How to be a scanner and still be a success

The Scanner BrainRecently I received an email from someone who had just read my book and had been hit by the realisation that they are a ‘scanner’.

This is a transformational moment for a lot of scanners – to finally have a label for themselves. If you are a scanner you might remember the moment yourself.

If you’re not sure if you’re scanner (or don’t know what it is) read on…

Are you a scanner?

If you’re not familiar with the scanner personality type, first identified and named by Barbara Sher, here’s how to spot if you are one:

  • You have creative ideas all the time, whether it’s for a book, a TV show, an art project, a website, a business, starting a movement, creating a brand, or writing a bestseller
  • You love to learn about new subjects and ideas and then quickly move on to something else
  • You have loads of seemingly unrelated interests
  • Trying to choose between all your ideas, interests and projects stresses you out
  • The thought of concentrating on one single topic for the rest of your life horrifies you
  • You start lots of projects but don’t always finish them before you get into something else

If you can say yes to two or more of these qualities, then you are a scanner!

The good news is that scanners are some of the most creative people in the world. Our focus on breadth rather than depth allows us to make connections between disparate worlds that others can’t see. We’re open minded, we’re fast to learn, and we’re keen to share.

The bad news is that the world doesn’t always approve of scanners. We get labelled a Jack of all trades (and master of none), a dilettante, or worse. The modern world approves of the deep diver – someone who specialises in one subject – forgetting that some of the most remarkable people who ever lived were renaissance men or women.

Bad scanner or good scanner?

Realising that you’re a scanner and that’s OK is an important moment. You can finally stop trying to change into something else and embrace your scanner nature. And as a result I get regular emails from scanners who discovered this important part of their makeup while reading my book and are bubbling over with excitement about it.

And to be absolutely honest, I sometimes feel a little nervous about it.

You see, I love scanners – they’re interesting and interested, open-minded, and friendly. I am a scanner myself. And not many people know that my book was at an early stage going to be a book about scanners – before it became something much broader.

However a lot of people misunderstand what being a scanner means. Embracing your scanner nature, your love of ideas and your variety of interests in great but it is NOT an excuse to dabble at a million different things, have endless fascinating ideas and put NONE of them into action.

I’m going to be really blunt here: That’s not being a scanner, that’s being a loser.

And I know because I spent many years of my life reading books and learning new things and having ideas but not making anything happen.

I learned that the bottom line is this:

If you want to have any kind of success,
if you want to make money as a scanner,
if you want to have some meaning in your life,
you HAVE to create something of value to other people.

And that means you have to take at least some of your ideas and follow through on them to produce something useful or interesting to others.

If all you have is ideas, you don’t actually have anything at all.

The successful scanner

Decide today to follow the path of the successful scanner: Choose projects that use your scanner brain, your talent for idea generation, your love of learning, and then follow through long enough to create something you can share with the world.

Billionaire scanner, Steve Jobs, revolutionised computing, mobile phones, the music industry and more during his lifetime. And he put all his diverse interests from typography to shop design into his core business. One day he would be designing the glass staircase in Apple Stores and the next he was creating his vision for a new way to distribute music online.

Richard Branson is another famous scanner. The Virgin group contains over 300 companies but he doesn’t run any of them himself. I bet Richard doesn’t find himself bored by a lack of variety in his life.

Both of them started small, completing one project. Steve Jobs created a home computer kit with Steve Wozniak. Richard Branson started with a student newspaper.

Which of your ideas are you willing to follow through on to produce something tangible? You don’t have to do it for life, but you do have to produce something.


Leave a comment and let me know what you think about this – and what you are going to choose to do first.

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