What’s a Scanner?

Hello, my name is Jess Wagstrom, and I’m a Serial Master Scanner. It’s nice to meet you. 🙂

(Photo by Austin Craver)

According to Barbara Sher, A “Scanner” is a person who tends to learn quickly and have many interests. Where some people can find one or two main passions and let everything else sit to the side as hobbies, Scanners want to do it all. Scanners take up interests and stay involved in them until they get their “reward”, then “scan” the horizon for something new.

There are several different types of Scanner. In her book Refuse to Choose, Sher describes nine of them. The one that resonated with me was the “Serial Master”, a breed of Scanner who takes on an interest and masters it from the ground up. The “reward” for Serial Masters is often the thrill of the challenge of mastery itself. For me, the “reward” also involves meeting new and inspiring people and expanding my community.

Discovering I’m a Scanner created a huge breakthrough for me emotionally. I’ve always felt that I was not living up to my potential, that I’m smart enough to do anything I want but I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Every time I stumbled on a subject or hobby that interested me, I would learn as much as possible about it, study it in any way I could, and then try to turn it into a career.

“Wouldn’t it be nice if I could just do ‘x’ forever and get paid for it?” But inevitably, my interest in whatever “x” was would fade as I discovered something new to get really excited about.

Learning that switching interests like this is the way Scanners are wired, that by their nature they cannot stay on one path forever, lifted a weight off my chest and replaced a lot of negative self-esteem I didn’t even realize I had.

Right now, my only goal is to praise my Scanner nature, take hold of ideas and run with them as long as they hold my interest. Not finishing projects does not make me a failure, because for me, finishing is not always the goal. Learning, discovery, challenge, and self-evaluation are the goals!

Want to Scan with me?

Here’s a list of things I’ve accomplished before becoming aware I was a “Scanner”:

-Created my own catalog as a child, invited relatives to “order” from it
-Played the piano
-Wrote songs
-Taught myself to crochet
-Performed in three plays with two weeks’ rehearsal time each
-Ran a website dedicated to transcribed episodes of That 70’s Show (now gone forever with the rest of Geocities)
-Made my prom dress out of duct tape
-Coached a local summer YMCA swim team for seven years
-Taught water aerobics
-Braided yarn/hair extensions into my own and friends’ hair (this process can take up to 20 hours)
-Made a Beanie Baby out of duct tape
-Made a number of wallets out of duct tape as well
-Made and sold homecoming mums
-Worked at a yarn store
-Learned to knit
-Knit several sweaters, socks, Harry Potter scarves & other various sundry
-Designed & wrote down my own knitting patterns, including a full afghan which I submitted to an afghan design contest
-Taught others to knit
-With the help of a friend, created an image of Strongbad by flipping seats in the stands at our college (it stayed for almost two months)
-Managed a Subway & increased sales using motivational programs I created
-Wrote & sold zines
-Worked for a CPA
-Created from scratch a series of reports to track weekly data for a local small business
-Learned how to play DDR well enough to ace the heavy levels
-Wrote eight complete rough drafts of full-length novels
-Wrote one of those rough drafts in a week
-Rode every roller coaster at Cedar Point
Made duct tape corsets
-Rotated my own tires
-Made soap
-Sold things I’d made at a local craft shop
-Lived out of my car
-Memorized how to solve a Rubix cube
Sang an entire vocal concert solo – in German!
-Learned how to read Tarot cards
-Hosted an online music swap
Wrote a successful parody of the Twilight series
-Taught myself to hoop dance
-Paid off my own car
Taught hoop dance classes
-Made & sold dozens of adult-sized hula hoops
-Performed hoop dance for various audiences
-Drove to North Carolina, California, & Colorado
-Stayed at a hostel in Arizona
-Ran a 5K
-Traveled across the country without staying in a single hotel
Wrote a novel to pay my rent
Decluttered most of my stuff
Filmed & edited online videos
-Made new clothes out of my old clothes
-Completed 55 Bikram yoga classes in 60 days
-Learned to track my own fertility signs for natural birth control
Kept an online journal for the past ten years
-Practiced Bikram yoga for the past nine years

And that’s just the stuff that I’ve finished.