Marc's INTJ Blog

Is Deep, Effective Change Really Possible?

Tuesday November 5, 2019

Do you think people can change?

INTJs are commonly and perhaps even “notoriously” change-oriented, but many INTJs who are in the Energy Reactive zone for one reason or another tend to find themselves in a strange position. On the one hand, they’d love to believe that change is possible. In the big-picture, they even see it as inevitable.

On the other hand, people in this position are often concerned that things in the immediate present could be simpler to attack if they take the position that change is not likely, not possible, and essentially not worth the time.

Here they come, then, approaching a huge problem with only what’s on their back. It’s daring, if not always advisable. Why not build some tools to take along? Some creative weapons, even? Why not…change a bit, before, during, and after tackling that big problem?

Help, I’m stuck on a rail

It can be incredibly frustrating to feel like you’re stuck riding a rail toward a bad place in your life. This type of perception tends to come to INTJs when we are stressed out. I know I have seen some very prominent rails coming. In my mind’s eye, I was already stuck, reality or no. (Repressing the thought of those rails is, I find, a terrific way to end up stress-eating.)

As a result, a sort of change-pessimism forms. This is one of the first symptoms: If what I see coming is truly what’s coming, then almost by definition, meaningful change is impossible…! This is a sort of tyranny of the INTJ’s intuition. Our ego—powerful, strong…now acting against us, as it were.

But the perceived rail, in many cases, is simply that: A strong perception. In other words, be it a genuine oncoming rail or not, what you’re seeing ahead is a terrible and overcoming vision of you meeting that rail and becoming stuck to it. You may start to act like you’re on a rail, but even that doesn’t mean that the rail is really there.

Help, I need to get off the rail in my mind, so I don’t get stuck on the rail in real life

What’s often needed here are tools that assist in executive function. Perceptions strong, judgments weak. Up the judgment quantity and quality—and boom, many rail-riding situations are ended this way.

Measurement and analysis are two really excellent tools for making executive decisions. You know, I’ve blogged about those things before.

Help, I don’t think I have time for that, and I’m not sure it will work

And this kind of sentiment is where real change is avoided: OK, so here’s a new thing to learn; it could go deep, and there’s this change-panic that sets in: I don’t know how much time I have; what if it’s not enough. And what if it doesn’t work; I have no contingency. What else is there? And we move on to something else.

In the end, if you are forced to solve the problem in front of you using the same tools you’ve always used, because you couldn’t really settle deeply into a problem-solving change pattern, it’s really no wonder.

What’s happening here is, there are two broad problem-solving modes:

  • Breadth, and
  • Depth.

Breadth is all about light-touch, quick iteration, and fast results. What breadth lacks in depth, it makes up for in its amazingly good match with life’s hustle and bustle. Socially, very few people will argue with breadth. The “people” organism seeks broad consensus, broad iterations, and genuinely loves it when we tell easily-socially-digestible jokes. Right?

Depth, on the other hand, is all about penetrating, nuanced insights, slow and careful development, and high-quality results. And socially…well, I’m sure you’ve told a few deep jokes before. You know how it goes.

This is where I really like to introduce the opposite-personality type model. A really stressed-out INTJ starts to think like a ESFP Performer / Improviser:

  • I need to solve this now.
  • I don’t have time for all of that change stuff.
  • Let’s do this. I’ll make it up as I go along. I’ll perform as a changed person.
  • Let’s just go.

Some of that is true, good, and honorable. And yet, it’s still worth examining, in all its attractiveness. The problem is, you may be accountable to that broad-thinking, improvisational person inside you, but you aren’t really that person, so much. (If your ego disagrees here, please be very careful with yourself and understand that I can’t cover every last individual case, but this is an important little corner of the personality world)

And as it turns out, INTJs are great at going deep. Really great. Your personality type code tells you this right in the first letter: I is for Introvert. Introverts are deep, as a type of individual. As we integrate more nuance into this single-dimension model, it turns out that everybody is deep in this way or that, but given just I vs. E, Introverts can be said to stand out due to their depth.

  • How many times have you had to stop a sentence short, or not speak at all, due to the hopelessness of communicating your vision?
  • How many times have you been frustrated at the intricate chain of insights that you’d have to communicate, just to show someone why your contingency plan is worth their attention?
  • How many times have you suffered through directive-executive processes that didn’t have the intended effect, because no one could see the big picture?

That is depth. It’s not easy to do socially, but we have to pay attention to it or we become less of who we were in the first place, and even put some of our most valuable mental real estate up for sale at bargain prices.

So it should stand to reason: More depth should never be considered the enemy. And I watch INTJs learn this lesson all the time:

  • Oh, I’m learning that my career values go deeper than just making a good income. Wow, they go really deep. I can be quite a snowflake…
  • Oh, instead of using this person’s software, things would work better if I just made my own from scratch. It turns out I have ideas for how I might use my tools, not just ideas about their output, and those ideas seem like they might be important…
  • Wow, my body feels healthier inside when I don’t treat it like a machine that is meant to work non-stop all day, including working on everything from physical exercise to mental tasks. It turns out there’s this weird health-sense which I’ve cultivated, and I am learning to slow down…

You see, the enemy in that breadth-biased decision making is often breadth itself. Depth has nothing to do with it; it’s more likely that the individual has let their your psychology fool them into thinking that depth is a terrible risk of your time and talent. That depth is all or nothing. That depth shuts out breadth. That depth leads toward ineffective executive processes and drains productivity. And those are lies! All lies.

If you’ve been pushed into that corner where all you feel you can do is scramble to find a way out, you may not feel terribly change- or depth-capable, but there usually is a gradually-deepening approach to depth-based problem solving which can be manufactured on the spot and given careful attention toward the desired outcome.

Deep, effective change is possible. You may temporarily be wearing goggles that hide the fact, but it’s possible and its characteristics even play to INTJ strengths.

So: If you’re on the rail, if you’re feeling the pressure, take this to heart. If anyone can make deep change happen, it’s a creative person who’s in touch with their introverted side. And that could easily be you.

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The INTJ Aspiration Trifecta: Become a Pilot, Learn to Scuba Dive, and Become a Musician

Wednesday October 23, 2019

During a recent coaching session, I was telling the impressive individual on the other end of the connection that there’s this INTJ trifecta of interests/accomplishments that always comes up:

  • Become a Pilot
  • Learn to Scuba Dive
  • Become a Musician

I am always hearing about INTJs who are actively doing, or wanting to do, those three things.

And I include myself in that.

I mentioned this Trifecta concept to another INTJ friend, who responded:

HAHA are we that obvious? I’ve done the sailing courses, got my Silver II. Did the violin thing too [this involves training with masters, tons of frustration and hard work, but now it’s a ‘thing’ —Marc]….Waiting for a bit more $$$ to start glider lessons …Yeah.

Another INTJ friend of mine, Mark Bodnarczuk, wrote a book which draws heavily on his Scuba experience to illustrate some really important factors in life. Mark also has a musical background, from what I recall.

Some other INTJ friends, a married INTJ + INTJ couple, told me they did this pilot-path spreadsheet exercise a while back, which I also did myself, during which you add up a bunch of numbers and it turns out you will need to set aside something like $10K to $20K USD to become a pilot, or something like that—I don’t have the spreadsheet in front of me, but I’m wondering if it’s kind of an INTJ rite of passage, this particular spreadsheet. (Hell, there may even be multiple levels here; I think I remember that INTJ Dario Nardi made a spreadsheet which computed data on how to best get your ass to Mars)

(And what’s so frustrating about spreadsheets: They are truly Te-focused little bastards, to the exclusion of so many other factors. They never tell you how fiddly the whole damn real-life experience of flying is going to be, they never tell you about the guilt you’ll feel when you’re not doing the flying often enough, they never tell you about the annoying guy at the airport who thinks you want to become just like him, or whatever. There’s this whole qualitative angle that spreadsheets kind of see as something you shouldn’t really mind, because hey, the numbers all add up! So whenever I start some spreadsheet process now, I try to remember to start a parallel, depth-based analysis process in something like a text editor.)

Personally, I’d say the weakest of the three for me would be Scuba. I love the idea, but it just hasn’t hatched into real experience for me yet; maybe this will change, and maybe not. A family friend used to take me out flying and hand over the controls, and we’d fly up into the San Juans for the day and grab a hot dog; fun stuff like that. I’ve probably logged thousands of hours in flight simulators since I was a child. Lately Geo-FS is pretty fun on little breaks, and the new MS flight sim video coverage is mind-blowing. And I worked as a freelance musician when I was in university, creating chart-topping hits such as “Backing Track for Franklin Covey Interactive CD-ROM”, “Sound Effects and Musical Intros for a Flash Website which is Long Dead” and “Sound Trademark for a Promising Company Which is No Longer Relevant”. Hey—at least it paid well.

And Something Helpful to Know About This

So here’s the real meat: If you identify with this stuff so much that you get drawn in, there’s a chance you could end up completely fooled by the INTJ Metaphor Machine. Some examples of the the way that Metaphor Machine works:

  • “I only suggested piloting because I want you to take advantage of your gift for seeing the big picture, learn to execute from idea-space, and be more positive.”
  • “I only suggested Scuba because I want you to learn to be comfortable with depth-based processes.” (INTJ perception & execution is often too breadth-biased)
  • “I only suggested musicianship because I can tell you need to pay more attention to your feelings, your moods, and their meaning, and find a suitable rhythm of life, something that will help you influence your own life and others’ for the better.”

These are just examples, but do you see what I mean? There’s this important divide between the meaning of the thing and the doing of the thing. INTJs as a group tend to jump right into the doing, and doing takes you right into the sensory realm and its associated uh…growth opportunities (you see, in addition to helping you feel good about yourself in some ways, it’s also a potentially huge trap in another way, so I’m intentionally using the word “uh” here).

There’s also the really emotional layer to all of this. We feel a connection to a thing, it draws us in—and maybe we need to learn to pause at this stage, and build out some space for examining and probing this process. Or maybe we really need to build a process for examining emotional experiences, period.

Otherwise maybe you become addicted to buying a bunch of stuff you don’t really need, or earning credentials that weren’t really necessary, or whatever. It would suck to become a constant victim of that, just because you didn’t have the space to really explore what’s behind it. Right?

This is all very important stuff, and if you haven’t given it much thought, please do.

Because I swear, if I hear one more of you guys tell me how much regret you have about that pile of Scuba gear gathering dust in the back of your garage…

(Mostly kidding ;-))

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. ;-)

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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: /16/ | /40/ | /27/ | /13/ | /27/ | /3/ | /11/

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: /51/ | /34/ | /48/ | /24/ | /40/

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: /25/ | /11/ | /48/ | /27/

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: /16/ | /8/ | /34/ | /48/

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