Thursday, December 30, 2010

Refuse to Choose - Book Review

Refuse to Choose
By Barbara Sher
Rodale Books 2006
Author's Website

Don't know what to do with your life?

Drawn to so many things that you can't choose just one?

Barbara Sher has the answer- Do EVERYTHING!

I didn't know I was a scanner until I read this book.

I could never decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. There were so many things I was interested in. Now I know why.

I used to worry that I might have ADD but now I know I'm not alone with having lots of passionate interests and that it can even be an advantage.

Scanners is one way to describe people who are generalists, not specialists. But society these days insists on  training people to be specialists. The economy is designed to be run by specialists.

Sher names Aristotle, Leonardo da Vinci, Goethe, Edison and Ben Franklin as Scanners. Good company! She tells us why they were honored for their many interests, but in today's world the Scanner is often considered lazy or undisciplined.

Sher champions Scanners. She reminds us of our gifts - what it is that's so wonderful about being a Scanner. She also counters the negativism we often hear about pursuing multiple interests.

In one paradigm-shifting sentence Barbara Sher notes that: "If Scanners didn't think they should limit themselves to one field, 90 percent of their problems would cease to exist!"

In the early medieval times, your family had a career and every male in the family - from grandfather to father to son - was trained to work in that one speciality.

During the Renaissance (which means the Rebirth) it was sort of acceptable to become a generalist. Famous generalists of the Renaissance include Leonardo da Vinci. He is well known as a painter, a writer, an inventor and a scientist,

200 years ago, it was still perfectly acceptable to be a generalist - to know something about a lot of things, Benjamin Franklin was a famous generalist. He was a writer, an editor, an inventor, a scientist, a politician and a diplomat.

But the tide has turned and society went back to demanding that people be specialists. I beleive that is one way to control the people - to make them more docile and less able to think. The government needs to be able to control the people and the best way to do that is to force them to do just one job over and over again. Very boring. No wonder so many people hate their jobs.

Scanners fear that they have ADD, but usually they do not have ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)
Scanners are people who believe that they are Hopelessly interested in Everything
Scanners were previously often seen as Jack of all Trades

Start a Scanner Daybook. Use this daybook to note down all your various ideas and interests. They should not ordered (the Da Vinci Notebooks were famously not ordered). When you are distracted by a tangential idea write it down "get it out of your system" then return to your previous task

Yappers - Another name for Scanners is YAP Yet-Another-Project

Backward Planning Flowchart - A way of breaking down a project until you find a step that you can action immediately

Start Small Start Now - The importance of doing something now, making some small progress. This builds your confidence

There are scanners who can never start their projects
There are scanners who can never finish their projects
There are scanners who are constantly told they are lazy

Other Scanners find that they are organized enough to start and complete their projects but unfortunately lose interest in it as soon as they have mastered it. So for instance they might qualify as a teacher and then announce that they have no desire to teach. This often astonishes and dismays friends and family.

Scanners often have Good Enough Jobs that is to say jobs which earn enough to pay the bills, but allow them enough energy to pursue their other passions. Scanners have usually given up on finding the perfect job anyway.

There are two major types of Scanners.

Sequential Scanners and Cyclical Scanners.

The majority of Scanners are Cyclical Scanners - those who return to the same group of interests over and over again.

Sequential Scanners do not return to the same interests over and over again. They prefer to always be looking for the next challenge or area of knowledge to learn and master.

When a Scanner is asked the question, what do you want to be when you grow up? most adult scanners are unable to make that decision. They have too many things they are truely interested in, so that they cannot choose just one area that they must specialise in for the rest of their life.

A Sequential scanner may have an interest and want to go to school to learn all about that area of interest, but once they graduate, they lose interest and have no desire to teach or work in that area. They just love the challenge of learning or mastering that area. So they go back to school and learn a new area. Again once they graduate, they have no desire whatsoever to teach or work in that area. If you know anyone who is known as a PROFESSIONAL STUDENT, they may be a sequential scanner.

As I said in an earlier post about Polymaths, I wanted to read this book to see what I could do to salvage the remaining 20 years of my working life.

I have a diploma of Business Administration. Nothing special but I enjoyed most of the courses I took. I am not a numbers person so I disliked the accounting classes. However I did pass them, the first time around. They did drag my overall average down which is why I graduated with Distinction and not with Honours. Distinction is an overall average grade in the 80s, Honours is an overall grade in the 90s. My overall average grade was 88%.  I also have a specific group of interests that I usually tend to return to over and over again. I listed them in my previous post on Polymaths. This makes me a cyclical scanner.

One thing I have discovered about myself is that most of my interests are related to communication and words. I could have done well as a librarian, a historian, a researcher, a journalist, an editor or a writer. I love history and I love doing research. I also love art, art history, antiquarian books and antiques. Maybe I can try to get into those areas as well. But without a BFA (fine arts degree) that will be hard.

In the meantime I am looking for an administration position with a non-profit company or a business related to the arts and antiques world. I have also discovered that I prefer the casual business environment and NOT the corporate environment. OK thats enough about me.

This book makes suggestions of how one can cope with choices and how to find a career that covers the vast array of interests that scanners have. At no time does this book ever say for sure that a scanner is better at doing one particular career over another one, That's because scanners have such widely differing interests.

If you want specifics on finding a career for you, this book is NOT for you.
If you want a challenge in finding the right career for you, then this book is perfect for you.

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