Has a book ever spoken to you? Have you been convinced the author knows you alone and has written something so profound and accurate and timely the little hairs stand up on the back of your neck?
Well, it happened to me in the silence of my retreat at Hilary’s condo. I had a suitcase full of books to either read or re-read as my mood dictated. I was reading Barbara Sher’s 1994 I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was before I left home. The book promised to help me decide what I really want and how to get it. That’s a pretty tall order by anyone’s standards.
For me the lightning bolt of insight came in chapter six, ?I Want Too Many Things; I’m All Over the Map.? There in black and white was validation I was not alone; I was not crazy or a dilettante or a jack of all trades master of none. I am in fact a Scanner, a modern-day Renaissance woman.
Scanners, according to Sher (who coined the name), are ?genetically wired to be interested in many things and That’s exactly what you’ve been trying to do. Because your behaviour is unfamiliar?even unsettling?to the people around you, you’ve been taught that You’re doing something wrong and you must try to change. But what you have been told is a mistake?you’ve been misdiagnosed. You are a different creature altogether.? Is the hallelujah chorus just in my head or do you hear it too?
Scanners love to learn about anything and everything and believe life is too short to see and do it all. To observers we appear to lack discipline and follow-through. In reality, we linger only as long as we need to to have our needs met. We don’t want to spend our entire lives specializing in any one discipline. We don’t have a nice neat career trajectory. We are misunderstood and undervalued.
Sher says we ?have extraordinarily special and valuable skills? but ?don’t realize that being a scanner is a very respectable profession . . . that scanning is a talent, the key to a very good life.? The author herself is a Scanner.
During my retreat I discovered a follow-up book entitled Refuse to Choose, written in response to the overwhelming feedback to the earlier book. Within an hour I had a copy in my hot little hand. A whole two hundred and seventy pages explaining the inexplicable through anecdotes, exercises, tools, and a further breakdown of Scanners into 11 different sub-groups. I was in heaven. I read non-stop, marking passages, adding flags and Post-its.
I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Until then I suspected there was something wrong with me because I’m not like most people I know. I’ve told people I have a ?checkered past? or ?a bit of a dog’s breakfast? for a resume. Now I know why. Thank you, Barbara Sher. You have made it okay to Refuse to Choose, from where I sit.