Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher

Refuse to Choose

RATING: 9/10…ADDED AUGUST 30, 2014

A great compliment to Cal Newport’s “So Good.” Strategies for people who can’t seem to choose a career.

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If Scanners didn’t think they should limit themselves to one field, 90 percent of their problems would cease to exist!

Intense curiosity about numerous unrelated subjects is one of the most basic characteristics of a Scanner. Scanners are endlessly inquisitive.

Little by little, the process of writing your ideas in your Daybook will change the way you feel about not following up on every one of your good ideas, because it becomes so clear that planning, designing, and making a record of your ideas in something called a Scanner Daybook isn’t making a promise; it’s the way inventive people enjoy themselves.

Remember: It doesn’t matter if you never do what you’re describing on these pages, because finishing a project is not the issue here. This is about your vision and the free play of ideas for pure enjoyment.

Zen Buddhist riddle used to focus the mind during meditation and to develop intuitive thinking Q: How long should you stay at something? A: However long it takes to get what you came for. Q: How do you decide what you came for? A: You don’t, you discover it. Q: How do you discover it? A: You notice what isn’t there anymore when you feel like leaving.

When you lose interest in something, you must always consider the possibility that you’ve gotten what you came for; you have completed your mission.

Kate: I’ve loved art since I was little, but when I showed some talent, I was funneled into an arts program so I could have a successful career, and at that point, I lost interest. Then I fell in love with acting, but after a while it became more like a business—the business of filling seats. It’s been that way with everything I enjoyed doing. As soon as it became practical, it lost importance. I never knew why, but I just figured out what went away. It was self-expression! Taking what was inside me and letting it flow out. I loved that! Since I was a little kid, that was the only part of any activity that mattered to me.

But the main reason Scanners are different from others, and the reason they get noticed for not sticking to anything, is because they learn faster than almost anybody. The typical Scanner runs through her interests in record time because she has a big, hungry brain and her favorite food is learning. Scanners love learning more than anything else. And learning is what they’re most talented at.

If you were interested in philosophy, logic, science, physics, astronomy, psychology, prophecy, zoology, theater, and poetry and you lived in Greece a few hundred years BC, no one would have called you a dilettante. They would have called you Aristotle.

If you would not be forgotten as soon as you’re rotten Either write things worth reading or do things worth the writing.

You have no life-or-death decisions to make. You don’t have to give up anything you want to do. When your panic subsides, you’re going to realize there’s plenty of time to do everything you want.

Each time you judge yourself, you break your heart. Those are the words of Kirpal Venanji, a Hindu monk.

The commitmentphobe’s list of mistaken assumptions You must choose one and only one path in life. Everything you love has to be a career. Doing something for pleasure doesn’t count. If you’re not in love with your job, it will be a living hell. You have to get it right, because every career choice requires a huge investment of time and money. Once you make your choice, you serve a life sentence with no chance of parole. If you’re not passionate to the point of obsession, you’ll never be content to give up all your other interests.

“How would it feel to forget about finding your big passion and enjoy the delightful fact that you can learn anything you like and your life will be filled with variety and excitement?”

the elusive search for one great passion can blind Scanners to a dozen real passions they experience every day. Passion (a word so misunderstood I prefer to call it interest or enthusiasm) is a gift all Scanners have. It’s part of their makeup. The notion that it’s meant to last forever should be discarded with relief.

You might find the perfect combination of all your interests and have a very enjoyable career. Or you might discover that what you really love is learning itself. The only true “passion” Scanners have is the passion to use every part of themselves, to exercise their curious brains, to follow anything fascinating until they’ve found out what they wanted to know. And then to leave it.

So if you’re a Scanner who’s been commitment phobic, please listen carefully: You’re not going to find one passion so great that all the others will disappear, and you wouldn’t like it if you did. You will find many passions. You’re not expected to make a commitment to follow one career or lifestyle track to the very end of your life—your genetic mandate is to make many commitments and enjoy each one to your full capacity. One path will never be enough for you.

Does this mean Scanners never have to commit to anything? It absolutely does not mean that. Scanners must commit to everything that interests them.

Curiosity, creativity, and learning are essential to Scanners, and without them they become depressed.

Fact #2: A Scanner can use any decent job to support what she loves to do—and do it on her own time. That’s what most musicians and puppeteers, writers and inventors, historians and small business owners do. I call it the GOOD ENOUGH JOB

“Right now,” said Himanen, the young Finnish intellectual, “Europe is like a once-fit top athlete who has fallen out of shape. Instead of taking action, the athlete keeps writing new strategic plans on how to get back into shape: ‘I could go running, I could go swimming,’ and so on. Sometimes it feels that the European logic is: ‘When I’m in better shape, I will start exercising.’”

If you want to lower your fear level, lower the danger level.

Do you have that kind of support in your life? Every time I see someone who cannot move, I find out he’s trying to pull the whole plan off all by himself. That’s not how we’re designed. On our own, we’ll often opt to avoid any kind of action, and we play tricks on ourselves so we don’t realize what we’re doing. Isolation is the dream killer. It will stop you every time.

This feeling is the cause of every Scanner’s unexpected ending. The dread of being locked away from their main source of energy and joy—learning, discovering, sleuthing, creating—makes Scanners pull back from every job or project, no matter how hard they try to stay. Nothing could be more important than understanding when and why you have this feeling. It’s at the heart of what makes you a Scanner!

My favorite feeling is the one I had when I had gotten rid of almost everything I owned and all I had was a round-the-world open-dated plane ticket, a few thousand dollars, and my backpack. That’s the feeling that drives me on in all my interests—that “What’s going to happen next?” feeling.

I’m convinced you’re not supposed to finish 99 percent of the projects you start under the influence of the Good Feeling. But you should start them anyway.

Start small. Start now. Start everything. And don’t bother to finish any of it.

You were designed by a master. Nature didn’t make any mistakes with you. You must explore the workings of who you are, not who you believe you ought to be. That means you must respect your tastes, your ideas, and your inner clock. Like every other creature in this world, you were designed to do something well. If you’re a Scanner, you were designed to do many things well. Don’t try to change yourself into something else.

Technical manual translator: That’s what my son did for years. He’d work crazy hours for 6 months and save enough money to travel the world and do what he liked for a year (he’s lived in Japan, Greece, Spain, and Germany). Then he’d repeat the schedule.

Gardener/ornamental horticulturist/landscaper: This is a job that allows you to travel in the winter (like the Farmer Model I mentioned above). You’d build up a client list and work mostly in the spring and summer, then pack up and head out to your second life the rest of the year.

The best friend of almost every type of Scanner is what I call the Good Enough Job. It isn’t your dream job; it’s the one that funds your dreams.

Think of it: a job that doesn’t bother you, whose only crime is that it’s just not enough to fulfill your life. But it provides money and security and the freedom to fulfill your life in your free hours. That sounds like a great job to me.

Theoretical scientists come up with more original ideas than applied scientists, and we get nominated for more Nobel prizes. That’s because we never assume anything, and we don’t have a preconceived solution in our minds when we try to find answers to our biggest puzzles. Applied scientists, like those at disease research societies, are always looking for a cure, and they really have to be single-minded. But many cures are found by theoretical scientists who are not looking for them.

One key thing for me is I like for my entire “system” of mind and body to be completely used. I like to do things that are different from one another at the same time. I like my body to be exercised fully. I like for my mind to be learning/doing/absorbing different things at the same time. Otherwise, I get frightfully bored, and I feel like part of me is “dying on the vine.”

One thing I’ve noticed in Plate Spinners is that they’re usually loners like Liam. They’re so competent that they’ve never learned how to delegate and are impatient with people who don’t do the job as well as they do.

When you’re not good at something (like managing your business), you shouldn’t hire yourself. And if you’re good at ideas, you should arrange your life so that you can use the ideas.

People who want to have fun are different from people who are ambitious.

Scanners love to learn more than they love to “know.”

The fascination I have with the unknown and the physical exploration of the unknown is so satisfying. That is why I do improvisational dance. Also the openness of improvisation is pure heaven.

Because “fields” and “professions” aren’t what matter to Jacks at all. They aren’t really looking for the right career, although they sincerely believe they are. In fact, a Jack is satisfied with any pleasant job if the pay, the hours, and the co-workers are decent. He can even tolerate detail work, which others might not. That’s because a Jack-of-All-Trades cares primarily about his surroundings, including the people he works with. It’s not winning that matters, either. In fact, Jacks don’t care much about success at all. They just want to be happy.

“I liked stepping in and saving the day. I’ve done so many things, I usually know how to solve odd problems. I guess that’s my most marketable skill.”

Until you told me I was a “rescuer,” I had no idea what pattern or theme ran through anything I did. And even then, I’d have assumed that meant I should be a psychotherapist or a doctor, but I wouldn’t like studying for those fields; too isolating. I like stepping in and solving problems, seeing smiles, and hanging out with the people.

More than almost any other Scanner type, what matters to you is happiness. If you make that your main objective, success will come quicker than you think.

What about your passion? Keep shopping; you’ll find it. But it will probably never be connected to a career, a school, or a certificate, not even status or money. It will almost always be connected with good friends, a good home and family life, and some intense interest, like gardening, small business, sailing, or a band like Phil’s.

What I didn’t know was that being a speaker is the most highly paid and least labor-intensive job I can think of. If I merely liked it instead of loving it, I’d do it anyway, because it leaves me so much free time to write books (one of my great loves), travel to my second home in a little village in central Turkey where I teach e-commerce to the village weavers (another of my great loves), and use my spare time to read history and geography books (yet another of my great loves).

it means that you’re a communicator, teacher, explainer, enthusiast, and an absolute Santa Claus to other Scanners. Popularizers write pop science books and produce shows for Nova and the Discovery Channel. Anyone who has ever had the sheer thrill of learning from a book, a documentary, or a teacher who is truly excited by his subject can tell you how wonderful popularizers are.

One of my all-time favorite jobs for Scanners who want to be experts is to investigate any area that interests them—roses, autos, babies, insomnia—and compile what I call a moles and gophers book about it—and then move to a different topic and do the same.