February 2, 2008

As a child, I was constantly re-vamping something. As I underwent the rapid change of elementary schools and landed finally in a school which instead of encouraging me to excel, actually tossed me back quite a bit, I began re-designing the school system. I didn't realize that third graders do not design school systems. It didn't occur to me that I was being presumptuous or precocious. I saw an inefficient system and I wanted to improve it. I walked around for days contemplating various issues from how to decide which classes were tracked, how many tracks to have and how to train the teachers to treat everyone. That last was especially important to me because I had started noticing what damage a teacher could do by choosing the wrong methodology.

Yeah, I know. What third grader does this?

The Mastermind.

You see, when taking the Meyers-Briggs personality questionnaire, I come out as an INTJ. Introverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, Judging.

People like me tend to build systems, to look for inefficiencies and fix them. And to a third grader forced to re-do 6-8 weeks worth of work upon arrival at the new school, the entire issue of public education seemed highly inefficient. And since this particular move from Austin to Arlington involved not just a movement within the area ... but a larger move ... it occurred to me that there was no national school system. Just lots and lots of little school systems.

So how in the bleeding hell could there be any standards across the United States? There weren't even visible standards going from Austin to Arlington.

Obviously, this is an inefficient way to educate our youth and build a nation.

Of course, I was the one to do this.

No wonder the teachers at my new school were at a loss regarding how to handle me. Since the INTJ personality type is found in just 1-2% of the population and tends to have far more males than females in its category, they were at a loss as to just how to get this "hysterical female child" who was pretty close to emotionless as well as quite serious and logical to shut up so they could get on with their jobs.

I considered going to the principal to discuss the issue, however, during the new student orientation, I had already decided that our principal did not understand that children are real, reasoning beings. She had that saccharine smile and was so quick to look away from child to the important adults. Marina Margaret Heiss says that INTJs tend to look at anyone who is "'slacking,' including superiors, [with dis]respect -- and will generally [make them] aware of this." I had learned by the age of ten that letting it be too obvious that I disapproved of lax or illogical behaviours (which I defined, of course, as behaviour not following my system of logic, which was, of course, the RIGHT system ... after all, I had honed it to an art form) ... I had learned that letting my opinion about such wrong logic or lax attitude was rather dangerous to my well-being and peace of mind. So, instead of talking to the principal for whom I had no respect, I began asking my teachers why they set up their classes in the way they did.

I rarely got a straight answer.

So, I began developing my own rules. In fact, by fifth grade, when I read Robert Heinlein's The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, I was utterly enthralled with the character of Professor LaPaz who stated:

I will accept any rules that you feel necessary to your freedom. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.

I drove teachers batty ... I hated being in trouble ... I was a good kid ... and yet, there were times when they would watch as I deliberately disregarded a rule, cooly, calmly and whilst looking them straight in the eyes.

There was the instance of the substitute teacher in fourth grade. I needed to pee during math class. The substitute decided I was simply going to cause a disruption or that I was going to wreak havoc instead of going to the restroom. She told me that I absolutely could not leave. First, I hated it when any adult "decided" that "all children are X way." What an illogical system of belief!

Secondly, the deal is ... if I actually admitted to a teacher that I needed to go ... I was at least 10 minutes into the wriggling dance which means if I don't go soon, I'm going to burst my bladder or pee all over my desk. I absolutely HATED having to ASK to go to the bathroom. I wriggled and debated. I asked again. The substitute got angry and lectured the class.

I got up and walked out whilst she was distracted a moment later. I had to PEEEEEEEEEEEE, dammit.

Since our school was always in a state of utter chaos, with some 200 children in my grade level all in one huge "room" ... this was not quite the feat of stealth you might otherwise think. I went to the bathroom and then waited until one of the teachers rang the bell indicating it was time to change class areas. I waltzed back in, gathered my stuff, ignored her and went to my next class as if nothing had happened. I then, on the advice (okay, the insane egging on) of my friends, proceeded to write an "anonymous" note to the substitute telling her how evil she was and how behaviour like that was exactly how she was going to wind up "with dark puddles in the classroom."

Apparently, my regular teacher informed me upon her return, I made the substitute cry with that note. Not that I saw. She just looked pissed off to me. Which I thought was far better than pissed on, which was another option I had considered (actually, I thought about peeing in her desk chair ... meh, close enough). And the thing is, I didn't do this out of meanness to her ... but so that she would learn. Even considering peeing in her chair, I didn't understand this as a vicious act of grossness or vandalism. I thought I was logically teaching her something she needed to learn in order to be a better teacher. When a child claims they have to pee and does "that" wiggle ... you better freaking rush them to the bathroom!!

This happens in part because many INTJs do not readily grasp the social rituals; for instance, they tend to have little patience and less understanding of such things as small talk and flirtation (which most types consider half the fun of a relationship). To complicate matters, INTJs are usually extremely private people, and can often be naturally impassive as well, which makes them easy to misread and misunderstand. Perhaps the most fundamental problem, however, is that INTJs really want people to make sense. :-) This sometimes results in a peculiar naivete'

That's from Marina Margaret Heiss again.

I was obviously having issues grasping the social rituals there!!

The thing which perhaps confused my teachers and my family the most ... that confuses my friends today ... is that an INTJ tends to define success for themselves. We don't necessarily define it the way others expect.

I was a smart kid. I could work incessantly on some projects and pay attention to the smallest details - my system building tendencies at work. Worksheets and tests, I would race through, doing less than a stellar job and getting tagged as "not living up to full potential." I got high enough grades to keep almost everyone off my back or at least keep their displeasure to a level of background noise I could live with. The more astute teachers knew I was hitting that minimum just to shut them up and it either drove them nuts, or they docked me points just to make me work harder ... and a few special ones left me alone because my grades were my choice (of course, some didn't give a crap, either).

All of this has led to complications in my adult life, of course. The novel I completed for my master's degree remains in a drawer. I've never sent it out to be published. Most of you find that mad, don't you? All that work to create a world and write some 300 pages ... and do nothing with it? What was the point?

Eh, while a great many unpublished writers claim that they do not write for publication, most of them do at least have publication as a serious goal. I mean it. I wrote it for me. I enjoy having people read it ... but ...

My goal was to write the book. It was publishable when I finished it in 1996. At least, it was comparable quality and theme to other science-fiction books being published at the time. Today, I've seen other writers hit some of my same ideas. It doesn't anger me. It makes me smile. I was right on target. If I were to bother attempting to send it out today, I'd need to do some updating. It wouldn't be all that hard. But I don't do it.

Why? Largely because you need a one page summary of your novel to send out with the first three chapters and your cover letter - whether to agent or to publisher - provided either actually accept "over the transom" manuscripts. It's a process in which your work often gets rejected unread.

And, I find marketing myself difficult. I can market for products, for other people ... and I do a damn good job at it. But myself? Not so much. I want to fan out some of my work and let my work speak for me. I shouldn't need to do anything else. So trying to summarize my 300 page novel into a single page ... writing a cover letter for a job ... these are impossible tasks for me. Insurmountable problems. Social rituals that I do not comprehend and yet am forced to attempt to fake my way through.

From Personality Zone:

Masterminds are rare, comprising no more than, say, one percent of the population, and they are rarely encountered outside their office, factory, school, or laboratory. Although they are highly capable leaders, Masterminds are not at all eager to take command, preferring to stay in the background until others demonstrate their inability to lead. Once they take charge, however, they are thoroughgoing pragmatists. Masterminds are certain that efficiency is indispensable in a well-run organization, and if they encounter inefficiency-any waste of human and material resources-they are quick to realign operations and reassign personnel. Masterminds do not feel bound by established rules and procedures, and traditional authority does not impress them, nor do slogans or catchwords. Only ideas that make sense to them are adopted; those that don't, aren't, no matter who thought of them.

My partner, indeed, most people who know me well, wind up guffawing when they read that paragraph describing the INTJ ... it's so very much the distilled essence of me.

I enjoy being an INTJ and couldn't imagine being any other way. I'm quite comfortable with myself. However, I constantly seek to minimize certain INTJ tendencies ... I constantly grapple with how to market myself ... with trying to be a bit more outgoing instead of so intensely focused on whatever my goal is. (As Heiss says, "Whatever system an INTJ happens to be working on is for them the equivalent of a moral cause to an INFJ" ... and that can sometimes be quite off-putting to other people!)

And here's the real deal ... whilst I have a tendency to refuse categorization (I hate About Me boxes, for instance and mine universally say little about me except that I hate the damn things) ... this one category of INTJ does tend to "hold" most of my traits. But like any category, it describes an aspect or a trend and does not contain me.

So while I am an INTJ and proud of it ... I am myself as well. I am not constrained and defined by my personality type any more than other people are truly defined by theirs. I use that box as a jumping off point to understand why I act the way that I do and how I can improve my relations with others. I do not use it to limit myself but to improve myself.

And that, I suppose is why I hate About Me boxes. They don't serve to improve me, but to encapsulate me ... a distilled short form of me to feed to other people.

As with marketing myself in general, I prefer to fan out a selection of my work and let that speak for me instead.

Posted by Red Monkey at February 2, 2008 8:44 AM | People Say I Have ADHD, But I Think - Hey Look, A Chicken | Why Johnny Won't Learn and Mrs. Curnutt Is Tired of the System | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


techfun said:

Minus the needing to pee in math class incident, you could have been writing this about me. Your post has actually done more to convince me of the validity of the Meyers-Briggs test results than anything else I have read on the subject.

February 2, 2008 11:54 AM


newnorth said:

One teacher back in 5th grade used to make students carry a toilet seat to the bathroom (as the pass). I was happy I didn't get her, we would have had some arguments. (she also made everyone in her class stand up and shout "I am the best person at math" over and over)

Anyway, I really enjoyed this post. Made me think of some of the stupid rule we had back in school :)

February 2, 2008 10:59 PM


Tommy said:

Wow. My first read and I must say I was hanging on every word. I think you probably do underestimate yourself as many INTJ's probably do. Though not a science fiction type, I'd still be interested in that book I think....PEACE........T

February 3, 2008 1:56 PM


otilius said:

Mastermind, Schmastermind! Testing, Schmesting!
Hi, ender. I'd write more but now I have to peeeeeeeeeeeeee.

February 3, 2008 2:55 PM

Thanks for dropping by and boy you sound like my son AND my husband. The stories I heard about HIS early years and battles with school and parents who did not understand.

My dh is a writer and very introverted and it has taken YEARS to get him out of his shell and when he does he is very funny and very warm.

Oh and a teacher made me pee my pants when I was in grade 3. She was a witch.

February 5, 2008 11:36 AM

Wow. Very interesting, introspective, and deep. I took that test a very long time ago (still have the book, Please Understand Me II), and I think I was an INTF (does this sound right??) Anyway, I love talking with people who like thinking so deeply about things. Guess that means I'll be poking about your blog! :)

April 17, 2008 10:35 PM

Wow. Very interesting, introspective, and deep. I took that test a very long time ago (still have the book, Please Understand Me II), and I think I was an INTF (does this sound right??) Anyway, I love talking with people who like thinking so deeply about things. Guess that means I'll be poking about your blog! :)

April 17, 2008 10:35 PM


LiteralDan said:

This reminds me a lot of myself. I never took this M-B test but I would guess I am maybe one factor removed from you, in some direction. Not an exact match, but very close.

People either loved or hated me as a movie theater supervisor. These people broke down into: 1) those who preferred life to be simpler, more straight-forward, and predictable; and 2) those who only cared that they were stuck working for pennies for The Man, and just wanted to show up and go home with said pennies.

Ahh systems, logic, and organization... Sigh.....

April 29, 2008 11:40 AM

@ender: So, you should know that with my personality, I wouldn't normally wade through the depths of this kind of writing. But, because of our discussion going on over at about the M-B test, I kept with it and I have to say, it was great.

As an entrepreneur, I understand the value of surrounding yourself with other personality types to ensure that things get done, or paid attention to, or organized, or marketed and sold. Luckily, there is no wrong answer to the M-B, just insightful information about ourselves. Now, I understand more why you don't like to fill out the "about me" pages.

My challenge in writing my "about me" page is too much information, because I don't want the reader to miss anything. Thanks for the participating! I'll have the results of the survey posted on my blog soon. It will be interesting to see how many of each M-B type there are in the blogoshpere.

May 23, 2008 6:37 AM
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