Personality and Productivity

In hindsight, the past 8 weeks have brought some changes in my perspective:

  • For the first time in my life, I have a pretty good idea of what it is that I’m good at, and for the first time people are actually able to see what that is. I know I have a lot of improvements to make as far as clarifying what that is: information graphic design and making stories by design are the two areas that I seem to be naturally drawn to. Never has the path been so clear.

  • I have also started to meet some more people locally in a pure social context, which has been good for shaking me out of my rut. I am newly energized.

With these two positive changes, I would have expected to be more productive than ever before! Instead, I find that I’m operating at less than peak efficiency. For one thing, I feel like there’s tons of things to create from scratch and it’s somewhat daunting. Another thing is that even though I know precisely what I need to build, I’m not particularly excited about doing it. Intellectually, I understand that the END RESULT would be fantastic and awesome. But something isn’t kicking off. In fact, it’s a bit depressing to be at home in my office working on these things by myself. What happened to the excitement of 2005? It’s like I’m a different person. Oh…now that is an interesting idea to explore.

PERSONALITY IN THE PAST

I’ve taken the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator periodically since I was a sophomore in college. The MBTI is a 4-letter code that describes four preferences we have of looking at the world; it’s not really based on science, but I find it surprisingly insightful. I think of the MBTI as a really good fortune cookie, and it’s been a useful introspection tool. Over the years I’ve been keeping track of how I’ve typed; it’s interesting to me to see what’s changed. 1988 Type INFP: INFPs, more than other iNtuitive Feeling types, are focused on making the world a better place for people. Their primary goal is to find out their meaning in life. What is their purpose? How can they best serve humanity in their lives? They are idealists and perfectionists, who drive themselves hard in their quest for achieving the goals they have identified for themselves. Back then, I was a confused engineering student wondering how the world worked. I’d just come back “home” to the US, to find that the past 10 years i’d been away pretty much erased any common context I had with my peers. Six years of slow culture shock ensue. 1992 Type INTP: INTPs live in the world of theoretical possibilities. They see everything in terms of how it could be improved, or what it could be turned into. They live primarily inside their own minds, having the ability to analyze difficult problems, identify patterns, and come up with logical explanations. They seek clarity in everything, and are therefore driven to build knowledge. At the time I was finishing up engineering grad school and not liking it. Then I went to Art School to fix that, and on getting my MFA went into the video game industry (my dream since high school). Growth ensues, painfully induced by the reality of the industry and my own inexperience. 1999 Type INTJ: With Introverted Intuition dominating their personality, INTJs focus their energy on observing the world, and generating ideas and possibilities. Their mind constantly gathers information and makes associations about it. They are tremendously insightful and usually are very quick to understand new ideas. However, their primary interest is not understanding a concept, but rather applying that concept in a useful way. This was when I realized suddenly that all those self-proclaimed “experts” telling me what to do had no qualification whatsoever regarding my life, ideals, or methodologies. They were just repeating what someone else had told them. I gained the confidence to ask questions more deeply, taking my confusion as a signal that something was not right with the explanation; this was NOT a reflection that I was stupid. This insight gave me permission to apply my analytical side with great confidence, though this tends to isolate me socially because I was “on” all the time (and kind of scary). 2003 NOTE: This is when I left the company I was with and started freelancing full time to clear my head and pursue my own opportunities. It was something I had to do, though I didn’t know exactly what that was. 2005 Type INTJ/INFP: I make some new friends and start blogging. I discover that being in analysis mode all the time isn’t necessary, and can turn it “off”. I discover that my Feeling vs Thinking and Judging versus Perceiving axis is starting to become very closely balanced; I tend to favor neither side. Another insight is that if I’m in “work mode”, I tend to type as INTJ. If I’m in “friend / teacher” mode, I tend to type as INFP. Oddly, it’s never INTP or INFJ. Looking back at the historical record, I can see I’ve always been introverted, which means that I tend to focus my attention on the world of ideas and the inner self. That jibed with my tendencies to stay at home, not like crowds or large parties, or even like using the telephone. I can also see that as my confidence has grown, my personality has tracked with it. The first surge of confidence was in 1998-89, when I had the time to reflect on my bizarre career path and make sense out of it. This confidence was in my ability to think and assess; previously, I had thought myself not qualified to do so in public. The second surge of confidence started building in 2005, this time in my ability to feel and perceive; in other words, it’s OK to go with the flow and experience the world.

PERSONALITY IN THE PRESENT

Today, I was sitting at my computer, half-heartedly picking at some pixels with Photoshop’s awful pixel-editing toolset. I was distracted by a half-dozen other projects I would have liked to do, but then I caught myself: I didn’t want to do them, I just wanted them done so I could get on with things and make some things happen. I idly thought, This must be what it’s like to be an Extrovert stuck inside all day, away from people. Good thing I’m more Introvert than Extrovert… Wait a minute! On August 25th, I wrote the following:
My elation stems from an increase in social networking; I’ve been meeting, emailing, and chatting with fascinating new people on a nearly daily basis. As a result, I’m starting to get some inquiries about project work from people who I’d really love to work for. And I’m also finding that whereas this used to drain me, it now energizes me. Out of curiosity I retook the MBTI (actually, it was the very similar OkCupid version) to see if my personality had shifted…not surprisingly, I am scoring more E than I for the first time ever. WEIRD.
At first, I didn’t recall how I had scored, so I took the rather simple Bloginality Blog Personality test. It’s also based on the MBTI, though it’s more self-interpretive than the longer form. I scored as ENTP, the “inventor” or “visionary” type, depending on the writeup you look at. When I finally remembered that OkCupid stores test results, I saw that I scored ENTP on that as well; the profile had this interesting tidbit:
ENTPs are less interested in developing plans of actions or making decisions than they are in generating possibilities and ideas. Following through on the implementation of an idea is usually a chore to the ENTP. For some ENTPs, this results in the habit of never finishing what they start. The ENTP who has not developed their Thinking process will have problems with jumping enthusiastically from idea to idea, without following through on their plans.
Interesting. There’s also this bit in the functional analysis of the type:
Making, discovering and developing connections between and among two or more of anything is virtually automatic. The product of intuition is merely an icon of process; ENTPs are in the business of change, improvement, experimentation.
and
Thinking’s job is to lend focus and direction to iNtuition’s critical mass. The temporary habitations of changeling iNtuition are constructed of Boolean materials from Thinking’s storehouse. Ultimately, Thinking is no match for iNtuition’s prodigiousness. Systems lie in various states of disarray, fragmentary traces of Thinking’s feverish attempts to shadow and undergird the leaps of the dominant function.
Eerie. This is a good description of how I’m feeling.

PERSONALITY REALIGNMENT

If I’m truly starting to ooze towards the extroversion side of the E-I scale, this has some important ramifications:
  • It’s true that I like meeting people these days. It’s what I think about most of the time, and the distraction is sapping my productivity. I thought that this was just a natural byproduct of working at home, and needing some variety in my daily routine, but it may actually be that my shift toward extroversion has been manifesting for quite some time. I am craving more stimulation, and I won’t be happy unless I get it.

  • If it’s people stimulation I need, then this may also be the missing source of motivation I’ve been needing. I had assumed in the past that I just needed to find the “right product” or “right audience” to focus on to create that productive feeling. I knew I liked being around positive, self-empowered people, but I didn’t think that they might be an integral part of my production cycle.

  • This sudden change to extroversion signals a third surge in confidence: Because I know what I can do, and who I am, I’m much more willing to project that vibe into the world and see what comes back for the sheer joy of it. That is a significant change in my outlook. Before, I thought of the world purely as a source of data to be processed internally and mined for useful insight to alleviate my uncertainty about the world. Now that I think of the world as an interesting place to be in, my desire is to experience it more directly and process-on-the-fly.

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p>If the above are true, then I need to shift my priorities. While it’s true still true that I need to be writing and creating software to further my agenda, it will be slow going unless I incorporate people into that cycle. I’ve been approaching it from different angles—through comments, contact email, the forum, meeting people in real life, etc.—but not directly. The direct approach would be to either join a company or recruit people.

CONCLUSION

I’ve been thinking of what it would mean to start some kind of organization, but it has to now just been an idle thought. If it is, as I have theorized, a necessary catalyst, then I need to do something about it. Otherwise, I’m doomed to stay in my rut. Before I plan out production, I need to plan for people and not be self-conscious about it.

The general thought is this: As one matures and develops confidence, one’s personality may shift in unforseen ways. So, it’s worth reassessing yourself every once in a while to test your assumptions; maybe you’re ready for something new.