MBTI

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Who are we?

One of the benefits of being part of the whole corporate world is the access to resources it gives you, including just being exposed to different ideas and ways of thinking.

Several years ago, we used the Strengthsfinder tool, which aims to give you insight into your strengths (you might have guessed that already), ranking all 34 in order (see here for for all of them with brief descriptions). Alongside this is a commentary on each of the strengths. It’s basically applied psychology. At the time, I was conscious of one line of commentary in particular, as part of my ‘Intellection’ theme – ‘Take time to write. Writing might be the best way to crystallise and integrate your thoughts.’

And then, more recently, we did a different exercise, the Myers-Briggs (MBTI) assessment, another example of looking at ourselves, and how we interact with others, through a psychological lens, this time apparently based on Jung’s work (that fact didn’t mean much to me, I aspire to be an amateur in the field). The first thing you tend to do once you get your ‘results’ is Google it. It’s amazing how many ways you can view your four letters (mine are INFP, Google it…). One of the more amusing things you can then do is find out which real people and fictional characters share the same Myers-Briggs type with you. My conclusion is that most people think that Jesus had the same type as them. And you can find former US presidents and Star Trek characters all over the place.

When I looked at ‘INFP’ I found that they are all writers. Or John Kerry. My cynical side tells me that I bet all of them are also on a list of other types, and that you can make things fit whatever you want to if you try hard enough. But the consensus of the internet (take that as you will) does seem to be that writing and INFP work well together. We could then get into the cause and effect issue with that conclusion, but I don’t think it matters.

I was reflecting again on what makes some writers really stand out from the rest. I think it’s an understanding of us humans, of our characters, what makes us tick, and an ability to create fictional characters who mirror that. Which I think is another way of saying they have an understanding of psychology and how we react, behave and interact with each other. So I’ve dug out a book I got a while ago when I was looking at the psychology of religion (from what I could see, there’s not much on that), an American textbook called Social Psychology. The best part was that the second most recent edition tends to be relatively inexpensive (unlike the most recent one which seems to be in the £120 bracket!) and the content doesn’t change enough to matter to us amateurs. They are all equally heavy and there’s no lightweight version. It’s not a book to carry around with you all day. So this evening I am going to spend some time reading that and see if I can figure out better how we tick and how I can use that in my own writing.

 

 

 

A journey back in time

I had a blast from the past recently when I rediscovered a laptop I used in the mid-1990s. At the time, it wasn’t exactly state of the art (I was a student, it was reduced, it did the job) but it seemed pretty impressive at the time.  Now I wonder how I managed to carry it around. I think the battery (which lasted for maybe 4 hours if I was lucky) weighs more than my entire laptop currently does. The poor thing is now well and truly dead but still has some sentimental value, partly from my memories of passing commuting trips in Berlin by playing minesweeper writing on it.

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We went even further back yesterday when we looked through a photo album (yes, a physical display of photos, not a slideshow on the laptop – quite a different experience…must print out more photos and spend time laboriously sticking them into an album!) I received for my 40th birthday. One of the pictures was of me playing a game being very industrious on a computer so old I can’t even remember what it was (I remember the game though, which at the time must have seemed good, I can’t see the attraction now).

We can now go back and trace the development of that kind of technology through different generations of chip, amount of RAM, size of hard drives (that 1990s laptop had a 340Mb hard drive, now I wander around with a 16Gb flash drive in my pocket, which, if I’ve got my decimal points in the right place, holds the equivalent of over 10,000 floppy disks (if anyone remembers what those are)).

In contrast, what I think hasn’t changed is the way in which we as individuals develop. You can’t analyse it into discrete steps, but over time we can see how we have become a different person. We are shaped by our choices, but also by circumstance and chance. I am reminded of the story in which a painter uses as a model a boy with angelic features to create the face of Jesus. Many years later, he paints Judas, trying to show the depths to which we can as humans sink. He uses a man as his model who turns out to be that same boy, grown up and changed beyond recognition by life and how he has developed over decades. As so often, literature points to something common to us all. Over years and decades, we can look back and laugh, cry or wonder at the choices we made when we were younger. We can tell our children about the things we thought, believed and did back then, knowing that they in turn will have to make their own decisions and mistakes to grow, learn and become themselves.

The older I get, the more I wonder at apparent co-incidence. On the plane to Frankfurt, I flicked through the inflight magazine and came across an article about Eric Michael Andersson, a Swede who won a competition to live in Berlin for a year and is learning to live like a German (hampered in learning the language, it appears, by the fact that everyone speaks English). I’ve written before about the changing nature of Berlin as a city and as a population, and this seems to have been the experience of this Swede – “I’m still trying to find myself”, with the commentary added “Like half of Berlin.”

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There are experiences we can look back to which changed our perspective, our opinions, how we view ourselves in the world, and sometimes we can even measure those changes. Many years ago, I did a questionnaire developed by a couple called Myers and Briggs (guess what the approach is called…) which is designed to give us an insight into our personality type, not to limit our view of ourselves but to give us a perspective on ourselves and a common vocabulary to understand others and how they view their world.  The results back then, getting close to ten years ago now, (INTJ for anyone who cares) were spot on. But over the last few years, I’ve had the sense that the experiences I’ve had since then have changed me, not necessarily in a conscious, planned way, but as a more natural evolution. And when I did the test again, lo and behold, a different result (INFP now apparently, and generally less extreme in my preferences). And what was one comment under the careers section (I acknowledge total confirmation bias in picking up on this one line out of a lot of comments)? “First and foremost is seemingly every INFPs’ dream growing up – to become an author.”  I didn’t see that one coming.

I wonder who we will be in another ten years’ time?

 

 

A random observation

The small victory of common sense I’m experiencing today is being able to write this blog on my flight to Frankfurt without having to switch everything off for the takeoff. The myth is still alive, however, that phones need to be switched off because they might interfere with the aircraft systems (I always found it more than worrying that my little phone could confuse the computing power of a plane, particularly as every flight has one or two phones left on by accident), rather than because they might confuse the satellites (mobiles not being designed to be used 30,000 feet from the ground).