top of page
  • Writer's pictureKelly Adams

Refuse to Choose! Book Notes

by Barbara Sher

My personal book notes/summary on Barbara Sher's book, Refuse to Choose!.

Table of Contents


INTRODUCTION: Are you a scanner?

  • Scanners are people genetically wired to be interested in many things.

  • They have many interests and don't stick to one thing

  • Once you identify yourself as a Scanner it means changing the way you see yourself in the world


PART 1: What is a Scanner?

People who are genetically wired to be interested in many things. Another trait is an intense curiosity about numerous unrelated subjects is one of the most basic characteristics of a Scanner. Scanners are endlessly inquisitive.

Problems of Scanners:

Thinking there's something wrong with them. Wondering why they can't stick to projects or find a "one true passion". Trouble with specializing. They want to do everything. First thing, it's okay to be a Scanner. It's natural for people like us to have many interests. To be happy we must have the freedom to explore these interests.

"We assume that when a bee leaves a flower, it’s got a compelling reason to do so. Plain and simple, whether it stays at a flower for 2 seconds or 20 seconds, we understand it needs that amount of time to get what it came for—its Reward—and the time required is its Duration. Any bee that stayed at a flower after it had emptied it of nectar would be seen as derelict in its duties. As with the bee, you can tell what a Scanner’s Reward is by why he’s drawn to something and when he stops"

In other words, when you lose interest in something, you must always consider the possibility that you’ve gotten what you came for; you have completed your mission.

  • Scanner Panic - worrying about why they can't find the 'one thing' that they'll stick to.

    • But there's no one thing for Scanner's to stick to. Explore your interests and hobbies guilt free.

  • Commitment Phobia - Scanners are worried they are wasting their lives if they commit to something. That this is the only thing they can do.

    • There's no one path in life. Not everything you love has to be a career. Doing things for pleasure is more than okay, it's encouraged.

  • Too Busy - We are too busy with life and commitments to find time for our dreams.

    • Take time to have a micro-breakdown. 5 Minutes of crying in your car. Feel the feelings, don't hold them in. Schedule time to do what you love (your favorite parts), however much time you can devote to yourself. It is possible to live the scanner life with a busy schedule.

  • I Won't do anything if I can't do everything - Feeling stuck because everything is so interesting. Choosing one would only make you feel deprived. So instead of choosing they're not doing anything.

    • Scanners don't actually want everything. While they may have many interests they probably don't want to do everything. And most don't want the depth they imagine.

  • Can't get started - The first step is the most difficult. They struggle with figuring out how to take that first step. And whether or not the first step is right. They overthink and never end up doing anything.

    • Realize that what's happening is a defense mechanism. Which is primitive and powerful. There is a way to take action. By breaking down every project and plan into smaller steps.

  • Never finish Anything - They don't have trouble starting. But they have trouble finishing. There's lots of unfinished projects in their house. They feel guilty about all of the incomplete things left. n

    • Realize that most likely, you got what you came for. You are almost certainly finished, and what that looks like to you is different from anyone else.


PART 2: Type of Scanners

Scanners are all different. While they have the shared trait of being interested in many subjects. Besides that there's a lot of variety between scanners. Most likely you are a mix of types. There are two types: (1) Cyclical Scanners and (2) Sequential Scanners.

Cyclical Scanners

You know your interests and have no trouble doing it, they circle back to the same interests over and over again

  • Double Agent - typically has only two things they want to do

  • Sybil - has many interests and is torn between them to the point where they often do nothing at all

  • Plate Spinner - they can keep many projects in play at the same time, they have trouble doing what they love

Sequential Scanner

They don't return to their interests over and over again, when they're finished, they don't look back

  • Serial Specialist - stays with one project for years before moving onto the next, they want to visit different environments

  • Serial Master - they master a skill and stay until they achieve their best, then move onto another skill to master

  • Jack of All Trades - moving from interest to interest without ever becoming a master, they enjoy learning for its own sake, they are good at a lot but great at nothing, they focus on building skills that can help them in their career

  • Wanderer - they love random experience and move themselves towards whatever looks attractive, they don't have a plan and don't want one

  • Sampler - they want to experience everything, once they know how something is done they move on, they think "the only way to do it all is to do it small"

  • High-Speed Indecisive - these Scanners they start and stop more projects than most Scanners, not because of a lack of interest but because they see something more interesting


EPILOGUE: How to Do Your Best Work

  1. Select your project (one that appeals to you) and decide on your goal

  2. Schedule a date for a Real Deadline (e.g. teach a class, show-and-tell party, etc.)

  3. Get to work

  4. Attend your Real Deadline/Grand Finale event

  5. Bask in your own glory

Then do it all over again. Continue doing this for the rest of your life to full fill your Scanner desire.



The book in 3 sentences.

  1. Ideas have values even if they don’t turn into a business or have any practical use.

  2. When you feel you are done with your project, you got what you needed from it, you don’t need to push yourself to “complete it”.

  3. Scanners brains are wired to have many interests, that’s okay, there’s nothing wrong with it.


bottom of page