Have you ever asked yourself the question, “What should I do with my life?” Have you ever wondered what you’re going to be when you grow up, even though you’re in your 30’s or 40’s, or even older? Have you ever wondered why you keep starting things that you never finish? Why you get bored once you’ve learned something, and decide to move on to something else? Have you ever found yourself with so many interests that you don’t know what to focus on – you just want to do them all? Have you ever struggled with sticking with something because that’s what others do, and you’re made to feel that there’s something wrong with you if you don’t?
If you identify with all the above, then it’s likely you’re one of a select group of people called ‘Scanners’, a title invented by Barbara Sher, the author of Refuse to Choose – What do I do when I want to do everything.
Scanners want to taste everything. They love to learn about the structure of a flower, and they love to learn about the theory of music. And the adventures of travel. And the tangle of politics. To scanners, the universe is a treasure house full of a million works of art, and life is hardly long enough to see them all. – Barbara Sher
Of course, if you don’t identify with the above, then you’re probably a ‘Diver’:
If you’re someone who is happy being completely absorbed by one field, I’ve labeled you a Diver. Some clear examples of Divers are professional musicians, scientists, mathematicians, professional chess players, athletes, business owners, and financiers. These people may “relax” with a hobby, but they’re rarely passionate about anything but their field. – Barbara Sher
I’ve been wondering what to do with my life for ALL OF MY LIFE, so learning about being a Scanner is just awesome for me.
Let me share with you a list of ‘jobs’ and major life changes that I’ve experienced over the years. This is my ‘job / life resume’, a list of my work and travels in order of earliest (1985) to most recent (2014). It shows my own story of trying to work out what to do with my life…
1985 to 1992 – aged 18 to 25, unemployed with these odd jobs:
- fruit picker
- fruit packer
- public servant (hated it like you wouldn’t believe, left after 6 months)
- left home and moved to Adelaide, SA (1988)
- door to door vacuum cleaner salesman (1990-92, for two years, amazingly – but I only averaged a $90 a week income at the end of it)
- moved house more than a dozen times between 88-92
1992 to 2000 – aged 25 to 33, still unemployed with odd jobs:
- moved from Adelaide to Canberra, ACT (1992)
- sold printed certificates of surname histories and coats of arms at a stall that I took around from shopping centre to shopping centre
- car salesman (lasted 3 months, told the manager he was an idiot with his ‘women are the enemy and exist only to give us their money’ philosophy of sales, he fired me)
- freelance web designer (a friend gave me his old computer in ’96)
- pizza delivery guy
- late night pizza seller to nightclubbers (bain marie outside pizza store)
- headhunted by an ISP as their in-house web designer
- became the ISP’s tech support guy for customers
- became the ISP’s office manager/tech support/web designer (until I quit because I didn’t like how the owner didn’t care about the customers)
- moved house more than a dozen times between 92-2000
2000 to 2007 – my first (and ONLY) full-time job(!):
- moved to New Zealand
- worked in an internet cafe owned by a kiwi who lived in a boat
- contract role on a help desk with a company called Computerland, providing support to farmers with computers
- permanent role on help desk with Computerland (this lasted from early 2001 through to early 2007, but with the following different types of jobs: help desk analyst (level 1, then 2, then 3), then moved into Systems Administration and became a Sharepoint Trainer / Administrator, as well as a VOIP Administrator and Service Delivery Manager – all at the same time!
- moved house only 6 times between 2000 – 2007
2007 to present – my life as a contractor:
- moved back to Australia
- 3 mth contract: helpdesk support to defence force scientists
- 6 mth contract: application support to DEWR (Australian govt agency)
By this time I’d been doing tech support for a decade and needed a change. I was over it. But what to do next? I decided to reinvent myself and become a Business Analyst.
- 6 mth contract: Business Analyst with AGD (Australian govt agency)
- 6 mth contract: Business Analyst with ACMA (Australian govt agency)
- 6 mth contract: Business Analyst with Hewlett Packard
- 12 mth contract: Business Analyst with Hewlett Packard
- 12 mth contract: Business Analyst with Hewlett Packard
- 6 mth contract: Business Analyst with DHS (Australian govt agency)
- 9 mth contract: Senior Business Analyst with Lockheed Martin Australia
- 1 mth contract: Business Analyst with FaHCSIA (Australian govt agency)
- 2 mth contract: Senior Business Analyst with Westpac Bank
- moved around only 5 times between 2007 – 2014
And now here we are today.
I’ve been out of work for 3 months now (as of this writing), and find myself in the process of trying to reinvent myself once again.
While I can do Business Analyst work, I really don’t want to. I want more freedom, more variety, more interesting things to do in my life. More interesting to me, of course.
When I look at this list of my jobs and my life over the past 29 years, it’s obvious that over time I’ve been not only ‘settling down’ and finding some elements of stability, but I’ve also gone from being long-term unemployed (for 15 years) with odd jobs here and there, to executive-level and high-paying work within a decade. But while continuing to earn $150,000+ a year remains attractive to me, it’s not fulfilling.
I’m at a point where I’m looking for fulfilling work, rather than just work. I want to work on the internet, doing things that I LOVE, and which I can make money from. I want to write for a living, as well as to share myself with the world. I want to be able to use my internet-based income to support myself, my wife and my family as we travel around the country and the world.
I have goals. But I’m still working out how the hell I can achieve them.
I asked a buddy today a question (it was in the context of a conversation we were having): “what’s your perception of who I am, what kind of person I am…. I’m curious.” I was curious about what their perception was of the person that I am, based on my interactions and conversations with them in the game. Their answer surprised me.
“I think you don’t know…as if you haven’t made up your mind.”
Very perceptive, and very accurate.
I haven’t made up my mind what kind of person I am yet. I’m still wondering what to do with my life. I’m still exploring.
But I feel like I’m getting closer. I feel like I’m finding it ok to pursue what will make me happy and fullfilled instead of ‘just a job’.
However, until I start making an actual income that consistently pays for my living expenses from what I love, then I’ll still look for a job. I still need to pay for my life.
Honestly, I hope I can earn a living from what I love before I find another job. The idea of doing something I don’t actually enjoy, when I’m that much closer to understanding what I would actually love to do, just fills me with dread.
And that’s part of being a Scanner.
It’s a journey through the things that you enjoy, until you don’t enjoy them any more. And then you find something else that you enjoy, and you repeat the process.
I’m also getting closer to understanding what I need to do to make use of my life and my skills and my personality type and turn it into an income.
All those things that I’ve done over the years, that I’ve enjoyed, that I’ve learned something valuable from but then moved on to something else… They’re all still there inside of me. All those skills and experiences aren’t of value to me any more because I’m not interested in them.
But they could be of value to others.
Teaching others how to do what I can do has been part of what I’ve found enjoyable throughout my life.
I think I need to work out how to promote myself within a structure that allows me to do more to help others learn how to do what I’ve done, while also making money from it.
What about you? Have you been wondering what to do with your life? Have you gotten any closer to finding out? Please share your story below.
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