and useless. The Space Race was upon us and everyone in the west was in a panic that the U.S.S.R. would get their satellite orbiting the earth before we did.

They did. Sputnik was visible in the night sky and we redoubled our efforts to become hard and single-minded.

And over night, people with eclectic interests lost status.

Most people don’t remember this. They think that specialists have always been valued over generalists or people with many interests and abilities. So now they criticize Scanners with a kind of certainty that’s based on an event in recent history, not fact.

I got a letter some time ago with this comment:

"My mother-in-law regularly tells me that it is not ability that counts, but stickability. I never know how to answer her."

Before I wrote Refuse To Choose (What Do I Do When I Want To Do Everything?) I gathered some interesting stuff on this subject, and went back through my files to dig it up. Truth is, there have been many studies in the past ten years or so that vindicate Scanner behavior. The next few posts will be a brief guide to some very special people who would know exactly how to answer her. I'd like you to hear from three of them in this post.

If you feel foolish because you’re constantly magnetized by mystery instead of applying what you already know, listen to the first one:

"The most beautiful thing is to gaze at a mystery and say why is this here? How does it work? The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity."

You'll know his name: Albert Einstein.

You might not know the second person, a scholar in a field most of us haven't studied. Like most Scanners, I always despaired that I would need an endless, laser-like focus and a huge tolerance for tedium to create work that would make me an authority in any field. Then, one day, after buying a book from a shelf an anthropology major had no business visiting, I found E.R. Curtius, a widely renowned scholar who dedicated his life to writing his masterpiece, 'European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages'.

He wrote something that lifts the heart of any Scanner, but unexpected from the pen of a 'dry as dust' scholar. It changed my opinion of scholars forever:

"Through loving and hating, all intuition and knowledge of value is built up…Applied to the method of scholarship, it means a flair for noticing that certain passages in a text are ‘important’—even if it is not yet clear why…The individual traits that matter cannot be sought out, they must flash upon the mind."

If you're a Scanner, you know what he means; you come upon something exciting, important, wonderful, and you run out and tell everyone and find that your listeners aren't nearly as delighted as you are. Until this year, I was only sympathetic, consoling to my fellow Scanners, and irritated at the ignorance and unkindness of people who refuse to be thrilled by their honest, childlike enthusiasm.

But I'm beginning to change my mind. That scolding, bromide-ridden mother in law above may just be mean, but even people who aren't mean often don't understand why you're so excited about your new discovery. I'm starting to see that this isn't really their fault. They don't see what you see, but no one saw what Curtius saw either, until it clicked in his head, and he understood it -- and then explained it to them.

In fact, even bright, curious people might not be enthused by what you find delightful in your travels because what you saw didn't leap off the page for them. But something else did; something that might make you scratch your head in confusion. I'm convinced that everyone has an inner magnet, different from anyone else's magnet, that pulls only relevant things to them like steel shavings, and those things come to form a pattern that not many people can see. Until, that is, you take the time to explain it to them.

Scanners don't have to keep their thrilling discoveries to themselves. No, they just have to grow up (in certain ways) and quit fooling around (in certain other ways). Here's how I believe you should do that.

First comes respect for what interests you. Curtius has given you permission. No more beating up on yourself. You can't explain anything to anyone unless you first respect, as Curtius did, the fact that if something seems 'important' to you, it is.

It is important whether or not you can justify that importance. You have to respect your own enthusiasm, and understand that it's really good, maybe unerring, in its ability to direct you to exactly the material you need to form your own best insights.

It's important that you don't get discouraged when you're not understood. It's not only important, it's irresponsible to allow yourself to feel demoralized when no one knows or cares what you're up to. Too many Scanners have a voice running in their head that belongs to critics, and that voice stops them from trusting their own enthusiasm. Too many Scanners have belittled themselves to me when there wasn't a critic in sight: "So here, again, I get all excited like some kind of 5 year old idiot, and what can I do with it? I wish I'd just grow up and stop fooling around."

You know what? If you've ever thought something like that I have to say that I, too, wish you'd grow up and stop fooling around, though I have a hunch that I mean something very different from what you think.

Scanners are vulnerable, and in the best ways, like kids: they're eager for new knowledge, they love to share, they're rarely competitive. My experience has shown me that most Scanners seem to be extremely kind, never belittling, often protective of other people's feelings. But they're as hurt by criticism and misunderstanding as a child, too.

But I'd like to make a plea that Scanners must grow up, at least enough to understand that people never understand anybody at the beginning of a new venture. If you're an original thinker, like an artist, you're always ahead of your time. But if you can 'grow up,' you'll develop the patience to forego approval at the beginning and honor the importance of what you're discovering.

And if you quit fooling around, you'll understand that you have to stick to your sleuthing as long as it fascinates you, until it yields the reason it was 'important' in the first place. And then you'll have something important to share with the world. And you must share it. You have to try to help the world understand it. That's your obligation.

See, if you're a true Scanner, when your mystery finally takes shape, you're obliged to try to explain it. And, if you're a true Scanner, you have to do it fast, almost the moment you have that Eureka! moment. Because you're not like an inventor or industrialist or gold miner who considers discovery nothing more than a path to success with all its rewards. To a Scanner, the discovery itself is the good part. But as soon as discovery becomes a commonplace to you, you'll move on to something else. And I say you have to wait a minute. You have unfinished work to do before you leave one scene and look for another.

You have to stop fooling around, and take up the challenge of pulling those important findings together and explaining it clearly and patiently to anyone who needs to know about it. (Don't talk to me about experts and credentials and publishers, either. Just start a blog and start writing, like I'm doing right now.)

And when the work of explaining your discovery is done, then you can get on to the next mystery.

If you do this, you'll be in the company of the best people there are, anywhere. Fortunately, some of them write books for us amateurs. They're usually called scientists or artists or mathematicians, but they're more than that because they're as enthusiastic as children about their interests and they want to tell the world what they've found.

Which brings me to the third very special person you should know about. Head over to and watch and listen to some amazing people go up on a stage in front of a thousand people and and enthusiastically talk about the NEATEST stuff they just found out!

I think one of the more delightful and wilder of the bunch, and the best for any Scanner to start with is Clifford Stoll.

He's had some exciting adventures; he's famous for finding KGB spies and stopping them from hacking classified information, but In his talk he explains that these days, things that used to interest him have become boring. "The first time you do something, it's science. The second time it's engineering. Third time you're just a technician. I'm a scientist. Once I do something I want to do something else."

He waves his arms and jumps around and changes the subject and reads notes he wrote on his hand, but he's totally wonderful. And he's not just a genius in a tower, enjoying himself, he's a genius who wants to talk to us.

He says, "If you want to know what the future will bring, don't ask me, don't ask a scientist, or someone who's writing code. Ask an experienced kindergarten teacher. She knows."

He says we should all volunteer to teach kids in school.

Stoll has fun and acts like a kid but he's a grownup and he really isn't fooling around anymore, and he'll tell you how to stop fooling around, too. Not only that, he'll show you how to remain a happy, childlike Scanner at the same time, one who has a delicious time just being conscious.

Check him out.

Be sure to stick around until the end because Stoll says important stuff. The finale is worth waiting for, especially for a Scanner who can't defend your delight with learning new things, and your lack of 'stickability.'

He closes by telling us something he read as a student (actually, it was engraved on a bell in his college campus tower, where he found himself after escaping from a campus riot). I'll write it here, but you really want to hear him say it.

"All truth is one in this light.
May science and religion endeavor here for the steady evolution of mankind,
from darkness to light,
from narrowness to broadmindedness,
from prejudice to tolerance.

It is the voice of Life
which calls us to come and learn."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Scanners write me or tweet me and ask where they can find other Scanners to talk to. People have started Scanner 'Tribes' and you can find them by that name on Twitter.

My Big Bulletin Board at is a good place to start. It's been up since 1999 and has been very active ever since. It also has great, kind, smart people on it (we toss out the rude, the stupid, the obnoxious, the mean-spirited ) and it has a forum for Scanners: scroll way down and you'll find it under 'Refuse to Choose.'

And, not to confuse the issue (much) a year ago I opened to everyone a site I had originally created for the grads of Scanner Retreats: You can't get into the private forums, but everything else is open.

If you need a face-to-face with a living, breathing Scanner on short notice, go to a bookstore. Anyone who works in a bookstore loves books. Anyone who loves books is a Scanner. (Specialists love engineering or art or religion or philosophy, not 'books.') Walk up to anyone who looks like they'll probably never try to become rich and ask, "Can you recommend a book? I'm out of ideas."

This person will ask what you're interested in. Prepare a list in advance and just hand it to him/her. If they smile and try to read the whole list, they're Scanners. If they look distressed and tell you to make up your mind, they're not Scanners (and I'd like to know what they're doing working in a bookstore!)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Great Careers for Scanners

On Oct 11, 2009

Dear Barbara -

I am definitely a scanner - though not an easily categorized one (go figure). Who's to say? A writing scanner or a scanning writer? G.

Hi, G.
I don't know if most writers are Scanners or not, but I do know that if you love to write you can have a great Scanner career. Writing is one of those 'umbrella' skills, like being a talk show host or a literary agent, that allows you to cover almost any interest that takes your fancy.

Let me see what other careers are like that...looking on my bulletin board (everything, I mean everything is there. go see for yourself:

Oh yes, of course: Indexer!
(and if that doesn't sound exciting to you, read this post from someone who was given this suggestion by my favorite indexer anywhere, DoMiStauber. Facing the Text: Content and Structure in Book Indexing -- and no, I am not an affiliate :-) DoMi doesn't even know I'm doing this.)

Dear Domi!!!
I got so excited when I read this post! This is something I think I could do and love. [Reading everything I can find] but am very intrigued. I thought it was interesting that I had trouble finding entries in the index for becoming an indexer.

So my question for you is this - how daunting is the prospect for becoming an indexer? I can barely contain my enthusiasm for the prospect, and am really really hoping that this isn't just another of my magpie attractions.
Here's where the discussion began:

Fionna wrote:Hello!

I just attended Barbara Sher book signing/talk this week (IT WAS GREAT! As is the book.) She mention a job - book indexer. I was extremely interested in this career. Anyone know a book indexer? I would love to ask a few questions?

A) What is the day like?
B) What makes a person successful as an indexer
C) Do you work at home or at an office
D) How is it done
E) How did you get the job
F) Salary ranges
G) What is the most interesting book you indexed

Thanks for any and all help!!

And Do Mi originallly answered:

Hi! This is Do Mi, the indexer someone mentioned. I'll try to answer your questions and give you some resources for further info.

What the day is like: I work at home, so every day is different (although some indexers have more regular schedules than I ever manage). My jobs come to me from regular clients (publishers, book packagers, and occasionally directly from authors) via Fed Ex or the Internet. I spend about four hours a day working at my computer: reading the book (and yes, you do have to read the book in detail), thinking about what a reader might look up on each page, and organizing that information using my wonderful indexing software, Macrex, which doesn't do the thinking for me but does do everything else. Depending on the kind of book I'm indexing, I do an hour or more before needing a break. It can be intense, creative thinking work, and you're always on a tight deadline, because the index is the very last part of the publishing process.

What makes a successful indexer?

You need to be able to read fast and absorb ideas easily. You need writing skills--indexing is a kind of writing, in that you often need to choose a word or phrase to express a concept. It's helpful to be a scanner (see Barbara's new book!) since you're dealing with a different subject every couple of weeks. You need to have what I have found to be a fairly rare kind of mind: one that can pay close attention to details (like whether a letter is lower- or upper-case, or whether you've indexed every single one of a pageful of names), but also can deal with broad concepts and their relationships. And you need to enjoy the process--some people just don't! You also have to be able to deal with absolute deadlines.

To investigate further:

--read Indexing Books by Nancy Mulvany. It's the standard text in the field.
--then read Facing the Text: Content and Structure in Book Indexing by me!
--sign up for Index-L, the listserv where lots of indexers talk to each other. There's a link to it on the American Society of Indexers website:
--then find a textbook in a field you're familiar with, and take a crack at indexing it! You won't know what you're doing, and you'll be totally confused. The goal is to find out whether you're confused and frustrated and want to throw the book out the window, or whether you're confused, intrigued and thrilled. If it's the second, you might want to look into indexing education.
--The best way to learn indexing these days, in my opinion, is the University of California Berkeley distance learning course. There should be a link to it from the ASI site; if there isn't, email me and I'll find the website (I'm not on my own computer right now).
--You do need to know that this isn't a fast moneymaker. It will take you about a year to learn to index and find enough clients to make a living; it can take even longer to have enough jobs that you're comfortable, turning away work, and taking vacations when you want instead of when they're forced on you!
--You won't get rich, but you can make a decent living.

I hope that's helpful!

Do Mi Stauber
Facing the Text: Content and Structure in Book Indexing

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Having lots of interests and ideas is good for you

If you're a Scanner you have 'too many ideas,' and 'too many interests,' right? (Does anyone hear echoes of someone saying to Mozart, that his work had 'too many notes.')

Even worse, you rarely follow them through. You're fascinated for an hour or a day or a week, and then fascinated by something else. That can't be right. As a result, too many Scanners try to ignore their new ideas, even wish they didn't have them.

But Scanners shouldn¹t throw ideas out like trash, no matter how many they may have, no matter how 'half-baked' the ideas may be. Respect for ideas is the same as respect for the idea maker: you.

That's why I want you to learn to use the most important piece of equipment in your survival kit: I call it the SCANNER DAYBOOK.

This is simply a blank book devoted to what you do all day -- as a Scanner, of course. Just anything related to being a Scanner -- a place to capture your best ideas and write through the tangents that pull you off those ideas. This is your personal version of the notebooks of another famous Scanner, Leonardo da Vinci. It's like a gathering of notes or the paper tablecloths we draw diagrams and take notes on. It's an idea book.

If you allow yourself to use these pages as Leonardo did, you'll find yourself welcoming new thoughts more and more, because you realize you are not required to do anything but write about them. No follow-up is required unless it takes your fancy to do so.

What's the purpose of this writing? There are many, but for now you can justify it the same way we justify jogging, or dancing: it's good for you.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why did you just quit your job?

I always believe in playing it safe, using your job to support your exploration into something that suits you better. But I understand what makes a multi-talented person suddenly decide to walk away from what looks like a secure job.

Just got this letter today (my answer is below it):
Name: BB
State: oh
Permission: OK to publish
Date: 8/26/2009 10:25:58 AM

Question: Hello Barbara, Reading your third book [I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was] was extremely inspirational. The fact that I am not alone is inspiring in itself. However, I still do not have a clue where to begin. I couldn't even decide if I'm a scanner or a diver, let alone tackle my life. I am 44 years old just quit my teaching career simply because I was afraid to retire a teacher. I was afraid that I would get stuck and that when I woke up it would be too late. I was afraid to not give my self the opportunity to do what I really want to do, which I have yet to find out.

Yes, I know it was stupid to leave a job for nothing, but I was anxious! I refused to continue being a prisoner. I am 'Jack of all trades - master of none'! Please help! BB


You might want to head over to a podcast I did about Scanners at and listen to it. If you find that you're really a Scanner, you can talk to many of your fellow Scanners on two of my bulletin boards. [ and] Get back to me and I'll give you instructions.

After that, you should head to a bookstore and find my latest book. Refuse To Choose -- it's about nothing but Scanners and could show you a path to take that could turn out to be very satisfying. Sit down with a cup of coffee and read a bit of it before you buy it. You'll know if it's right for you.

Let me say, I understand your fears from your words here. Like so many people, especially Scanners, you sense a lot more inside of you than your job allows you to use. As the years pass, you start to feel smothered, like you're having what someone called 'a near-life experience.'

It's a funny way to say it, but the experience is not funny at all. Back when I had what I think is the same feeling, I did made some very impractical decisions, too. My life was difficult for some years because of that, but not nearly as difficult as it would have been had I stayed where I was. And it all turned out very well. I built a life that suited me. I've never regretted it for a moment.

So the first step is: find out if you're a Scanner on the podcast at (Calling yourself a Jack of All Trades is a pretty strong clue in that direction.) Once you know that, I've set up lots of opportunities to talk to your fellow Scanners and start to build a life that will suit you.

Good luck,

Barbara Sher

On Aug 26, 2009, at 10:25 AM, wrote:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Too many interests?

I just left a comment on Michael Kimsal's blog and tweeted a lot of people about it, only to find that the comment hadn't appeared yet. Don't know how long it will take, so I'll put it up here and tweet the people again.

Michael's post is about how people with too many aptitudes can't find solutions to their problems -- How to find a job that doesn't end up boring them to death, how to get out of entry-level positions because they change jobs so much, and most of all, how to manage all their interests, those wonderful fascinations that pull them in too many directions.

My book, Refuse to Choose, (in England, Australia etc. the title is 'What Do I Do When I Want To Do Everything?') has what I think are a whole lot of pretty good solutions to those problems. The readers who write me (or who write reviews on mostly agree. But there are many books to read, so I wrote a kind of guide in the comment I left, and I copy it here. Hope it helps because Scanners/Multi-talented Eclectics/Serial Specialists and High Speed Indecisives are fascinating, good-hearted people, and while they need to avoid boredom more than they need to be successful, they would still enjoy a comfortable life. I love them. I run retreats for them and love those retreats. (

So here's that post:

Now I'll tweet it and send people to it...

I know you're reading my book, Refuse To Choose, on Kindle right now, and this was months ago, but let me say this anyway (for anyone else who reads it): The book is set up to give you solutions. I've found about 9 rough divisions/types of people w/ TMA (I call them Scanners). The types are roughly drawn, and I never met anyone who was only one type, but it's a start.

In each of those 9 chapters (That's Part II of the book) there are are variety of schedules that make it possible to do everything you want, and at the times you want to do them. (I think you've already gotten through the Panic chapter where I first introduce the concept of a 'calendar.' :-) A 6 year calendar, for instance, each year broken into 4 sections (1 for each season), will allow you to schedule many things you thought -- without thinking -- had to be done at once or not at all. It can change your viewpoint radically.

Scanners live in the present, the Now everyone is dying to live in. They're trapped in the present, actually, and have to remember that there will be time. The simple 6 year calendar wakes them from the dream. It's fun to watch when I do it in workshops. People almost shake their heads to clear the clouds inside and say, 'Oh, right!'

But there are other models for scheduling. I, who am a 'Sybil' -- meaning I have a large but limited number of interests/talents and though I may put them down in favor of something else, sooner or later I want to pick them up again. Often, within days. Without examination, it feels like I want to do them all at once -- but none of them forever.

I use the Schoolday model - changing subjects like we all did in high school and college: 9am: study the history of the Silk Road. 11am: Answer emails, do home business. 3pm: write new book. 7pm: photography or cartooning for my grandson or any interest that takes my fancy, after 8pm: Politics: Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert and Buzzflash.

But there are other models, for people who only want to do things once: I describe a woman in Refuse to Choose, who was a programmer by day, but gave herself a 'quarterly creative project' in her evenings and weekends. She wrote, illustrated and self-published a children's book - once. Never wanted to do it again. Moved to African dance, etc. In 4 years she gave her full attention to 12 different interests (aka talents).

When it comes to careers, each of the 'Types' chapters suggests a number of careers that are good for that kind of Scanner. But I also advise that everyone, Scanner or not, gets a Good Enough Job to pay their bills and leaves their talents and the things they love doing most, for their own time (a la the calendars and schedules above)

I won't describe a Good Enough Job here - this comment is long enough -- but if you get one: a tolerable job, but one that uses some of your skills (like organizing or communicating, or problem solving), you will do well, and probably get rewarded for your good work. You'll enjoy it too, enough to keep you from being miserable. But not enough to work at it more than 40 hours a week -- preferably less.

Okay, I shouldn't rewrite the whole book here, but have hope. Refuse to Choose might have the solutions you're looking for.