Refuse to Choose

Summary of Refuse to Choose! by Barbara Sher: This book is for ‘scanners’, i.e., multipotentalites who are passionate about everything but are unable to choose a single path without sacrificing considerable time and effort. The author offers advice to the scanner to better understand his/her own functioning in order to regain a positive self-image and to lead a fulfilling life.

By Barbara Sher, 2007 (American edition) / 2020 (French edition), 297 pages.

Review and summary of Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher

Introduction | A survival guide for scanners, multitalented people, Renaissance minds, and other jack-of-all-trades

1. Are you a scanner?

Author Barbara Sher begins her book Refuse to Choose by asking the reader: are you “that very special kind of thinker” that is a scanner?

Note: the term “scanner” is used by the author throughout the book but may not be meaningful to everyone. The word “scanner” is, in fact, to be taken in the sense of “multipotentialite” or “multitalented”, terms much more commonly used today.

To guide us to the answer, Barbara Sher poses a series of further questions: if these questions have ever been asked of you and were answered as yes, there is a good chance that you are a “scanner.”

The author then breaks down the description of a “scanner” into two points:

  • A scanner is “genetically wired” to be interested in many areas, unlike the majority of people who are interested in and enjoy only one particular area.
  • The scanner has a “remarkable, multitalented brain,” which is why he/she must stop “trying to fit in”: thescanner has often been led to believe that he/she is doing things wrong and needs to change. [What you thought was a handicap to be overcome by sheer willpower is actually an exceptional gift], she says.

2. Author Barbara Sher’s story

  • Early awareness

The author of ”Refuse to Choose” details her early memories of becoming aware of her scanner personality.

She recounts an anecdote that took place a few days before beginning her university studies.

Like the other students, Barbara has to select the courses she wants to take during her university year. She must choose from hundreds of courses. Unlike her friends, who are apparently nonchalant about it, her feeling is quite the contrary: reading the course description catalog makes the student jump for joy! At that moment, she feels overwhelmed because she realizes that she is entering the incredible world of knowledge: a world in which people love knowledge for the sake of knowledge.

  • Eternal student

The author goes on to explain how much she enjoyed being a student and learning every day. She wished it would never end.

For years, she was one of those “eternal students” who had managed to find a balance: thanks to a job on the side, Barbara was able to finance her own studies, meet her daily expenses, and still go to university.

Those studies, the author confides, never amounted to anything. Barbara Sher never put the knowledge she learned into practice, never found a relevant job, and never generated any income from it. She never taught anything she had learned either:

[I didn’t do anything. I just liked to learn and wanted to keep learning… Now that I’ve matured, I realize that all this knowledge pays off as much as any medical or engineering degree, and that it allows me to remind myself every day – every time I pick up a book, watch something on the science channel, or try to read a map of Asia for no particular reason – that life is amazing, and that there is no end to its wonder.]

  • End of studies: first steps into the workforce

However, Barbara Sher finally decides to choose a major as required of her. She chooses mathematics, then anthropology.

[I eventually realized that I was supposed to be studying something that I could eventually put to good use, but the idea of having to narrow down my interests and bury myself in one area of study seemed unspeakably depressing. I never seriously considered it.]

Now a single mother, she soon finds herself confronted with daily reality. She finds herself taking care of her children’s needs alone. Lacking time and money, she drops out of her studies and takes a job in a city-funded program for the poor, drug addicts, and ex-convicts.

She thoroughly enjoys the job. She makes a career of it before becoming a writer and then a life coach.

  • Discovering ‘’scanners’’

In her coaching work, Barbara Sher meets many clients. She notices that many of them are often unable, like her, to choose a specialty. She explains that these clients:

    • [Loved too many things to choose just one.]
    • [Didn’t want to stopexploring, trying things or learning, yet their learning was not goal-oriented.]
    • [They were often bright, many were giftedin many areas and loved to talk about their current interests.]

Barbara Sher then sets out to do extensive research. She studies historical figures who also had a variety of interests (Aristotle, Goethe, Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin). She discovers that for none of them, ” fiddling around” or “not finishing a project” seemed to be a problem: [in their time, nobody seemed to think it was wrong to do everything possible under the sun.]

It was at this point that the author of “Refuse to Choose” decided to give a name to this type of person: she called them “scanners.” Then she wrote her first book on the subject.

  • School for scanners

After the publication of her book, Barbara Sher received a lot of letters: many readers identified with her words and were grateful to [hear themselves described in positive terms.]

Most of them, convinced that they had a problem and were not doing things right, had consulted therapists to no avail.

Barbara Sher does not offer any instruction for scanners. However, the testimonials she received from readers made her realize that her book has been helpful to many of them. Scanners describe how much her book has helped them to:

  • Free themselves from cultural pressure: today’s society puts “specialists” in the forefront to the detriment of “generalists” – and therefore of scanners. She denounces the inability of the latter to be stable.
  • Allow themselves to:
    • Not conform to [this vision of the world in which there is only one true path.]
    • Not choose “one profession” but explore all the things they love.
    • Consider what they love from a different perspective, with renewed energy, and a joy that has been repressed for years by guilt.
  • Overcome[the wounds of being belittled, the frustration of feeling unable to meet their family’s expectations, the loneliness in not being understood (and not understanding themselves).]
  • Become aware of the positive aspects of their personality: their curiosity, their love of discovery, their “almost childlike” joy of being immersed in a big project.

For Barbara Sher, “Refuse to Choose” is a manual for scanners that aims to teach the reader:

  • Who he/she is and why he/she has always felt so different from those around him/her, especially from people whose path has come easily.
  • What kind of scanner he/she is and what tools and “life models” might work for him/her.
  • How to take action to do [the amazing work that scanners do.]

Lastly, the author states that her book Refuse to Choose is a program aimed at:

  • Rehabilitation it will help the scanner to [shed the effects of years of misunderstanding] and restore a [battered self-esteem.]
  • Training it teaches the scanner how to use the unusual abilities he/she was born with.
  • Career counseling it will guide the scanner-reader to a job in which he/she will not be bored and which can support the life he/she wishes to live.

PART 1 – What is a Scanner, and Are You One?

Chapter 1 – All About Scanners

1.1 – What is a scanner? Four things they can’t do

  • Making a choice among their multiple interests

This chapter of “Refuse to Choose” begins by describing the main challenge scanners face: indecision.

With so many interests, scanners are often unable to make a decision.

Such is the case with Elaine, whose story the author tells:

[Everything she sees, everything she thinks about, is full of potential and catches her attention. She wants to achieve everything. But she’s totally stuck, and in the end, she does nothing.]

  • Pursuing a project to the end

Once the scanner is excited to start something new, he/she runs out of steam, leaving behind a multitude of unfinished projects.

They then lose hope:

    • Because of the remarks of those around them.
    • In never seeing something through.
    • In knowing that there will always be new and interesting things that pop up: the scanner knows that even if they ignore them all and focus on one resolutely, these new ideas will have the power to cause them to doubt their choice.

The scanner can move on as soon as he/she becomes good at something, or by the simple fact of having done something.

  • Choosing only one path

Scanners are [convinced that they are only allowed to follow one path, when in fact they want to follow them all].

The scanner will therefore:

    • Either force themselves to make a choice and will always remain dissatisfied.
    • Or choose nothing at all and will be very unhappy with the situation.

What is unfortunate, according to Barbara Sher, is that scanners would have no problem if:

    • Society accepted them as they are (as was the case in the past).
    • They better understood how they function and stopped trying to be like everyone else:

[Almost all cases of low self-esteem, shame, frustration, feelings of inadequacy or indecisiveness, and inability to get things done simply disappear as soon as they understand that they are scanners and stop trying to be someone else.]

    • Becoming a specialist

Scanners spend their time [scanning the horizon thinking about the next project they want to explore.] Specialists, on the other hand, are happy to be absorbed in their one area of interest and, at that point, do not worry about what else they might be missing out on.

1.2 – Many people resemble scanners but are not

Barabara Sher explains here that many people think they are scanners when they are not. This is the case, for example, of people who:

  • Jump from one idea to another before making a decision: in fact, they just try out ideas and abandon them until they find the “right” one.
  • Are depressed: the main symptoms of depression (inability to feel desire, difficulty concentrating) may suggest that they are multipotentialites, but this is not the case.
  • Have attention deficit disorder (ADD): many scanners imagine they have ADD before they know they are scanners. For many, this turns out to be true, and then ADD becomes part of their scanner profile. However, there are also a number of people diagnosed with ADD who will resemble scanners because of their disorder, but who are not. She herself is diagnosed with ADD and explains that there is a clear difference between her ADD and her multipotentiality.

Lastly, Barbara Sher reminds us that many people have a favorite area in which they are happy while having secondary interests. This does not make them scanners. The difference is notable: there is a normal range of interests for the latter, but which is infinite for scanners.

1.3 – Being a scanner is part of human nature

  • An insatiable curiosity

The scanner is “inexhaustibly curious”, “incurably interested in everything that exists“:

[An intense curiosity about many unrelated subjects is one of the most basic characteristics of a scanner… A scanner does not want to specialize in any of the things he/she loves, because that would mean abandoning everything else.]

  • A natural trait that cannot be erased

For Barbara Sher, being a scanner is in one’s nature. Ignoring it would make one constantly anxious and dissatisfied.

  • A trend that has changed recently

Today’s society places little value on the potential of scanners, but it hasn’t always been that way. Multipotentialites have long been highly regarded. Here the author explains how the shift occurred in the 1950s, when states began to invest their resources in the technology race and universities began to train science and technology specialists.

1.4 – How can scanners manage to focus on all their interests?

[Being a scanner these days is like inheriting a gleaming machine full of gears, knobs and dials, but without the instruction manual.]

For the author of Refuse to Choose, scanners must first learn to organize themselves. They can also take advantage of the new positions and innovative means that are emerging everywhere: these are fully in line with their personality.

1.5 – The scanner journal

  • What is the scanner journal?

The “scanner daybook” is a tool that is found throughout the book “Refuse to Choose”.

This scanner daybook:

  • Is a lovely notebook, without lines, with plenty of space to write text, draw diagrams, sketches, paste various notes and pictures, etc.
  • Serves:
    • For the exercise proposed by Barbara Sher in this book.
    • To capture your best ideas, those that would otherwise be lost (without any obligation to carry them out or to follow them up).
    • To record your [little inner journeys.]
  • Similar to Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks: messy, spontaneous, and unrestrained, these notebooks were a source of inspiration for this genius who liked to think with a pen in hand.
  • The benefits of the scanner notebook

Barbara Sher emphasizes the benefits of the scanner notebook:

[The simple act of considering your explorations worthy of being recorded initiates a radical shift in what you had always believed about yourself.]

For the author, this introspective journal allows you to:

  • Not forget: to remember a good project or ideas while you are still enthusiastic, before the passion fades.

[This will allow you to take all your ideas and visions one step further, instead of dismissing them as dead in the water because they are deemed unachievable or impossible.]

  • Develop your creativity: the idea is to pour out your ideas rather than follow some detailed plan.
  • Develop your ideas without having to actually put them into practice: this is not “a promise to keep” but [simply a way to enjoy yourself when you are an inventive person.]
  • Pass on your ideas to potential readers.
  • Take pleasure inimagining, playing freely, rereading, etc.
  • Start your scanner journal

The author suggests two exercises to start writing in your scanner journal: one is to make a map of your unfinished projects in your living space, the other is daily writing:

[Your scanner journal is a sanctuary where your dreams and interests of today are safe. With your inquisitive mind no longer under siege, it can finally flourish.]

Chapter 2 – What’s Wrong with Me?

In this second chapter of Refuse to Choose, Barbara Sher helps us understand why we choose an interest and then abandon it.

2.1 – Step One: awareness

Most scanners try to hide their talents and fit in because they think they are leading their lives in the wrong way, that they are misfits and would like to become “normal” people.

For Barbara Sher, however, scanners should not react like this at all. Instead, they should develop their extraordinary potential.

Through Pamela’s story, the author explains that the first step is to become aware of this potential, to understand what characterizes the scanners’ personality. This first step is essential. The author noted “extraordinary transformations” in scanners once they understood who they were and realized that nothing was wrong with them.

This realization brings:

  • A huge relief with the feeling of being understood.
  • The permission to be oneself.

2.2 – Why can’t scanners choose only one path?

Scanners cannot choose just one direction for three reasons.


  • Can’t have fewer interests: holding a scanner back from doing more is like [tying an athlete to a chair or placing a two-year-old in a tiny confined space. It only causes havoc and even despair.]
  • Don’t want to have fewer interests: scanners like variety and process information quickly. They are therefore [ready for new subjects sooner than others.] Furthermore, [they have exceptional abilities in many areas and are built to use them.]
  • Can, and therefore should, explore many areas: not as committed to stability as most people, scanners become easily excited about new things. They need to learn and understand. They thrive on change.

2.3 – Duration and rewards

  • Scanners are like honeybees

To understand what durations and rewards are, Barbara Sher uses a metaphor with honey and bees: bees, when foraging, go from flower to flower. They never stay more than a few seconds on a flower but this is enough, because the bee stays as long as it takes to get its reward: nectar.

  • Understand your own rewards

Barbara Sher then invites the reader-scanner to identify his/her own rewards in order to understand why he/she does not stay longer on his/her projects. To do this, she suggests that they think about what attracts them to these projects and when they stop being interested.

In this way, they will be able to understand the following idea: when they lose interest in something they have started, it is because they have, in fact, obtained what they were looking for. They have accomplished their mission.

[When you get your reward, no matter what the activity, you always feel happy, engrossed, full of energy. Once you are fulfilled, or when the reward decreases, you start to feel bored. It’s as natural as sitting at the table when you’re hungry and leaving it when you’re full.]

The author adds:

[This is why your interest wanes: not because you are lackadaisical, lazy, or unable to focus, but because you have finished.]

Also, identifying your rewards is an interesting exercise because rewards:

  • Represent the scanner’s “core identity,” the [fuel that propels them toward whatever interests them.]
  • Help the scanner design the lifestyle that is right for them.
  • The most common rewards

Lastly, the author of Refuse to Choose details the rewards that are frequently observed among scanners, namely: self-expression, impact, novelty, helping others, sensation, intellectual stimulation, challenge, innovation, creativity, imagination, vision, beauty, knowledge, intuition, discovery, belonging, learning, building a body of work, expertise.

Chapter 3 – Scanner Panic

After understanding that they don’t have to go down one path and that it is others who simply misunderstand them, and once they have decided to pursue all their interests, that’s when scanners see their true fears emerge.

And the main fear that emerges is that they will not have time to express their potential: the years that go by create a sense of panic among scanners.

3.1 – “Time sickness”

The author calls the problem that scanners have with time “time sickness.”

Time, for scanners, is compressed into the present moment, as if they had forgotten that tomorrows exist.  They feel that if they put off doing the things they love to do until tomorrow, they will be lost forever.

Therefore, two questions often preoccupy scanners. They wonder:

  • If they will be able to leave a mark on humanity: the author answers this question by showing that it is not necessary to be an expert in a field to leave behind something in this world: an amateur can do it very well. This is the case of Aristotle or Benjamin Franklin.
  • If they will manage to undertake everything they ever wanted before they die: for the author, this is likely; however, they need not despair over that. According to the author, the scanner merely has to stop panicking in order to no longer feel paralyzed and realize that there is plenty of time.

3.2 – Obstacles and solutions proposed to “panicked scanners”

Barbara Sher then lists the main obstacles for scanners who, upon hearing the “clock tick”, are unable to get started. She mentions:

  • Fearing critics, and then being too much of a perfectionist.
  • Making lists of unrealistic things and convincing yourself that it’s impossible.
  • Making projects too big.
  • Not allowing yourself to do what you want to do.
  • Believing that the problem is your own.
  • Being torn between too many possible directions.

Barbara Sher then offers scanners solutions to deal with such obstacles:

  • Admit that they are, in fact, working for someone’s approval (parents, teacher, boss, neighbor, etc.).
  • Cross a few things off their list and stop trying to prove to themselves that they won’t be able to do everything they dream of.
  • Reduce the size of their project to a more realistic level: keep only the aspects they like the most, i.e. the heart of their dream.
  • Force themselves to do what they love without thinking that it is a privilege.
  • Stop judging themselves and start doing: according to the author, it is good to fail in order to move forward.

3.3 – Two tools to reduce scanner panic

  • The wall calendar

This handmade calendar, to be put up in a visible place on a daily basis, is a tool that Barbara Sher recommends for:

  • Writing down all the projects the reader would like to start over the next six years.
  • Learning to structure, prioritize, and organize your projects.
  • Taking all your ideas out of the stratosphere and placing them in your everyday life, alongside your other activities.

So, once the panic is gone, the scanner, more serene, will [release a wonderful energy towards his/her creative mind.] Thanks to their structure, they will be able to use this calendar to accomplish their projects one after the other.

  • Sticky notes

The author suggests that the reader write down on post-it notes all the ideas found in this book that have helped him/her to reduce his/her panic and post them everywhere.

Chapter 4 –  Commitment Phobia

For many scanners, commitment is a terrifying prospect.

Barbara Sher begins this third chapter of Refuse to Choose by recounting Joanne’s story of how, every time she has to choose, she feels that the choice will have huge, irreversible consequences.

4.1 – Scanners’ misconceptions about commitment

In reality, the commitment phobic has the wrong ideas about commitment.

The author refutes such ideas:

  • You don’t have to choose one path for the rest of your life: this idea is now a thing of the past; it is, in fact, quite rare these days for a person to stay at the same job all his/her life.
  • Not everything you love has to be a job: it is perfectly possible to do something just for fun along with an activity that allows you to earn a living and that does not take up too much time. Similarly, if one’s job does not involve practicing one’s passions, the scanner can, thanks to his/her creative spirit, pursue it with interest.
  • A career does not have to involve a huge investment of time and money: to avoid this, you just have to consider certain things when making a career choice.
  • If you are not passionate about anything, it’s not a problem, it’s just likely that there is simply nothing that jumps out at you: many scanners continue to seek their “great passion” when the right life for them may, in fact, not include any. Instead, they should enjoy a life full of variety and excitement.

[A scanner in search of an improbable great passion may miss the dozen real passions that occupy them every day… The only real “passion” of a scanner is to use every part of their being, to exercise their inquisitive mind, to pursue what fascinates them to discover what they want to know, and then to move on.]

4.2 – Five commitment tips for the scanner

  • Engage in whatever interests them

According to the author, it would be a shame to waste that [unquenchable thirst to explore the new] and that [ability to be fascinated when so many people feel nothing at all.]

  • Don’t commit too soon

If the scanner doesn’t know what the workplace will be like and what he/she will actually be doing there, then it’s too early to commit: Barbara Sher suggests that they do their homework before committing to a job (for example, by interviewing people who work in the industry they are interested in).

  • Anticipate boredom

Sooner or later, a scanner will get bored: [Curiosity, creativity, and learning are essential to scanners; if they are deprived of them, they become depressed], says the author.  Fortunately, scanners are resourceful, so they should find ways to make their work interesting: for example, writing for the company newspaper, organizing events, etc.

  • Use the LTTL system

This system consists of 4 steps to follow after taking a job:

  • Learn during the first 6 months.
  • Test: set up a new organization, perfect it, and then test it.
  • Teach: pass on what you have learned, and then record it in the employees’ manual.
  • Leave with a severance package that will allow you to live without work for a year and focus on your interests.

Then start the process again.

  • Keep in mind that a scanner can:
  • Choose many specialties.
  • Use an acceptable job to fund what they love on their own time.
  • Create their own profession.

Chapter 5 – Too Busy to Do What I Love

In this chapter of the book Refuse to Choose, Barbara Sher answers the question: how can the scanner pursue his/her passions when he/she has neither the time nor the availability of mind?

5.1 – Fear

The author begins by explaining that overworked people are generally people who are afraid: they fear forgetting to do something, missing a deadline, not being there for someone, feeling overwhelmed, losing control.

For this reason, they always take on new responsibilities.

Through the story of Jeff, an overwhelmed man, the author invites the reader to think back and accurately describe the last time they felt carefreewhen they were doing what they loved [without having to plan it in their schedule.]

She then suggests revisiting that memory at least once a day:

[When you forget what simplicity looks like, you go into urgency mode, and you can’t even think about what you really want or how to find time to get it. It’s like trying to read a book of poetry in a burning building; it just doesn’t register in your mind.]

5.2 – Micro nervous breakdown

This fear is accompanied by stress and anxiety and puts the scanner in survival mode.

To take the edge off and relax, Barbara Sher suggests an exercise that involves scheduling a “micro nervous breakdown” at least once a day.

[The fear of feeling overwhelmed is often caused by trying to suppress these emotions, so once they’ve been released, there’s nothing to fear.]

5.3 – The overwhelmed scanner’s toolbox

The author lists here several tips to help the scanner free up time to be able to dive into their projects:

  • Make a mental list of tasks, then cut it in half.
  • Find someone to help you.
  • Take time for yourself: when you get home at night, the author encourages you to go somewhere alone and work on your projects for a while before reuniting with your family.
  • Engage only in the preferred aspects of your activities.
  • Prioritize tasks and knock them out quickly.
  • Carry something to write down your thoughts and ideas on the fly.
  • Put everything you need in one place so you can indulge your passion for a few minutes at a time. The author dubs this technique “how to paint a masterpiece during a commercial break.”
  • Analyze your emotions: overcoming burnout by taking time off and staying inactive is ineffective for scanners. Scanners do not cure emotional exhaustion by boredom, but by creativity and learning; therefore, investing in a fascinating project will do them good.

Chapter 6 – I Won’t Do Anything If I Can’t Do Everything

This sixth chapter of the book Refuse to Choose is about the scanner who has a lot of free time but can’t get started on any project.

6.1 – Thinking that everything interests you is a misconception

Barbara Sher begins by explaining that sometimes the options available to the scanner are so numerous that he/she feels overwhelmed, even paralyzed.

The author believes this feeling is:

  • Largely related to the fact that they believe there is nothing they are not interested in: it then seems impossible to explore all the areas in which they think they are interested.
  • A misinterpretation of reality: scanners are not attracted by as many activities and fields as they imagine, but by a few dozen, a hundred at most.

6.2 – Action to be taken

To demonstrate this, Barbara Sher proposes an activity to implement. She invites the reader to:

  • List, in their scanner journal, everything they would like to explore, deepen, practice, make, createif they were sure to live more than 150 years (on 4 to 6 pages, writing as small as possible).
  • Think about how long it would take them to get what they want for each of the itemson their list.

Chapter 7 – I Can’t Get Started

7.1 – Taking action is problematic

Barbara Sher begins this chapter by discussing the many obstacles the scanner faces between realizing his/her scanner profile and taking action: [For many scanners, dreaming with a pen in hand is a way of life. But how do you go from having ideas in black and white to actually doing them], asks the author.

Regarding these obstacles, Barbara Sher speaks of “paralysis by analysis.” This is common in many people, but much more prevalent among scanners, who have a much larger number of goals to achieve. It generally prevents action because of “primitive and powerful” defense mechanisms linked to caution.

7.2 – Three steps to action

To help the scanner overcome his/her hang-ups and move from planning to action, the author develops three steps to follow. She recommends that the scanner:

  • Use:
    • The back-planning flowchart: on which they schedule an action at each stage of a projectwith a planned due date.
    • Success teams: which consist of getting together with a team, a partner, a coach, or any other group for mutual support.
  • Reduce the feeling of danger by highlighting hidden fears, which may act as roadblocks.
  • Decide on a “real deadline“, a time when they must be ready and act.

7.3 – Start small, start now

The hardest part is getting started, but that’s what gets you unstuck. It doesn’t matter how small and slow the progress is at first, the idea is to start now.

Chapter 8 – I Never Finish Anything

The eighth chapter of Refuse to Choose starts with the testimonial of a scanner, which perfectly illustrates the point made in this section:  

[For me, the moment I start a project is the most exciting. The optimism, the promise, the passion, the absolutely giddy feeling of excitement I always get when I start something new. The problem is, very quickly the shine wears off, you have to get into it for real, and I start to feel lost.]

8.1 Why don’t scanners finish what they start?

The reason scanners always start new projects with a burst of enthusiasm, but quickly lose interest is that they have simply found what they were looking for.  As long as the interesting part for them is there to lure them in, they stay. Then when it disappears, they move on.

For the author, this may be because they:

  • Register information faster than anyone else: [they finish earlier and don’t have the patience to wait for others.]
  • Are visionaries or leaders:

[Scanners love beginnings when they can set the course and inspire the crew. For them, that’s the only interesting part. They don’t want to embark on the journey. They’d rather start something else.]

  • Are designers: scanners can be very good at starting, designing, and planning projects, but once the design problems are solvedthey lose interest.

8.2 – Two points to remember about never finishing anything

  • Naming that emotion behind all endings

Barbara Sher goes on to talk about the discomfort of scanners that leads them to stay invested while feeling like withdrawing from a project.

According to the author, it is essential to understand when and why this discomfort arises. She suggests that the reader-scanner recall those moments when he/she tried to continue with a project despite losing interest, recreate the feeling in his/her imagination, and then describe it in written detail.

She then invites the scanner to:

  • Become aware that it is this unbearable emotion for him/her that will ultimately prevent him/her from continuing with his/her projects.
  • Understand that it is not a question of willpower and that it makes no sense to continue.

In contrast, Barbara Sher then suggests focusing on the feeling of well-being, that other powerful emotion, that the scanner feels before diving into a project. Similarly, she encourages the scanner to describe, in his/her scanner journal, that feeling of being completely absorbed in something. Lastly, she states that:

[That feeling that draws you like a powerful magnet to the new and unknown… that is the most joyful part of you and… the other source of your identity as a scanner. Because, you see, not everyone is blessed with the same sense of unhappiness at being stuck in a project that doesn’t interest them; nor do they feel fascination and delight at something new and interesting. That’s what makes you different.]

  • Start everything without worrying about not finishing

In addition to taking action, starting small and now, the author of Refuse to Choose advises to start everything, without worrying about finishing anything. For her, there is no point in blaming yourself for not following through on your ideas.

8.3 – Life’s work bookshelf

If they are sure they will never work on a project again, Barbara Sher recommends that scanners pack all the equipment for that project into a package, with a label explaining what the project is about. Then, she suggests they give the package to someone who needs to keep busy or store it on what she calls the “life’s work bookshelf”:

[The projects and ideas that come out of your mouth are like diamonds and rubies, but in a culture that only values immediate success, no one sees them that way. That’s why you need to save them carefully when you’re ready to move on and keep them on your life’s work bookshelf. These are your works, a travel souvenir of your creativity.]

8.4 – Strategies to stay involved in a project even when the appeal is gone

In some situations, the scanner will have no choice but to finish the project he/she has started (when a boss or teacher demands it, for example). He/she must then see it through, sometimes with the feeling of being “in prison.”

Naturally, the scanner will try to force him/herself. He/she will exercise self-discipline in order to toughen up. This attitude is actually the source of a lot of discomfort for the scanner. It is therefore preferable, says the author, to find a method that suits him/her.

To this end, Barbara Sher shares several tips. In particular, she recommends that bored scanners:

  • Use an appealing new project as a reward to give themselves a challenging goal.
  • Involve a friend.
  • Give themselves a benchmark ahead of time that marks where they are (25, 50, 75% still to go) for tasks that seem to stretch on forever.
  • Create a story that will make the task more interesting.
  • Observe and note the banalities of everyday life: this can be a lot of fun.
  • Work in short, intense sessions (15 minutes with a timer, for example).
  • Keeping looking for new tricks.

PART 2 – What Kind of Scanner Are You?

The second part of the book Refuse to Choose is about getting to know yourself better. According to Barbara Sher, in order to prepare oneself to change one’s own life and use all one’s abilities, it is essential that the reader understands his/her personal style, problems, and specific needs.

With this in mind, the author describes the different types of scanners, their strengths and weaknesses.

Recognizing oneself in one or more of the scanner profiles presented will help the reader to find the right job, the right lifestyle that will allow him/her to make full use of his/her talents.

Chapter 9 – Cyclical Scanners

Cyclical Scanners are “repeat offenders”: they know what they like and keep coming back to it.

The three types of cyclical scanners are:

  • The double agent usually has only two passions.
  • Sybil they are so torn between multiple projects that they end up not devoting themselves to any of them and worry that they are not accomplishing anything in their lives.
  • The plate spinner they can juggle a lot of projects at once, but have trouble focusing on what they really love and tend to procrastinate when it comes to achieving their dreams.

Chapter 10 – Are You a Double Agent?

10.1 – Portrait of the double agent

The double agent:

  • Would often like to be able to be two people at the same time: [one, doing the right thing, and the other, free to live the life of their dreams.]
  • Seems to always have a crucial choice between: [breaking one’s own heart or someone else’s.]
  • Does not need to change activities as often as other scanners.

10.2 – The “either/or” thinking

To better understand the double agent dilemma, Barbara Sher shares Helen’s story.

Helen has lived in Africa and would like to live there again. However, that is no longer possible, she says, because her parents are getting older, and she doesn’t want to leave them alone or be absent during their final years. [They are the best people in the world, and if I’m away when they need me, I couldn’t take it. I would regret it for the rest of my life. Leaving Africa breaks my heart, but it’s more important to be here. It’s just the way it is.]

According to the author, when faced with a conflict that seems insurmountable, it is common to fall into the trap of “either/or” reasoning.

This “either/or” thinking is a “dream killer.” When it starts to control someone’s thoughts, their imagination and reasoning go out the window.

Barbara Sher suggests a little game to help the reader change their way of thinking. The goal is to get back into the habit of looking for solutions and thus begin to try to turn our dreams into a reality.

10.3 – Life models for double agents

The author develops several models of particular interest to double agents, including:

  • Telecommuting: it allows you to be in two places at once.
  • Teaching: it offers especially long summer vacations.
  • Farming: which can be done on a seasonal basis.
  • Parallel lives.

10.4 – Careers for double agents

A job with a 9-to-5 workday, 52 weeks per year is not suitable for double agents.

Barbara Sher suggests that the double agent should look for a “less conventional” source of income, an “unusual” job.

The author then proposes two types of activities divided into two groups:

  • Double agents whose dreams require travel

In this category, Barbara Sher recommends a job:

  • Where it is easy to change employers.
  • Self-employment: mission contract, temporary work/interim, remote freelancing, etc.
  • Short-term and well-paid enough to live on for the rest of the year.
  • Can be done from anywhere.
  • Requires travel: simultaneous interpreter, assistant at international trade shows, employee in a multinational company, etc.
  • Double agents who want or need several different jobs at the same time

The author of Refuse to Choose suggests that double agents in this category should:

  • Do a“sufficiently satisfying job“: by this the author means a job that pays money and also leaves room for other activities for pleasure She says,[If a job is not unpleasant, does not exceed 40 hours a week, pays well and provides security, it can give you the freedom to do whatever you like in your spare time.  People are frustrated with their work until they understand what satisfying enough work really is; then they experience it very differently.] Barbara Sher adds,  [we often run into problems when we try to turn everything we love into paid work.]
  • Combine their favorite interests with their work(e.g., working in national parks if they love nature).
  • Start their own business.

10.5 – Tools to help double agents

  • The 2-year wall calendar

The previously mentioned wall calendar is an interesting tool for double agents when it is done over 2 years (instead of 6), dividing each year into four seasons.

  • Sailor’s chests

The idea of the [sailor’s chests] is to assign a lovely and specific place to the elements of the scanner’s “other life.” This way, they see them often, which brings them a sense of peace while waiting for the day of departure.

  • The scanner journal

This will be used by the double agent to plan and write down his/her projects.

Chapter 11 – Are You a Sybil?

11.1 – Portrait of the Sybil scanner


  • Represent the largest group of scanners.
  • Return to the same interests over and over again, each time finding them new and appealing.
  • Are often surrounded by a lot of “creative clutter”, although they don’t take well to chaos: in fact, they have [bursts of organizing energy] but [when the creative impulse comes, they don’t have the patience to tidy up.]
  • Are receptive, open-minded, curious and always make interesting encounters and discoveries.
  • Feel trapped every time they try to limit their interests in order to be able to further explore them one by one.

11.2 – The school day model

Though freedom-loving, Sybil scanners need structure to accomplish one thing at a time.

The author suggests using a school day model of scheduling. This organization consists of a sequence of activities in which the Sybil will devote, for example, an hour to each of them.

She advises to proceed as follows:

  • List your favorite projects: all those little things that are often overlooked, which are only for fun but bring that pep to scanners.
  • Organize these projects using the school day model.
  • Test and adjust.

11.3 – Problems specific to sybils and tools to address them

  • The problem of time

Among the tools useful to the sybil scanners, the most effective are those related to time and visual aids (timetables and wall calendars, for example). On the one hand, because they give a vision of the projects, on the other hand, because they remind them where they are.

  • The feeling of going in circles of not accomplishing anything

For those who experience this, the schedule may seem too restrictive because it leaves little room for unexpected creative impulses.

In this case, it can be interesting to use what the author calls the [rotating priority chart.] By helping you set goals and visualize your priorities, this chart appears less rigid and assists you in knowing which project requires attention. It can take the form of a wall chessboard. Barbara Sher suggests using post-it notes that you move around like chess pieces.

  • Disorganization

Many sybil scanners are well organized. However, when faced with chaos, they will not be productive at all.

The author of Refuse to Choose suggests a tool to help them: the [hobby station.] This consists of creating a mobile and permanent workstation in which they can store all their material.

11.4 – Life models for other kinds of sybil scanners

Barbara Sher describes several life models through stories of scanners who have succeeded in finding their balance:

  • The doctor’s life model, which will suit those who like to spend several days on a project and do something else once or twice a year.
  • The spy life model: for those who dream of being a chameleon and following projects in different environments.

11.5 – Career ideas for sybils

The author lists several career ideas that will serve sybils well:

  • Multiple streams of incomefrom the sybil scanner’s favorite projects.
  • Sufficiently satisfying work: as previously discussed, this is work that provides financial security in a pleasant environment by requiring no more than 40 hours of work per week.
  • A home-based business: this option allows you to work according to your natural rhythm (work on your projects only when your attention level is optimal) and to enhance your days with naps, walks, etc.
  • A versatile profession.
  • A consultant position.

Chapter 12 – Are You a Plate Spinner?

12.1 – Portrait of the plate spinning scanner

The plate spinning scanner:

  • Is motivated by having many projects going on at the same time.
  • Is fast, often thinking faster than most people, which contributes to the fact that they don’t often feel overwhelmed.
  • Likes to solve problems, especially those of others: this generosity leads their peers to a form of dependence towards them, sometimes even abuse.

The problem with plate spinners is that they hardly ever use their talents. They are busy and bored at the same time. They find themselves overworked but underemployed.

12.2 –  Two exercises to help plate spinners

  • An exercise in imagination

Barbara Sher recommends that the plate spinner-scanner:

  • Imagine being alone on a tiny desert island where they have everything they need to survive for 2 or 3 days. However, there is no one to talk to and nothing to do.
  • Then write down how you feel (according to the author, you should feel yourself “slipping” into a different mode).

This is an effective way to get out of the life model they know – one-way problem solving – and find a new model they never thought of.

  • The alternating current life model

The idea is very simple: it consists of thinking about regularly going to the window to look out for a few minutes, [just to see if a different kind of brainwave would want to show up.] Another alternative is to do regular writing sessions in one’s scanner journal by [letting one’s thoughts and reflections wander.]

12.3 – The LTTL system

The most important need of the plate spinner is to pass on his/her projects to someone else.

The solution may then lie in what Barbara Sher calls the LTTL (Learn, Test, Teach, Leave) system. Upon arriving in a department to solve problems, the plate spinner-scanner may use it in the following way:

[They learn what they need to know about how to solve them. Then they develop new systems that they think might help the department and test them to make sure they work. Once they are sure they will resolve the situation, they teach someone in the department how to use them. Then they move on, leaving the procedure guides in their wake. The plate spinner is happy because he/she can learn, invent and test his/her inventions. They can pass it on, too.]

Lastly, according to the author, the ideal for the plate spinner remains to create his/her own company. After all, they will have a hard time finding a good problem-solving job that allows them to fully utilize their talents.

Chapter 13 – Sequential Scanners

This chapter of the book Refuse to Choose introduces the reader to the second category of scannersthe sequential scanners.

Always craving new tidbits of knowledge, these scanners, unlike the cyclical scanners, do not return to the same areas of interest: [when they’re done, they’re done.]

Sequential scanners also fall into several categories, which the author develops in the following chapters.

Chapter 14 – Are You a Serial Specialist?

14.1 – Who is the “serial specialist” scanner?

Like a specialist, the “serial specialist” scanner can be fully committed to a field for several years. The difference is that, usually, once he/she has climbed that mountain, the serial specialist decides to move on to something else entirely.

It is even more obvious to the serial specialist that one job will never be enough. They wish to “live more than one life”, “to live as different people.” They are constantly looking for a field that is totally unknown to them in order to [dive into it like an actor in a new role.]

14.2 – The serial scanner just wants to have fun

Barbara Sher explains the difference between people who want to have fun and those who are ambitious.

  • The ambitious have success as their goal. They strive for the money, the prestige, the rewards that most people see as symbols of success and admiration. They are what we call “winners.”
  • The scanner does not value success. As a result, their goal is misunderstood by others: they are told that it is time to grow up. Faced with such remarks, the serial scanner doesn’t know what to say, except that he/she has no choice since he/she can’t do what annoys him/her.

Lastly, because they [like to learn more than they like to know], serial specialists [pay a high price] in a culture that focuses on success.

14.3 – A multi-faceted profession grouping various interests

The main problem for serial scanners is that it is difficult to build financial stability. First, because they are constantly changing professions. Second, because they are never considered an expert in anything.

The ideal for them is to work a multi-faceted profession, in which many different interests coexist.

The author cites, as an example, the profession of Tracy Kiddler, a writer who has written a number of books, all in a completely new and different universe.  In the end, Tracy Kiddler had only one career as a writer but was able to explore very different fields without ever having to start from scratch.

14.4 – The serial specialist’s never-ending résumé

Barbara Sher advises the serial scanner to look for skills he/she could use in a multi-faceted occupation and to jot them down in the scanner journal. They can also develop a list of all their own experiences, which they will add to and keep as the years go by.

The author concludes this chapter by describing various occupations that might fit the profile of the serial scanner: writer, teacher, independent historian, lecturer, troubleshooter, information broker, journalist, researcher, librarian, personal assistant, foundation manager, business leader, consultant, and documentary filmmaker.

Chapter 15 – Are You a Serial Master?

15.1 – Who is the serial master?

For serial master scanners, [interests come and go, but the love of mastery always remains.]

Specifically, the serial master is someone who enjoys:

  • Pursuing an activity until they master it (but like all scanners, they move on to something else once they get what they want).
  • Getting involved in a field in which they have virtually no skills and will work to the best of their ability.
  • Seeking out new projects (notion of conquest).
  • Undertaking challenging new things and going through the process of becoming a master.
  • Giving the utmost of themselves: their motivation is excellence.
  • Acquiring knowledge and skills(self-knowledge, knowledge of the detailed process of learning a new discipline, real-life skills that increase their professional value).

15.2 – The professions that best suit the serial master

The author provides two options for serial masters:

  • Change jobs regularly.
  • Carry over their skills and experience into any environment in which they strive for excellence: serial masters are experts at helping people overcome their limits and can therefore be excellent mentors, coaches (life coach, career coach, sports coach), or speakers.

Chapter 16 – Are You a Jack-Of-All-Trades?

16.1 – Who is a jack-of-all-trades?

The jack-of-all-trades:

  • Likes to “learn for the sake of learning.”
  • Has a talent for many things.
  • Works hard and takes great pride in doing a good job.
  • Likes to be seen as “capable” and “reliable.”
  • Is sociablefriendlyeasy-goingconscientious, and well-liked by employers, teachers, and colleagues.
  • Enjoys helping others.
  • Is dedicated and follows through on commitments.

16.2 – What matters for jack-of-all-trades is happiness!

The jack-of-all-trades dreams of finding ”his/her great passion” and seeks it endlessly to decide on a career path. Therefore, they will try out many different jobs, without ever finding the right one, for the following reason: contrary to what they imagine, it is not the “discipline” or “profession” that count for the jack-of-all-trades, nor success. It’s the environment.

In fact, the jack-of-all-trades is primarily concerned with being happy.

Consequently, it is not at all impossible for jack-of-all-trades to find their passion. However, to do so, they just have to stop looking for it in a specific line of work.

In short, Barbara Sher sums up by addressing the jack-of-all-trades:

[It’s not a title or a huge salary you want. More than any other type of scanner, what matters to you is happiness. If you make that your main goal, success will come sooner than you think.]

16.3 – The jack-of-all-trades career

The author explains that this type of scanner doesn’t fit into any defined career. Their career can be anything they want it to be.

They may:

  • Try out different jobs by doing contract work, for example.
  • Engage in different projects or in different positions on specific projects.

To find their passion, Barbara Sher invites them to think about what a good life might resemble if they:

  • Ignored the status symbols and titles that mean so much to those around them.
  • Instead, observed what they really need to be happy: [think back to the good times in your life and see if you can identify the things that mattered most to you], suggests Barbara Sher.

16.4 – Life models for jack-of-all-trades

  • The “most valuable player”: for the author, this life model allows the jack-of-all-trades to change interests and jobs at will, without the stress of searching for the “right” job.
  • The good life model: among the many talents of the jack-of-all-trades, the most unique is [knowing how to live a good life.] Therefore, when an opportunity presents itself to them, they should ask themselves if it will make them happy rather than if it will lead them to success.

16.5 – Tools to help the jack-of-all-trades

  • The life’s work bookshelf, which, as we’ve seen, is all about keeping your creations in a dedicated place.
  • A large collage frame of all their degrees and certificates, photos of their accomplishments and places visited to remind themselves that they are not only a helpful multitalented person but also a highly accomplished one.

Chapter 17 – Are You a Wanderer?

17.1 – Who is the wandering scanner?

The wanderer:

  • Is a [great lover of chance experience.] He/she is tempted by everything that seems attractive and his/her wanderings are difficult to understand by an outsider.
  • Does not have a plan and never goes anywhere with a specific purpose: he/she appreciates the experience for what it is.
  • Sees possibilities where others see nothing.

17.2 – The common thread

Barbara Sher recommends that the wanderer identify a common thread between all their evolving interests, in other words, the common theme among them.

For this, she suggests that they ask themselves the following question: what element, if missing, would have made their exploration dull and uninteresting? Sometimes they won’t be able to identify any common thread other than curiosity, love of adventure, and fascination for the unknown.

Once the wanderer has identified this common thread, they can easily determine their professional activity.

17.3 – Life models for wanderers

  • The [I may need it someday] life model

Through various stories, Barbara Sher brings out the following idea: wanderers are open to experiences for the sake of experience, but they also like to make the observation that they may prove useful later. They like to justify their experiences by saying, [You never know what will come out of this new adventure. One day I might need what I found.]

Therefore, the author advises the wanderer to roam and [go with your gut], while considering that every perceived attraction has its (good) reasons, and that sooner or later, the answer will appear on its own.

  • The Odysseus life model

The wandering scanner and Odysseus have one thing in common: they both stop in different places for a while before continuing their journey.

  • The itinerant minister life model

This model allows the wandering scanner to combine his/her desire to explore with a feasible project, in other words, to be an itinerant professional.

17.4 – Occupations for wanderers

Here are some examples of activities that might suit the wanderer:

  • Doing serial part-time jobs with inventive or unusual sources of income.
  • Selling his/her many skills and knowledge informally (e.g., in sales).
  • Passing on survival skills.
  • Teach what he/she knows in a specific context (the example cited by the author is an educational cruise).

17.5 – Keeping track of your wanderings

Barbara Sher recommends that the wanderer write down all his/her explorations in his/her journal, mainly for the purpose of sharing and providing feedback for others.

Chapter 18 – Are You a Sampler?

18.1 – Who is the sampler?

The sampler:

  • Always feels like something is missing.
  • Does not find enough variety in an ordinary job, in a “normal” life.
  • Is constantly looking for more intensity and creativity in his/her life.

18.2 – The sampler’s tools

  • The evening soiree (or [lifelong learning in your living room])

This tool consists of inviting instructors who are passionate about what they teach to the sampler’s home in the evening to share their knowledge with them in an informal setting.

  • The quarterly creative project

This model allows for the structuring of creative activities within a clear time frame that fits the samplers’ way of life.

The author cites the example of Sharleen who, every three months, took part in a series of activities that she dreamed of doing with a specific goal. She participated in a Navajo weaving workshop, learned how to build a house, tried her hand at making theater sets, worked on lighting and special effects for the theater, and then started sewing and designing costumes. And finally, she took horseback riding lessons.

This quarterly creative project model is very effective in freeing up sampler scanners because it allows them to get excited about various projects at their own pace.

18.3 – Careers for samplers

Samplers might enjoy:

  • A sufficiently satisfying job (or side job) that:
    • Gives them enough free time to pursue their interests.
    • Relieves them of the pressure to earn income from activities they enjoy.
    • Allows them to [pour their creative energy into their personal creative projects] (as one sampler attests: [Every 3 or 4 years, I make it a goal to learn something new]).
  • Temporary assignments or “project manager” positions.
  • A job in an adult education center where it is possible to listen to the speakers. 

18.4 – Sampler life models

  • The smörgasbord life model

This life model is named after the traditional banquet table in Sweden: it is covered with dozens of different dishes and allows people to serve themselves as they please (what they want, as much as they want, in whatever combination and order they want). It’s a perfect concept for “just tasting”, to get a simple glimpse of something, for example.

This is the principle that the author suggests that samplers apply in their personal and professional lives.

  • The basics of everything life model

Barbara Sher summarizes this life model very clearly by describing how she briefly took certain classes to get an overview of many different subjects:

[Sometimes you just pick up a full load of books from the library that you only read the introduction, the last chapter, and the table of contents. This gives me an overview of very dense books that I wouldn’t be able to read in their entirety.]

18.5 – Honoring the creations of one’s projects

In general, samplers enjoy finishing their project with a creation they like to keep. The problem is that they can quickly find themselves overwhelmed with items they don’t know where to store.

The author of Refuse to Choose invites samplers to display their creations on the “life’s work bookshelf” recommended earlier, or in any other place that could be similar to a museum (an extra room, storage space, etc.). Creators can then honor their work privately, or even, why not, publicly (by organizing, for example, an annual exhibition for their friends and family).

Chapter 19 – Are You a High-Speed Indecisive?

19.1 – Who is the indecisive high-speed scanner?

The high-speed indecisive scanner:

  • Is the most misunderstood of all scanners.
  • Can drop everything they are doing [at the mere thought of something else happening.]
  • Had a good time as a child, but no longer has fun as an adult. Now, he/she wants to be respected, as they [change their interests a dozen times a week.]  

Despite these characteristics, the indecisive high-speed scanner is gifted with many talents, chiefly among which is the ability to spot the potential in everything better than anyone else:

[The talent of a ‘high-speed indecisive’ is not to get things done: it is to discover gold.]

As such, if his/her style is appreciated, the indecisive high-speed scanner will thrive in a profession that:

  • Allows him/her to be heavily involved.
  • Continuously offers variety.
  • Values those who are able to inspire others with enthusiasm.
  • Rewardsquick thinking, hard work, and evaluation.

This could include the following professions: writer, freelance writer, newsroom researcher, catalog compiler, copywriter, abstract writer, stockbroker, inventor, etc.

19.2- The high-speed indecisive toolbox

Three main tools are recommended by Barbara Sher for the high-speed indecisive:

  • The scanner journal.
  • Writing sessions “à la Léonard de Vinci”.
  • The “catalog of ideas with potential”: write 10 ideas on double pages, presenting them like a clothing catalog article. A small sketch or icon is added to represent the idea, along with a description to sell the idea.

Conclusion of Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher

The conclusion of Barbara Sher’s Refuse to Choose

The book’s conclusion is titled “Your Best Work.”

In it, Barbara Sher lays out her first message, namely that the scanner has powerful talents to put to use; hence, it is imperative that he/she set out to realize his/her “best work.”

  • The mighty talents of the scanner

Barbara Sher reminds us, first, that the scanner is not only attracted to many subjects, but they are also brimming with enormous talent that is just waiting to be expressed. Second, the author articulates what the scanner, after reading the book should have taken away, namely that the scanner:

  • Can do anything they want: they are free to explore all their interests and abandon them whenever they like.
  • Will never be satisfied until they have achieved something extraordinary. This is why the author encourages them to throw themselves [body and soul] into what they love and to give it their all.

Given these numerous and formidable talents, the scanner must, according to the author, absolutely realize his/her best work.” To that end, there are five steps to follow:

  • Define your project and your objective: the author invites the reader-scanner to define something that they are enthusiastic about and that they would like to share with the world, and then to act until they get a concrete and visible result, precisely determined from the start. This project should not prevent them from remaining a scanner [snooping around in all sorts of new areas] in parallel.
  • Schedule a deadline for showing your product, your work: depending on the context, this deadline could be the private or public reading of your book manuscript, a private performance of your play, a birthday present, a painting exhibition, a party to show the before and after of the transformation of your body, your garden or your house, etc.
  • Getting down to work: the scanner will need to prioritize and put things aside to fully dedicate themselves to the project. The author suggests using a [countdown to the deadline] to build up some stress and get things done.
  • Participate in the deadline event: when the scanner’s work is complete, it’s time to take the stage and show the work to a supportive audience. This is the project’s culmination.
  • Return to 100% scanning mode: during this phase, the scanner fills their creative reservoirs with new energy until they choose a new project that they like and start the process all over again.

Lastly, in the appendix of the book, Barbara Sher publishes a section in which she examines, in detail, numerous professional activities that might be suitable for scanners.

A positive and uplifting book

Refuse to Choose is an interesting book for all those who recognize themselves in the scanner profile. It:

  • Allows you to better understand your way of life and to adjust your personal and professional life choices according to your own behavior.
  • Restores a positive self-image: the multipotentialite understands that they are neither abnormal nor unstable, that they must love themselves as they are and that there are paths to take in which they can become fulfilled and live in serenity.
  • Encourages to be oneself and to unleash one’s talents onto the world.

It is a guilt-free and empowering book that, by offering a different vision of what society values, provides the reader with new insights.

A book that offers solutions and shares practical advice

Refuse to Choose serves as comprehensive toolkit that helps the scanner find his/her own path, to flourish in his/her multipotentiality as well as in his/her life.

Barbara Sher’s ideas, reflections, and proposals are embedded in testimonials and stories that come to life throughout the chapters. This makes for an enjoyable read and a very meaningful discussion.

Although some of the solutions have become outdated and seem irrelevant in this age of technology, this book remains effective in raising awareness and inspiring people to take action.

If you consider yourself as a multipotentialite, then you will find the book “Refuse to Choose” to be an enlightening and positive read. As the topic is rarely addressed in the personal development genre, this book has established Barbara Sher as a reference on the subject matter.

Strengths and weaknesses of the book Refuse to Choose

Strong points:

  • The very positive approach to multipotentiality, which highlights the talents and exceptional potential of scanners.
  • The insights into the various scanner profiles, which are illustrated by a wealth of extremely compelling stories.
  • The author’s message that values multipotentiality, as well as encourages and empowers the multipotentialite to carve out his/her own path.
  • The subject itself, as it is not often touched upon in personal development books.
  • The simple practical advice that can be applied to daily life.

Weak points:

  • The book has aged; most of the suggested aids are outdated.
  • Some ideas do not seem easily applicable in reality.

My rating : Refuse to Choose! by Barbara Sher Refuse to Choose! by Barbara Sher Refuse to Choose! by Barbara SherRefuse to Choose! by Barbara SherRefuse to Choose! by Barbara SherRefuse to Choose! by Barbara SherRefuse to Choose! by Barbara SherRefuse to Choose! by Barbara SherRefuse to Choose! by Barbara Sher

Have you read “Refuse to Choose”? How do you rate it?

Mediocre - No interestReasonable - One or two interesting paragraphsIntermediate - Some goods ideasGood - Had changed my life on one practical aspectVery Good - Completely changed my life ! (No Ratings Yet)


A handy little guide to the book Refuse to Choose.

The 2 main parts of Refuse to Choose:

  1. What is a Scanner, and Are You One?
  2. What Kind of Scanner Are You?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) concerning Refuse to Choose.

1. What has the public received Barbara Sher’s book Refuse to Choose?

Considered a scanner’s guide, Refuse to Choose has been a great success with the public because it is the first book of its kind to help different types of scanners through practical advice that Barbara Sher offers, inspiring them to be true to themselves and unleash their talents onto the world.

2. What has been the impact of Barbara Sher’s Refuse to Choose?

This book has impacted many scanners or multipotentialites in discovering themselves and regaining a positive self-image in a society that values specialists and experts above all.

3. For whom is Refuse to Choose intended?

This book is for scanners and multipotentialites.

4. What is a sampler according to Barbara Sher?

In her book, Barbara Sher states that a sampler is someone who always feels that something is missing and is in constant search of more intensity and creativity in their life.

5. What are the main symptoms of depression according to Barbara Sher?

Barbara believes that the main symptoms of depression are the inability to feel desire and difficulty concentrating.

The serial master versus the jack-of-all-trades

The serial master The jack-of-all-trades
Pursues an activity until it is mastered Enjoys learning for the sake of learning
Takes up any field Has a talent for many things
Seeks out new projects Works hard and takes great pride in doing a good job
Embarks on challenging undertakings Likes to be seen as “capable” and “reliable”
Put his/her best foot forward Enjoys helping others

Who is Barbara Sher?

Barbara Sher was born on August 14, 1935 in Michigan, United States and died on May 10, 2021 in Pomona, New Jersey. She is an American essayist and speaker who offers courses for scanners. She created a one-year program for writers and lecturers called “How to Write Your Own Success Story.” She resided in Turkey where she taught e-commerce to village weavers.

Barbara Sher has appeared on American television shows such as Oprah, Today, CNN, etc. She has published books on personal development, including “Refuse to Choose” in which she offers a program for those who have difficulty choosing a career path; “I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was”, “It’s Only Too Late If You Don’t Start Now”, “Attention Games”, among others.

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