Marc's INTJ Blog

Marc's INTJ Podcast Episode 4, October 16, 2018

Tuesday October 16, 2018

The latest Marc’s INTJ Podcast is up! Now with jazzy intro/outro!

Direct MP3 Download | Archive.org Apocalyptic Contingency Storage Resource Container Reference Link

Listen along as I discuss:

Enjoy!

A Non-research Exercise, on Research

Wednesday October 10, 2018

Let’s say you’re playing a role-playing game where your player-character is a really good researcher.

As a result, every time you roll the dice while solving a problem, bonus points are added to your roll if your solution involves research.

  • How does this change the way you play the game?
  • How does this change the way you interact with others in the game?
  • How does this change the way you manage your time in-game?
  • What do you do when you confront a problem that’s not amenable to research?
  • How would other characters see your role? Are they right or wrong? How much does it matter?
  • Any other insights?

If you have time, write or talk out your own answers. I’ll add my own answers later, too.

By the Way--About Careers: Think Roles

Thursday October 4, 2018

Very few people arrive at a “right career” in advance, let alone at any point in their actual career.

The happiest INTJs I know are not thinking about whether they’ve arrived at the right career.

The happiest INTJs are the ones who are able to confront problems and solve problems. They are engaged in a problem-solving role. That effort and reasonable return-on-effort is what is making them happy.

In terms of career progress, I have observed that INTJs are happiest when they progress toward an effective and comfortable role, rather than progressing toward some kind of pre-labeled career. You want to be a “scientist”? Great! You can do that anywhere so start defining the role with more clarity. Not the job title, not the business sector—define the role.

The nice thing about “role-thinking” is that it applies post-retirement just as well as it applies to any other context. It’s not limited to the way you’re making money. You can describe your role right now (e.g. “chair-sitter-writer-thinker”, but it should be a lot more leverage-able than a simple one like that) and overlay that role onto any responsibility, for a view on how that responsibility matches your capabilities and preferred problem-solving mode, and how it will require you to stretch.

There’s a lot to be said about roles, but try thinking in those terms—a fitting role, or fitting roles, plural—next time you evaluate your career.

The Problem with Becoming More Grounded, More Social, and Less Weird

Thursday October 4, 2018

I occasionally hear from INTJs who are upset at themselves for “being so aloof” or for avoiding social experiences. And while it’s good to give consideration to that possibility, that’s also extremely risky territory.

If you’re really certain you’re aloof and not just giving reasonably-confident attention to your core INTJ gifts, I can see why it would be wise to work on that, to bring in some more balance. You may be able to be more effective with other people and with the outside world in general, as a result.

However, a problem I see a lot of INTJs dealing with around midlife is that we can give so much attention to our failings in social situations or in those more “grounded” contexts, that we get completely sucked into solving this problem. So sucked in that we forget who we are.

So it is risky to do this without defining a method for securing and attending to our inner world, our core INTJ gifts, as we do so. This is the same absolutely vital inner world that is constantly bringing distant signals to our attention, the inner world that speaks distant and long-sought-out truths to us, often through unclear metaphor which can take a lot of time and energy to sort out.

As a result of setting this gift aside, that richness and depth of problem-solving capability can dry up, and we lose our mooring—not with reality (or “objectively sensed experience”), but our mooring with the unseen truths and what some refer to as the cosmic side of it all. Those unattended inner truths, in a very basic and immature form, can then begin to manifest themselves through very concrete unwanted behaviors and outcomes in our lives. In our sickness, in our suffering, we then become a living metaphor of the way we have unintentionally mistreated some of our most valuable cognitive functions.

At the same time, others who cannot experience this, or who repress the subject of our INTJ gifts due to their own functional dynamics, cheer us on, telling us it’s good that we’re lightening up, or it’s good that we are more social.

We need to be able to take those outside comments for what they are—perspectives from people who are attending to a different set of gifts.

One difficult truth here is that no matter how unmoored it may seem when cast in relation to “objective” (e.g. socially-defined) reality, the INTJ’s hidden world is absolutely full of promise and treasure if the INTJ is willing to explore and develop it.

It’s deceptively easy to leave our dominant function at a basic level while we shore up other functions, without later returning to develop that dominant function to a significant degree. In my experience it is extremely rare to meet INTJs who have developed their intuition to a high level, and I think part of the problem is that the outside world, society, is not generally comfortable with the idea of encouraging that sort of growth. However, this kind of growth will only make everyone stronger and allow a more resilient and mature human society to evolve.

IMHO it is a good idea to find a way to balance out the attention to the various functions and objectives with some reasonable weighting and additional emphasis given to our most gifted cognitive processes —and to look on this as a system to be evaluated from the outside-in, periodically. We don’t need to let ourselves be blown about by winds of social criticism, but we can still take those points of view into consideration and adjust our personal system while trusting in our overall process.

Periodic Music & Video Query #2

Wednesday September 26, 2018

So: What music are you liking these days?

How about favorite Youtubers, or Youtube channels?

I’m all ears—let me know! My email’s in the sidebar, and you can tweet to me: @systematikk

Last time I got some pretty excellent metal recommendations, in addition to some really good indie pop. You know who you are!

Marc's INTJ Podcast Episode 3, September 26, 2018

Wednesday September 26, 2018

The latest Marc’s INTJ Podcast is up! Now with intro/outro!

Direct MP3 Download | Archive.org Apocalyptic Contingency Storage Resource Container Reference Link

Listen along as I talk about:

By the way: The podcast music will probably change in future episodes. My wife listened to it, and we discussed it, and we both agreed on why I arrived at it (it matches my perception and “organic” information-outlook, in many ways), but we both agree that it doesn’t really match my overall informational style and approach.

I hate picking music for things, because I get sucked in, every time, for hours.

A Higher Education Toolkit for INTJs

Monday September 24, 2018

I’ve coached a lot of INTJ university and college students. Many of them suffer for lack of a set of tools that will help them overcome the various problems they encounter. Higher education is not always, as many INTJs assume, a super INTJ-friendly place. It can be, but you will need to leverage your innate cognitive gifts in order to figure out how.

Whether you’re off to university, college, or some other learning institution, here is my toolkit for INTJ student success.

1. Understand How to Go High-level, and Do It.

INTJs are really good at doing things, overall. But we’re really, really good at doing high-level things. Some examples:

  • Strategic-level critique
  • Theory design and development
  • Contingency planning at the level of broad approaches to things
  • Conceptualization of new thought patterns or thought structures
  • Using metaphor and vision to drive a creative process

When you approach your studies, or problems with your studies, make sure to pay attention to the high level. If “it just isn’t working,” acknowledge that at a high level. Design a high-level process for diagnosing and addressing the problem.

It’s OK and necessary to go low-level sometimes (design a schedule for the day, rearrange your study notebook, figure out a knot for your shoelaces that won’t come untied as easily, figure out what to do when your prof doesn’t show up for class), but what I want to emphasize here is: Know that the high level is there, and work down from the high level as much as possible. This is where most of your cognitive leverage will be found.

2. Design and Refine Your Approaches

INTJs are really good designers.

Oh, you thought I meant graphic designer? Well, you can be, sure. But what I’m talking about here relates to #1, above—the high level.

At a high level, you can design an approach to your studies by outlining key principles. For example:

  • Grades will generally reflect my ability to thrive at a course- or major- level.
  • Grades do not reflect my general ability level.
  • If I get low grades, I will follow this process:
  • First…
  • Second… (etc.)

This is a simple example. You can even go higher-level than that, and write down your general process for transitioning through school to gainful employment. But get something down on paper.

Then, if you stop using it, consider that it needs refinement in order to stay relevant to you and your studies. Go back and update it with what you’ve learned since.

This should become a living process, and as such it will help you design your way through a successful education experience.

3. Interpret Your Interests with Metaphor in Mind

It is completely possible that a given major—for example, a science major—sounds really appealing to you because your subconscious would like you to take a more [scientific] approach to your own life.

Please re-read that until you understand and go “oh.”

If the first part will be difficult, if the actual science major will cause your grades to drop: Try the second part first. Start being more scientific today. Figure out what that means for you.

It is possible to become a very successful person who did not earn a formal science credential and who also conducts as much science as they want, in a field of their choosing. Science is not owned by a credential—far from it.

I can’t emphasize this one enough—interpret your desires as something you can start doing right now, without a formal credential. Only seek formal credentials when you know you can earn them and get good grades. Otherwise disaster can result.

Am I suggesting you’re weak? Is this some kind of under-handed challenge? No!!!!

Does this only apply to science? Far from it!

This may mean undergoing a form of ego-death. You may have to admit that while you wanted to be a physicist as a kid, it’s just not in the cards for you as a major. And that’s often a great alternative to suffering through science courses with C’s, D’s, and a major case of depression.

And once the physics major is in your past? Now that you’re done with school, having picked a different degree? You are free to start doing physics like Jason freaking Bourne—because you are the one picking the targets now, not your professors. Life has a funny way of presenting multiple ways to reach desired outcomes…

4. Interpret Grades with Care

Low grades can absolutely destroy an INTJ’s sense of self-worth.

Have you ever flunked out of a class? Three classes? I have!

Have you ever been on academic probation? Once again, I’m your man! I’ve been there.

Meanwhile, confused friends asked me how that could happen—they knew for a fact that I was “bright and very capable”. Professors wrote me frustrated notes, asking how I could be so engaging in class with questions and theories, and yet flunk their tests and fail to turn in homework. “I feel slightly offended,” one wrote.

I feel into deep depression as a result. I didn’t understand it, but I could see it happening just as clearly as my friends and professors could.

It was simply a mismatch: Classes and majors and teaching styles did not fit my aptitude. I had hallucinated (see #3). I thought that I wanted the literal thing of a computer science degree, when in fact my subconscious was simply drawn toward the theoretical approach to and application of technology, which is one of my gifts.

As a general rule, INTJs should be careful, then, to choose courses where high grades are all but guaranteed. If your grades are high, you are doing well at school. If you don’t do this—believe me, your mental health is at risk. You can still do well overall, but be very careful.

I know one INTJ who disagreed with me here. He undertook a very serious and difficult pathway into a medical career. Each course was a trial of his ego vs. the instructor’s syllabus. Each victory was hard-won.

Later, years into the career, he told me he wished he had picked something different, something more relaxed and theoretical.

You’d think that would be easy to figure out, but a lot of INTJs dive in and select majors or classes that are challenging, because they want to learn, and then they overshoot learning and go into proving. This can cause huge problems. Both “learning” and “proving” can be said to be risky approaches to higher education, in different ways.

Perhaps sometimes you’ll have to admit that you can’t learn anything you want in the school’s way. If you get poor grades at something when you study it the school’s way, try picking it up on your own, outside of school. I’ll bet you’ll do great.

And low grades in a challenging course do not mean that you aren’t learning. They mean that the course was not designed for someone who shares your mindset or experience level. In most of these cases, the most efficient choice is simply to change courses or majors until your grades go up.

Grades don’t reflect who you are, but if they continue to get worse and worse, they can reflect that you’re hallucinating about your prospects in this major or course of study. Blame the process before you blame yourself.

5. Measure Your Overall Pressure & Ability to Respond

Periodically gauge your ability to respond to school pressures on a scale like this:

  • Response Level 1: I am completely overwhelmed and barely able, if I’m lucky, to get out of bed in the morning.
  • Response Level 2: I am overworked and frequently feel down.
  • Response Level 3: I have a lot to do, I’m doing some of it, and I have some up days and some down days.
  • Response Level 4: I am handling most of my work well, and I have a generally good feeling about my prospects. Down days are the exception to the rule.
  • Response Level 5: I am always top of things, and down days are almost always due to outside circumstances like a friend’s family problems or a TA throwing up on my notes. I feel like I can solve most any problem that comes up.

You should also design your own measuring devices like this when you can. That’s part of learning to be a scientist—do it.

Once you understand your level, try to design your way through it—and out of it, if needed. See Toolkit item #2 above, for more on that. (Measure, Design, Execute…then Measure Again.)

Personally I was at all five levels at one point or another during university. I’ll discuss one of the biggest complicating factors next.

6. Monitor Your Outside Concerns and the Resources they Demand

Outside concerns include things like:

  • Your part-time job, and how difficult it is
  • Your obsession with yoga classes, or volleyball, or lifting, or whatever sport helps you out
  • Your relationship with your friends or family
  • Your side-studies, because one major is never enough
  • Your spiritual pursuits, in or outside of church
  • Your membership in any clubs you belong to

It is completely possible to enjoy all of these things more than university. I remember when I realized “I’m better at all of this stuff than I am at my computer science classes.” That was really telling. I would go to work and win an award for fixing a computer systems problem, then return to school and flunk a test on data structures. As a result, my work-focus intensified, and I suffered at school even more.

Part of the solution for me was changing my major and changing jobs. For you, who knows what the solution may be. But these factors can all affect your grades and happiness.

You’re an introvert, so it’s easy to blame yourself for things. But you may also need to blame outside concerns in order to make positive progress.

7. Know your Professor’s Personality Type

See if you can figure out your professor’s type. For example, INTP professors are common in higher education. They can sometimes get INTJs really riled up in classes, because they often teach at a slow, methodical, step-by-step pace from the ground up, without making leaps of intuition, or allowing you to make leaps of intuition. They don’t see as much of a point in project-based or outcome-based work. They don’t generally care as much about real-world impact as INTJs do.

And that’s just one example.

Ask about professors or teachers before you sign up for classes. Do some simple comparative analysis between professors.

And while you study, keep a simple dossier. Write down leverage points—tips that help you work around any personality differences. For example, maybe the professor really cares about rote learning, and not much about how much you love learning your chosen major subject of psychology. Many efficient learning methods can be employed here, with a promise to yourself to learn more in depth later.

8. Watch Other Students and Ask them How they are Approaching a Class or Major

In a school setting, watch the other -J personality types. For example, ask the ESTJ how she’s studying for the test. Ask the ISFJ if you can read their latest paper (and give them a lot of compliments—they need this—while looking out for any strategies they used to make the paper longer, etc.)

Then, zoom out a bit with your INTJ perspective. You can’t be an ESTJ, but ask if there’s some middle ground that would be helpful to you. You can’t be an ISFJ, but maybe your papers could stand a little bit less attention to information depth, while conveying a more friendly tone and calling out more references.

Also, when you receive a syllabus, ask others what caught their eye. Occasionally someone will blurt out a strategy that you may have missed: “This basically says you don’t need to turn in any homework if you can maintain high test scores.”

Learn from other students: There’s always something to be picked up.

9. Understand Your Major’s Personality Types and Outcomes

Is your major extremely high-level, like economics or psychology? Or is it low-level, like studio art or dance? Perhaps in a low-level major, you can increase your chances of success by taking a high-level approach—focusing on broad strokes in your studio art, or developing your own theory of dance?

Look at the various personality archetypes and how they play out in your choice of major. Also, look at the students around you. How would you describe their types?

10. Let Yourself Say It: “This Isn’t Working”

Some of the most powerful executives in the world leverage this key principle: If something isn’t working out, make the call and start making decisions.

INTJs are extremely perceptive people. The opposite of perception is judgment. Sometimes we get so caught up in our perceptions about things, in our intuitions, that our judgment process suffers. This judgment process is also known as an “executive” process.

If things just aren’t working—make that call. Don’t worry about blaming yourself, or others. Just start making decisions and writing down lessons you learned after making those decisions. This decision-analysis loop will become a powerful tool for overcoming speed bumps.

At the extreme end, if you’re suffering to the degree that you feel depressed, or even want to end it all—which can happen—wouldn’t it be better just to end school, and give the “real world” a chance? In my opinion it’s always a good idea to leave that option open. Be very careful about forcing yourself to conform to this or that outside structure, just to align yourself with some view you held when you signed up for classes.

11. Reflect after Each Interval

In addition to the analysis I just mentioned, pick intervals at which to reflect. For example, once a week, once a month, once a semester. Ask yourself what you’d do differently in the next interval. Write it down, then try it. If it works, add your new knowledge to your list of tools or your general theory.

Summary

There’s a lot here, and it will take some time to learn and apply. So in the meantime, forgive yourself if things aren’t going well, and pat yourself on the back if things are going great. I hope this can be helpful to you no matter what the circumstances. Good luck in your studies.

Marc's INTJ Podcast Episode 2, September 22, 2018

Saturday September 22, 2018

The latest Marc’s INTJ Podcast is up, everybody! Hopefully it’s a bit easier to listen to than the first one was.

Direct MP3 Download | Archive.org Apocalyptic Contingency Storage Resource Container Reference Link

Listen along as I talk…radio! And what it means to me as an interest!

I also review some recent INTJ blog posts and related topics, including:

It was fun to make this one and the time flew by. I’ve got some ideas for the next podcast already—let’s see how things go from here.

SCUBA, A Support Model for Diving into New Psychological Environments

Friday September 21, 2018

[Photo: Deep in the shadows! Sidemount diving photo, credit Pete Jawrocky ]

I developed this model, called SCUBA (the origin should be obvious), to help others approach the need to flex their personality type. Flexing type (also described as practicing with others’ cognitive gifts) is a risky process, and we need all the backup we can get.

In effect, when we try to accommodate, understand, and even be more like others, we are submerging ourselves in an environment that could be hostile to our typical state of being. For this reason, SCUBA gear is important.

  • Self: Am I considering my own interests, wants, and needs during this process? On a daily and even hourly level? You can change your approach at any time, and you are wise to do so when it is needed.
  • Contained: Have I set boundaries on this process? Do I know when, where, and how I can step out of the process for a break if desired? Do I need to set a timer, or limit the use to a single conversation with someone? Not every dive has to be 150 feet deep. Some dives are 10-20 feet deep, especially early dives. Ask yourself what sounds doable and interesting with regards to a given cognitive process. Difficult functions should probably start with shallower dives.
  • Underwater: Am I giving attention to the fact that I’m doing something rare and even exciting? That I’m a “stranger in a strange land?” Am I on the lookout for new and interesting aspects to this experience? It’s a good idea to record them and reflect on them. Every function or set of functions has its benefits and leverage points.
  • Breathing: Am I aware of, and monitoring, my physical condition? My blood pressure, pulse, hydration levels, exhaustion? Some of us push ourselves very hard toward psychological change when we are low on sleep, or otherwise in high-anxiety mode. But that may prevent positive outcomes, or bring about additional negative outcomes.
  • Apparatus: Do I have the tools and resources I need to do this work? For example, access to helpful people, plans to visit comfortable places where I’ll use my “me” time to reflect? Would special computer software help, or do I need e.g. exercise equipment to enter this mode in an appropriate way?

Example

After some struggles in her chemistry class, Mia, an INTJ high school senior, learned that her chemistry teacher, Ms. Erickson, was a Fe-dominant ESFJ. In contrast to Mia’s intense approach to career planning and her science interests, Ms. Erickson seemed to discourage too much intensity and career focus, and tried to keep the class discussions simple and approachable.

After a few strained discussions in which Mia felt her level of intelligence was being insulted, she decided to try a science experiment suggested by the career coach her mother had hired. Mia would don some SCUBA gear, and learn more about her teacher’s world.

For a few minutes at intervals during each class (Containment to a fixed time period), she wrote a few notes as to how she felt affected by the teacher’s psychology (Self – attention to feelings). She also made notes (Apparatus – tools) about what she saw as the pros and cons of her teacher’s behavior (Underwater – exploration). In addition, Mia increased her level of intensity at a personal level (Self – support of own values), by expanding her plans on paper, and using time outside of class to gather like-minded students and discuss chemistry at a deeper level (Apparatus – gathering outside support).

Finally, Mia also monitored her stress levels during the class. When she felt annoyed or stressed, she took breaks to take deep breaths, drink some water, and even doodle mindlessly for a bit (Breathing – attention to physiological factors). If she felt extra frustrated, she would also write down some fun things she was looking forward to in her next class, or after school (Self – attention to values).

As an outcome to this observing and learning process, Mia identified important leverage points in working with Ms. Erickson. Learning to smile and say “thank you” at appropriate times made it easier for her to approach Ms. Erickson with questions later. She also identified that Ms. Erickson often hinted about things she’d like done in the classroom, rather than addressing them directly. A student who caught on to these things early could help the class earn additional points.

In the end, Mia learned that while it is reasonable to expect that science is taught according to certain standards, individuals may have widely differing expectations as to how those standards are interpreted. Mia emerged from this experience a more mature individual. She also felt like she had learned to take a more scientific view when working in difficult circumstances.

Notes about the model

The key leverage points:

  • Helping people understand that flexing one’s type is possible
  • Helping people understand that flexing one’s type is risky
  • Helping people understand that there are hidden rewards to exploring others’ types
  • Helping people sustain a goal to gradually work on their flexibility and gain a new level of effectiveness with people

I wish I had conceived this model prior to the time when I was first experimenting with functions like Fe. I overdid that one and ended up suffering through that experience needlessly. The main symptom seemed to be a high level of stress and frustration, which could quickly turn into anger felt toward others.

In my humble opinion, the SCUBA model can help us conceive of realistic goals that push us further toward healthy psychological development, while reducing the overall risk factor.

A Boundary-expansion Strategy. Do you have one?

Thursday September 20, 2018

A couple of simple mental models:

  • Introverts: People who protect existing boundaries
  • Extraverts: People who expand existing boundaries

And:

  • Introverted Processes for Extraverts: Urgently Protect Newly Expanded Boundaries by Providing Structure and Resources
  • Extraverted Processes for Introverts: Capitalize on Consolidated Structure and Resources to Expand into New Boundaries

Questions:

Where are there firm boundaries and high walls in your:

(Examples)

  • Work schedule
  • Work politics
  • Job description
  • Creative life
  • Planning process

…and where are there loose boundaries or completely free and open territories in the same? In which way do you share those boundaries with others, and how can you expand into them and enforce your own boundaries around them?

How do you rank those territories, in terms of interest to you? Imagine if you were building solid walls next to thousands of square miles of unclaimed territory, simply because no one has charted it yet. What process would serve you best there?

Some of this will sound aggressive, or political, or forceful, or even treacherous, to your intuition.

But the intuition in “resist-new-ideas mode” is also at high risk of overuse as an INTJ’s assessment process…again it’s about protection of what we already have.

Metaphor should assist here. What and where and who are the walls, fences, and castles? The villages? The villagers? What tools does an explorer need?

Older Articles >