Thursday, September 18, 2014

English Refuse to Choose book club closed. German book club to open in 3 weeks!

The Refuse to Choose online book club is closed for one year as of midnight in NY last night (17Sep14)

but the German language Scanner book club will start in a few weeks!

 Head over to   to read about the English book club (we haven't translated it into German yet)  and, if you like what you see, scroll down and put your name on my mailing list so you'll be notified when we open registration for the German version.

Yes, Refuse to Choose is out in German - the title is ""Du musst dich nicht entscheiden, wenn du 1000 Träume hast" It has been doing very well and a lot of people have already lined up to be notified about the book club for the German version of the book. Why not? Scanners are the jolliest people in the world and you'll get to have great conversations for the whole 16 weeks (or longer!).

Here's a consolation prize, for bilingual, English only or German only people - a fun video by Hajo Winkler, Scanner par excellence!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Scanner book club in English signup closes in a few hours!

(in German: sign up for German Scanner book club in two weeks!! Title: Du musst dich nicht entscheiden, wenn du tausend Träume hast )

My apologies for this last-minute post.

I think the best thing you can do is just go here     and see what you think - and I'm afraid you'll have to think fast or wait a year (because I've been so rushed I didn't have time to put it up here at all - sob! I am ashamed!!)

Here's an answer I just sent to someone who wrote me, trying to figure out what to do with her life (she had 'too many interests'). I haven't yet gotten her permission to use her letter, but I can show you my answer. If you know nothing about Scanners, or Refuse to Choose, (aka: What Do I Do When I Want To Do Everything?) or this coming book club, it will explain some additional things:
Hi M:

This isn't spam, it's me, Barbara Sher, writing you, M. I just got your email. You wrote at the right time, but you have to look at this right away: it's the Refuse to Choose book club, and you have only until midnight in NY tonight!  to join (or wait a year).

This isn't a sales pitch. You just happened to show up at the last minute.

I think the Refuse to Choose book club could be exactly what you're looking for:

1) Time to look things over (16 weeks, or longer if you need it)

2) Other creative and multi-talented people to hang out with for that time

3) Support for actually doing the exercises, and learning important new self-management skills

4) A chance to figure out what drives you (which is what you'll never get bored with and can be a permanent profession).

I think you should really consider showing up. It might make all the difference in the world and be exactly what you're looking for.

But don't wait! The cutoff time is under 20 hours away:

Monday, September 1, 2014

Find your fellow Scanners!! First Ever Scanners Book Club! starts Sep 17.

This is a newsletter going out today. In case you're not on my mailing list, I thought you might want to see it. We won't be doing another book club for Scanners for at least a year.

If you've been looking for other Scanners, here they are! 
Scanners Book Club!

What Do I Do When I Want to Do Everything?  That's the title my UK publisher gave my US book Refuse to Choose, and I loved it! The subtitle is "A Revolutionary Programme for Doing Everything That You Love."

If that title grabs you too, there is a good chance you are what I call a Scanner. You check out knowledge, adventures and careers the way a bee checks out flowers. You probably catch a lot of flak for doing that, unfortunately; people are smarter when it comes to bees: no one ever says, "Bad bee!"

In the US, the paperback version is Refuse to Choose! Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams. That says it pretty well too. You don't have to go hungry or homeless to fit all your loves into one lifetime.

If you are a Scanner yourself, or if you're a life coach or a Sher Success Teams leader who helps Scanners, this special book club is for you.

And you have only a short time to decide.

Remember back in May, when Patty Newbold came to me with the idea for a book club to help those who wanted to do more than just read I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was - they wanted to slow down and actually do the exercises?  I said yes right away, but neither of us was prepared for the hugely successful results! We had a response so big that Patty created smaller groups so people could work together. Even more surprising, the personal work everyone was doing paid off in ways no one could have imagined. From the first day we were getting daily reports of incredibly profound insights and a kind of mutual encouragement that isn't possible for solo readers. Discussing the results with fellow members was powerful, even life-changing.

I never would have completed the exercises without this book club!
- Beverley Anne

Thank you Patty, You've made my day too. : )  *tears*  Your response clarifies and validates so much for me.  Your words are never forgotten....I also want to thank you, Barbara Sher....I can only imagine the effects and changes which will come about from your work.
- Michelle

Thank goodness for this book club. I'm inspired by the stories and visions of others here to find out and do something about it.
- Christine

I'm convinced that readers of Refuse to Choose need the same opportunity. The readers are people with 'too many interests' (that's in quotes because I don't believe it's possible to have too many interests!). I've gotten hundreds of letters from people saying how fantastic it felt to realize there is nothing at all wrong with them. That's a breakthrough on its own.

But I've gotten lots of emails from readers who want to know where they fit, what types of Scanners they are, what kinds of careers are right for them, and more. That's why I've added new material for this book club! My publishers were as generous as they could be, but they had page limits that didn't allow everything I wanted readers to have. (One brilliant admirer, a professional indexer, gave me the gift of a complete index of  the book and you'll be the first readers to see it!)

We're starting this book club very soon!!
I want you to have the chance to read and do the exercises in Refuse to Choose in the company of others just like you. You'd be surprised how many Scanners used to think they were the only ones in the universe before they read Refuse to Choose. I know that doesn't feel so good, but that ends with this book club!

The reading begins on September 18, 2014 and continues for 16 weeks, through January 6. Please pay attention to these directions: If you want to be a member, you have until 11:59 pm, NY time, on September 17 to sign up!

Once again, Patty Newbold will be your guide. (You probably know Patty: a Success Teams leader for the past 10 years, designer of Success Teams by Phone, and my international director of Success Teams. She has worked with me on my US WriteSpeak retreats, and she's the brains behind my beloved subscription site, Hanging Out with Barbara Sher.)

Everyone who completes the book club will once again receive a Certificate of Completion.  All Success Teams leaders who participate actively and complete the course will be specially noted on the Success Teams website.

And remember, this time there is MORE!
Brand new exercises I created to suppement the ones in the book
Quizzes to help you figure out what sort of Scanner you are (and what careers are best for you).
A professional and thorough index to the hardcover version of Refuse to Choose
We'll be keeping the discussion groups smaller this time, with 35 members per group. We tried several  sizes last time, and this size should be optimum.

The price is exactly the same: $77. So is the guarantee: If you don't like the format, you can get a full refund through the last day of the first week.

You have to do it on time. (I sure hope you open this newsletter when you see it in your inbox!!)

If you want to be ready for a really successful Scanner year in 2015 sign up!

I don't want to nag, but please do it by 11:59 pm EDT on September 17. Late arrivals will have at least a year's wait. (I read every plea of every latecomer to the last book club and it killed me to say no to so many of them. I love you guys. Don't do this to me!)

Okay, you know what to do. Let's go.

Some reviews of Refuse to Choose from

See if  you find yourself here!

"(I've always held with Robert Heinlein's character Lazarus Long, who, after listing the multiple and diverse skills that human beings should cultivate, concludes scornfully, "Specialization is for insects"!)"
These reviews are from: Refuse to Choose!: A Revolutionary Program for Doing Everything That You Love 


Finally my random approach makes sense, March 30, 2009
By     Really Random (Bellingham, WA) \

What a relief. Finally I understand why I always feel like I'm swimming up stream. This is the first time I've read about an approach that considers my "random" style without telling me I need to do things like someone else and in a certain order. I appreciate the author's insight and understanding into the struggle you feel when "typical" approaches are not working. The exercises really help

I am a scanner! Thank you Barbara Sher, this book knows me through and through., February 1, 2009

Skip the long-winded reviews and read this book if the title grabbed you. You are in for a treat. You will need more than this book to switch to the ultimate career in life, but this book will put you on the path. I think it's even a great book for staying in your current profession but getting more fulfillment out of your creative, lateral-thinking brain. You need to see if you are a scanner. If you are a scanner, you will be ever-grateful for this book. The author has really cracked a unique code among creative types.
Refuse to Choose!, January 28, 2009
By     M. Ciruso "fast reader" (Sacramento CA USA)

Very good take on an issue that likely affects many people; interestingly presented, good exercises to create the foundation for capturing varied ideas that might otherwise be lost

Pop psychology that saved my life
By     E. Black

For years, I beat myself up because I hopped from job to job because as soon as I mastered a task, I got bored. Every time I fell in love with a new hobby, I tried to make it a career, only to feel boxed in as soon as it began to take off. I thought I was afraid of success or lazy or undisciplined, but none of that was true. Barbara Sher taught me that I have a beautiful mind--like Leonardo da Vinci. Well, maybe not that good, but I have a hungry mind that needs stimulation. I have nothing to be ashamed of.

Since reading her book, I have written and published travel articles, entered the Pillsbury Bake-off, and started grad school--none of which I would have wasted time on before because they weren't "worthy" activities. I've learned that anything that feeds my soul is worthy and every fleeting interest fills my creative reservoir. Most importantly, I'm the happiest I've ever been since I quit trying to fit into someone else's mold.

If you're feeling flaky or lazy or guilty because you're interested in absolutely everything, read this book.
helped my daughter
By     Vicki Soloniuk (Missouola, MT United States)

I bought this book for my daughter who, though bright and motivated, was having trouble deciding on which one thing she wanted to devote her life to. She loved this book. She felt less alone and was happy to find that there are other people like her out there. It also helped her start moving forward again; she found an internship with a TV station that will fit in well around her hours working with court adjudicated youth.
An Amazing description of me!
By     Alice Andreassen "Been There Done That !" (Sedro-Woolley, WA)

If you are on of those people who tries something, then gets bored with it, then tries something else and nothing seems to be 'THE THING' that you want to do in life' then this book is for you! You'll find that there's nothing wrong with you - you're just a SCANNER! Barbara Sher tells you how to live happily doing just what you want to do! No matter what you are interested in - then not - you will not feel guilty anymore for not having that GOAL in life that others have and learn to be happy in your own skin, doing your own things! A Must-Read if you fit the profile - and not a bad read for those who live with you! I am so much more at peace with myself and refuse to let others dictate what I 'SHOULD BE DOING' anymore! Thanks Barbara!
 A little hope for those of us with "Career ADD"
By     ballerinamoose (Colorado, USA)

It was such a relief to read this book and realize I am not the only one who suffers from what my family has termed "Career ADD." Scanner is a much friendlier word. I have always felt that my abilities were unique and special, but I have also suffered the reality of being pulled in too many directions to be really effective at anything.

The best parts of this book, for me, were learning that there are other people who are so similar to me, and utilizing a number of the suggested exercises to great effect...

While others may have published works about "scanner" types or about meandering careers in the past, I fear one might have to be a career counselor to be aware of them. The fact that Sher is reaching a broad audience with this idea IS new, otherwise it would not have struck such a chord among us scanners.

For those of you out there who truly are scanners, do yourself a favor and read this book.
 Reduced My Anxiety Level
By     Susan Alcorn "Backpack45 - author of Camino C... (Oakland, CA USA)

I enjoyed Sher's book, and it has helped me find some creative solutions to a couple of problems. The concept behind her term, "Scanner," is not entirely a new one (I've always felt that I'm sort of a Renaissance person living in an age of specialization), but, I love the name and I love the reminder that there's nothing wrong with us that needs to be fixed.

Like many "Scanners," I've always thought that life would be easier if I would just make a career choice and go for it. Fortunately/unfortunately, I've never wanted to "settle down," (career-wise) because I've worried that I'd be missing out on something else. Sher gives many suggestions for people like me who despair when faced with the prospect of a boring job.

I'm very lucky to be where I am now--retired! Retired for me, however, has been ramping up my activities--and those activities are largely of my own design. I started my own business. I've written two travel books and published them. I do mini-booktours (yeah, travel!) to promote them.

I've become a long-distance hiker and backpacked thousands of miles here and abroad. I've climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and gone on safari. So I am living one of Sher's greatest recommendations--realize that you CAN have it all, but sometimes you have to do it sequentially!

Barbara's suggestion about doing long-range planning helped reduce my anxiety. Because I am in my sixties, I sometimes ponder how much longer I will be able to go on the strenuous trips I now enjoy. In particular, I had been concerned that I'd never be able to accomplish a big goal: to finish backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail (1,600 more miles). I didn't want to take off for 3 or 4 months in order to do it.

One of Sher's suggestions is to write a six-year plan in order to see that, over time, you can try a variety of things. Because of my age, I decided to reduce that to a four-year plan. With pen and paper in hand, I drew 4 squares and wrote the headings, "2007" "2008" etc. In each box, I wrote 400 miles. I could finish the trail within 4 years by doing 400 miles each year. Since I had been walking those kinds of miles in previous years, the four-year plan seemed possible. This planning took place almost a year ago--and this year I completed the first 400 miles.

 an inspiring explanation
By     Mary Maynard (Monument, CO)
Finally an explanation for my diverse interests. Very practical ideas for getting some of them done. Reading it felt like a wave of creativity washing over me.

 Permission to be excited by the possibilities
By     Anne S. Headley (University Park, MD United States)

Along with most reviewers, I've been a Barbara Sher fan for years. As a person with changing interests as well as a career counselor, I know the difficulties people face who change jobs, careers, or passions. It looks like the rest of the world picks a direction, gets in line, and marches in step. Not so for the rest of us. Sher's strength is her ability to listen and reflect on the angst that we have felt. She encourages us to be who we are, yet take the steps we need to actually accomplish something. Maybe I'll dig out that three-fourths completed manuscript and (gulp) pick a deadline.
A very hope inspiring book for people who cannot settle down
By     Gary Short (San Diego, Ca)

Because I am interested in so many things, this book naturally grabbed my attention. Barbara understands that "scanners" are not just losers or non-commital types but are people wired differently than others. They have great abilities that decades ago would have made them someone like Edison or DaVinci.

This Book Will Help People With Multiple Interests and Careers,
By     Reader from Washington, DC/New York

Dear Friends: I have been a big fan of Barbara Sher's work since her first book on managing multiple interests and careers, "Wishcraft," came out. "Wishcraft" made a huge difference in my life. "Refuse to Choose!" picks up where "Wishcraft" left off, and offers additional thoughts on assembling all of your prized projects and careers into a framework where you can pursue them all.

I worked as a career counselor at one time, so I believe that I can give an informed opinion on books about managing multiple careers.

I'm a scanner -- a Sybil scanner, to use Sher's classification scheme -- and I had spent years futilely trying to "specialize" and being mocked for having multiple interests, and being admonished to "pick one or two."

"Refuse to Choose!" has been very helpful to me, as I am trying to organize my multiple interests, and my (at least) four careers into a framework where I can be creative in each career and special interest for the next twenty years.

I would urge interested readers to examine the sample text of the book that Amazon presents and see for yourselves what a helpful book it is. Don't be fooled by the deceptively simple language Sher uses -- many of her insights into "scanners" are quite profound.

I have given several copies of the book to friends who are also "scanners."

 If you're like me, you need this too!
By     Luna "Chef Luna" (SF Bay Area, CA)

I haven't read the book yet, but was lucky enough to catch the special on PBS. During the show, I had several AHA! moments, in which I realized that not only am I a scanner, I come from a family full of them! All of us were stifled by the same conventions, but I feel that I have been in way saved, or at least my sanity has, by Barbara and her research. Thank goodness someone finally said it is okay to refuse to choose! Now I feel like I really can be a painter/singer/pastry chef/poetess, and live a fulfilling and happy life. What's next? Anthropologist? Mom? Nope, internet radio show host! Thank you Barbara

Barbara scores!, January 9, 2007
By     Jan Kulp "Creative Events" (San Jose, CA USA)

This is one of those books that will keep you coming back to it again and again. I belong to a used paperback swap site and you can bet this isn't going to be posted! The book stops here. :)

Radical ideas and practical applications make this book an eye-opening, life-changing read.

Barbara's grasp of the foibles and "challenges" of being a Scanner personality and how to work with these instead of fighting them are invaluable. There is wonderful advice for the organizationally challenged. She also acknowledges the positive side of being this type of person and delivers strategies for building on those strengths. Great!

I love this book and am grateful I found it. Now there is a name for what is driving me and a reason for my many ways of doing things that don't conform to what others do and say (and may also drive them crazy).

Thank you, Barbara.

Prof Gibbs, January 9, 2007
By     Prof Gibbs "Pris" (Huntersville, NC)

The book is comforting to those of us who have not got it together on our own. I don't think enough people are allowed the freedom of pursuing more than one interest at a time. I've always felt more creative than my colleagues (and easily bored and ready to move on), and now I understand that's great. And there are so many examples of the different types of "scanners" and the best aides for each. Sher definately provides insight and guidance she has gleaned from her interactions with so many clients

I'm Ok; You're Ok!, October 31, 2006
By     Anne Lagache "Yenne" (Orinda, CA, USA)

This is a GREAT book. Easy to read. Excellent and appropriate subject matter. It validated my personality and portfolio career. I highly recommend this book to anyone with a variety of interests and doesn't know how to handle it

A Revelation, July 12, 2006
By     Michelle Hill (Huntington Beach, CA United States)

Please buy this book if you like to focus on more than one thing at a time or are interested in a variety of activities and interests. Barbara Sher has done it again with practical exercises and remedies for scanners who don't think they can get everything done in one lifetime. She finally liberates the scanner from the bondage of feeling abnormal and misunderstood. Barbara's solutions are realistic and can open your world up in ways you never thought possible. The value of the book far outweighs the purchase price. You won't be sorry

Thank you, Barbara Sher, for this book., July 10, 2006
By     Sarah M. Carr "Image Coach" (Lake of the Ozarks, MO)

While others knew at age 5 just what they wanted to do or be, I was floundering. In college, when others chose and stuck to their major course of study, I bounced around. When friends spent 10 or 20 years with one company, I had moved from state government to insurance to consulting to a service provider to self employment to retail. Barbara Sher defines "scanners" and puts a game plan together to harness the creativity, energy, vitality and excitement for those who in fact do refuse to choose. Thanks, Barbara

Scanners of the world, unite!, July 7, 2006
By     Grandma Zona "Grandma Zona" (Tucson, AZ)

It seems to me that the two extremely negative reviews on this book came from people who not only are not scanners, but refuse to believe they exist. That being said, I think everyone needs to read this book whether he/she is a scanner or not. As Barbara says in the book, what happened to the Renaissance Man/Woman? Why all of a sudden must we specialize if it makes us miserable? Her suggestions for how to cope with being a scanner are excellent. At least it gives us a framework to channel our talents. It also will help non-Scanners understand who we are and why we operate the way we do

Barbara Sher is Always a Hit!, July 4, 2006
By     Travelinggal "travelinggal" (Florida)

Once again, Ms. Sher has written an extremely insightful, helpful, and inspiring book. I've been a fan of hers since I read "Wishcraft" years ago and applied her suggestions to reaching my then-goal of selling my business.

Now, in her latest, Refuse to Choose, she speaks to those of us who are Scanners and why we have had difficulty fitting in and how we can structure our lives to do all that we enjoy. I am almost finished reading and I have found myself in more than one description of Scanner types.

What I especially like about Barbara's books are all the examples she gives and the variety of suggestions and advice. Everyone should be able to apply what they learn and if you need some extra support, see her website, and sign up for the Scanner forum.

Read the Book and Joined the Forum, June 6, 2006
By     Reference Librarian

This is a really good book. You need to read it if you are someone who has so many interests you can't seem to get anything done. If everyone you know says you just never grew up and settled down then you are probably a Scanner. Do you have so many interests the books and papers pile up? Do you constantly find things that interest you and you never seem to be able to finish them? You are almost certainly a Scanner, and you need to hear what Barbara Sher has to say. It can make a big difference.

I was so impressed that I went to her forum at and signed up. I don't usually like forums because they are a big waste of time. Here people are asking questions, making interesting remarks, and helping each other. It gives you a little insight into yourself just to know there are plenty of other people with the same kind of challenges as yourself, and you might be able to give them some ideas about how you solved a similar situation for yourself.

I do not like self-help books. Everyone has an idea about how you should run your life. This book is not like that. It is more like some basic information on a type of person that receives little or no affirmation in our culture. These people, as Barbara points out, are some of the most creative people around. Their problem, if it is really a problem, is that they cannot give up on pursuing other creative interests that most people give up to concentrate on one or two. This book tells you how you can do all those things that really interest you. If you know someone like that you should read the book and pass it on to them. They will probably love you for it. I wish I had found it twenty years ago.

When the student is ready the teacher will show up, June 4, 2006
By     Sheneequa Storey "Kimree Book Club" (OHIO)

My journey of self discovery has come in bits and pieces. A puzzle. I've been trying to make some sense of it all and Refuse to Chose has helped me do that. Thank you, Barbara Sher. I thought I was crazy. But reading your book has me believing that I'm some kind of genius. This makes my Afro curl even tighter! I knew it! I knew that there was something wired in me that was different but a good different not a bad different that others would had me believing. I will add RTC to my collection of other treasured "bread crumbs" that will lead me to doorsteps of the place I'll call home-My Best Work.

A comforting and inspiring read, May 27, 2006
By     Isadardar "Isadardar" (Portland, OR)

I can't say I totally believe I am a *scanner* now that I read this interesting book by Barbara Sher, but I can say I feel comforted that it is absolutely OKAY to be interested by and want to explore so many diverse opportunities in life. I especially found the Scanner Day Book idea to be wonderful, a great place where I can write down all those potential business ideas that rattle persistently in my brain. Seeing my ideas on paper, even if I never do anything to make them reality, provides a satisfaction of accomplishment that I didn't realize it would.

As I read the book, I thought of my family (my 5 sisters and my parents) and realized we probably are a family of scanners - every one of us has wide variety of interests and are continually adding more! I'm enjoying identifying which type of scanner each family member seems to be.

And as for inspiration - the job ideas for scanner types has inspired me to take action on some areas I am interested in, such as teaching at a local community college, being a reader of student essays for a local educational laboratory, even writing a book review on (this is my first!), plus others. Some of these will make an income for me, some won't, but I know I will enjoy the journey.

Many reviewers of this book have shared how their lives have been positively touched by this book. Take the time and read it, you'll be pleasantly surprised.
This is the book I have been searching for all of my life!, May 26, 2006
By     rossetti_stunner (Minneapolis, MN)

First of all, I am not a friend of Barbara Sher. I have taken one of her idea classes and have seen her on Public Television. (In case you reader think I am a friend or family member)

What I have ALWAYS been is confused. I am not stupid--actually more on the intellectual side. I have varied interests in the Pre-Raphaelites, travel,hockey, making mosaics, growing a garden, politics, writing, being healthy, quirky little English movies etc etc. And instead of picking one career..I have found myself in menial jobs--retail, shelving books at a library, working reservations for a major airline, temp jobs with insurance companies etc etc. And I am still barely over minimum wage, intellegent and having friends wonder what is wrong with me--or asking if I had ADD.

That could be MANY of you..and I bet if you are looking for this have a sneaking suspicion that you don't need ritalin..but you need some TOOLS to help you be the successful person that you want to be.

This is the book you have been looking for.

Yes, you have diverse interests and your family has poo pooed them..and told you to grow up. You have not understood why. Sadly, it is because you are a scanner--a renaissance person like Leonardo or Thomas Jefferson or Barbara Sher herself. A hundred years ago you would have been admired, now the norm is having a one track mind. This book is to not only identify your status as a Scanner but to also use it to your advantage.

Barbara is a great teacher with years of experience working with people struggling to figure out what their dream work is. This book is for those of us who dream of living a life with lots of variety and still able to pay the bills.

Although I have just recently read her book, I finally feel some clarity and none of the inactivity from feeling overwhelmed by my need to keep my life varied. Years ago, I was encouraged to test for ADD and did not qualify for Ritalin. Now I realize that it is not ritalin that I needed--I needed Barbara Sher and this book.
Finally!, May 17, 2006
By     Hb Alksnys (Blaine, Washington United States)

To the ReadMoreBooks before me... obviously she wasn't writing about you! I can TOTALLY relate TOTALLY!
How nice to go from invisible to visible, from failure to perfectly all right, to escape another stereotype..just all in my mind, how freeing... all of a sudden my pile of never ending projects are now like sparkling jewels in the sunlight yay yay! oh ya, you rock Barb!
Scanners need to appreciate their gifts, May 16, 2006
By     Susan C. Van Abs "forever dieter" (groton, ma)

This is by far one of Barbara's best books. All of her books are good, but this one really spoke to me more than the others. I could identify with several of the "scanner" types and was delighted with the tools Barbara presented in the book to help us manage and appreciate our unique traits. It also helped to listen to Barbara present the materials on her PBS special.

I plan on reading this book again. I'm utilizing some of the tools, but there were so many rich tools to use, I decided to start with a couple and then go back and try some of the others.

Also have on my list of things to get to, a re-reading of WISHCRAFT. I remember reading it ten years ago, but after reading this book, I feel I have different insights to some of Barbara's earlier books.
It doesn't matter if you don't know what you want to be when you grow up!, May 13, 2006
By     Christine M. Lekander "Self Help Junkie" (Cave Creek, Arizona 85331)

For those of us who continually struggle to figure out what we want to do when we grow up and who rarely or never finish projects, Barbara Sher's book, Refuse to Choose is a MUST read. Why? Well, because as Sher will tell you, you are a Scanner. Knowing this will free your spirit and Sher will give you fun tools to use to do it!

I'm a self professed self-help junkie who can confess to feeling it's often a drag to do exercises in a self improvement book. Sher's exercises are actually fun. And, while I usually find most exercises that people write in self-help books minimally enlightening, a few of Sher's are real eye openers. One such exercise was to create a list of all the things I've done so far in life. Wow, was that useful. Usually I think I haven't done all that much, but once I listed it all on paper, my life took on new meaning. I discovered themes that I wouldn't have without writing out this list. And, it was just plain old fun to think about all of it.

Another thing I liked quite a bit about Sher's approach in this book is that she makes sure to keep it realistic. She tells us scanners that we shouldn't try to finish every project that we start because we are built to explore many, many subjects. However, she tempers this with what I believe to be very sound advice. She tells us to pick something to finish. The sense of accomplishment we will get from finishing one or a few projects is well worth the effort.

The one criticism that I have is that I found it hard to read through each and every type of scanner about which Sher writes because they overlap enough to make me a little skeptical that each is really a true separate type. However, the "Life Models" that she has given for these types such as the "School Day Life Model" are phenomenal. They give people the right idea that they can live their lives in ways that uniquely suit them instead of wasting time trying to fit into the molds society gives them. For this reason and as a scanner myself, I call Sher a kindred spirit.

I rate Barbara Sher's Refuse to choose a four star experience.
The Scanners' manifesto, May 11, 2006
By     P. Lozar "plozar" (Santa Fe, NM USA)

In the early to mid-20th century, most of us were raised to approach our careers as follows: (1) Identify something that you're good at, (2) get the appropriate education or training, and (3) do it for the next 40 years. Beginning in the 1980's, this was replaced by a new approach: (1) Identify your grand passion in life (your Soul's Code, your True Work), (2) get the appropriate education or training (not necessarily through formal schooling), and (3) ditto. Those of us with many passions in life were ill served by both approaches. (I've always held with Robert Heinlein's character Lazarus Long, who, after listing the multiple and diverse skills that human beings should cultivate, concludes scornfully, "Specialization is for insects"!) So it's great that more than one book has finally come out that addresses our multifaceted natures.

I read this book and Margaret Lobenstine's *The Renaissance Soul* in succession. I prefer Lobenstine's terminology ("Scanner" lacks the historical resonance), and she presents loads of encouraging anecdotes and helpful exercises, so I feel that anyone who recognizes themselves as a "Renaissance soul" should definitely read both books. However, I think that Sher's book is better for several reasons.

1. All Scanners are not alike. Sher recognizes this fact, and offers a series of quizzes that help you to identify which type(s) you are and specify which job(s) will offer you the greatest satisfaction. (I bumbled into technical writing, and it's worked out very well for me, but, if someone had pointed it out earlier as a possible career, I might have been spared the bumbling -- then again, it was a good learning experience.)

2. Sher's advice about forming a support group was excellent in *Wishcraft* back in the 80's, and it's even more pertinent here. We Scanners often find ourselves viewed as oddballs, immature, "unable to focus," etc., so the mere fact that we're not alone can be powerfully encouraging. And if your Success Team is made up of other Scanners, that will eliminate a lot of irrelevant advice from people who don't understand where you're coming from.

3. Even in her earliest books, Sher "got" one fundamental point that is often overlooked by career counselors: your job is not your life. If you can make a job out of your Grand Passion, that's great -- but, for many people, it's a matter of ensuring that your job supports your passion rather than crowding it out of your life. This is especially crucial for Scanners, and I think that Sher makes excellent suggestions about how to balance your life without abandoning any of your multiple passions.

Sher coined the terminology and discussed Scanners in half a chapter of her earlier book, *I Could Do Anything (If Only I Knew What It Was)*. This book is far more than an expansion of that chapter, but the latter is still worth reading too. (I recall completing the "ten lives" exercise with great enjoyment -- but I believe I came up with twelve lives!)

In today's rapidly changing work environment, flexibility, resilience, and the ability to adapt have become as important as dedication, focus, and loyalty were in the mid-20th-century workplace. (It's not that Scanners lack those qualities; we just use them differently!) Learning to appreciate the advantages of being a Scanner, and to use our unique qualities to the full, can make a major difference in our job and life satisfaction, and Sher has given us the tools to do it.
This book is changing my life!, May 4, 2006
By     Kathleen Miller

I now realize that all the other self help programs were an attempt to try to get myself to be happy doing one thing. It was never going to happen. Now there's a real solution, a whole other paradigm.

Stop trying to make yourself do one thing, and get this book to help you follow all your heart's desires while making it work in real life.

Tell every person you know with multiple interests. They will be be relieved and grateful.
Outstanding! , April 27, 2006
By     S. Guzzi

I read Barbara's "It's Only Too Late If You Don't Start Now" at the ripe old age of 34, after suffering a Traumatic Brain Injury and needing to re-design my whole life to fit my new needs- It SAVED MY LIFE!
I have since read each and every one of her books, and handed out copies like a crazed zealot! I think that I am single-handedly keeping Barbara in vacations! (Assuming she even DOES vacations, Somehow, I see her on a constant, driven .... Purpose-Spree... no time for vacation!):c) Each and every person I've given a book to has reported back to me that reading them has changed their lives, added purpose, re-directed, and given them the "permission" they needed to live what they really wanted all along- AND, more importantly- to figure out what that is!
This book is no different!
I have been passionately torn in many directions for most of my life, paralyzed by the fear of committing to any single passion, for fear of letting go of the basket-fulls of others.
This book not only explains WHY, but gives direction, purpose, focus and validation to these feelings. It's not a bad thing, it's fine! It's WONDERFUL! And WORKABLE! And...I don't need to relinquish ANY dreams or passions!
Now... If I could convince Barbara to come over to my house for coffee- perhaps for vacation?!
scanners support sher, April 23, 2006
By     Jeanne R. (Shakytown, California)

As always, Barbara is wise and witty with new ideas to share. The Scanner concept explains a lot of things about a number of people I know; I will, thanks to another reviewer, check out the references cited on the web site. Perhaps I will find the inspiration to base a dissertation somewhere in here [or there, all depends on how you look at it].

I will be buying a 2nd copy so I have one for home, one for my private counseling practice. Odd that of all the really good authors in self-help field, Barbara Sher is the only one who inspires me to buy duplicates. And no, I am not a friend / family member / paid reviewer...I just want to be like Barbara when [if] I grow up!

Is "ReadMoreBooks..." a subversive sibling of Ms. Sher's? I was relieved to find out, courtesy of this book, that I am OK and my subersive sibling is, well, she is a subversive sibling in the worst sense of the word. Now I, like so many others, can stop wondering if "Perfect Pat" [note name is gender neutral, comment is not aimed at any particular person!] is right and we are just wasting our lives and taking up space, and devote ourselves purely to pursuit of multiple professions
Celebrating eclectic passions, April 14, 2006
By     Douglas Eby "Talent Development Resources" (Beverly Hills, CA USA)

Actor Martin Sheen just shot his final episode as the President on tv series The West Wing [to air in mid May], and at age 65 will enroll as a full-time student at the National University of Ireland, majoring in philosophy, theology and English literature with a special concentration in oceanography. He has several honorary degrees, and also has been arrested more than 60 times for civil disobedience.

Author Barbara Sher admits to being this kind of multitalented, multifaceted person with changing interests, a "Scanner" who "loves to read and write, to fix and invent things, to design projects and businesses, to cook and sing, and to create the perfect dinner party... fascinated with learning... sees the world is like a big candy store full of fascinating opportunities."

She notes that other people [and Scanners themselves] may often become very frustrated with these protean interests and shifting attentions, but she distinguishes the personality qualities and ways of thinking from those resulting from depression or ADD/ADHD, and defines a range of varieties of Scanners such as the Serial Specialist, Jack-of-All-Trades, the Sybil and others.

One of the people she mentions is Studs Terkel, who has been a radio performer, actor, radio interviewer, and writer of multiple books. She considers him a Wanderer and says his "theme, his first love and his greatest gift is listening to people."

This stimulating book is an informative and encouraging celebration of the many people with eclectic passions and pursuits who will not, cannot settle down to just one path to find and realize their talents.
Can I revew a reviewer?, April 8, 2006
By     L.Fabiani (Buffalo, NY)
Can I review a reviewer?

The review I'm referring to is by "ReadMoreBooks (and drink a little)" who must have been doing the drinking part more than the reading part when writing this totally unhelpful review.

I don't know why this negative review comes first on the list of reviews for Barbara's new book because it's not chronological, but it gives such an inaccurate view of the book that I'd like to answer some selected bits (wish I could do a line-for-line but it would take up too much space).

"...[Refuse to Choose] is largely a variation on [Sher's] previous themes..."

Huh? I've read all of Sher's books, many times, and can't find *anything* here that's not brand new! Even where she writes about Scanners in her earlier book (I Could Do Anything If I Knew What It Was) you see no repeats! This discussion and these totally new exercises are not only new to Sher, they're absolutely cutting edge in career counseling. My coaching organization is getting many requests to have her come speak to us!

"...a lot of magic words splashing around, all capitalized and very solemn, as if waiting to be trademarked..."

That's just mean-spirited and somewhat ignorant, too. She has so many new tools here that they absolutely need special names so you can talk about them! They're an essential part of the program. This is so obvious that your mind must be clouded to have missed it.

"[Sher has a] studied silence on obvious, simple, important, but probably unresolvable issues...(but if you realistically consider the _whole_ thing, offered solutions won't work)."

This reviewer should write a book called How to Be Negative Without Explaining What You're Talking About. This book is so realistic and down-to-earth that real people can use it. I've read the book caerfully, twice, and she does consider the whole thing and the solutions make very good sense in the real world. Sher has a bulletin board. Why don't you go there and pose some of these 'unresolvable issues' and see if she has actually resolved them? Grrr. I hate smears by innuendo.

"No bibliography, no footnotes - all hearsay...Ms Sher-says-so kind of thing (compare with someone like Csikszentmihalyi, whose scientific apparatus, so to say, is always impeccable)."

This scrooge-like critic should check Sher's bulletin board where she has extensively quoted the psychiatric literature (whose scientific apparatus is impeccable) and where she explains why it wasn't included in the book. As with all her books, Sher's information and solutions come from many years of personal experience working with clients. (This includes Wishcraft, which the unhappy reviewer gives a pass).

"[Sher has] more than a touch of overbearing sureliness..."

!!! Now I know this critic was reading some other book! Or looking in the mirror. RMB should look up the word 'projection.'

The rest of RMB's review is equally silly and unbearably pompous, for example, one example of the pot calling the kettle black and "ReadMoreBooks-says-so": "I won't deny that this does happen sometimes, but in general, reality is at once simpler and more difficult..."

LOL. Why, thank you, ReadMoreBooks! And where do you get this authoritative information about reality, please? Waiting to hear about your impeccable scientific apparatus.

Finally, this awful ending: "PS. Btw, maybe I'm paranoid, but do you have a feeling that a lot of reviews on this page are courtesy of friends and family?"

Talk about destruction by implication. It makes *me* paranoid about who this reviewer might be. An enemy? A blocked writer who's jealous? Yuk!

Anyway, don't pay attention. This book is a lifesaver. I've never before heard anyone address the problem of multi-talented people with too many interests, much less give so many useful suggestions for how to get unstuck and become productive. I predict it will become a classic reference when this issue finally opens up. I believe Sher's book will be the catalyst to a lot of fresh thinking on this subject.

Read it and see for yourself. And if you like it, write a review here before this curmdugeonly critic at the top of the reviews drives away a lot of people who really need this amazing book.
Enjoy Being Different, March 20, 2006
By     Susan R. Meyer "Life Coach" (New York, New York)

Why is this book important when there are so many excellent resources - including Sher's other books? Because if you happen to be a Scanner, and if you always felt vaguely - or NOT so vaguely - uncomfortable about not settling into one interest or one perfect career, then this is the validation you've been looking for. And if you get nothing more than the realization that you are not alone out there, well, in my book that's a lot.

Of course - since I'm currently a coach focusing on transitions who used to be a high school English teacher, an employment counselor, a payroll clerk, a pre-school teacher, a college professor, a trainer and a training manager, so this book speaks directly to my experience and the experiences of my clients - I'm a tad biased. It's refreshing to read that serial careers are the norm for some - that it doesn't indicate an inability to succeed.

The one drawback is that this book has a lot of information packed into it, yet leaves me wanting more. There's a lot to say about - and to - Scanners. Once we've finished the basic instruction manual, what's next?
Barbara Sher has done it again! , March 19, 2006
By     Yellow

This book is about me... and about a million other scanners. The thing is most of the people I know are NOT Scanners and they look at us Scanners either askance with that, "When will you finally grow up and get a real job?" look, or assure us we are flighty, irresponsible and lacking in work ethic, when in fact we were working as hard or harder than everyone else, but on a couple dozen more things! When a few have looked at me with awe and admiration, it has been I who has reminded them that all those other people can't be wrong- I must be a goof-off if I can't find myself a good desk job.

Fellow scanners, you CAN make a living without sitting behind the same metal desk for 30 years. There's a whole big world out there ... and thanks to Barbara Sher for letting us know it was not only okay, but glorious to go out there and revel in it!

I have been hosting seminars lead by other people for about 15 years, and today I finished one in which I was one of the primary presenters. What a kick! If I can do it, you can do. What ever "IT" is for you!
Just do it!, March 18, 2006
By     Joanne Jerrell "Creative Diva" (San Diego,, CA USA)

Barbara Sher has done it again. She has written a book for people like you and me who want to do it all. Scanners is her word for people who are forging ahead in all directions at once. Those who have several projects going at once. Fear not we are normal. We are curious beings who delight in our inquisitive minds and that is who we are and that is all right. It's okay to have many careers going at once. It's also okay to pursue many interests one right after the other without seeming to finish any. Our goal could be to revel in our dreams as many as they may be. In her book she gives guidelines for catching all of our ideas. Even though we may or may not follow through on any of them. We can be our own Da Vinci and create journals for future reference or our historical archives to share with future generations. Being a scanner is a good thing, give yourself permission Barbara does. She tells you it's okay, in fact it's more than okay to pursue your dreams -- ALL of them. I can't put this book down.
Excellent Book - but only a Scanner would know why, March 15, 2006
By     John Kennedy "Dublin" (Albany, NY)

I watched the Barbara Sher PBS special on Scanners and was amazed at how well she described us - how we think and act in our careers. The book is a detailed explanation of this type of person and the techniques they can use to make their life more productive. If you are not a Scanner or do not know somebody who is a Scanner, then you may read the book and wonder what it is all about. If you are a Scanner, you should run and buy this book and treasure it - you will not be disappointed
Do it all!, March 14, 2006
By     Maritsa Darmandzhyan "anything fun is worth k... (Tujunga, CA)

I am a scanner. Proud to say. Her book helped me to focus on the underlying reason behind much of my confusion. She follows a very structured format here to help the different types of scanners focus in on what type they are then she offers some carrer advice, life and direction advice, and she offers some good resources to help the scanner to towards a more suitable direction. One thing I really enjoy about Barbara Sher and her style of writing is that she never once, not even for a second, detours in the direction that scanners are confused people. She simply says that they are special people. Confused is really someone who doesn't know what they want who should really be reading her first book, but scanners are people who know what they want (lots of things) and don't know which direction to head into at any given moment. Love you are a wonderful counselor
The Book I Was Waiting For and Never Knew It!, March 12, 2006
By     Super Reader

I'm almost finished with Refuse to Choose! and I'm ecstatic. What a concept that one is not flaky for getting in and out of various ideas, projects, and jobs, and that multiple interests are ok no matter how far you take them. I like it that this book can be for diffent life situations - needing to find a job that works with all your interests, or just needing to manage all your side interests when your job is fine.

The book is pretty exhaustive on the subject with small type and lots of information, exercises, things to try, etc. Sher's discussion of different types of "Scanners" helps you to pinpoint yourself further and find the ideas that are right for you.

This is a book that I'll keep a long time and will go back to again and again.
Barbara just gets better and better!, March 11, 2006
By     Myrrh404 "books books books!"

If you want tools and support and knowhow to get what you want out of life, check Barbara's books. I just got my copy of "Refuse to Choose" and tore through it from cover to cover. I can't wait to go back through from the beginning and follow all the exercises. Don't miss "Wishcraft", either. I keep 3 copies; one to loan, one that's nearly read to death, and a nice clean pristine one for when the second falls completely apart.
Amazing! , March 10, 2006
By     Elizabeth Weinstein "attorney, author, financ... (San Jose, CA United States) -

I have read some of Barbara Sher's other books, but this one was really written for someone like me -- the "Scanner" -- those people who just love everything, who do not want to be stuck in just one career or hobby (for life, or at any particular time).

Barbara does not just tell us that we are "okay;" she also outlines a number of ways for Scanners to manage their life and ideas. Her book identifies various types of Scanners, and outlines specific tips for each type.

Quick read, and I plan to read it again to make sure I apply the tips and ideas to my life.
Finally! , March 10, 2006
By     Sunriser (Seattle, WA)

Barbara Sher offers encouragement and guidance to those of us who don't know what we want to "be when we grow up." A fellow "scanner," she commiserates with our need to scan the horizon for new challenges and discoveries, and with the burdening notion that, if we stick with just one thing, we'll miss out on something better. Ultimately, Barbara gives scanners permission to say, "I won't do only one thing - I'll do it all."

The book is filled with guidance and various techniques that scanners can apply to our lives, based on which type of scanner we are (it's refreshing to know that we don't fit neatly into the same package). Barbara describes the various types at length so that even the most indecisive scanner will identify with only one or two the categories.

It turns out that I'm a wanderer: someone who is drawn to so many disparate types of activities that it seems my life lacks direction and form. Though, after reading Barbara's book, I realize that my "wanderings" aren't random - that all along they've had a theme and have followed a precise path. By completing the exercises in the book, I've discovered what that theme is and have decided to compile my journey into a collection of personal essays.

Don't waste any more time trying to wrangle yourself down a career path that doesn't work for you. Barbara reminds us that when we understand ourselves, we can be free to what we were born to do. Good luck!
FYI, March 9, 2006
By     Sgoldie (NY) - See all my reviews

I haven't had a chance to read this book yet. However, Ms Sher has not only written some fine no-nonsense books which will give you insight into yourself with practical actions to take, she also maintains a wonderful community on the web as well as self-help 'idea group parties'.
Reading Barbara Sher changed my life. (Yes, we DO exist!), March 8, 2006
By     Sarah S. Tatoun (Arlington, VA)

I read 'Wishcraft' when it first came out about a quarter of century ago-- and yes, it DID change my life. I spent a number of years abroad (part of my dream) and on returning, found Barbara Sher's website and bulletin board. I am a classic 'scanner' of the type described in this book and was privileged to read a copy of the book while it was still in manuscript. Eager to see the published version, I rushed to this site as soon as one of the regulars on the bulletin board announced her copy had arrived... and saw the two reviews, both dated before the book was printed! Aristophanite may, as I did, have gotten a preview copy, but since Ms. Sher was still working hard on the text in January it is hard to believe that Jane Grane could be basing her 'review' on an actual book.

Suffice it to say that the large number of us who have been told all our lives that we must 'settle down', choose between our various loves and concentrate on a single subject will find this book a delightful revelation. As she does in her other books, Barbara Sher gives wonderful tips on how to get the life you want without changing who you are-- or even changing your attitude!

Readers who want a taste of Barbara Sher's wit and wisdom before buying the current book can go to which has an extensive bulletin board as well as information on the activities of the non-profit she founded to promote the native weaving arts in Turkey.
An Excellent Book,
By     Aristophanite

Full of Ms Sher's unique wisdom and humor, this book is well written and a breath of fresh air for anyone who has despaired at having to choose one thing to do with your life. With this book you'll find out how you can do it all and learn a lot about yourself in the process. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Friday, December 26, 2008

About target dates and new year's resolutions

I just left a comment at a lovely writing blog that came to my attention via Google Alerts. In it she quotes from my first book, WISHCRAFT. You can see the post here:

and here's the relevant segment to my post today:
Possibilities, opportunities, the unknown, the power everyone has to change their life, here's hoping that 2009 is the year you achieve your goals!
In Barbara Sher's book Wishcraft How to Get What You Really Want Barbara writes that "your true goal, or target, has to be a concrete action or event, not only so you'll know for sure when you get there, but so that you can make that date with success in advance!"

Today, instead of making New Year's resolutions that your enthusiasm might wane for by January 30th what goals can you set with dates?

I left a brief comment which might take a few days to go through the monitoring process, so I'd like to repeat it here because I think you ought to know about it before you start making your New Year's Resolutions -- about anything, not just writing. Here's my comment:

Great blog, writing nag. And thanks for mentioning Wishcraft. 2009 will be its 30th anniversary, if you can believe that. (I can't.)

I've found that setting a date changes everything, but be prepared: setting a date can make your goal so real that you get scared. Never underestimate fear as a deterrent to action. It's a bear.

It's like the difference between saying 'Marry me,' and saying 'Marry me on Mar 5.'

The first one just means 'I love you.' Yummy.

The second one will scare you out of your wits. Be prepared for Resistance to rear its head, in one form or another.

One way to avoid too much fear is to lower the danger level. Maybe make the goal very small at first, and the date closer. Then do it again. Then see if you can get away with setting a date for completing a chapter, or whatever might awaken your Inner Ambulance again.

Good luck and keep up the good work,

Your fellow writer,
Barbara Sher

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Langue of Oc vs. Oil and Croissant

All credits here at the outset to Graham Robb and his fine book, The Discovery of France. He studied in libraries and rode his bike through the countryside of France for 14 years and one of the fascinating things he mentions is the sharp line that demarcates the areas that grow wheat and speak one language from the areas that are forested and speak another, and the areas that have vineyards and speak yet another.

If you've ever heard of the area in France just north of the Pyrenees called 'Languedoc' (that's where I'm running the Scanner's Retreat in April of 2009, described at ' or seen the words 'l'Occitaine' on a smart shop in the downtown area of your city, you might not know that they're talking about languages that are defined and differentiated from one another by the way they say the word 'Yes.'

They could have picked any word, but they picked this one. Nice touch.

After the revolution it became important to the leaders in Paris that everyone should speak one language. At the time, French was already the 'lingua franca' (as English is today), that is, the international language for all cultivated Europeans (including Russians) -- all of them, that is, excepting those in France itself. In France, a name which most of us (and many of the French) take to mean 'Paris,' this international language is really just the Parisian dialect -- and until recently (and even in some places, to this day) most of the people in France neither spoke, nor understood it.

p 51: (ca. 1794) "The fringes of France were already known to be dominated by languages quite different from French: Basquie, Breton, Flemish and Alsatian. But the two Romantic languages that covered most of the country -- French in the north, Occitan in the south -- also turned out to be a muddle of incomprehensible dialects...'Such disorder reigns that the prayer recited by fathers when the family is together at evening can be understood only by the Supreme Being.'

When the great writer, Jean Racine (who was to later write plays that would be 'hailed as the purest expression of classical French), went to visit relatives in Provence he said 'I cannot understand the French of this region and no one can understand mine.'

What he didn't know is that the language of his relatives home wasn't a form of French at all. "Long before reaching [his uncle's village], he had crossed the great divide between the northern 'oil' or French languages and the southern 'oc' or Occitan languages (so named in the Middle Ages after the words for 'yes').

Here's a little more fun and clarity from Robb: The word for 'bird' in English, Latin, Occitan and French is, in that order, 'bird,' 'aucellus, 'aucel,' and 'oisearu. 'Horse,' in the same order is: 'horse,' 'cabullus,' 'caval,' and 'cheval,' and so on.

But there's an unusually sharp divide between them that can't be explained away by the lines of old feudal holdings, and since I'm trying to see where the crops differ, I read the following words with much interest:

"The curiously sharp division of Oc and Oil does appear to follow the boundaries of medieval provinces for part of its course, but it also matches several other ancient divisions. North of the line, roofs usually have a slope of forty-five degrees and are made of flat tiles or slate; to the south, they slope at thirty degrees and are made of rounded tiles." North of the line, farmers planted 3 times a year and used a plough, where farmers in the south planted twice a year and used a primitive, wheel-less plough called an 'araire'.

I forgot that part about the roofs when I was there last fall, and kept my eyes peeled for the different crops (which I never found, of course) but today I'm looking for the passage that speaks of the different crops, right next to each other. I mean, you could step from one to the other.

"A major Roman road, the Via Agrippa ... follows the language divide quite closely. Like most Roman roads it was almost certainly build on a much earlier route...This line can still be followed on the ground. In 2005, I cycled along sections of the for a total of about 50 miles [Oh, lord, gotta do that!!] ...
"By using the 1873 data, it is possible to find the point at which Oc, Oil and [a third language] Croissant, intersected [!]"

Exclamation point is mine, and if you don't think that sentence deserves an exclamation point, you might not really be a Scanner. What follows actually makes my heart beat a little faster, no kidding:

"This watershed of three language groups is one of the most obscure and significant locations in the historical geography of France. It lies on a tiny road north-east of Angouleme where the Braconne Forest ends abruptly and opens out onto the plains and valley of the Charente. By chance, the landscape has arranged itself in a textbook illustration of the north-south divide: the Croissant is marked by the forest, the northern, Oil side by a wheat field, and the southern, Oc side by a vineyard."

Okay. That's what I was trying to say. See?!

Feeling like a child who has brought in a worm to show her Mommy, I leave you to ponder what you have read and find your own delight or boredom. I am smiling happily, feeling great satisfaction and delight. And now I shall contentedly return to doing my work.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

On Eclectics, critics and how to grow up and quit fooling around.

You and I know we call them/us Scanners, not Eclectics, but google still thinks that's a piece of equipment. In case you're new to this subject, Scanners are people who are interested in so many things they have an awful time choosing just one. They shouldn't try. They're supposed to do everything. But they're given a very hard time when they follow what fascinates them, but don't 'follow through.'

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."