Are You a Scanner? Refuse to Choose


I am admittedly not a big consumer of self-help books. That may surprise you, considering that I write personal development material.

I've definitely had phases in my life where I've studied a lot of spiritual non-fiction. (I have a list of some of my favorites over here in Best Books on Spirituality.)

But, it's very rare that I recommend non-fiction self-help books with anything resembling real enthusiasm -- with one major exception.

The one personal development book that made the greatest impact on my life -- and the one I find myself recommending to clients and friends, again and again -- is:

Refuse to Choose: A Revolutionary Program for Doing Everything That You Love by Barbara Sher

Sher has been a career counselor and workshop leader for decades, specializing in working with writers and other creatives who fall into a category of personality type she calls a scanner.

Jack of All Trades All those commands to "Find One Thing and Stick With It" have really done a number on those of us who have a different creative personality type.

  • "Stop changing your major."
  • "Choose a path and follow it through to the end."
  • "Find one job and work there until you're old enough to retire."

The basis of our social and educational philosophies does not serve everyone equally -- for many of us it's soul-destroying.

What you've assumed is a disability to be overcome by sheer will is actually an exceptional gift. You are the owner of a remarkable, multi talented brain trying to do its work in a world that doesn't understand who you are and doesn't know why you behave as you do. And unless you know who you are, you're going to agree with them!" -- Barbara Sher

Are You a Scanner? I won't attempt to paraphrase the concepts -- you can learn them from the author herself in the article Are You a Scanner?

Refuse to Choose was first released in hardcover during the darkest and lowest period of my life. I was so poor I couldn't afford to buy the book -- I had to go and visit it, like it was a friend in the hospital. Or prison. Every day until I finished it, I went to the Border's across the street from my loft and read it in one of their big comfy chairs, furtively scribbling notes.

I did have an epiphany with this book. It was the greatest shift of all -- a shift in perspective on the way I viewed who I truly am, what was "wrong" with me, and my "failures to comply."

It showed me how my "un-hire-able flaws" were my greatest creative assets.

I am already everything I've ever wanted to become. I fulfill my life purpose with every breath I take.

...or a Jacked-up "Loser" like I Was? Until the age of thirty-three, I only ever had one job that lasted longer than three years. Every other job I'd ever had lasted only one year -- or less…

After the validation I received in this book, I started the career for which you know me -- I have achieved steady growth as an intuitive counselor and indie author for eleven years now.

And this is not just about the particular path I chose as a writer -- there are tons of options. Refuse to Choose details the careers that are most suited to scanners.

I do find it a little bit ironic that the book is set up as a "program" -- scanners are the exact type least likely to follow-through with a program. We skim, find a gem of wisdom that shifts our spirits, incorporate it into how we move through the world, and then we're on to the next treasure hunt.

Explore this book until you experience your own epiphany, and then carry on with becoming the person you've always been.

Hopefully, because this blog has never been filled with "OMG, this [personal development book of the moment] is aMAzing. You HAVE to read it!" when you do hear me say something like this, it carries more weight.