Saturday, March 13, 2010

I sometimes get complaints...

Almost all the letters I get from Scanners after reading Refuse To Choose (aka What Do I Do When I Want To Do Everything? in Australia, England & some other mystery locations) are heartwarming. You can see them over at if you read the reviews (my favorite reading on the internet - even for other people's books).

But sometimes I get cranky letters.

Now, I love Scanners. They've been horribly misunderstood and blamed themselves for being undisciplined or lazy, and there's nothing I love better than having them find out there's nothing wrong with them at all! Far from it. On a tip I was asked to search the internet for Gifted Adults and found a mass of psychiatric literature about people with the exact same characteristics as Scanners. That's good enough for me. I knew curiosity was a sign of intelligence, so I was halfway there already.

So when Scanners have problems I want to be the hero that can fix them. It's gratifying because I know they've been attacked and unable to defend themselves for a long time. And I know that, after a while, those attacks come from themselves. They beat themselves up because they can't 'stick to anything,' or 'give up when the hard work shows up.'

And I answer them by saying, 'Scanners don't find anything too hard to do except consent to be bored. When the learning ends, Scanners are finished and ready to leave. They're like designers. It's a bad use of their gifts to execute and maintain.'

And I can almost hear them breathe a sigh of relief.

But sometimes I get a letter from a reader that makes me think, Wait a minute. What did you read? The dust cover? I still try to help, but I can't resist twisting people's shorts, just a little.

Like this letter I got today:

On Mar 13, 2010, at 12:05 PM

City: Jackson
State: MI
Country: United States
Permission: OK to publish
Date: 3/13/2010 11:05:45 AM

Question: Hello, I just finished your book Refuse to Choose. I was stunned at the very beginning as I realized that I am a scanner. Problem is what the heck do I do with it? I started a day book but write down ideas I never intend to do anything with. I realize you say I don't have to but what's the point? I don't think I can exist on just ideas. I want to do something! I would like to find something to do that is fun and I can make money with it. I guess my dream is to be self-employed, being paid to do fun stuff, which for me lasts about 10 minutes. R.

So I answered:

From: Barbara Sher
Date: March 13, 2010 12:31:41 PM EST
To: R

Hi R.

You said: I don't think I can exist on just ideas. I want to do something!

Didn't you see the Epilogue: "Your Best Work" about how you should (and a step by step guide showing how you can) finish one important thing (even if you lose interest) and even throw a party for its completion?

You said: I would like to find something to do that is fun and I can make money with it.

Did you miss the many chapters that give you lists of ways the nine types of Scanners can earn an income and never get bored? To say nothing of Appendix A (with Jobs for people who love travel, to learn, to solve problems, to share ideas, etc. etc.) Or everyone's favorite: the LTTL System: Learn, Try, Teach, Leave.

You said: ... fun stuff...for me lasts about 10 minutes

Didn't you catch the part about 'The High-Speed Indecisives' who make loads of money having fun getting sales forces all excited about new items because they are -- for a short time -- all excited about these new items themselves?

Why do I get the feeling you didn't really read my book?
Or, you only read the beginning? Or just flipped through it?

Give it another try and send me some real questions, and maybe I'll be able to help.

Barbara Sher

Well, that's not so nice. But what the hell is the point of getting to be almost 75 if you can't smack somebody on the hand once in awhile?


  1. Dear Barbara,

    I love your step-by-step response to help this reader take a look at how they might read (or re-read) and use your book. It's funny that I should come across this post of yours today. I just spent the morning watching your "Life's Work" DVD (Cambridge Documentary Films), being moved--as I always am--by the way you help people discover what's really important to them and how they can find it, when they're ready to do the work.

    I hope to have the opportunity to attend at least one of your workshops soon. As a career counselor (and yes, I think you're right that most of us are Scanners!), I am energized by your books and presentations and always find something (many somethings!) to use with a client or in my own life.

    All my best to you, dear Romeo, and all your family,


  2. I still can't figure out if I'm a scanner or a frustrated diver. I love travel and I love new experiences, but I've done so much now, that places are starting to look the same.

    I can't figure out if this means I need to try a different type of travel or if I'm supposed to settle down. I haven't read Refuse to Choose, just I could do anything, if only I knew what it was and Live the Life you Love.

    -Claire Dawn

  3. On my worst days I could write that kind of letter. It's so easy to be stuck, mostly out of habit, in a mindset of "I'm useless and won't amount to anything." It takes a lot of courage to step out of that frame of mind.

    I've quit my job and am starting my own business. I've broken away from a toxic relationship and am trying to remember what it is that I want. Friends and family think those two things took a lot of courage, but to me, they were just things I did. To me, not listening to negative self-talk takes a lot more courage. Some days, I'm just not sure I have what it takes to do more than make wishes.

    "Refuse to Choose" showed me that others have the same challenges and that it's possible to be both a scanner and successful. Reading your blog reminds me to keep plugging away, because I have no choice but to keep trying.

    I hope the person who wrote to you wakes up from their self-induced sleep.

  4. I'm newly 18, and have had the world of trouble whenever someone asks me what i'm going to do in life. Mainly because, the only response I can ever muster is "I want to change the world"

    Anything you can think of, I want to atleast try it.

    Naturally, after being told at school that I should be a doctor, being told by my parents that I should settle down and focus on a career, being told by society that I should be size 8 and fit in with the crowd...I felt a little overwhelmed.

    Until reading refuse to choose, and realising that I just need to be me. My scanner daybook is like a bible to me, I'm creating a documentary, about to start african drumming courses, i live in a warehouse, am in the process of growing up, and now, I have complete faith that every one of my talents and passions are valid.. and none come at the expense of any others.

    I am me. Thank you.

  5. Thanks for writing your book Barbara. I have been reading it for a while, the problem is I'm such a scanner I often put it down for months at a time while I go do something else :/ It's great to understand myself better though, now I know why I can't pick one thing and why it makes me feel guilty. I tried to do a daybook on paper but it wasn't working for me, so I started a blog instead. I don't really keep my ideas there, it's more like results and in progress projects.