A few questions for Barbara Sher, author of “Refuse to choose”, an eyeopener to many scanners (or as I call them here: “creative generalists”). Thank you Barbara for sharing your wisdom and experience with us!


What does keep you inspired to do what you do? Your own experiences or other things?

The fact that working with people is always new, because everyone’s different. Solving the puzzles keeps me interested, finding new variations on what causes resistance, for example, or what is really important to someone who doesn’t think to express it. It’s like learning a different language every day. Also, designing new exercises for my workshops or books – exercises I know will unlock more puzzles and might give access to talent of more people who are presently locked away from their gifts – is fun and creative.

You’re a coach for 30 or 40 years now. And you’re a scanner. How do/did you keep enough room for your love of new?

I read something that fascinates me every night before I go to sleep (nothing to do with my work).

What do you advice scanners who are stuck with perfectionism?

Squeezing everything you do, evaluating everything you see from some rigid standard inside yourself – is a way to miss the most interesting, beautiful things in life. It’s like going to see a great film and spending all your time fixing the carpet in the lobby. You miss the whole film. Even worse, perhaps, is the fact that you don’t face the grief behind perfectionism: you don’t release the child’s sorrow at never being good enough for someone and/or you never have any understanding of the imperfect people who let you down when you were young, so you can never restore your ability to love to its original fullness.

Interests of scanners do change all the time. But what if you want to make a living based on what you love? How can scanners achieve that?

I personally don’t think one should always do the thing they love most for a career. In one important sense, regarding what one’s innate talent actually is, everyone is like a poet: one has to search for what the poem needs – the best word, the best emphasis. Not what the people who are paying you want in the poem. When it comes to making a living, you have the choice of getting a Good Enough Job (not toxic, reasonable hours, a modicum of interesting work to do) and calling it their own Subsidy to the Arts, or doing what one is driven to do (as I do): that thing you cannot bear to continue. With doctors, it is illness. With some lawyers, it is unfairness. With firemen, it’s destruction and/or death of living creatures. You never get tired of what you are driven to do.

Do you have an estimate about how many scanners there are? (For example a percentage of the population)

Not really. I think my books and workshops attract Scanners so it seems to me that they are everywhere, but I know that’s not so because most Scanners don’t know any other Scanners until they read my books or come to my events. However, I’ve been directed to the online literature about gifted adults and, to my surprise, they seem to be almost identical to Scanners in many crucial ways. They are curious, and leave things as soon as their curiosity is satisfied, for instance. They’re often concerned with larger ethical issues (don’t ask me why that would be, because I don’t know), they love learning new things, they’re often less interested in status or image than others, etc. If they are the same (or almost the same) population, it’s possible to come up with an estimate of how many Scanners there are. But someone else will have to do that work. It’s not my strength and not one of my top interests.


You want to know more? Check Barbara out on You Tube:

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