Guest post by Tony Dalton, who is open to questions and comments on twitter: @_daltony. Tony is continuing to interview polymaths, please get in touch with him if interested.
In the last 6 weeks, I’ve interviewed 10 scanners about their life experiences, particularly with their professional goals. Scanners are people who have many interests and ideas, but struggle to choose just one pursuit. During the interview process, I began to see correlations between these innovators’ challenges, goals, and success strategies, despite their numerous differences.
It seems like the number of challenges and frustrations scanners face matches the number of interests they have. Some scanners have supportive families and friends. Others have been criticized and feel isolated from others. Some have started multiple businesses or worked as freelancers, while others enjoy their day jobs. Some want to make money and/or start a business around their many interests, while others have no desire to make money based on their many pursuits. Some scanners reap a large profit, while others constantly fight with finances.
As a scanner, no matter how much you accomplish, there is always more to explore and learn. Although the challenges of frustrations of the scanner personality differ between each person, one challenge with many faces kept popping up: the stigma behind the apparent inability to focus on one path or interest.
Not Sticking to One Path
Scanners generally find not affixing with one interest stressful, primarily due to the reactions and emotions of people close to them.
People unfamiliar with the scanner personality type do not understand why scanners don’t stick to one objective, even if they would have success. One interviewee framed it perfectly by explaining her family’s thoughts regarding her ever-changing interests and careers. She explained, “They can’t quite figure out why if I have the smarts to do it, and I know it’s a good idea, why I’m not doing it.” People who pursue learning naturally, like scanners, have infinite potential for anything they start, as this interviewee demonstrated. Her family cares for her happiness, relying on the tried and true method others have used in achieving happiness: tenacity in achieving goals, climbing hierarchical ladders, and success through earning a high salary. The disconnect occurs because scanners lose interest in repetitive jobs that lack creativity and learning. Simply put, they crave variety. They can’t bring themselves to focus only on one thing, and idle in boredom. Scanners fear missing abounding opportunities in the world by dedicating time and energy to just one interest.
One person I had the pleasure to interview discussed his career beginning in film school, which is a demanding and time-consuming industry. As a videographer, he enjoys the film industry; however, he has not launched his entire life into this pursuit, as did many of his colleagues. He’s a scanner and has many interests outside the film world. Despite seeing the success of his peers, he knows the variety in his work is more fulfilling, therefore, more personally successful, than vigilant pursuit of a solo career in videography. In addition to being a videographer, he’s a writer, a musician, a freelancer, and a scanner.
Success Strategies for Scanners
Follow Your Interests
This may seem counterintuitive for someone who struggles to focus. This delicate balance between focusing on the projects at hand and following your interests must be diligently maintained by the scanner. Make time to explore, and never mentally beat yourself up for doing what your brain is designed to do.
Over the years, I’ve struggled to find the balance. If you’re like me, exploring my interests leads to more interesting ideas. I lose hours exploring on the internet and not moving my projects forward. That doesn’t mean you can’t find a balance between what you’re working on and exploring other projects.
Through these interviews, I learned two strategies for following your interests and not losing hours: first, schedule time for exploration, and second, set a strict time limit.
No matter your strategy, take the time to explore your interests. As you do, you can usually satisfy your curiosity with a couple hours of research. If you’re still interested in learning more after a couple hours, store the idea and revert back to it later. Personally, I keep a journal to record these findings and plan to explore them further. By following your interests, you gain new insights and acquire information that can be applied to others aspects of your life.
Learn from Each and Every Experience
The scanner personality has its own set of challenges. Yet, exploring different interests and passions give scanners more opportunities to learn and grow than the majority of people. Because scanners seek after and experience the many nuances of life, opportunity finds them.
Educational opportunities are everywhere. Learn from every project. Learn from mistakes and failures. Do NOT fear failure, as application of knowledge acquired from failure fuels your next project, strengthening your willpower, desire, and ability to find confidence and happiness. Through your projects, you learn what you like, what you’re good at, weaknesses, and strategies for self-improvement, even if you don’t finish what you start.
Keep a record of what you learn. I record everything in a journal. From my notes, I discovered at what time in the day I’m most productive, when I should switch activities, and how I should structure my day to succeed as a scanner. For example, I accomplish much more when I wake up early, so I make myself do it every day. Everyone is different, so learn what works best for you and do it.
One person I interviewed experienced the learning process many times by starting multiple businesses, and each began with success, but fizzled out after a few years. Despite these struggles, she asserts that she subsequently learned about the business she wants, and how to overcome disheartening situations. She would not be doing what she is today without applying lessons learned from previous businesses.
Although being a scanner presents many trials, the benefits far outweigh the challenges. I’m proud to be a scanner and wouldn’t have it any other way. As one person I interviewed expressed, “Being a [scanner] means I can be anything I want to be, for as long as I want be and be as good as I want to be.”