“If there is any one secret to success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”
Henry Ford (1863-1947)
Before I get into this, I just want to mention that there’s so much information on networking out there and I could write volumes of books on this topic, but this post will just be a few of the things I keep in mind when I’m networking.
What is networking?
Our network is who we are connected to and networking is building access to connect with people. Some people say success is about knowing the right people (and while that is true) it’s also about being accepted and liked by the right people.
Everyone’s heard the saying “you are the sum of the 5 people you hang around with the most” and for a lot of people this is not a reassuring statement. If we want to get to a different place, be a different kind of person, be someone who lives their life by design, then we need to be able to grow our network.
There are a ton of books out there on networking, but one that is worth mentioning is the classic How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. I highly recommend reading this book if you want solid and practical knowledge of networking. When I first read it I thought it was terribly self-explanatory, but reading the book is worthwhile because the “obviously simple” claims he made are backed up by science and research. Plus, it really is beneficial to write down seemingly obvious things, most of the world’s greatest wisdom is cultivated through people writing down what is obvious.
The TL;DR is don’t be a jerk, but I’ll go over a few of those ideas in this post and the next.
When we’re networking, it’s easy to feel nervous or intimidated, especially if we want to level up our network. It’s tough to put ourselves out there in hopes of being accepted. It’s scary to approach people with more money, education, and power than us, but that’s when I find it useful to keep The Cosmic Perspective in mind. I originally heard about this idea from Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Masterclass on scientific thinking and communication, but I’ve also heard about it from reading about astronauts too. The idea is that we are made of the same elements as the giant planets and stars.
We are special, not because we are unique, but because we are the same.
Some astronauts say that when they see Earth from space for the first time, they have a realization that they belong in this universe just as much as the planets, the sun, and everything else that’s here. That is the cosmic perspective — seeing ourselves as beings that belong here, just like all the other beings in the cosmos. Seeing things from this perspective can give us the confidence to talk to anyone on this planet because they are just like us. The things that intimidate us are illusions and likely a result of thinking too small.
We belong here just as much as the planets and stars do, and in that realization, we can find confidence and peace in ourselves.
Attitude: How You Play The Game
“It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it matters how you play the game.”
Jordan Peterson (1962 – )
Let’s say we’re part of a soccer team and we have to play a game against another team. Let’s say that you’re way better than your other teammates and you could single-handedly beat the other team without much help. If we were playing just one game of soccer, that would be a winning strategy.
But if we’re playing a tournament of games, then we’ll have to change how we play. We’ll probably want to pass the ball and make sure that our team members are focused because we’ll need them to move on in the tournament. We’ll want to act in a way that ensures our teammates like us and have our backs.
How we play games changes if we have to play a tournament of games.
Our life is like the ultimate tournament of tournaments of games and the best way to play games of this nature is to play to win the tournament, not the game. The idea is to play so you can continue to advance, and sometimes that may look like losing a game, but other times it usually means acting fair and kind.
Networking is the game of games. You want to play in a way that gets you invited to play more. The most successful kids are not the ones who win every game, but are the ones who are invited to play the most games.
We’ve all heard the phrase winning isn’t everything, but when it comes to networking, it is. We just need to redefine what winning is for networking purposes. In networking, the person who is most invited to “play” wins. Play in the adult world can mean a plethora of different things ranging from, but not limited to, business, romance, platonic, or political relationships.
When I’m making new connections, I try to give value and demonstrate appreciation. People love useful people and love being appreciated even more! But I do this more importantly because it can trigger reciprocity. If I’m useful and appreciative of them, then they will want to be of me.
It’s all about getting to be invited to play more.
Getting the last word in, proving a point, or satiating a selfish desire is never worth not being invited to play.
Act in a way that makes people want to connect with you more. I’ve found that being compassionate, considerate, and competent will usually get you through the door. However, there is something else to keep in mind.
Playing Fair is a Biological Phenomenon
Part of being invited to play often is playing fair when we are invited to play. There are a few reasons for this — so people will enjoy playing with us, but also so they know that we’re a predictable playmate. People love predictable, especially when we’re thinking about the future.
But what is playing fair?
In order to answer this question, we have to look to Jaak Panksepp and his revolutionary experiment regarding fair play in rats.
Panksepp set up an experiment where he had two rats to play with each other, one rat was about 10% bigger than the other rat. Naturally, as we see with children, the bigger rat wins time and time again.
But here’s where it gets interesting, when the rats want to play again the smaller rat has to ask the big rat for permission to play. If the bigger rat says yes, then they play again. But if the smaller rat loses more than 66% of the time (roughly), then it won’t want to play anymore. The fascinating part is the bigger rat knows this and will let the smaller rat win enough to keep it in the game.
This weird little experiment shows that there is a biological basis for playing fair. It’s not like the rats told each other their feelings. This experiment demonstrates that there are neurons that specifically track if we’re playing a fair game.
People are the same way, sometimes they need to win. They need to feel like they’re playing a game they can win. This is how we “play fair” with networking – sometimes you let the smaller rat win, whatever it takes to get invited to play again. Even if that means losing every once in a while.
The networking game is more of a series of games, and as we know, when we’re thinking of multiple iterations in the future, our strategy has to change. If we were only playing games once, then lying and cheating would probably be the best winning strategy. But when we have to win a series, we have to keep in mind that we have to be a good sport and that might mean losing this game for the sake of the connection. With this, I don’t mean obviously throw the game. We have to be a formidable opponent otherwise it’s no fun.
Networking is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a war, not a battle. Look towards the long term and act accordingly.
We can’t talk about networking without talking about reputation. Reputation is different things to different people, but I believe that understanding multiple perspectives of reputation will give us comprehensive enough knowledge to integrate this idea properly into our behavior.
I’ll start with a modern and fairly simple explanation for reputation from renowned and successful real estate investor, Brandon Turner. In the world of real estate investing, the strength of your network is directly proportional to success.
“[Reputation] is built through character (doing what you say you’re going to do), experience (showing proof of what you’ve done), knowledge (do you know what you’re doing?), and even who you are associating with (you can borrow other’s credibility if they are part of your deal. Someone might not trust you yet, but maybe you can bring in a more-established partner who would have their trust?).”
Brandon Turner (The Book on Investing in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down)
Turner’s take on reputation is aligned with what most modern people associate reputation with and is worth knowing. These four aspects (character, experience, knowledge, & associates) are what are going to be judged when we’re out interacting with people. Intentionality in each of these areas will inevitably upgrade our network.
Another perspective that’s worth knowing is Arthur Schopenhauer’s. His take on reputation is fresh and carries a warning about what a reputation can do to our personal experience of life.
“By a peculiar weakness of human nature, people generally think too much about the opinion which others form of them; although the slightest reflection will show that this opinion, whatever it may be, is not in itself essential to happiness. Therefore it is hard to understand why everybody feels so very pleased when he sees that other people have a good opinion of him, or say anything flattering to his vanity.”
Arthur Schopenhauer (The Wisdom of Life)
He regards carrying weight in the opinion of others as a weakness and proposes that what goes on in other people’s heads, or a demonstration of their thoughts, is not essential to our happiness.
“Therefore it is advisable, from our point of view, to set limits to this weakness, and duly to consider and rightly to estimate the relative value of advantages, and thus temper, as far as possible, this great susceptibility to other people’s opinion, whether the opinion be one flattering to our vanity, or whether it causes us pain; for in either case it is the same feeling which is touched. Otherwise, a man is the slave of what other people are pleased to think,—and how little it requires to disconcert or soothe the mind that is greedy of praise”
Arthur Schopenhauer (The Wisdom of Life)
Artie says we should see what happens in other people’s minds with indifference, a stoic perspective which I can get behind. Especially because if we don’t, then we become a slave to other people’s poorly informed opinions.
“to lay great value upon what other people say is to pay them too much honor.”
Arthur Schopenhauer (The Wisdom of Life)
Artie is known as the Great Pessimist, but I have to agree with this too. What other people think is usually of very little value to us. Obviously, there are exceptions, but these opinions should never rob us of the ability to act or think independently.
But now this poses the question: if we don’t place value in what other people think, then how are we supposed to network effectively?
“Let me remark that people in the highest positions in life, with all their brilliance, pomp, display, magnificence and general show, may well say:—Our happiness lies entirely outside us; for it exists only in the heads of others.”
Arthur Schopenhauer (The Wisdom of Life)
When it comes to networking, reputation can bring you the highest positions in life, but it can come at a cost of our peace of mind.
Build a reputation, but don’t identify with it.
It’s a tricky balance, but one that needs to be gotten right otherwise we may lose our sense of self in the nonsense of others.
The last thing I want to mention about reputation is that the last impression means the most.
“The last impression is the lasting impression.”
Chris Voss (Teaches The Art of Negotiation)
I got this from Chriss Voss. It’s not about how they feel about us at first, it’s mostly about what we leave them with. Leave them feeling good and happy if possible.
Don’t worry about starting off on the wrong foot, just make sure we finish on the right foot.
Reputations are something that we are continuously building. Every day we make choices that influence our reputations, even choices of omission impact our reputations. But we also need to keep in mind that reputations are for other people and not for us. Our relationship with ourselves is different from our relationship with other people.
“Learning is not the accumulation of scraps of knowledge. It is a growth, where every act of knowledge develops the learner, thus making him capable of constituting ever more and more complex objectivities—and the object growth in complexity parallels the subjective growth in capacity.”
Husserl (as interpreted by Quentin Lauer)
Last week, I posted Algorithms for Every Class (Part 1), which was a collection of tips and tricks that would be helpful in all, if not most, classes. This is the 2nd part of that post.
Take what you love, leave what you don’t. Hope this is useful!
On Getting Stuck
We’ve all been there and this will happen inevitably. We’re working on something, then we reach a part that we don’t understand. This is great because that means we’re at the edge of our competence and we have an opportunity to learn something. Now, what separates the excellent students from mediocre students is what they choose to do when they get stuck. Here are a few methods that can unstick us while being constructive.
The first piece of advice I want to give is probably the most overstated and corny advice for getting stuck but it’s a cliche for a reason: Apply the 15-minute rule to try to figure it out on your own. Before asking anyone for help, try to figure out the answer for 15 minutes. This increases retention and creates a healthy relationship with ourselves. Document everything you do during that 15 minutes to give yourself something to present to the professor or teacher if the problem can’t be solved. They will be able to figure out where you went wrong or what you are missing more effectively. This saves you and your professor time and you will be able to understand the information better because that 15 minutes would have given a context for all of the new information to fit into.
This advice is so cheesy, but when we keep in mind The Relationship with Ourselves and our Identity, the implications that come with giving ourselves that extra 15 minutes are so significant. How we do anything is how we do everything, and it’s critical for us to observe ourselves solving problems that we don’t understand. If we back down and ask for help immediately after encountering a solution, we are creating a relationship with ourselves which proves that we back down when challenged and need help when things get hard. If we use that extra 15 minutes, we create a relationship with ourselves as someone who rises up to the challenge and tries. We can get much further if we know ourselves as someone who tries.
Let me add that professors and teachers will give us the answers we’re looking for, but only if we can explain to them what we don’t know. When we’re stuck it’s usually a lack of specificity. Try to find out exactly what you do not know. You can use the Feynman Technique to figure out what this is. The points that are difficult to explain are the points that we don’t understand. Those little details can usually be turned into questions that can be brought to the professor or teacher.
Articulation to the highest accuracy will give us a deeper understanding of the subject and will help our instructor help us. A proper question should take less than 2 seconds to answer. The answer itself may take longer than 2 seconds to explain, but the professor or teacher should be able to answer it quickly. If you find that your instructor is having a hard time knowing the answer to the question, chances are the question you asked them isn’t specific enough and could have probably been more specific.
Additionally, we need to always ask questions if we have them. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve known (myself included) who did not ask a question during class and we’re completely screwed later. I’ve also many so much money off people (through tutoring) just because they don’t want to ask their questions in class. A majority of the time a question that a student asks me in our tutoring session could have been answered by the teacher or professor if the student were more engaged in their class. People tend to ask questions too late – ask them right when you get them or the soonest possible moment.
On top of that, everyone has always heard the “someone else may have your question” phrase. You don’t need to ask questions for the sake of others, but you should oo it because risking the embarassment is worth getting the knowledge. Not knowing what to do feels a lot worse than looking dumb to your classmates, trust me.
Some Ways to Lighten the Workload
We can’t really decrease how much work we have to do, but there is a lot we can do to prevent unnecessary work from accumulating.
Get to know your classmates. They might actually be cool people. Plus you can ask them for notes, explanations, assignments, favors. There are so many studies that show students learn more effectively from their peers. Connections and relationships are why the human race has moved it’s way to the top of the food chain and the foundation for all of our significant accomplishments as a species. When you connect with people, they will move mountains for you.
As much as I’d love to say everyone is worth connecting with, some people require a certain skill set to connect with in order to prevent a detrimental outcome. As a student, our primary goal is to learn as much as we can from the course and get good grades. This is more easily done by identifying people of interest. This group includes, but is not limited to, the professor/teacher, the TA, and other friendly high-performing students.
Frontload the work. Either way, we have to pay, and it’s way better to pay upfront than paying installments or paying later. Everyone knows how great review sessions are, imagine if every class was a review session and the actual review session was a 2nd review session, this is active recall and spaced repetition at the highest level. Frontloading give us more time to work on passion projects and gives us some slack when the laziness starts to kick in at the end of the term.
Types of Tests & How to Prepare for Each
Not all exams are created equal and preparation for each depends on what kind of exam we’re taking.
Multiple Choice (MC) – most of us are familiar with these tests, especially in the United States. We’re simply given an array of answers and we have to select the correct choice. Since many standardized tests are MC, we’ll be using strategies for conquering these kinds of tests often.
I say the best way to prepare for these tests is to do practice problems that ask questions in a similar style as the exam we will be taking. This not only helps with active recall but also gets us used to how the questions will be asked. Since MC tests give us multiple options with one of them being correct, recognition plays a bigger role than usual. Now if we study while implementing active recall and spaced repetition, we will be training our recognition skills but with higher retention rates.
If you don’t have access to practice problems, look over the concepts that are going to be covered on the exam, and identify the main ideas of each. Once those main ideas are identified, we can turn those into practice questions. The questions can look something like “What is this main idea?”, “How can this idea not work?”, “What changes can be made to affect this idea?”, “Are there any special scenarios to keep in mind with this idea?”.
Case-Based/ Problem Solving – these types of exams are slightly more involved. Usually, we will be presented a case or a problem and we will either have to come up with a solution or proper course of action. These are usually presented in the form of a scenario. I had a bunch of these exams when I was studying engineering, and again in EMT school.
The best way to prepare for these exams is to practice each scenario that we are going to encounter. I imagine them in my mind. Visualization helped a lot for me. For example, if I had a patient with a heart attack, I would run through the situation in my mind as if I were actually there. I would write down each of the steps I would do to see if they are correct or if I’m missing something.
Essay-Based – these are similar to the case-based exams in that we need to provide a well thought out answer, but we need to communicate it in writing.
Sometimes professors will provide a series of possible prompts, and if that’s the case then create outlines for each prompt and be prepared to write any and all of them.
If the professor doesn’t give a selection of questions, then we can prepare by creating possible prompts for ourselves and creating outlines for those, but while paying particular attention to the kinds of arguments we can make and the relevant research and references used. Having a list of evidence or references to make and knowing how to use them in other contexts is an excellent way of preparing for essay-based exams.
These kinds of exams take significant amounts of preparation, so don’t underestimate the time needed to prepare for these.
Verbal/Oral Exams – most common in language classes. In these tests, we have to communicate or present something to our examiner.
Working in pairs would best for these types of exams. Taking turns leading the conversation will give you both a chance to practice pronunciation and answers. If you don’t have access to another person, you can record yourself and take notes on the necessary improvements. Remember, these tests are mostly subjective and we are examed through our examiner’s perspective so it’s imperative that we practice what we look and sound like objectively, hence the recording. It’s much harder to improve an accent or answer when we have to think about what it sounded like, it’s much easier to see it.
Open-Book/Take-Home Exams – these are the most popular during COVID-19 times. Almost every exam my students take are open book and at home. Honestly, open-book tests seem like a good deal but usually have harder questions and stricter time frames. This is to prevent students from just looking up every answer. Know what the restrictions are before you start the test!! Additionally, examiners are expecting students to look up answers so be mindful of answers that don’t sound like you and your knowledge.
And as a side note for all exams:
Find ways to collect the correct information. Being in the golden age of information, this is more relevant now than it has ever been. There is a lot of information that can throw us off course, and if we’re referencing inaccurate sources then our work will suffer.
In most classes, this comes in the form of the textbook. But if you’re like me and couldn’t afford textbooks, there are so many other ways of collecting the right information. There are answer keys and moments in the lecture when the professors have practice questions up with the correct answer. It’s crucial to work on the right stuff. I can’t tell you how many tests I’ve screwed up because I was working on the wrong stuff.
KPIs for Academics
KPI stands for Key Performance Indicators and these are the things that tell us how we’re doing in a class, I talk a little about KPIs in my post Analyzing & Improving Systems. Our job as a student is to identify out KPIs and move our attention and energy to those portions.
Some classes can get overwhelming, especially when we’ve fallen behind, but we can get through that by staying focused on the KPIs.
In most classes, the most important KPI will be our grades, but that usually isn’t specific enough to help. I recommend paying attention to:
The make-up of what goes into our grade – exams, homework assignments, projects, presentations, etc.
The weight of each of those parts – are homework assignments 10% of our grade or 40% of our grade?
Additionally, I recommend finding out if there are any exam scores that will be dropped or replaced. Each class will require us to focus on a different aspect in the class to get the grade. For example, if a class puts 100% weight in the exams and 0% in homework, then it would be wise to put 100% of our time and energy into performing well on the exams as opposed to our homework assignemnts. Now, working on the homework may help us do better on the exam, but our primary goal will be to do well on the exam.
Know which metrics to focus on.
The All-Important Syllabus
The syllabus is where we get all the information we need when it comes to scheduling our terms and identifying KPIs. The syllabus, if written well, will tell us all the assignments to expect over the term as well as their due dates, points, and weight. A good syllabus will also include the professor’s contact information and office hours.
This is where the professor will lay out their policies for their class and where we’ll learn how they feel about late work, make-up assignments, homework, etc. A lot of questions that we have about a class can be answered with the syllabus.
Analyze The Resistance
“If you tyrannize people bad enough, then they will be willing to hurt themselves to hurt you. People are often willing to take a hit if it means reclaiming justice.”
Jordan Peterson (1962 – )
For students, keep this in mind when you are making choices with assignments. Hurting ourselves to get back at a teacher is one of the least productive things we can do – it only hurts us and won’t hurt the teacher at all. I’ve had so many students not turn in work as a fuck you to the teacher, and all that came from it was that they had to retake the classes (sometimes with the same teacher). Self-destruction in the name of justice is not worth it.
When therapists have patients who miss sessions, even if the patient says they have more important priorities, it’s the therapist’s job to analyze the resistance and find out why the patient doesn’t want to go to the sessions. Educators need to approach their students in the same way. I’ve seen way too many students made out to be wrong or bad because they have resistance to their assignments. If the educators took the time to analyze why this student doesn’t want to work, then they could make adjustments so the assignments have less friction.
For example, I’ve had a fair bit of students (especially during the COVID-19 pandemic) who did not want to do their work because they didn’t respect their teachers nor see them as capable of teaching important topics. These students aren’t naturally defiant but have found reasons to not respect their teachers because of how the instructors carry themselves and approach the class. The students are aware that they need to learn things, but they (like any other rational human being) will only listen to people they respect and admire and I believe that it is upon the instructor to be that kind of person. Whenever I’m working with my students, I make it known that I care about the quality of what and how we are learning things – the information has to be accurate, and when we’re learning it must be interesting and engaging. This takes a lot of the resistance away, but I believe the most effective method I use to minimize resistance is carrying myself as someone who is competent enough to match my students at any level of intellectual stimulation or communication. This always wins over their respect.
I can see my students feel verified and understood when I try to discover why they are not doing something rather than just punishing them or making them wrong, which helps build meaningful connections. Meaningful connections are the easiest way to get students to work. If these students connect with us, they will move mountains on the basis of our recommendation.
A lot of students love to say “fuck it” but never ask themselves why they feel that way. Not only is this a powerful life skill that can help us understand ourselves, it can also remove barriers that prevent us from performing at our highest capacity. Noticing when we want to give up and analyzing why can take us through any challenge.
Sometime after college, I was exposed to the idea that…
Questions are extremely powerful.
In his book, Tribe of Mentors, Tim Ferriss says that the answers to anything and everything that we want is in other people’s heads and questions are our pickaxes. He attributes his 10x, 100x, and 1000x gains to his development of better questions.
I instantly fell in love with this idea. Not because I immediately recognized how useful that perspective is (although I wish I could say that), but because I was having trouble finding answers to the questions that were burning inside of me.
Why am I always getting the short end of the stick?
How come I’m not being rewarded for doing the right thing?
Is this all there is to life?
Will it ever get easier?
What’s the point of understanding complicated things if no one cares about them?
When will I have sacrificed enough?
How do I make more money?
Why do I keep making bad choices?
The frustration drove me deeper and deeper into nihilism, but this new piece of knowledge was bright enough to help me see the light.
It’s not that life was giving me harsh answers to my questions, it’s that I wasn’t asking the right questions at all. Then I realized…
Improve my questions, improve my life.
It’s not that knowing that asking better questions suddenly made my life better, but knowing that there is something I could do to give me a fighting chance was liberating and empowering.
I just needed to ask better questions.
Little did I know that the best was yet to come, and I was just beginning to understand the power of questions. There was another way to use questions powerfully.
This other idea was clearly articulated to me by Jordan Peterson, but I found it to be true in many other instances of my life.
When we’re asked questions, our minds almost immediately go to work on finding an answer.
This can be extremely uncomfortable if we’re asked the wrong (or right) questions. We can ignore the answers and act as if we don’t know them, but we will. The curse of knowledge is that we will never unknow something, so once we are asked the question we are also given the answer.
The cool part is that it doesn’t matter who asks the questions. We just need to be asked the question in order to start looking for an answer. This means that we can ask ourselves these questions or find someone to ask them to us.
At first, this idea seemed inconsequential but then I realized that I can discover honest and reasonable answers if I take a little bit of time to be asked what I really think I should do.
It can be something as small as “What do I want to eat for dinner?” or something as big as “What do I want my life to mean when everything is said and done?” Our minds will find us an answer if we let it.
This can be done in a way that is ineffective, but the key is to want to answer the question in a way that does not compromise ourselves. Try to be genuinely curious about the answers.
Suddenly, big questions don’t worry me as much and smaller questions are answered with myself in mind. My major life choices aren’t made carelessly or for other people. Learning and practicing this is so freeing.
Despite my question list being presented in no particular order, I do think it’s important to mention that good questions in the wrong order can get bad responses. Sometimes jumping right to the deep work questions can surface some superficial answers. If we take the time to warm people up with easier questions before jumping right into the difficult stuff, we’ll get answers that are more honest and well thought out.
My Question List
Here is a list of every question that I’ve found worthwhile to ask myself. I recommend spending at least 5 minutes thinking about each one (obviously in your own time, there are way too many of them to do it all at once). A lot of these questions aren’t necessarily designed to give me pragmatic answers, but to get me to think differently and break old ways of thinking.
I think everyone should keep a question list, if you decide to make one please share it with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to see what other people’s pickaxes look like.
Bolded questions are the ones that I would argue have most impacted my life.
“Often, all that stands between you and what you want is a better set of questions.”
Tim Ferriss (Tribe of Mentors)
In no particular order:
What do I want to change and how will I know when I have?
What would this look like if it were easy?
What am I avoiding just because I know the answer is painful?
How can I make my 10-year plans happen in 6 months?
How am I complicit in creating the conditions I say I don’t want?
What am I not saying that needs to be said?
What’s being said that I’m not hearing?
What are the actions I need to take today?
What am I unwilling to feel?
Whose expectations am I trying to fulfill? My own or those of someone else?
How much would I pay to relive this moment 40 years from now?
Who do I know that can help me with this?
Do I need this?
Is there an action that I can take now to make this better?
What is something that feels productive to me at the moment, but usually ends up wasting time and energy?
Am I doing this for Present Me or Future Me?
What do I enjoy refining?
What makes me different?
What is something that I know is stupid that I can stop doing today?
What are my 7 streams of passive income?
What skill am I working on?
If someone could only see my actions and not hear my words, what would they say are my priorities?
What is the biggest small thing I could do today?
Is there a way I can automate this?
What do I have to offer?
What am I good at?
What am I preventing myself from feeling?
What can I work on today that will continue working for me years from now?
What am I avoiding just because the desired outcome would take longer than I’d like?
What can I do now that I would be so happy I started doing 3 years from now?
Have I earned this?
Are my goals my own, or simply what I think I should want?
How much of my life had I missed from under planning? Overplanning?
How could I be kinder to myself?
How could I better say no to the noise to better say yes to the adventures I crave?
Assume that more than one path exists to achieve your ideal life. What would some of the alternative routes look like?
What would make today great?
What are the three amazing things that happened today?
How could I have made today even better?
What two things am I going to try to improve this month?
Which thoughts have I had over the past week that are worth remembering forever?
Will this new endeavor either supply me with long-lasting relationships or a new skill set? In other words, will I win even if I lose?
“No matter who you are, The Man does occasionally bend his ear to you even if his eyes are looking elsewhere, he does now and then condescend to listen to your demands and let you appear at his side. But you never think to listen to yourself, to bend your own ear to what you yourself have to say.”
Seneca (On the Shortness of Life)
In Personality and Trajectory (Part1), I brought up the idea of studying our personality in order to tailor our life trajectory. When we clearly understand what our personal preferences are, we could start to build an environment that compliments them. Since building something like a life trajectory is a massive undertaking, I recommend starting with a rough sketch of our preferences, so to speak, and refining it from there. In that post, I proposed using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) as a means of creating this rough sketch of our trajectory.
This post is mainly going to focus on The Big 5 Model, also known as the five-factor model (FFM) or the OCEAN model. It will provide descriptions of each dimension of personality according to the FFM, as well as what success would look like for people who score high or low in each particular dimension. I will also discuss how we can use The Big 5 Model to add on to and polish our pre-existing trajectory framework based on MBTI.
Before I really get into this, I recommend checking out Jordan Peterson’s Personality and its Transformations Lecture Series. It’s free on YouTube and it’s filled with everything you need to know about personality, how it transforms, and much much more. Jordan covers The Big 5 Personality Traits as well as other concepts related to psychology and philosophy.
The Big 5
This model of personality suggests that there are 5 main dimensions to human personality. Each dimension, or factor, was determined through a factor analysis applied to personality surveys. The factor analysis was applied to the surveys to discern commonalities between descriptive words that people would use to describe themselves. This means that these experiments were based on semantic associations and not quantitative empirical data, however, no model of personality is perfect and knowledge of The Big 5 is extremely valuable for developing an even deeper understanding of our personalities.
Some critics of The Big 5 claim that 5 dimensions are not complex enough to capture a human being. While it is true that The Big 5 Model probably does not accurately capture a human being in its entirety, 5 dimensions do carry sufficient complexity to describe human behavior. Newtonian physics occurs in 3 dimensions (4 tops) and that’s enough to invite serious complexity. Add 2 more dimensions and we get the complexity of a human…sounds about right to me. 5 dimensions are plenty complicated, especially when we dive into how people’s personalities fit into these groups.
Another thing to keep in mind is, similarly to MBTI, these personality traits can fluctuate over our lifetime and that is okay. Humans are constantly growing and changing and personality goes along for the ride.
Our own personality should be one of the biggest factors when we are considering which choices to make when building our lives. If we’re high in extraversion, then we probably won’t want a job that sits us in front of computer screens all day with little social interaction. If we’re lower in conscientiousness, we wouldn’t want to be in a position of high power and authority because people are going to need things from us all the time and that would drive us crazy.
Before I get too ahead of myself.
The 5 dimensions of personality are:
Percentage vs Percentile
FFM is measured by percentiles. This is not to be confused with the percentage. Let me give an example to make this clear. If someone were to score 90th percentile in extraversion, this would be mean out of 100 people they are more extraverted than 90 of them while being less extraverted than 9 of them. This does not mean that they are 90% extravert and 10% introvert, although that is a common interpretation.
All the traits are normally distributed, meaning most people are in the 50th percentile range while there are very few who score high or low.
Or to be more specific, openness to experience. This dimension explores how open-minded someone is. Openness can be broken up into six subcategories which are:
Aesthetic Sensitivity or Artistic Interests
Awareness of Inner Feelings or Emotionality
Preference for Variety or Adventurousness
Openness can be expressed through any of these six categories but does not have to be in all of them. For example, one who is high in openness may express it through their heightened preference for variety, but may not have a particular aesthetic sensitivity. However, that same person will most likely have a higher aesthetic sensitivity than one who is less open.
People who are high in openness tend to be more liberal, have more imaginative sexual fantasies, and experiment with drugs or participate in other risky activities. What is novel is exciting to the open person. Open people also need to be creative, if they aren’t they lose their vitality quickly.
Openness has also been found to be positively correlated with intelligence. Right now, it’s unclear whether intelligence may predispose the individual to openness or if openness predisposes intelligence but nonetheless they are correlated. (McCrae and Costa, 1987).
People who are low in openness tend to be more conservative, don’t like trying new things, and enjoy routines. Closed individuals are less flexible than their open counterparts and tend to be more analytical.
Individuals who score low in openness may do well at jobs that don’t require creativity and involve routines. Individuals who score high in openness may do well at jobs that require creativity and flexibility. Success to the open person can look like large blocks of time for creative work and exploration while success to the closed person can be predictable and orderly environments.
This is one of the biggest predictors of long-term life success. People who score high in conscientiousness tend to be responsible, organized, hard-working, intentional, goal-oriented, self-disciplined, and serious. These are the types of people who would spend all day chopping down trees to build a cabin if you left them alone in a forest with an ax. Conscientious people tend to be in leadership positions along with earning more and better work relationships. These folks also love to plan things.
Similar to openness, conscientiousness can be broken up into the following six subcategories:
Conscientiousness can be expressed through any of these categories, but not all. People high in conscientiousness tend to be great at self-regulation and impulse control. When taken to the extreme, conscientiousness is responsible for the “workaholics” and “perfectionists“. These types rarely miss bill payments, take notes, keep promises, and are punctual. They are less likely to engage in risky behavior. High scoring conscientious types also tend to keep to-do lists and attend to tasks with little delay.
People who are low in conscientiousness tend to be laid-back, less achievement-driven, and are more likely to commit anti-social or criminal behavior. Especially if they are paired with low agreeableness. Nonconscientious types are also more likely to oversleep, be late, or avoid tasks that demand action.
Success for conscientious people looks like the most conventional sense of the term. They would excel in high-powered positions with clearly defined rules. Their life would be full of routines and order. Clean environments where everything is in its place.
Success for nonconscientious types may look like surrounding themselves with automated actions and little external responsibility. They would probably excel in positions requiring creative work with a fair amount of flexibility, not the types of jobs that require someone to show up and act on a regular basis. They would prefer a little more chaos in their environments and would probably be bothered by too much order. Nonconscientious types would probably love having pets (as long as they are conscientious enough to take adequate care of them!).
This trait is the dimension of positive emotion and an indicator of how outgoing or social someone is. Highly extroverted types love to be around people, go to social gatherings, and work well in groups. They also tend to seek out the company of others, are enthusiastic, energetic, and action-oriented. These people are the life of the party and love being the center of attention.
The six subcategories which extraversion is expressed are as follows:
Unlike MBTI, there is no introversion dimension. In The Big 5 Model, introversion is just the absence of extraversion. Kind of like cold from the scientific perspective. There is no cold, just the absence of heat.
People who score low in the extraversion dimension are commonly referred to as introverts. Introverts have less enthusiasm and energy than extroverts, are less involved in social activities, and tend to be quiet and keep to themselves.
Matching a job to our level of extraversion is crucial in building a satisfying life trajectory for ourselves. Higher scoring extraverts may want to go into jobs that need a high level of interaction like teaching, sales, nursing, PR, or other service jobs. Introverts may want to find jobs that allow them to work independently or don’t require much social interaction. Excellent jobs for that could be authors, librarians, engineers, music or video editors, or computer scientists.
Success to an extrovert would require them to nurture their relationships carefully so they can have people there to celebrate their big wins with them. Success to an introvert would require them to create plenty of opportunities for space for recharging in between their other activities.
We can’t talk about this dimension without talking about Ambiverts. These types are equal parts of extroverted and introverted. They don’t have preferences for working in groups or alone. They are not uncomfortable in social settings, but being around people can tire them out. They love being the center of attention, but only for a short time. Some people think they’re quiet, while others think they are social. They lose themselves in conversation just as easily as they can lose themselves in their own thoughts. Ambiverts tend to do extremely well in both personal and professional settings.
This is the social harmony and cooperation dimension. High scorers of agreeableness tend to be friendly, self-sacrificing, warm, polite, helpful, considerate, and generous. They usually take the Lockean approach to human nature and believe that people are fundamentally good. Agreeable people see others as decent, honest, and trustworthy much like themselves. Agreeable people are more than willing to put aside their own interests for the good of other people or social harmony. In unhealthy doses, agreeable people could end up as pushovers.
Agreeableness can be expressed in these six subcategories:
People who are low in agreeableness are known as disagreeable and tend to put their own needs above those of others. They are also more distant, less friendly, and less cooperative than their agreeable counterparts. Highly disagreeable people tend to gravitate towards anti-social or criminal behavior.
Success to an agreeable person will have a lot of social cohesion. They would love to be surrounded by people who like them and are great at building teams and maintaining relationships. Some great careers for agreeable types include nurses, counselors, teachers, or HR specialists.
Success to a disagreeable person will have a lot to do with how they feel about their own desires. Since social harmony is not a big goal of disagreeable folks, their own interests will take that place. So a successful disagreeable person would be more satisfied with getting what they want at the cost of social cooperation than being tactful and considerate of others’ needs. Some great careers for disagreeable people include scientists, critics, or soldiers.
This dimension determines our susceptibility to negative emotion. Negative emotion being anxiety, fear, anger, frustration, envy, jealousy, depression, worry, or loneliness, not negativity. Highly neurotic individuals tend to respond worse to stressors and interpret them as more severe than they are. People who score highly in neuroticism have a harder time remaining emotionally stable and balanced. People who are high in neuroticism feel negative emotion faster and more intensely than less neurotic types. They are emotionally reactive and tend to give emotional responses to situations that normally wouldn’t affect many people. Highly neurotic types tend to be self-conscious, shy, and have trouble controlling urges or delaying gratification.
The six sub traits of neuroticism are as follows:
Individuals who score low in neuroticism are known as emotionally stable. People with lower levels of neuroticism are desired in most professions because they tend to get less distracted by work, their personal lives, or other stressors.
High levels of neuroticism are associated with a higher risk of mental illness and less favorable results on measures of health and relationships. However, neuroticism provides a higher sensitivity to potential threats which is a useful survival mechanism. People with high levels of neuroticism also learn faster than their emotionally stable counterparts. I talk a fair bit about the utility in experiencing negative emotion in my post The Relationship with Ourselves (Part 2). We learn faster when we experience negative emotion and since neurotic types are more sensitive to negative emotion, they experience this sooner.
The knowledge of our own sensitivity to negative emotion is critical when examining the potential realities in front of us. Fairly neurotic types may want to consider that they don’t work well under pressure and plan ahead so their work can be done at a leisurely pace. Emotionally stable types may not have to exercise that type of consideration, but may keep in mind they would be fantastic for high-pressure careers like firefighting or surgery.
Methods of Identifying Personality
All of this knowledge is great, but how do we determine exactly where we land on each dimension?
There are multiple methods with some being more accurate and precise.
The easiest is taking a test while in a neutral psychophysiological state. There are tons of resources online. I recommend understandmyself.com. Make sure you are as neutral as possible. Don’t take the test upset, tired, or hungry. On the flip side, also don’t take it if you are happy, excited, or anxious! This knowledge is crucial to take into account when we plan our futures including study schedules, career goals, relationship choices, and other life plans.
Be sure to keep in mind that personality, especially since there are no flawless models, is just a starting point when it comes to designing a life trajectory. Paying attention to our inclinations is a promising way to know what kind of life fits us best. Knowing ourselves takes time because we have multiple levels all working together like an orchestral symphony. Personality is a great starting point for building a foundation for the knowledge and cultivation of our inclinations. People like Steve Jobs or Robert Greene achieved the levels of success they had because they took the time to get to know themselves and cultivated their personal interests.
Knowing ourselves intimately gives us access to deep satisfaction that we couldn’t get anywhere else. I was lucky enough to have parents support my inclination in music at a young age. I got to explore my love for music and the deeper I got, the more I fell in love with it.
Fast forward to post-college where I am forced to deal with the realities of life and decide what my life will mean, I learn that I’m high in trait openness. From my own analysis and reflection, I discovered that long periods of time where I can be creative will satisfy my openness appetite. Combining the knowledge of these two ideas, I spend years slowly molding my schedule into one that provides me ample time to be creative. Today, I can say with 100% certainty that it gives me inner peace and a pure sense of satisfaction to have connected with something deep within me. Getting to know ourselves is truly the best way to spend our time. It enriches every aspect of our existence.
Another method of identifying personality is writing an autobiography. Now, this doesn’t have to be some thick book. It could be short with just a few paragraphs. There are no rules for writing the autobiography other than you have to write it yourself. The real meaning lies in what we write and not how much we write. This method is less quantitative than the online exams but could offer deeper insights.
Articulating the past is helpful because we can clearly see how we understand the past. We can stand back, look at the picture as an outsider, and make sound judgments about what we think, or feel, or know.
Writing an entire biography is difficult, so to make it a little more manageable, just start by breaking our life story up into 5 epochs. The way in which we divide up our lives gives us a hint into what we value. For example, when I last did this exercise I noticed that my epochs were based on what my main occupation was at the time. This particular division suggests my proclivity towards high conscientiousness. The time before last, I split my life up by which people I spent the most time around, which can suggest my agreeable tendencies.
Write your story and see how you know yourself. It can be very interesting to examine our lives through our own eyes.
The world of personality research has given us a wealth of knowledge that we can use to better understand ourselves and others. Relationships regarding personality are not blanket statements about any specific group of people. There will be exceptions in every case. For example, women tend to be more agreeable than men but that does not mean there are no agreeable men or disagreeable women.
One personality relationship worth paying attention to is between gender differences. Across cultures, women tend to report higher levels of neuroticism, conscientiousness, agreeableness, friendliness (extraversion subset), and emotionality (openness subset). Men, on the other hand, typically report higher levels of assertiveness (extraversion subset), and adventurousness (openness subset). There is much overlap between men and women except for the difference in neuroticism, which is the biggest and most prominent difference in these self-reported studies.
Each of these traits has been believed to have evolved out of survival. However, success in the modern world and survival in the wild require different abilities and skills. Agreeableness, for example, is great for caring for infants. That’s why we choose to take care of them if they’re crying at 3 in the morning rather than throw them out the window. However, agreeableness isn’t so great for moving up the corporate ladder. Sure we need some agreeableness to cooperate with everyone, but we need to be disagreeable enough to fight for opportunities and look out for our own interests. All of these traits are useful for survival, but not in the modern world. Some of them can do more harm than good, I talk a little bit about that in my post The Relationship with Ourselves (Part 2).
There are also trends with personality and birth order. Frank Sulloway, an American psychologist best known for his work on birth order personality research, argues that firstborns are higher in conscientiousness and lower in openness than their later-born siblings. He also argues that firstborns are more socially dominant. There have been other studies conducted that have fallen in line with Sulloway’s claims, but with a small correlation.
There are some correlations between personality and substance abuse as well. The personality profile of a typical heroin user would be low in neuroticism, high in openness, low in agreeableness, and low in conscientiousness. The personality profile of a typical ecstasy user would be high in extraversion, high in openness, low in agreeableness, and low in conscientiousness.
There are also connections between personality and health. Research has found that being high in conscientiousness can add 5 years to your life and being high in neuroticism is related to less favorable health outcomes. People who report high levels of conscientiousness, extraversion, and openness tend to have lower risks of mortality as well. It seems like it pays off to try to be conscientious, extroverted, and open.
Here are some connections between academic achievement and personality. Conscientiousness is predictive of GPA and exam performance. Students who report higher levels of conscientiousness and agreeableness tend to have higher GPAs and exam scores. Those who report higher levels of neuroticism tend to have less desirable academic outcomes.
Personality can also be a predictor of job performance. This is partly why I suggest using personality to help shape our life trajectory. We are more likely to enjoy jobs that we would excel in. People who excel in leadership positions are perceived to have low levels of neuroticism and high levels of openness while maintaining balanced levels of conscientiousness and extraversion. Studies have found that employees are less likely to view their supervisor’s actions as abusive if they consider their supervisor to be high in conscientiousness.
Professional burnout is highly correlated with high levels of neuroticism. People who report higher levels of agreeableness tend to make less money than their disagreeable counterparts.
Conscientiousness is the biggest predictor of overall job performance, the higher the conscientiousness the better their performance. Extraversion is the 2nd biggest predictor of overall job performance, the higher the extraversion the better their performance. Agreeableness and Neuroticism are tied for 3rd, lower levels of each being tied to higher performance.
Research on how the individual traits affected individuals and organizations at work found that individuals (or organizations of individuals) who are higher in openness are more proactive with tasks but less organized and proficient. Both of these effects are mutually exclusive. Those who are more agreeable tend to be less proactive with tasks. Those who are higher in extraversion are, on average, less proficient at tasks. Those who are high in conscientiousness tend to relate positively in all forms of work performance. Highly neurotic types tend to relate negatively to all forms of work performance.
In romantic relationships, personality could predict satisfaction and relationship quality during the various stages of a romantic relationship.
Dating couples’ studies suggest that people will have higher relationship satisfaction and quality if they see their partner with lower levels of neuroticism and higher levels of conscientiousness as well as see themselves with higher levels of conscientiousness.
Engaged couples’ studies suggest that relationship satisfaction and quality are higher among those who report their partner as high in openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness and lower in neuroticism. Satisfaction and quality are also higher for those who report themselves as higher in extraversion and agreeableness. Neuroticism predicts worse relationship satisfaction and quality for both self-reported and partner-reported studies.
Married couples, on the other hand, demonstrate higher levels of relationship satisfaction and quality when self-reporting higher levels of neuroticism, extraversion, and agreeableness as well as partner-reported agreeableness.
Personality can also show up with people’s political identification, but not with all 5 traits. People who are higher in conscientiousness tend to be more conservative, while people who are higher in openness tend to be more liberal. The other three traits have not been found to be linked to preferred political ideology.
Personalities are subject to change as our lives move and one of the traits the changes the most with age is neuroticism. Research has found that neuroticism tends to decrease with age and after major life events.
Similar to MBTI, The Big 5 has a few critiques as well. While The Big 5 is more based on empirical evidence, it is still limited in its predictive power and does not accurately encompass all of the human personality. However, it’s one of the best models we have and that doesn’t mean that we can’t use it to our advantage.
Since there is more research related to the Big 5, we can use what rings true from The Big 5, MBTI, our personal experiences, and other sources to clearly articulate our preferences. We can use everything we know about personality to create a more refined way of determining our life trajectory. Keep in mind which traits you have and how they will change and use that knowledge to inform your choices when you choose what you do for work, who you marry, where you live, and why you do what you do.
While it’s great to tailor our life trajectory to our personalities, that does not mean we should avoid exposing ourselves to the opposites of our preferences. Wisdom is always on the other side of what we are.
“Become who you are. Become all that you are. There is still more of you – more to be discovered, forgiven, and loved.”
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
Carl Jung (1875 – 1961)
Personality has always been an interesting subject for me. I’ve always been interested in what makes people tick and what separates an individual from the rest of the crowd. Personality is one of the many factors which determine individuality. Personality can be thought of as a collection of qualities that make up our overall character. Over the years, there has been much debate over what those qualities are and how they present in human behavior. Today, multiple theories have been widely accepted by the public and are used in business practices.
Learning personality is a fantastic way to connect with and understand more people than we otherwise would, but I don’t just stop there, I like to use it to help determine a complimentary life trajectory. Learning about our own personality gives us an insight into what kind of life we would actually enjoy.
It’s too easy to get caught up building our life for other people or chasing romanticised ideals. This is how people get stuck with jobs and relationships that they hate. People think they want these things because someone else told them it was worth having or because they saw it in the media. I see this with my students all the time, they stress out over which career pays the most, is the most “secure,” or looks the most glamourous. I see students intentionally repress themselves in order to fit into a mold that they will never truly accept.
The trick to avoiding this pitfall is learning about what makes up our personalities and tailoring our trajectories to fulfill ourselves. If we know what we would like to do, then we can pick a role within society that can satisfy that. Sounds simple enough, but people don’t really act this way. We live in a complex society and there are roles that need to be filled by people of certain temperament. It’s better to fill these roles with people who naturally fit into them, rather than waste resources trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
Our personality is something to take into account when we are designing the trajectory of our lives. It’s something we need to grapple with. It’s much easier to put ourselves in an environment which compliments our strengths, than to reject or ignore part of ourselves which cannot easily changed.
In this post, I’m going to talk about a popular theory of personality. It’s slightly outdated and not entirely scientifically inaccurate but it is widely accepted and used in many institutions, so it’s useful to “be in the know” with this information. Plus it’s fun party talk.
Myers-Briggs Personality Types
Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator or (MBTI) is a method of categorizing people through a questionnaire which outlines the differences in how they perceive the world and make decisions. It was created by American mother-daughter duo, Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers. MBTI is widely accepted throughout the business world as well as socially, especially in the United States.
Contrary to popular belief, MBTI does has significant scientific deficiencies, poor reliability, and is not entirely comprehensive of human personality. However, MBTI is useful to know because it gives us a common language with people who do accept it. MBTI is popular in the corporate world, because it does an excellent job in categorizing people without hurting anyone’s feelings. This theory of personality has a way of making everyone seem like they have no downfalls and can always contribute, which is powerful in business environments. Businesses tend to do better when the people who run it feel better. Empirical personality data isn’t as relevant to performance as we would expect. MBTI is also fantastic at providing a basic structure for understanding personality, but it’s crucial to know that it does not supply us with the whole picture.
MBTI is based on the assumption that people have specific preferences for interpreting experiences and pursuing our desires. It also draws from Carl Jung’s typology theories which suggest people have four modes of cognitive functions (Thinking, Feeling, Sensation, and Intuition) as well as one of two polar orientations (Extraversion or Introversion). Even though Jung’s theory of psychological types was not based on empirical scientific studies, they were based on clinical observation, introspection, and anecdotes. Since the conclusions did not originate from controlled scientific studies, they are not accepted by the scientific community. However, Carl Jung was an amazing thinker and I do believe he was one of the few operating with precision at the edge of our collective understanding. His conclusions, from his observations or otherwise, were always made with the intention of bringing man closer to truth that we all can accept.
MBTI sorts out personality in 4 major continuums. Each person leans more towards one pole of each pair similar to right-handedness or left-handedness. When a person determines which side of each continuum they express, they are assigned a type. There are a total of 16 different types, 1 for each combination of the letters.
Let me give an example using my own letters. I’m more introverted than extroverted. I’m more intuitive than sensory. I’m more of a thinker than a feeler. Usually I’m more perceiver than judger, but recently I have been more judger than perceiver. This gives me the letters INTJ. (Some days I’m an INTP) The letters come from the capitalized letter in each word: Introverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, Judger.
Extroversion vs. Introversion
MBTI and Jung use introversion and extroversion in similar ways. Introversion meaning inward-turning and extroversion meaning outward-turning. These both are often referred to as attitudes that one uses to function in the external world.
Simply put, extroverts are recharged by people while introverts are recharged by alone time. Each type is usually drained by the opposite activity, extroverts are drained by alone time and introverts are drained by social interaction. However, there are other notable differences between them.
Extroverts direct their energy towards people and objects while introverts direct theirs towards concepts and ideas. We can always find out which attitude people take by paying attention to the topics of their conversation or asking them what their ideal weekend would look like. If someone is frequently talking about people and things they’re most likely extroverted. If someone is frequently talking about concepts and ideas they’re most likely introverted. An extrovert’s ideal weekend is probably spent going out and seeing a bunch of people, celebrating at the club, or another type of high energy ordeal. An introvert’s ideal weekend would probably be spent inside with a good book or TV show along with ample time for reflection.
This is not to say that extroverts can never be alone, or that introverts hate being with people. Everyone needs some amount of social interaction and alone time. Our attitudes merely reflect our preferences and how we choose to interact with the world around us. Neither attitude is more advantageous or otherwise, they are simply two sides of the same coin.
The following statements will apply to you if you are more extroverted:
I am seen as “outgoing” or as a “people person.”
I feel comfortable in groups and like working in them.
I have a wide range of friends and know lots of people.
I sometimes jump too quickly into an activity and don’t allow enough time to think it over.
Before I start a project, I sometimes forget to stop and get clear on what I want to do and why.
The following statements will apply to you if you are more introverted:
I am seen as “reflective” or “reserved.”
I feel comfortable being alone and like things I can do on my own.
I prefer to know just a few people well.
I sometimes spend too much time reflecting and don’t move into action quickly enough.
I sometimes forget to check with the outside world to see if my ideas really fit the experience.
Sensing vs. Intuition
This dichotomy is based on how we psychologically perceive the external world. These are both functions of gathering information. Sensing individuals tend to trust information that is tangible, concrete, and understood by the five senses. They’re less likely to trust “gut feelings” or other “hunches” that come out of nowhere. For them, meaning lies in the data, what is in front of them.
Individuals driven by intuition tend to trust information that is remembered or discovered through analyzing patterns. Since they trust information that doesn’t have to fit within the five senses, they tend to be more excited by what the future has in store. For them, meaning is not in the data but the principles and theories which underlie the data.
The following statements will apply to you if you perceive through sensing:
I remember events as snapshots of what actually happened.
I solve problems by working through facts until I understand the problem.
I am pragmatic and look to the “bottom line.”
I start with facts and then form a big picture.
I trust experience first and trust words and symbols less.
Sometimes I pay so much attention to facts, either present or past, that I miss new possibilities.
The following statements will apply to you if you perceive through intuition:
I remember events by what I read “between the lines” about their meaning.
I solve problems by leaping between different ideas and possibilities.
I am interested in doing things that are new and different.
I like to see the big picture, then to find out the facts.
I trust impressions, symbols, and metaphors more than what I actually experienced.
Sometimes I think so much about new possibilities that I never look at how to make them a reality.
Thinking vs. Feeling
Thinking and feeling are based on how we prefer to make choices in the external world. Both thinkers and feelers make rational choices based on certain kinds of information which were gathered from their senses or intuition. Thinkers tend to make their decisions based on objective measures while aiming to be reasonable, logical, or causal. They are usually personally detached from their decisions and try to match their choices to a given set of rules. Thinkers also tend to have low tolerance for those who are inconsistent or illogical. Thinkers give direct (and sometimes harsh) feedback and view the truth as more important than feelings.
This is not to say that thinkers never make emotional decisions, MBTI simply lets us know one’s preference in decisions making and is not a predictor of behavior. They also don’t “think better” than their feeling counterparts. MBTI doesn’t measure cognitive ability, just preferences.
Feelings types tend to make their choices based on empathy, balance, harmony, and with consideration for others’ needs. Feeling types try to see what works best for everyone involved and are willing to sacrifice logic and truth for the good of the majority.
Thinking types will have a hard time leading a healthy and productive life if they make their choices based on their feelings, while feeling types will have a harder time leading a healthy and productive life if they make their choices based on their logical reasoning. Both types tend to lack the opposite senses necessary to make good choices. Similar to our attitudes toward the external world (extraversion vs. introversion), one isn’t better than the other, they are both different sides to the same coin.
The following statements will apply to you if you decide through thinking:
I enjoy technical and scientific fields where logic is important.
I notice inconsistencies.
I look for logical explanations or solutions to most everything.
I make decisions with my head and want to be fair.
I believe telling the truth is more important than being tactful.
Sometimes I miss or don’t value the “people” part of a situation.
I can be seen as too task-oriented, uncaring, or indifferent.
The following statements will apply to you if you decide through feeling:
I have a people or communications orientation.
I am concerned with harmony and nervous when it is missing.
I look for what is important to others and express concern for others.
I make decisions with my heart and want to be compassionate.
I believe being tactful is more important than telling the “cold” truth.
Sometimes I miss seeing or communicating the “hard truth” of situations.
I am sometimes experienced by others as too idealistic, mushy, or indirect.
Judging vs. Perceiving
This dichotomy is based on how we relate to our perceptions of the external world. This continuum is heavily influenced by our sensing and/or intuitive natures, because we are either judging or perceiving the information obtained through those perceptions.
Judging types take in information with the intention of using it later and, in the words of Myers, like to “have matters settled.” They usually have a plan in mind and are only interested in information if it’s related to their goal in some way. They tend to be more comfortable once decisions have been made and the environment around them is under control.
Perceiving types take in information for the sake of learning. They love knowing things just to know them. Perceiving types learn about and adapt to the world around them rather than structure it themselves.
The following statements will apply to you if you perceive your information by through judging:
I like to have things decided.
I appear to be task oriented.
I like to make lists of things to do.
I like to get my work done before playing.
I plan work to avoid rushing just before a deadline.
Sometimes I focus so much on the goal that I miss new information.
The following statements will apply to you if you perceive your information by through perceiving:
I like to stay open to respond to whatever happens.
I appear to be loose and casual. I like to keep plans to a minimum.
I like to approach work as play or mix work and play.
I work in bursts of energy.
I am stimulated by an approaching deadline.
Sometimes I stay open to new information so long I miss making decisions when they are needed.
For more information on each of the MBTI traits, I suggest going to myersbriggs.org. It’s the place to go for more thorough explanations of everything MBTI and where I got most of this information, like the relevant statements for each type.
Like I said earlier, personality changes throughout our lives and these letters are just letting us know our proclivities, not defining who we are as people. However, knowing my MBTI can give me an insight into what kind of life trajectory I would be the most satisfied with with the least friction.
According to my MBTI, I would most enjoy a trajectory which: provides me with ample alone time (I). opportunities to discover new information (N). puts me in environments where the culture values reason, logic, and causality (T). gives me the opportunity to make decisions on my own time at my own pace (J).
Through understanding our personality, we can create paths for ourselves which compliment our proclivities. For example, if I were extroverted, I would probably best enjoy myself in an environment surrounded by others.
While MBTI can give us delightful insight into what life trajectories would best compliment our nature, there are some criticisms that are important to consider:
These types are generalizations which do not accurately describe an individual.
There are people who do not fit nicely into these 16 groups.
MBTI suggests that there are no negative personality traits.
MBTI is widely accepted in the workplace, even though there is no evidence that supports MBTI is predictive of performance.
There are others, but these are the ones I’ve encountered to be the most substantial. All these criticisms bring up the question:
Why still use MBTI?
It can give us a rough idea of what kind of life trajectory we would fit well with and as I’ve talked about in my other posts, we do things badly before we can do them well. If we want to design a beautiful life trajectory, we need a rough starting point. MBTI is great for that. Plus it’s fun party conversation if you ever run into an MBTI nerd. Additionally, since MBTI is commonly accepted in the workplace, it’s useful to be in the know when people try to use it’s coded language.
Find your letters and start discovering which paths most align with you.
In the modern world we have choices, why not choose what fits us?