I Have too Many Interests and That's Okay
"Why can't you finish anything?"
"Why do you quit all the time? You can never finish anything".
"It's not that hard. Just pick something you like and stick with it."
I've heard all of these sentences spoken to me since I was a kid. I was one of those kids that was interested in every single activity possible. I did martial arts, soccer, play the piano, participate in girl scouts. If there was an activity I was there.
I wanted to do as much as possible. I didn't want to be tied down to one thing. This was okay as a kid, even embraced by others. This was the time when we are encouraged to explore different activities. To find what we are interested in. But as I got older people started to tell me to have more focus. Figure out what I want to do for a career. I couldn't keep dabbling in all these activities forever. I've had plenty of projects I dropped. Interests that I was gung-ho about one day and then the next I wasn't.
Even with content creation people always suggest to niche down. Choose a specific niche and stick with it. So you can dominate that particular field, get more followers and become an expert. In theory it sounds great and it's worked for plenty of people. But for me that seemed like an impossible choice. I wrote about my struggle in my blog post, finding my niche.
It wasn't just about content creation but about my career as well. I've a wide variety of jobs and different fields. Each one was interesting for a time. This guilt continued until I began reading books that praised generalist and weren't focused on everyone becoming a specialist. Books like So Good They Can't Ignore You or Range. Both of which I've talked about.
The most recent book I stumbled upon is Refuse to Choose. it's less focused on finding a career and more about embracing your many interests. It's changed my viewpoint on my variety of interests. I realized that there's a need for people like me, generalist. Or what I often like to strive towards which is a t-shaped person. And a reminder not every interest needs to turn into a career or have a clear benefit. We should focus more about the joy it brings than about the "potential benefits".
Below is a quick overview of the book.
Overview of Refuse to Choose! by Barbara Sher
You can read my detailed book notes here.
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. (Pg 21 - Chapter 2). 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.
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.
Scanners may face some problems like:
Worrying about why they can't find the one thing they'll stick
Worried they are wasting their lives if they commit to something
Too busy with life to find time for their dreams
They won't do anything if they can't do everything
Or they can't get started
And they never seem to finish anything
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 main types:
Cyclical Scanners - you know your interests and have no trouble doing it, they circle back to the same interests over and over again
Sequential Scanner - don't return to their interests over and over again, when they're finished, they don't look back
What I took from the book
Below are three ideas/methods I took from the book.
Scanner Daybook - a blank notebook to capture your ideas
The School Life Model - a schedule that let's you do many different activities in a day, one after another
Umbrella Careers - career that will allow you to do many things you enjoy
For each I'vr included an explanation of the idea and then my implementation.
A blank book to capture your ideas and tangents that pull you off those ideas. Think of it as your own personal version of the Leonardo da Vinci notebooks. Below are some of the benefits:
Lets you go into planning an idea without having to produce it
"Little by little, the process of writing your ideas in your Daybook will change the way you feel about not following up on every one of your good ideas, because it becomes so clear that planning, designing, and making a record of your ideas in something is the way inventive people enjoy themselves.
I write in my daybook daily. I like looking back and seeing what I was interested about. It's like my own personal timeline of my thought process. My ideas are there if I ever want to produce something. The ideas are there for pure enjoyment, not for productivity. It's also one of the few things I write on paper. It's much easier to get into the flow of ideas when I'm using the freedom of paper rather than the constraints of a technology. It's rewarding to see the notebook fill up.
The School Life Model
Life design models as a combination of time management, task organizing and more. Instead of trying to change yourself, you should arrange your environment. This life design model is for the the type of scanners called Sybil. Meaning they come back to the same interest over and over again. What these type of scanners need is a schedule that's lets them do one thing after another.
Here's how to do it:
Make a list of your favorite projects
Write down a tentative schedule, giving each project on your list a specific time. Like having a class schedule you would in school. Here's an example the author gave in the book below:
9:00 a.m.: Study history and take notes for a possible course in adult education program.
11:00 a.m.: Set up shelves for one window greenhouse, order seeds or buy soil and pots, or do some reading on the subject.
1:00 p.m.: Work with assistant on my public relations business.
3:00 pm: Work on my board game or go for a walk and record ideas for it.
Evenings: Design or cut patterns or sew latest toy while watching TV with family.
Try out the model for a certain period of time (e.g. a week)
Make adjustments based on the tryout
Write up your adjusted schedule
I've been doing something similar to this model. I don't have a set schedule of time. I don't scheduling my writing sessions or when I work on learning how to solve a 3x3 Rubik's cube. I give myself more freedom. I have scheduled a general time to do my deep work and learn about my interests. I know from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m I work on my deepest projects. The order doesn't matter but I do give each subject 30 minute time blocks to study and work on. This lets me do everything I'm interested in but I also don't have to stick with only one project for a long period of time and get sick of it.
This is a career that lets you do many of the things you enjoy. You have one job title but the ability to dive into different fields. Below are some umbrella careers:
Journalist who writes about different stories and subjects every week or month
Historian who can be hired tow rite histories of widely different worlds
Writers can spend years on one subject, write a book and move onto another
Researcher who learns about one or more fields that interest them
Consultant can help other businesses with only the parts they find interesting
Last year I decided to become a data analyst after taking the Google course. Data analytics is a broad discipline. It can be used in many different fields like finance, tech, or medicine. Almost any business has data and will need to be analyzed by someone. There are also different types of analysts like: data analyst, financial analyst, business analyst. It's a perfect way for me to stick to a particular job type (analyst) without having to stick to one niche. I can try out different fields if I want to later.
I'm starting to let go of the guilt I've had not sticking to anything. I also embrace the idea of being a "scanner", that I don't need to become a specialist. There is a need for all types of people. The book helped clarify my interests. It gave me a plan to do everything I'm interested in. While helping me find a career that aligns with my natural ability.
If you like this blog post. This is part of a series where I dive into a book (give a a brief overview) and discuss what I've implemented from it into my own life. Below are other articles I've done on popular books:
Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport - How I Broke My Addiction to My Phone, It Wasn't About the Hacks
Deep Work by Cal Newport - How to Focus Like a Border Collie
So Good They Can't Ignore You by Cal Newport - Is Passion Everything For a Career?
Range by David Epstein - In Progress
Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey - In Progress