I’m Not a Flake, I’m a Scanner

I’ve actually never been called a flake. I’m a responsible person and I come through for people. But, I feel like I’m a flake. Over the past year or so I’ve noticed that the things I’m actively working on is increasing. I bounce from one thing to the next depending on my current state of enthusiasm and energy. Once I figure out how to do something, I get bored. This feels flakey to me.

It’s starting to get very frustrating for me because it’s exhausting to have so many things I want to do, and I’m not completing any of them. Couple that with having a 16 month old and my frustration is leading to a stale mate. When I have spare time I sit there and wonder what I should really focus on. I have had repeated conversations with Sean about what to do and he keeps saying “PICK!” I think he is getting frustrated with me too, but talk about calling the kettle black, or at least smudged. Sean does do a lot of things, but he tends to choose at least one or two things that he focuses on primarily. He has a massive list of accomplishments because he gets very obsessed and won’t stop. I think he is what you would call a “Diver.” The problem for me is that I don’t stop, but I also continue to accumulate.

Life used to be so much simpler for me before Google and Twitter and Facebook. I still had a bunch of interests and if you look at my history I’ve moved more than a dozen times over the past 10 years, have done a bunch of different things, but I didn’t struggle like I am now. It’s so much easier now to explore and research anything, I mean ANYTHING and so many things are interesting and have potential. Perhaps I’m still in an exploring what I want to do phase and haven’t quite figure it out. Regardless, I feel overwhelmed. I keep telling myself I need to let go of some things and FOCUS. But I can’t, my interests change depending on my mood and I always feel like I’ll regret it if I give something up.

This morning I woke up around 5AM feeling “off.” I think partly because I’m still working through my emotions about my Dad and this week a friend has been struggling which has affected me very deeply. I feel drained and without a feeling of direction and purpose. This sounds so silly coming from someone that just said they have a million things they are working on. I guess that’s the problem, too many things pointing me in different directions and I just end up standing still.

I picked up my iPhone and typed in something about “too many interests and can’t choose” and the first blog that came up is Scanners: Refuse To Choose! by Barbara Sher. Of course my interest was piqued so I did a bunch of reading on that blog and on some other related blogs such as “Scanner Tribe” and the blog post “Are You a Scanner” on her writing and I literally started to panic because it felt like she knew exactly how my mind works. I know there are a bunch of other blogs related to her work, and I’ll read them all.

“A scanner is the contrary of a specialist. Scanners are unable to choose one single passion or career, and if they force themselves to do so, they suffer (and their productivity suffers, too). Scanners don’t have only one field of interest, they have many of them. They seem to be interested in just everything. They usually have many projects running at the same time, and permanently come up with some great new idea. They also tend not to implement their ideas or not to finish the projects they start.

A scanner is the kind of guy who works with disabled children, studies physics at the distance learning university, learns Japanese, draws comics and reads everything he can find about archeology. But it’s not like having a job and then a few additional hobbies. The difference between a true scanner and a specialist with hobbies is that for the scanner, nothing is a “hobby”. For a scanner, all those things he’s interested in are equally important and he just cannot focus mainly or spend most of his time on only one of them, which would be required to do it as his career.”

“I know I should focus on one thing, but which one?”

“I lose interest in things I thought would interest me forever.”

“I keep going off on another tangent.”

“I get bored as soon as I know how to do something.”

“I can’t stand to do anything twice.”

“I keep changing my mind about what I want to do and end up doing nothing.”

“I work at low-paying jobs because there’s nothing I’m willing to commit to.”

“I won’t choose a career path because it might be the wrong one.”

“I think everyone’s put on this earth to do something; everyone but me, that is.”

“I can’t pay attention unless I’m doing many things at once.”

“I pull away from what I’m doing because I’m afraid I’ll miss something better.”

“I’m too busy, but when I do find time I can’t remember what I wanted to do.”

“I’ll never be an expert in anything. I feel like I’m always in a survey class.”

I’m definitely sure that I would be put into the Cyclical Scanner bucket, at least right now. I know I am a serial scanner sometimes – I mean, I managed to finish my degree and stick at Microsoft for 8 years (I did change groups a few times, so maybe that helped me): “Cyclical scanners have many but stable interests and passions (from 2 to 20+), and they oscillate periodically between all of those. For example a cyclical scanner is someone who starts a painting, then suddenly abandons it to program a computer game. Halfway through the programming work, he goes back to his painting, or starts a new painting. He finishes it, or not, and goes back to program his game. This way he spends his time alternating between programming and painting. In parallel to all this, he may regularly take classes to become a massage therapist.”

This all makes sense. I mean, look what I have my hands in. I’m contracting full-time at Shazam, I run the @900twentysix account, I’m developing an iPad app and a plush doll that uses soft sensors (my interest in haptics), I’m working with the record label 50/50/Konvict Muzik, I’m trying to write a Transmedia story, I want to do Cat Workout again, and I have several other projects that I dabble in.

I’m a skeptic and I’m always always worried that I’m getting sucked into some marketing pyramid or cult, so I have a lot more research to do on Barbara and her books, especially after looking at her website which freaked me out a bit, but I think I am onto something. Her book “Refuse to Choose!: A Revolutionary Program for Doing Everything That You Love“ has received top marks on Amazon so I think I will pick that up and read it through.

Barbara has a YouTube Channel and so far I like what she has to say. Remember, I’m a SKEPTIC. Usually I think someone is trying to sell me something or wants something from me ($$). Sure, she sells books, but I don’t feel like she is a hardcore marketer. She’s pragmatic and FUNNY. Really funny. 

You have to pay attention to the slightest, slightest thing, that makes you feel good, because that’s hard, scientific evidence about who you are. And there isn’t anything else.

I’m not sure why I have never come across Barbara before. Maybe I just didn’t understand myself or I thought it was just me with this problem. After reading the blog posts on this topic and all the comments, I’m excited to read this book and start working on the methods that will help me to get done what I want to get done. Separate good ideas from things I want to actually implement.

Does the term “Scanner” resonate with you? Did you already know about this term? How do you deal with it?

tara

Tara Tiger Brown is a technologist, educator, and author developing programs at the intersection of environment, education, and well-being. Tara is a certified Earth Charter Educator, certified GLOBE Teacher, certified Trainee in Forest Medicine. She has co-founded numerous educational-focused nonprofits and startups including LA Makerspace and KitHub and actively participates in community science projects.