Not enough is ever said about personality types in creativity, and especially in business.
I’ve heard extroverted entrepreneurs say, “It doesn’t matter whether you’re introverted or extroverted. You can build this business!”
But if I locked an extrovert in a room and had them write, paint, or draw for two weeks straight with limited contact to the outside world, they would probably come out of that experience feeling drained. An introvert would feel refreshed.
Much the same way, if you put an introvert in a job in which they had to meet, interact with and report to a gaggle of people for two weeks straight, they would probably feel exhausted. An extrovert would get a kick out of a job like that.
This is not 100% true 100% of the time, but I make this contrast to bring light to an issue that seems largely ignored or shirked in success, entrepreneurship, business, leadership, personal development, and so forth.
Ironic that some success teachers actually say, “The only way to succeed is to embrace who you are,” or “Work on your strengths, not on your weaknesses.” You can’t turn an extroverted person into an introverted person, or vice versa. But you can learn to play to your strengths.
Contrary to popular belief, the introvert-extrovert spectrum has nothing to do with people skills, or even how outgoing and communicative you are. I think this is where some people get caught up.
Personally, I am an introvert, but I can be very social, and often enjoy smaller get-togethers as well as house parties where I already know most of the people (a few unknowns are fine; even welcome).
I know other introverts that have learned how to “turn it on” when they need to. It’s almost essential in a creative profession.
The difference between the two is in where you get your energy from.
Introverts get their energy from spending time alone. Extroverts get their energy from spending time with people.
But this doesn’t mean that introverts don’t need human contact (God knows we do), and extroverts don’t need quiet time alone (reflection is a helpful tool).
All I’m saying here is that you’re more likely to find an introvert in a creative role, and you’re more likely to find an extrovert in a people-centered role, though this isn’t always the case.
On the surface, it may appear as though classifications are superficial and inadequate. Maybe this is because we all see ourselves as unique little snowflakes.
I kind of get it. When you think of The Four Temperaments test, we have four really odd sounding categories for personalities – Choleric, Sanguine, Phlegmatic, and Melancholy. Who are you to put me in one of these four broad categories!?
With the Jung Typology/Myers-Briggs test, we’re given four letters that are supposed to encompass and represent an individual’s entire personality (like ESTJ). What can four letters tell me about myself!?
In the case of StrengthsFinder, there are 34 “themes” that people fall under.
Much the same way musicians tend to resist being compared; creatives often shy away from definitions.
But I find that the more I dig into personality tests and strength assessments, the more I learn about myself.
According to the Jung Typology/Myers-Briggs Test, I am an INFJ (introversion, intuition, feeling, judging) that sometimes comes across as an INTJ (introversion, intuition, thinking, judging).
Some people I admire – like Derek Sivers or Tim Ferriss – are INTJs. INTJs get a lot done all on their own, and they know it. They seem to find ways of setting up their lives to accommodate their natural tendencies.
INFJs (“advocates”), on the other hand, are pretty rare (supposedly). I can’t confirm or deny the truth of that, but any reading I’ve done on the subject seems to resonate with me. I am an INFJ.
A woman at a bar once compared me to Stephen King.
At the time, I had no idea how accurate of an assessment this would turn out to be. You don’t – or at least I don’t – give much credence to what is said in a bar.
She looked at my glasses and somewhat unruly long hair, and saw that I was a little different from others.
Okay, I’ll be honest – she was also hitting on me. She said that, if she had a daughter, I was the kind of guy she would trust her with.
In that situation, she was the cougar on the prowl, and I was the young guy – the hunted.
But, at least at the time, I thought of myself, not as a writer, but as a musician.
Not that you can’t be both, of course, but I didn’t yet know a passion for writing like I know now.
INFJs, it turns out, are perfect personalities to be writers.
Coincidence or appointment? You be the judge.
One summer, I was feeling depressed.
I couldn’t have identified it as depression at the time – I just knew that something was wrong inside, and it wasn’t easily overcome.
I was glad to have discovered the works of Heidi Sawyer, a sensitive intuitive. One day, in frustration, I searched for the phrase “how to live as a sensitive person” on YouTube and came across one of her videos.
In a way, those videos kept me going that year, because I was learning a lot about myself.
Prior to finding Sawyer’s materials, I didn’t even know what the term “sensitive intuitive” even meant.
After listening to her, I could no longer call myself anything but.
Just so we’re clear, I don’t believe in using personality as an excuse.
You shouldn’t say that you could never do something merely because you are introverted or extroverted.
But you also shouldn’t work against your personality, your character, your construction. Odds are you will be most successful in an area that suits you best (although things will never be perfect, so don’t confuse perfection for success).
It seems we are all born with a unique imprint – a specific set of strengths and tendencies. This is reflected in the many strengths assessors, personality type tests, and other aptitude tests that are out there.
When we go against our own nature, even when we’re aware of it, we tend to justify it by saying that we’re “Paying the price”, or that we’re sacrificing for our future achievements.
Based on my observations, however, the world doesn’t quite work that way. There may be times when you need to compromise, but when you keep sacrificing your passion for money, security, or comfort, the universe just gives you more opportunities to sacrifice.
What you were meant to do, you will love to do. You would do it anyway, without ever being prompted to or paid to.
You have the greatest chance at success, on your own terms, when you go and do the thing you really want to do. You will be more fulfilled too.
It sounds idealistic, but in my experience, the journey isn’t necessarily easy or simple. It’s just more fulfilling. It’s more enjoyable.
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