What is a Scanner?
A Scanner is someone who struggles to do just one thing at a time, because they'd much rather be doing a dozen other things too. They are constantly being fascinated by a new subject or career, and as a result struggle to stick to one thing for very long, although they may return to it often. This type of person can struggle to fit into modern society and ideas of success. For example the phrase "Jack of all trades, but master of none" will sum up a majority of scanners but is often used in a derogatory way.
As far as I know Barbara Sher is the one who invented the term "Scanner". In her book "Refuse to Choose: A Revolutionary Program for Doing Everything That You Love" she says:
"Scanners are the victims of a fashion change in history, and a recent one at that. Until the technology race with the Soviet Union after World War II changed our views, the kind of people I now call Scanners were admired. But by the mid-1950s, a dramatic change had occurred.Scanner's will often feels like failures for their inability to choose just one career or job and stick with it like "normal" people. Barbara Sher's book contains reassurance that it is not some kind of laziness or character flaw that makes Scanners jump from interest to interest:
Departments of literature, the humanities, even history were seen as irrelevant luxuries. And with that decline in respect came a radical change in the stature of Scanners. No longer described as "well-rounded," "Renaissance people," or "erudite," almost overnight they were seen as irrelevant, silly, irresponsible. Now, regarding Scanners, this change in thinking is complete. Almost everyone in our society takes it as a self-evident truth -- obvious, simple common sense -- that Scanners are doing something wrong. Unfortunately, that has come to include Scanners themselves."
"It's not self- indulgence at all; it's the way Scanners are designed, and there's nothing they can or should do about it. A Scanner is curious because he is genetically programmed to explore everything that interests him. If you're a Scanner, that's your nature. Ignore it and you'll always be fretful and dissatisfied."The book contains advice and exercises aimed at getting scanners to organise their time and projects, with the aim of continuing to dabble in anything that takes their fancy and feeling content with their right and need to do so, while also earning a living, whether that comes from a "good enough job" that exists to pay the bills, or from multiple income streams generated from a selection of interests.
What is a Daybook?
One of the exercises in the above mentioned book is called a Daybook. It is a kind of journal for scanners where they keep track of every new interest, thought, or plan. Scanners can often become so overwhelmed by every new interest clamouring for their attention that they freeze and end up doing none of them. The idea behind the Daybook is that by writing them all down you still have a record of them without having to constantly be aware of them in your mind. You can prioritise some, while some may be content just to be recorded and never get any further. A Daybook can help to organise projects and highlight common areas or themes that may indicate a suitable career.
Incase you haven't guessed yet, I consider myself to be a Scanner. I was in my element at school where we were expected to master a wide variety of knowledge and skills, and were rewarded for doing so. I tended to do equally well across all subjects, although I didn't score as well as predicted on tests. By the time we were expected to sit exams I had already lost interest in the subjects, as schools tend to finish the curriculum with a few weeks spare for revision. I hated revision, I already put all my time and effort in at the start when the information was new and exciting, I'm not about to sit and go over it all again. I'm sure if the school year had been compressed I would have had more chance of getting the top grades I was constantly predicted at. I've always been a perfectionist and like to have things done properly, so it was always a disappointment to receive my grades and know I could have done better.
Everything went downhill from school on. In aptitude tests I always score evenly across all sections. For careers advice I was equally curious about many varied jobs and the advisor couldn't help me. I struggled to pick just 4 subjects for college, I filled in two forms for the same college with different subjects, and only decided which one to send in at the very last minute. I got swept up with one of the subjects and pursued it to university before deciding it wasn't what I wanted to do. If only I'd known beforehand that I was a Scanner I might have tried to step back and look at it more before I chose to go onto university. I can't knock the student life for interesting experiences though, I was able to dabble in many new interests while I was there, some of which have stuck so far.
I've had several jobs, but I find I get itchy feet very quickly, I don't think I've stayed at one job for even 12 months so far. I think I've hit the crisis point now, where I need to take control of my life and sort myself out. I have no wish to become a "normal" member of society, with a 9 till 5 job, I can't picture a more horrifying thought. So, short of winning the lottery, I'm going to have to work out how to earn enough money to pay the bills and keep a roof over my head, while still living as the curious, creative person I really am.
Wish me luck.....
Are You a Scanner? By Barbara Sher:
P.s. I've just noticed I gave the US title of Barbara's book as that's the version I own. The UK title was: "What Do I Do When I Want to Do Everything?: A Revolutionary Programme for Doing Everything That You Love"