Dear Puttylike reader, this is a classic Puttylike post. Meaning, it’s from the early days–from before I really found my voice or knew what I was doing. I’ve chosen to keep this post online for the benefit of Puttylike readers who have worked their way backward through the archives. And also to highlight the fact that everybody starts somewhere! xo, Emilie
I was recently asked this question and found myself having a hard time answering in a succinct way. So naturally, I thought I would clarify my thoughts by writing a blog post.
First of all, this is a touchy subject. It’s difficult to talk about because it’s so easy for the discussion to come across as an us-vs-them thing. As in: we Scanners are talented in soooo many different areas and have unlimited potential! You non-scanners are not.
Hah… Not exactly the kind of sentiment I wish to convey. Not even the truth!
A lack of representation
I don’t like lumping people into categories or excluding people. I think that those who aren’t Scanners can get something out of Puttylike too. Really, anyone interested in lifestyle design or personal growth might get something out of it.
But while I hope that Puttylike appeals to a wider audience, my aim with the site is really to speak to a small subset within that group- A subset that I feel has been neglected in all the talk framed around the singular such as ‘living your dream’, ‘finding your life’s passion’, etc.
For Scanners, there is no one path. Trying to force yourself into that model is useless.
It’s more than a matter of degree
My initial thought upon being asked this question was that, while most people generally have a few different interests, Scanners simply have more. They become curious in new things faster, feel the urge to switch directions more frequently and become all-consumed by their new obsessions.
But I think it’s more than that.
In her book Refuse to Choose, Barbara Sher uses a lot of real life examples from her years of coaching. Most Scanner types will read the following passages and see themselves in some or all of them:
- I can never stick to anything.
- 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 think everyone’s put on this earth to do something; everyone but me, that is.
- I’ll never be an expert in anything. I feel like I’m always in a survey class.
If you’re a Scanner, you know how hopeless it can feel when you think you’ve found your ‘true calling’, become all-consumed and then suddenly lose interest. You think, what on earth is wrong with me?! Will I ever be happy?
While non-Scanners may question their direction in life and jump around too, they don’t display this repeated pattern of fascination and total immersion, followed by boredom and an intense desire to move on to a new, unrelated interest.
Exploring till You find your place vs exploring forever
Most people have a difficult time deciding what they’re going to be when they grow up. They float around and try out a few different things before they ultimately settle on a path. This is very common.
Scanners float around between interests too. The difference is that they never stop.
Scanner behaviour is largely misunderstood in society. There’s an expectation that we should all be out there searching for our dream job, our one true calling, or at the bare minimum, a job for which we are qualified that will ‘provide security’.
School is seen as a means to an end. You get to explore, yes. But the ultimate reason for this exploration is to select a career path and then stop exploring. The Scanner never stops exploring.
As Barbara writes,
Our society frowns on this apparent self-indulgence. If course, 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.
A diverse resume
While most people have a few different things that interest them, Scanners’ resumes often look like they’ve been written by multiple people.
Scanners don’t simply explore a new interest here and there, they radically change the course of their lives on a regular basis. They have no choice. They simply cannot stay put.
This has certainly been the case in my life. At one point, I seriously thought I would be a musician. Then I considered being a web designer. Then I decided to devote my life to being a film maker. Then I thought I’d be a lawyer. Then I considered becoming a professor (my parents would have loved this). Most recently, I thought I’d be an entrepreneur.
Now, of course, I realize that I can be all of these things.
Living multiple lives
If I wanted to, I could try out any one career for a period of time and then switch to the next. But I can also take what drew me to each interest and integrate that into my life. For example, what drew me to film was the pull toward creative expression and the desire to inspire others. This can be achieved in other ways. Similarly, I don’t need to become a professor in order to teach. Right now running Puttylike satisfies both of those needs.
At the same time I’m also choosing to pursuing my passion for scriptwriting in a more direct way. As for education- well, I would love to start up a program for kids one day to teach them about some unconventional possibilities available outside the traditional employment model. That’s another goal of mine.
You see, because Scanners aren’t able to stay put for very long, it means that they are able to contribute in many different ways. This propensity for jumping around isn’t a shortcoming at all; it’s a tremendous gift.
Building a life around variety
One of the reasons I love the lifestyle design movement is that it divorces the idea of what you do from who you are. There is also great emphasis placed on structuring your life in a way that frees up time to do what you love.
This is a perfect starting point for Scanners. Freeing up time to pursue your many interests is the goal. Another goal is integrating your interests into your income streams themselves.
I put out a tweet this week and my new friend @rob_mod said that to him, variety itself is almost an interest. I thought this was an interesting statement and it clearly came from someone who has embraced their puttylike nature.
I too have found that I thrive on variety. I have learned to make a point of working a little on one project, moving to the next, and on to the next. I often cycle through three or four different projects in one day. This schedule prevents me from getting bored and keeps my mind stimulated. It won’t work for every Scanner though. You need to find a schedule that works with your natural rhythm.
To non-Scanners, some variety is nice- everyone gets bored from time to time and we all need breaks. However, to Scanners, variety is something more; it’s a way of life.
What do you think? To the Scanners out there, have I left anything out?
Finally, I wish you all (Scanners and non-Scanners) a very lovely holidays! xo.