Refuse to Choose!

"Use ALL of your interests, passions, and hobbies to create the life and career of your dreams."

- Refuse to Choose!, Book jacket

Are you drawn to many diverse interests? Do you love starting projects, but find you lose interest when the novelty wears off? Have you ever thought following just one career path is a recipe for total boredom?  If so, you may be a Scanner.

What is a Scanner? Not everyone is designed to find work or a calling that will occupy years of their lives. Scanners are characterized by “intense curiosity about numerous unrelated subjects”. Scanners love learning, starting new projects and embracing new ideas.

Refuse to Choose! suggests that some people aren’t meant to follow just one path. The book is a call to Scanners to pursue ALL of their interests and describes how to make that happen.

However, having a number of diverse interests does not make you a Scanner. Though I have a diverse range of interests outside work, including swing dancing, learning about wine and dressing as a zombie, these are fun diversions, unlike my work, which I’m passionate about. I’m happy and fulfilled in my career as a Corporate Trainer. I’ve been doing this work for eight years and I find it endlessly fascinating.  I’m still delivering some of the same topics as when I started. Sher would therefore label me a “diver”.

Refuse to Choose! focuses on helping Scanners accept themselves and build their lives around pursuing multiple interests, projects and even careers. The book covers:

  • What’s behind your “hit and run” obsessions
  • When and how to finish what you start
  • How to do everything you love
  • What type of Scanner you are (if you are indeed a Scanner!)

The book contains many letters from Scanners, describing their situation and thanking Barbara Sher for the relief that came from knowing there’s nothing wrong with them. The letters serve to illustrate the frustrations of Scanners and how they’ve come to accept themselves and embrace all of their interests and passions.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Be Your (Scanner) Self

"Scanners go through an amazing transformation once they begin to understand who they are and realize there’s nothing wrong with them."
- Refuse to Choose!, page 23

Scanners, by their very nature, want to do it all. However, along the way most Scanners will have encountered family, friends, teachers and even career counselors who encourage them to pick just one career path or course of education and follow it. Scanners may have felt that something is wrong with them or perhaps they’ve been criticized for being lazy, undisciplined or indecisive.

Sher’s advice is simple yet profound:  Accept yourself as a Scanner and then learn to live your life that way. To live a happy and fulfilled life you must follow ALL of your interests, whether they include studying Russian literature, learning how to weave a rug or writing a one-person play. If you’re truly a Scanner, the list will only go on from there.

As Scanners aren’t built to find their “one true calling”, there are certain professions that will be more suitable than others. Often Scanners will benefit from doing work that sustains them, is flexible and is geographically independent. Pursuing work as a writer or journalist, for instance, will allow Scanners to regularly delve into new topics without necessarily having to specialize.

Scanners are often motivated by the thrill of learning and discovering something new, and are not necessarily motivated by money. Therefore, Scanners may be best served by taking “Good Enough Jobs” that support them financially but leave time available to pursue other interests, such as casual or part-time positions.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Create a Scanner Daybook

"The blank pages in your Daybook are where you’ll capture ideas that could otherwise get lost or keep a record of private little trips and ‘what ifs’ that are always floating in and out of a creative mind."
- Refuse to Choose!, page 12

Creating a Scanner Daybook is the first step to acknowledging your decision to follow ALL of your interests. Your Scanner Daybook is the place to record projects, ideas, professions and interests that capture your attention. Recording an idea is not a commitment to follow through on it – it’s more like creating a menu of options.

This idea may be appealing to Scanners and non-Scanners alike. Creating a Daybook is a celebration of creativity and giving ourselves permission to explore ideas we may have previously dismissed as frivolous, impractical or distracting. Embrace your inner Scanner by giving your ideas a place to flourish.

How to create your Daybook:

  • Get a blank book, with large thick pages
  • Start with an entry describing an idea you haven’t given much thought to
  • Add details, drawings and diagrams of whatever seems relevant
  • Start a new page for each new idea – you’ll find one idea leads to the next

Your Scanner Daybook is a place to explore ideas and appreciate who you are as a creative person who is always coming up with someone new. Following through on the projects is not the point – rather the purpose is to allow imagination and inspiration to develop.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Finish like a Scanner

"When a honeybee gets the nectar it came for, it loses interest in that flower and heads over to another one.  When a Scanner leaves a project, it’s for the same reason."
- Refuse to Choose!, page 103

Scanners often enter projects with great gusto, but they don’t always finish them. Projects and activities may be abandoned for this simple reason:  the Scanner has got what he or she came for.

Much like a honeybee, flying from flower to flower, the Scanner has got his or her nectar (or reward).

Rewards for Scanners may include:

  • Learning something new for the pleasure of it
  • Knowing how to do lots of things
  • Insights, revelations, discoveries
  • Using all parts of oneself: logic, intuition, empathy
  • Making things beautiful

Once the Scanner has gotten what they came for, it may be time to finish the project, regardless of whether others would consider the project to be “finished.”

But, what should a Scanner do with these partially completed projects?

There are many creative options for appreciating what you’ve created or learned. A few ideas:

  • Build a shelf to display your projects
  • Add to a list of projects to write your own “memoir/autobiography”
  • Create a mini-museum of your handiwork
  • Hold a “Show and tell” event to share your projects with friends and family

The options above allow you to celebrate your projects, regardless of where and when you decided to finish them. Over time, displaying your projects in this way will give you a view of your life’s work as a Scanner.


Refuse to Choose! will come as welcome relief for those people who recognize themselves as Scanners.  The book has many tools and tips for embracing being a Scanner as a worthwhile way to live. Non-Scanners can learn from the tips to pursue multiple creative endeavours and can learn how to accept and encourage the Scanners in their lives.

Are you a real Scanner or are you someone with lots of diverse interests? How do you pursue multiple projects and goals?

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Susan Gregory

ABOUT Susan Gregory

I am fascinated by what motivates people, how we communicate with each other and we can perform at our best. As a corporate trainer, I love to learn and share techniques to help people to build skills in communicating effectively, managing work and priorities, and thinking creatively...
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