Marc's INTJ Blog

Resilient Planning: Goal Accomplishment as a Race in Stages

Tuesday October 15, 2019

I remember back when I used to write out plans based on projected goals. And I also remember the way those plans would often wither in the presence of experiential effect. For example:

  • Me in 2000: “OK, freelancing is working well so far and I just barely started! Let’s say I up my rate to $20 an hour. If I work 40 hours a week, I can easily cover everything I need to turn this into a career. If I can eventually work that rate up to $60, I will be able to live a very nice life indeed!” (Things did not go that way, and I ended up taking on full-time work. There are several obvious issues in the plan, if you have done much freelancing or business ownership…)
  • Me in 2015: “OK, I’ve lost 50 pounds at the current rate. This means that (types numbers in) I should hit 100 pounds lost in early 2016. Exciting.” (Nope! Conveniently, at this point, the same tools stopped working. I had to completely change my tool set in order to lose the next 50 pounds.)
  • Me in 2017: “OK, I really love the idea of getting better at chess. I’ll drop by the city’s weekend chess club meet and play two games all the way to the end.” (This was an interest which shortly thereafter fizzled out).

The Need for an Adjusted Approach to Planning and Goal-Setting

These initial plans were just fine as little goal-seeds. As deep and resonant as they felt at the time, they were fairly temporary snapshots of my experiential-emotional outlook at the time the plan was written. But I’ve learned since then that a plan has to be kept alive. It needs to benefit from:

  • Further hands-on experience
  • Additional subjective knowledge capture from that experience
  • Measurement and other objective knowledge capture (like research)
  • Any other refinements, questions, value changes, and experiments in general

I still love to plan in terms of design & outcomes first. I don’t think that will ever change. However, without flexibility built-in from the start, such energetic goal-setting can easily set up a mental health disaster (or other disaster), in which a big and important goal-achievement process is completely incapacitated. We are lucky if we are left unscathed.

Think about some possible ingredients for such a disaster:

  • The plan was over-protected—I felt my inner vision so strongly at the beginning that I was driven to protect my vision from outside change.
  • The plan met with unexpected resistance, and I was unable to respond in the same way I could before.
  • The plan did not work very well in actual experience.
  • The plan was left behind, without further thought.

There’s also this weird need we have. Within the typical INTJ there’s this need to be able to say, “I saw this coming,” and that can result in a very discordant feeling when things go wrong. We’re lucky if we’re able to give it a voice and think about it consciously, without directly repressing the idea that we did not see a thing coming.

This feeling can, unfortunately, cause us to ignore a poorly-performing plan or put it away without addressing needed changes.

Some Adjustments Here and There: The Race in Stages

A typical goal-setting paradigm grants us at best one stage of “Goal Adjustment” to consider. And that’s important. But I’d like to suggest another way to look at it: Stage-labeling. As in, “what would I call this stage? How would I label it?”

I believe this Stage-labeling is by itself an important, recurring task during the process of goal achievement.

In a physical race, stages are typically labeled by their sensory characteristics. “Mountain stage,” or “cycling stage,” or “breakout stage.” And I think we can do even better than that. First, we need this ability to discuss something as we see it:

The ability to say, “right now I’m in this place where the original goal just doesn’t seem as interesting to me as it once did, but I’d like to hold myself accountable to some kind of change in that direction.”

The ability to say, “I seem to be in a stage with this goal where I am encountering very difficult outside feedback.”

The ability to say, “I think I’ve reached this goal, even though the parameters have changed somewhat compared to the original goal.”

Second, we need the ability to organize these thoughts, folding in other factors: Our intuition, for example, or some sensory characteristic. For example:

The label, “My Star Trek Stage,” because this stage of my goal involves a lot of exploration of the unknown.

The label, “The Jim Halpert Days,” because this stage of the goal was continually derailed by office antics.

And let me be clear: While we might re-label those stages later, I think it’s a good idea to start labeling as soon as possible, as a way of organizing our executive processes toward resolution and forward momentum. Giving you mini-shots of dopamine as you accomplish these mini-stages.

Speaking Personally: What I’m Doing

My goal-setting paradigm is more like a race in stages, and I have seen immediate benefits from this change in paradigm. For one, I’m used to the idea of suffering and breakthroughs being not completely under my control. Circumstances matter, but they can also be analyzed and planned around.

I am more likely to set milestones, things like calendar reminders to check in. I’m more likely to think and write and talk about my goals, even griping or complaining as much as I need to. The idea being that if anything changes (circumstances, interests, or whatever), I am better prepared to modify the design to fit and be thoughtful in reference to the original design, rather than resetting.

Also, I’m looking for labels. Getting my feelings out, and developing those feelings into concrete, informational thoughts.

Being accountable to such analysis in the aggregate view also helps to build up a principles-based design over time, something qualitatively deep, which is more likely to last out the long term. In other words, I’m getting to know myself and my principles better, by adopting these practices.


If you’re working on goals, or avoiding thinking about goals that have kind of fallen by the wayside, I encourage you to pick them up, examine them, and give them labels. Which stage are/were they in? Could those stages be analyzed and completed through some kind of analytical change, something more adaptive to the nature of the stage?

As you can see by the length of this post, it’s a much more qualitative journey than most are used to. But in the end, that’s what all of us want, in this hyper-socialized, hyper-breadth-oriented world. We seek at least some of the opposite! A highly-personal, deep, and high-quality outcome.

Given the right time and attention, it’s well within reach.

Filed in: /8/ | /50/ | /33/ | /23/

Daily Journaling Template Updated, 2019-10

Friday October 11, 2019

I just published some updates to my daily journaling template: Daily Journaling Template, Markdown Format, October 2019

The updates include:

  • Rearrangement of the Schedule, To-Do, and Other sections to be close to one another for added efficiency
  • Added Optional Activities footnote, as a reminder of other ways of attending to one’s situation
  • Simple tip on using the To-Do section (include want-to items; start anywhere)
  • Added additional spacing under Other, to free things up a bit

This template now takes a pretty good stab at covering all of the Jungian cognitive functions. That was not my goal to start with, but I’m not surprised that it ended up this way. As a result, I think it can help provide additional balance that may be lacking in a daily routine.

As always:

I continue to use this template myself, and find that it has become one of my most useful tools for near-instant stress relief. Over time, this habit also tends to build a pool of documentation which can be used for knowledge capture.

Filed in: /50/ | /33/ | /47/ | /14/ | /9/ | /11/ | /39/ | /13/ | /23/

How to Hold Others to a Moral Standard Without Concluding that the World is Hopeless

Friday September 20, 2019

One thing a lot of people don’t understand about INTJs is that we are, in our own way, an idealistic, positive-thinking group of people. Sensing that our ideals have been shattered hurts us just as much as, if not more than, it hurts others. INTJs want to do their best to contribute to the world in a manner that leaves everyone around them feeling happy and peaceful.

With all that said, why do we (as a type! Individuals will vary) catch so much flak for being insensitive, or coming off so low and uninspired in terms of mood, or getting over-emotional to the point of destroying our chances at working with others, slamming doors, and burning bridges?

One big problem is, giving attention to this sort of idealism involves Feeling, which is not a truly native habitat for the INTJ.

Feelings Suck, Feelings Rock, and Also A Million Other Things

Getting used to Feeling involves attending to energy levels that can fluctuate, energy levels that can rise and subside in waves of varying frequencies and amplitudes. For example, pay attention to the way you react when you read about Feelings. What fears arise? Are they perhaps a little bit hyperbolic, pushing you to feel one way or another? “Beautiful, I LOVE feeling,” or the opposite, “NOTHING GOOD WILL GET DONE BASED ON FEELING ALONE?” If so, this kind of observed experience can be a helpful sign that more direct experience with an object is needed.

Paying attention to Feelings can certainly come with risks. Attention to Feeling may involve direct access to levels of disclosure that can seem toxic in some ways and incredibly healing in others. For those who have not practiced the arts of Feeling, for those who have simply been affected by feeling, the risks of giving inexperienced, even annoyed or intolerant levels of attention to Feeling-based perspectives can compound over time. Ironically, the result is often an outburst of poorly-controlled Feeling!

And this danger—this effective and immediate access to Feeling-based perspectives which we may not yet have developed in a nuanced manner—is exactly what can also bring about that dark feeling of shattered idealism. INTJs in this position are prone to deploy relatively shallow (yet highly judgmental), morality-based thinking, when caught up in situations that cause us stress. We can become highly-judgmental, black-and-white moralizers who drop our judgments as if thunderbolts from on high, without a hint of warning.

So I’d like to propose some simple steps that can help INTJs developed more nuanced, educated, and broadly satisfying access to the topic of morality, ethics, and moral standards.

Here are the steps:

  1. Write down your moral standard. (This alone is surprisingly uncommon among people with high moral standards)
    1. What does it mean to be good?
    2. What is evil?
    3. Given [very specific current moral/ethical issue], where do you place yourself? Are you open to gaining a more nuanced point of view?
    4. What would make the world a better place, right now? How can you start?
    5. How can other people work toward that, without being held back by evil / bad intentions?
    6. Who do you feel are some good “living examples” of your moral standard? How would you identify relevant traits in others?
    7. …and any other thoughts that come to mind.
  2. This should be your thinking. That’s right, you may need to start at square one. If you want to consult others’ thinking and try to get a leg up in that way, I’ll just warn you—you are doing something that can still leave you exposed to critical flaws in your own moral foundation.
  3. With that moral standard established, even as a “beta” version: Live your standard, apply it to others, and stay open to adjustments.
  4. Revisit your written standard, and update it over time.
  5. Compare it against existing standards. Does this prompt you to further develop and test your ideas? Or perhaps try out someone else’s?
  6. Periodically ask others for input.

I’ve added the last two steps at the end for two reasons: 1) This really needs to be YOUR thing first and foremost, so these last two fall at the end because of priority ordering, but 2) at the same time, ideas of this sort need some amount of objective social exposure in order to mature and grow. Over-protecting one’s moral code from outside feedback is a fantastic way of defeating the purpose of having a moral code.

This experiment may seem far too fundamental and simple to you. It may seem uncomfortable and easy to avoid. Well, that’s about right—as I hinted at above, this is a growth exercise, not a remain-the-same-as-always exercise. INTJs are not Feelers in our native habitat; we are broadly referential Thinkers. But his carries a high risk! It is worth the time spent on development of even a simple moral standard idea.

Over time with this kind of experience, I believe you’ll become more comfortable with the concept of humanity, and thus more acceptable to those with whom you’ll have to work in order to improve or elevate humanity.

By knowing “us” as a human species inside and out, not just the “good” and the “bad” but by building a nuanced view of the entire N-dimensionality of who we are in our character, you’ll rarely struggle for long before finding the right tool to attack the job at hand. Which, in turn, should provide you with enough restored idealism to operate from a place of that big-picture confidence that we all desire. Good luck.

Filed in: /33/ | /9/ | /13/ | /5/ | /11/ | /39/ | /27/

Credentials and INTJs: An Uncomfortable Combination

Thursday September 19, 2019

Credentials can be a really awkward area for INTJs.

In one sense, it can totally bug us that the “piece of paper” may be socially necessary in order to feel valued and validated. The Fe blind spot.

In another sense, we want to celebrate the potential of even the lowliest individual: The Fi-aspirational bias. (And that lowly individual happens to be us? Well, it happens that we are pretty damn good! etc. Fi is endlessly kind to us, yet it’s also, awkwardly, us loving ourselves…)

And yet, we understand that credentials are a thing. It’s just how society works. You wanna argue my point? THEN WHO ARE YOU? We perceive the question; we may see it coming before the argument starts. The ultimate Se-attentive argument question.

So we get to this point where we feel the need to put up, or shut up.

This creates some amusing situations. Here’s what I’ve observed in other INTJs who were having argumentative moments, and—might as well admit it—even in myself, on your model M1-A1 really bad day:

When we think we are right:

  • We definitely don’t think we “need” any credentials in order to argue our point. We will even come out and say this directly, which can kind of shock other people.
  • We think people who do have credentials and expert experience who disagree with us are possibly just bumbling idiots, or possibly they missed the latest study on this or that, or possibly they are part of a conspiratorial cabal. There may be literally seconds between reaching that first conclusion and reaching the third one. (This can be especially true if our subjective intuition function is truly and awkwardly mixed with a lack of experience or perspective that we don’t want to admit…)

When we sense a need to be seen as even more right:

  • We spend time researching the “optimal” credential: Time, cost, social effect, broad applicability, title. From “hey, what do you got for ten bucks that makes people want to listen to me?” to “I made a spreadsheet, and I will go into reasonable debt for 20 years in order to earn a basic level of professional respect for the rest of my life.”
  • For the time being, we bring up our experiential credentials, even if we don’t have formal credentials: “I worked for 10 years as a construction foreman, and this qualifies me to tell you…” But really—it doesn’t necessarily qualify a thing. We have such a big performance shadow ESFP that we can usually come up with something, and let’s pray that no one looks into it, in extreme cases where we overextend ourselves rhetorically. The critic knows what a critic can dig up.

When we think someone else is right:

  • If they lack credentials, we find it easy to excuse their lack of credentials, and we refer others to their body of work. After all, it’s what they’ve actually done that’s important! Not a piece of paper! The Se-valuing viewpoint.
  • We may also point out that people with great credentials have been wrong in the past, and some have even been totally corrupt!

When we think someone else is wrong:

  • We can criticize any credential, no matter how bulletproof it seems.
  • We can, even unfairly, make our experience seem bigger than theirs. This is the “As a” gamble: “As a [user of this software for 10 years], I feel qualified to state [to its expert development team]…[certain harsh criticisms]”

And finally: When we’re really afraid of not succeeding in life:

  • We start to look, desperately, for sets of learning and achievement credentials that will save us from shame, and prevent bad outcomes, and make us seem like we’re a badass.
    • Is that so bad? Well, it can lead to a huge waste of time, is all I’m sayin’.

In Conclusion: Things to Consider

Well: Zoom out a bit, of course, and more often than not we find that low energy levels can cause us to get embroiled in some embarrassingly emotional and fundamentally flawed arguments. And high energy levels can cause us to overstate our case.

Also, being humans of a type, we pay attention to some things, and don’t pay as much attention to other things. That’s how personality type works. So it’s important to remember: None of those arguments or thought patterns necessarily have anything to do with making a logical argument, for example. Our argument may seem rational to our preferred perspectives, but it has other shortcomings.

Ti really is a great example of that, by the way, and this is why it voices itself as our critical parent: As a type we are so often guilty of nope-ing out of logic, of fundamental understanding, of depth-of-analysis. We didn’t do the homework, we did it intuitively. And unfortunately for people in that boat, some things that are logical can sound over-simplistic, and sometimes that over-simplicity is really, and embarrassingly, worth exploring with some humility.

Now to wrap this up, it’s true that we INTJs sometimes really have something going for us, with this “credentials are BS” viewpoint: Diving into life now in order to achieve positive outcomes and help people out really does matter. And many INTJs are really good at this. And they are rewarded for it. Smiles, hugs, thank-yous. (It can help if we have enough grounding in our gifts and position at this point to smile back and tell them it was dumb luck…)

(But should I get that credential anyway? Some of you have asked me, and continue to ask me.)

It’s hard sometimes, man. ;-)

Filed in: /39/ | /9/ | /12/ | /15/

Three Powerful Team Roles for the INTJ

Tuesday September 17, 2019

As I have coached various INTJs, I have observed that many of the most successful INTJs who work in team roles fit naturally into one of these three roles when working on a team. What about you?

Role 1. The Perceptive Group Analyst

This person spends a lot of time looking inward at their team in order to understand, rather than criticize. They look for opportunities to recognize and build on strengths, and tend to take a “matching” view of events rather than a “competitive” view of events. That is, they understand fundamentals of human performance and can show a group how it can fit itself to a task with perhaps a little bit of calibration, instead of simply figuring out how to solve the problem on their own with no interference. In this way they are seen as a valued problem solver, as opposed to the somewhat less sought-after “problem identifier” who has had poor experiences with teamwork.

One factor that the Perceptive Group Analyst understands intuitively is that the team is its own organism with its own identity. This person has almost always found their own way to grow beyond the phase where they crave affirmation of their own identity in every circumstance, and are thus able to better flow within the group’s varying decision-making styles. Even so, the Perceptive Group Analyst typically needs to find a balance and be mindful of their personal energy levels. They may also require assistance in finding a values-centered approach to life, and even in understanding what it means to pursue one’s own values. (This topic goes extremely deep)

Moreso than other role-players, the Perceptive Group Analyst often needs to reach a point of satisfaction that they are working with a mature, well-balanced team, one which rewards its members in a variety of ways. The question of Reward, in the “Role, Group, Reward” model also deserves detailed scrutiny as this person considers new roles.

Role 2. The Group Trainer

The Group Trainer gives their team much-needed skills-acquisition assistance in moving into difficult territory. They typically scan for new information which fits their team’s circumstances or problem set, and follow up to arrange for or even personally provide training in that area.

As opposed to the Perceptive Group Analyst, the Group Trainer’s perception is often found pointing outward, with the goal to bring helpful tools into the group. In person, they seem more pragmatic than the Perceptive Group Analyst, with more focus on the bottom line and the question of “what is being done” as opposed to questions like “what story are we writing” or the many other types of group psychological concern.

One common strength of the Group Trainer, known to them or not, is the ability to adapt when a more Open stance is required. Looking outward for tools requires, at some point, that the Group Trainer act as a sort of gateway to the information and “gate out of the way.” Used successfully, this skill can be leveraged as a reasonable stand-in for the more empathetic group harmony considerations which may be somewhat draining.

The Group Trainer often pays a lot of attention to “Reward” in the “Role, Group, Reward” model, when they may be better suited to consider the “Group” factor. It is important for an INTJ in this role to know that they have some level of Group-type cover. Additionally, taking some time to look inward and understand (and even listen to) the group members talk about themselves can help this individual address important contingencies while they pay much-needed attention to external tools and resources.

Role 3. The Perceptive Problem Analyst

The Perceptive Problem Analyst usually fills a very understated role. They help the group feel comfortable in their understanding of the problem before making important decisions. They are a sort of problem-spy, getting to know the problem itself in detail. This person is visibly most comfortable working on their own, however when interacting with the team, they can typically balance their quietness with a calm, friendly demeanor which makes them easy to listen to.

In fact, the Perceptive Problem Analyst who has developed a soft-touch sense of humor, especially with the ability to switch between self-deprecation and “here’s what I’m thinking, does anyone else see this?” is often a much-sought-after team member. The self-deprecation helps reflect back to the team-organism an affirmation that the team is indeed “better than the sum of its parts”, additionally affirming that while team members may have strong individual gifts, disintegration would come at a potentially high cost.

The Perceptive Problem Analyst enjoys developing standalone, powerful perceptions which when communicated make the group feel much relief: The problem has been made simpler just by a re-phrasing! “Does it appear to anyone else that we may be working with a simple issue of scheduling?” Such phrases, even if found to be over-simplified later in the worst case, help the group-organism preserve energy that will be needed for the duration.

The Perceptive Problem Analyst is typically keen to identify a comfortable “Role” in the “Role, Group, Reward” model, when they may be better suited to focus on the “Group” factor. Burrowing into a tightly-defined role, while comfortable, may be detrimental to the future of someone with such a great ability to help a team move forward by doing deep and effective problem-by-problem homework and analysis.

Where am I…or where can I go?

So which are you? This question may signal the beginning of a personal development journey for you. You may feel that you easily fit more than one role, but I encourage you to test them out and get a feel for the appropriateness of the various roles. (One concept I’m leaving out here is the “Contextual Role Mindset,” in which you identify opportunities to switch roles mid-project. This skill can be leveraged in order to repair personal or team energy problems.)

In the end, no matter your most comfortable role, working with a team is still work. A role must be grown into, worked with, and often tailored to fit. It must fit you, it must fit the group, and it must fit the problem set in question.

When considering the three team roles above, I encourage you to think both about 1) your past experience with teams and 2) future possibilities. Does one or another role resonate more with your intuition? This may suggest that you have some relevant past experience with that role.

Moving into future team or group engagements, I encourage you to review these roles and think about the role(s) which seem to be an appropriate use of your personal energy.

Filed in: /3/ | /9/ | /13/ | /27/ | /16/ | /27/ | /39/

Daily Journaling Template Updated

Friday September 13, 2019

I just published some updates to my daily journaling template: Daily Journaling Template, Markdown Format

The updates include:

  • The latest version of my DaySCOR Scale, with updated instructions
  • Updated example schedule items
  • New questions examining personal / subjective archetypes
  • Updated the goal question with an “incremental progress” cue

I continue to use this template myself, and find that it has become one of my most useful tools for near-instant stress relief. Over time, this habit also tends to build a pool of documentation which can be used for knowledge capture.

Filed in: /47/ | /50/ | /33/ | /23/ | /39/

What it Really Takes to Be a Mastermind

Monday September 9, 2019

One of the unfortunate requirements of interpersonal communication is, some labeling is required. This is certainly true when discussing personality type.

In my opinion, one of the more unfortunate personality type-related labels is “Mastermind”, a label often applied to the INTJ type.

While I love having my ego stroked as much as anybody else, I think “ego” is an important word to keep in mind here. Because if personality type can teach us one really important thing, it’s that there are many types of ego, and any individual who becomes obsessed with their own ego is going to have problems.

Having An Ego Means Not Paying Attention to Other Important Stuff

(Note: In Jungian-oriented psychology discussion, the ego concept is quite a bit different from the day-to-day, conversational use of the “ego” term. Having an ego doesn’t mean you’re an unhealthy person. And trying to avoid having an ego can be a dangerous exercise for your personal health.)

For every gifted aspect of our own personality type that we INTJs love, things like our deeply intuitive perception skills, or our broad knowledge exposure, there’s a corresponding lack of attention to something else. And while this lack of attention is normal and even helpful in many ways, it becomes a huge and risky blind spot when we spend too much time propping up that single, ego-defined dimension of our character.

Fortunately, I’d say that many, if not most of the “I know I’m an INTJINTJs I’ve met in real life have been aware of this: There’s so much more flavor to be found in life after you learn to stop giving your ego so much attention. There’s also the comparison angle to think about: There’s definitely a richer life ahead when you start to realize you don’t have to be better than others, for this reason or that one. (As if that such a thing could be quantified! But I believe that part of the INTJ ego often wishes this were so; it would seem to make life and its goals so much easier to define.)

Being Good at Comparing Things Can Mean Having A Comparison Flaw

I remember—much to my embarrassment—spending way too much time in my younger years thinking, “I’m better than that person because of X, and even if they were better than me at X, I’d still be so good at X + Y + Z that I’m probably the only person in the world who…” Boy, did I know how to destroy a potential friendship before it even got started!

In effect, I was frantically attempting to bury my insecurities using my ego functions. What I perceived as a strength in that person had gained some amount of unwanted control over me, and I pushed back with whatever tools were first to come to my attention. I attempted to look ahead, to foresee a grand judgment-day showdown in which individuals were all compared, skill by skill, factoid by factoid, in front of a grand bar of judicial discernment.

If you’re reading this, and you know what I mean, hopefully you have cringed pretty hard by now. If not, feel free to take a break to do so. :-)

So what do we do with this silly Mastermind title?

I think we need to own the fact that this label exists for both good and bad, and probably do some kicking of our own asses with it. Hopefully in a patient and farsighted way.

I don’t think we need to go off on a rant about Keirsey, who developed the term and applied it to the INTJ. He did this from a temperament perspective, but let’s just say that the label itself has started to slip out of his grip, being applied to INTJs in general, across various personality models. (Perhaps that’s been a bit maddening for him? In reading his books, he seems like he really appreciates precision…)

Still, Keirsey thought that INTJs were “the most self-confident of all the types.” (He also had some interesting things to say about our vulnerabilities.)

But let’s embrace the term “Mastermind,” embrace it in the sense of Jung’s extraversion. Let’s get hands-on with it, engage with it, and in a wise way. Below are some ideas for what it can mean, in the positive sense, to take on this title:

1. Taking a Most Important Perspective

A primary characteristic of the INTJ-as-Mastermind is what Dario Nardi calls the “metaperspective”. Seeing oneself from the outside. Thinking big-picture. Transcending the ego and looking after the collective need. Let’s use this gift to keep our ego in perspective. It is one perspective-taking style among many.

Speaking of perspectives, is it too much to ask that we keep in mind that INTJ intuition is subjective? I don’t think so. This is the “i” in “Ni,” the introverted, subjective nature of our favored intuition function. It is important, then, to remember: Our intuition, and thus our perspective on a given issue, is only as good as the quality of our past experience with the issue. We can critique all we want, but is there a chance that others have a deeper, more nuanced, and thus a higher-quality, more educated perspective? Well, it’s worth considering before jumping in to cast stones.

2. Broadening Our Minds

Let’s also remember that the INTJ Mastermind constantly gobbles up knowledge, facts, and uses them to feed the intuition. Let’s keep doing that and broaden our perspectives. Even though personality type models are powerful, humans are more than capable of working with multiple models. Let’s keep that multiple-model perspective, and in doing so we’ll be able to be more agile, powerful, and less ego-attached problem solvers.

3. Being—gasp—Vulnerable, for the Sake of Growth

A personal treasure: Let’s stay open to having our egos smashed. Let’s stay open to exposing ourselves to things that will show us that we are nothing. The more we prize our existing knowledge, our existing insights, and our existing state of mind, the more vulnerable we make ourselves to the future, and all that it holds. Such a move would be, I think, very un-mastermind-like. Yet it can happen to any of us, as we reflexively push the world away, a la Jung’s introversion concept.

As we become more of a new, better, smarter self, it will only help us to hold ourselves lightly, to learn to laugh at our mistakes, and even to learn to harbor serious regrets.

4. Knowing Other Egos, and Their Value

And finally: Let’s explore those other functions, even the painful ones. Let’s use that knowledge to become expert analysts, consultants, people who can help others feel rightly proud of themselves. Anybody can criticize. Let’s show others their gifts, and at the same time, let’s be aware of key personal blind spots and slowly build flexibility in those traditionally brittle areas. We can learn from other types at least as much as we can learn from our own. Let’s stretch our minds and allow in some crazy possibilities.


Over time, I hope we can help an increasing number of INTJs learn that one of the most helpful tricks you can teach your ego is to lay down its arms long enough that you can begin to grow in other important dimensions. This ought to be a valued lesson for such a contingency-minded type as ours.

And of course—there are other titles and labels out there. The Architect. The Critic. Even “Balzac,” a label from the world of Socionics. In some ways, some of these labels will define us. In other ways, they never will. Where possible, let’s put them to use in such a way that they do us some good, and let’s apply that good forward to help lift everyone else up, too.

Filed in: /47/ | /27/ | /23/ | /9/

Reader Question: Weight Loss and Health

Monday August 19, 2019

An INTJ reader writes:

Struggling with weight and health issues have similar story to what you went thru. Any tips because I can sure use it.

My Reply

First, sorry to hear about it. :-/ I know how much it sucks.

Some suggestions:

  • Track it. You don’t have to track your weight every single day. But even once a week can help.
  • Get others involved. If you can, visit a doctor. Ask for their opinion. Schedule your next appointment with them and keep it. It is important to remain open to outside feedback.
  • Write about it or talk about it. Writing “I hate this” is fine. But I suggest you at least write a few sentences every time you reflect on your weight or health. Or have a pretend phone call with yourself, and talk about it out loud. Decide on some things you’ll do.
  • Blame your circumstances. I encourage you to blame your circumstances, because you can change them. Sometimes all it takes is some small changes: Going to bed earlier, writing your stresses in your journal before you eat (to avoid stress eating), asking others for suggestions in working with stressful situations at work, and so on.

You’ll find more information on this topic under the Dieting and Fitness tags, in the sidebar.

I also hope you’ll be gentle with yourself through this process, and make time to have fun, learn new things, and be optimistic about future change. :-)

Filed in: /8/ | /16/ | /33/ | /47/

Regarding Recent Inquiries About Freelancer Pay

Monday August 19, 2019

Some INTJ readers have written me to express a concern that they receive ridiculously low pay for work performed, working as new freelancers or new business owners. They feel desperate to find a way to get better pay.

First: Please stay with this issue. Don’t avoid it. Talk about it with friends, advisors, whoever. Don’t let it just sit there and make you feel frustrated inside. Get the words out, get the feelings out, and eventually you can start a simple list of ideas for moving forward. But whatever you do, don’t bottle it up inside—get help.

Improvement in this area usually involves:

  • Setting professional boundaries with clients
  • Avoiding the inner-emotional buildup to an over-emotional response
  • Understanding that you are the one who gets to decide who and what you work for
  • Finding ways to be patient while you learn the skills needed to increase your pay (often these are soft skills, not e.g. how to write code faster)
  • Taking care of your health while navigating a stressful situation
  • Learning what you really need out of life, vs. what your various inner voices tell you that you need
  • Adaptive strategies, for example learning how to handle large payments that come in all at once

I have coached a number of business owners through this process, and one potentially-encouraging piece of advice is that there are a million ways to survive even the lowest pay, so hang in there. You have to trust & remember that with your systems-improvement view, you will eventually be able to overcome this issue. But first, you’ve got to stay with it, track it, and wrestle with it directly as needed.

(By the way, some people have the opposite problem: Imagine you are a wealthy, healthy, 50-year-old INTJ. You feel you are on top of everything in your life, but still somehow you struggle to sleep, feel frustrated with life, never seem to get what you want out of relationships and wonder why the problems you face are so elusive. You have everything—shouldn’t life be great? The people around you never seem to care that you have so much money, or that you did such an amazing job with your career. Instead, everything feels somehow sad. Still, you are proud to tell people you have no regrets…or do you?)

Filed in: /47/ | /15/

Recent INTJ Reader Question: Dealing with Dips in Business?

Monday August 19, 2019

An INTJ reader from Canada writes,

Advice on how to deal with dips in business?

[I had four potential clients] who were interested and who were supposed to get back to me for work. Nada.

I don’t mind focusing on other stuff (music, writing, gym) but at the same time I need to keep pushing forward and I’m not sure how. [Freelance] listings are a bit dry this week too.

My Reply

Sure, I’ve experience those dips in business before myself. They may come again in the future, too—it’s unwise to think your business will never experience any kind of downturn, in my experience.

One of the traditional INTJ blind spots is “weakness.” It can really bug INTJs to talk about it. This is often the reason why, when other people talk about their weaknesses or fears, an INTJ can start to feel agitated, and jump in with (even unneeded) suggestions. Hearing about or talking about weakness can make us uncomfortable even at a subconscious level. But we can get better at tolerating this information, and we can use that growth to help ourselves become stronger. Understanding this about myself helped me make some dramatic and effective changes in my life. The topic of weakness is not one that should be avoided. At one level, weakness is fixable, but at another level it is existential, or ever-present.

Also, I think anybody with a business, or who runs a business, learns to see that these dips and other hazards exist and can be worrying no matter how big you are, no matter how much money you make, and so on. And even to an experienced person, the next dip can always seem like the final dip, the real torpedo that sinks the ship, or whatever. It can really be scary.

In the abstract, one answer I’d give to “what to do” is: You gotta find your own dip routine, is what I’d offer. Refine it over time.

And for those of you who want more information:

If it worries you that much, I’d attack it on paper first. Try to take it head-on. Here are some suggested steps.

  1. Acknowledge that it exists, and get into why it sucks and how it sucks (you might feel like you just did that in your message to me, and that’s great).
  2. Plan for ways to take care of yourself. You know how everybody who goes to the hospital gets put in a bed, right? A famous comedian made fun of that. But really it reduces nervous system strain. So I think you have to find those activities that help you take care of yourself and reduce unneeded strain.
  3. Next, watch your cyclic mood. Your body has that natural cyclic tendency, and it affects your psychology. So you kind of wait until you are in, say, “list making mood” and it’s easier to just find yourself listing things you do.
  4. Then you list and plan for things you WANNA do, like even 3x more than the HAVETA do stuff. So you know you’re not killing yourself, you’re being gentle. You’re doing things that match your values, mixed with some things that may seem annoying or doubtful.
  5. Then, think about people who can help you shoulder this burden. Like, would you feel comfortable telling a working professional you’d like their advice on what to do as a copywriter when work is low? If you can do this in person, it can open up a channel for you. Back when I was starting my first business, I had a colleague like that. I could just call them up and say, “I’m in between projects, and wondered how you’re doing, and if you’d like to brainstorm anything we can work on together?” (I didn’t say that all at once, but you get the idea)
  6. Then at this point you’ve built up momentum. I shouldn’t even have to say “do” here because you won’t even have to force it. You’ve got a list, you can start anywhere, and you’ve talked to people. The doing should do itself, and that should feel pretty great.

Finally, INTJs tend to get bonus “luck points” the more they research things. So please continue to research this topic, especially if you see it possibly happening again in the future.

Filed in: /15/ | /50/

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