November 27, 2007


The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI, as mentioned in the title, or Myers-Briggs as the common nomenclature follows) is a tool for assessing different aspects of your personality. It is not, by far, a catch all, so do not plan to take the damn think that someone has invented a perfect reflection of every personality trait you have. But, it is a good start.

There are four categories, each with two ends of the spectrum. When you answer the questions (and there are only two answers per question, except the weird one which has three) and turn it into whomever is scoring the test, they ship it to New Jersey where a bunch of magical elves throw darts at the little ovals which you filled out, and, in turn, they send back the results.

All of that is true...except for the part about New Jersey.

When you get your scores it's not as simple as "YOU ARE EXTROVERTED CONGRATULATIONS YOU CAN TALK TO OTHERS WITHOUT GETTING NERVOUS." You score somewhere on a conitum where it is very clear or in conflict. You cannot score an even score. Somewhere those magical elves constructed the scoring in such a way that you HAVE TO HAVE a dominate trait.

This is a good thing though. Like all personality assessments, the Myers-Briggs (and even those silly little e-mail assessments like "How you eat an Oreo is how you view intimacy") is meant to allow you to say two things about yourself:
1. "Yes I agree that I eat my Oreo by screwing off the top, and eating the rest ferociously."
2. "No I do not agree that by not eating the part I screwed off that means I hate introverted people."

I love this test more so than the rest of the official ones. I like all the unofficial ones as well because they end up covering some extra ground. But I enjoy the Myers-Briggs the most because it literally tells you "your score was a INTJ at the moment you took this test." This means that it can change in the future or has changed from previous times you took it. It sort of moves with you.

At the same time, a quality facilitator of the scores will also let you in on the 'Dominate Hand Theory' which is to say that you probably have a dominate Myers-Briggs type, but at this moment it has shifted mostly due to how you have shifted.

I first took the Myers-Briggs in High School the same year I read a short story which fundamentally changed my life. John Updike, celebrated American author, wrote a fictional short about a young boy who works at a grocery store during the summer. It is a snapshot of one particular hour (half hour?) of his shift where he is distracted by three young ladies who have strolled in right off the beach. The boss reminds the young boy of the "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" policy and the young boy must decide whether or not to confront the ladies.

It is an entertaining read if you've ever had an average summer job, ever had a conflict with a boss, or ever daydreamed at work.

For me it was the first short story I read where I connected not just with the character but also with how it was written. For lack of better phrasing, I thought the story was quite juvenile. Perfect for someone who, at the time, was quite juvenile. I have read that story several times throughout my life. And each time, despite learning more about Updike's style, despite having read his other stories, despite critically analyzing the story...each time, I absolutely loved it.

There are times I've thought the young boy was dumb. There are times I hated the notion of having to work a summer job. There are times I thought he was brave; times I thought about how much I love the summer job. And like the rest of this article, it taught me two important lessons:

1. That changing who we are is ok. Sometimes we flip, flop, switch, slide, vacillate, vacate, abandon, abdicate, validate, embrace, face, and flat out ignore characteristics of who we are. But that's ok, because different circumstances, age, employment, hobbies, relationships will cause that in us.

2. There is always an essential nugget, or gist, of who we are. That never goes away. No matter how much we fight against it. No matter how much we explore and go through the 'experimental' phase of our life (of which mine was growing my hair out....not fun days for someone who has naturally curly hair).

I am happy to know that I have embraced the introverted and extroverted sides of who I am. Likewise, I am psyched to know that the one MBTI area which has not changed for me is the Intuitive characteristic. This article should show that easily. I am happy to know that no matter how many times I read A&P, it will make me smile, and inspire me, and challenge me.

These personality assessors are everywhere in your life. Look for them. Learn from them. Reflect and choose your traits. The ether which makes you earthly. The humor in your veins. Whatever your passion, embrace it, be who you are, and love that aspect of life, which is the chance to be, and then be again.


November 16, 2007

Angels: Custer

In my first year at Arizona State, when I was friends with 'Papa' John (a friend I've mentioned before) I also met a close friend of his, Custer. Now, Custer wasn't your standard residence life. No slight to him, but he was not charismatic, gregarious, or stern. He was not a standout leader, he did not necessarily do big things. He was an RA. He was involved in Hall Council. But other than that, he was not what many would expect a typical standout Reslifer to be.

He did bring two of the most important characteristics to the table: humor and compassion.

On the compassion end, Custer was the best person to talk to about anything. He would hear you out. He would be there for you in a pinch. He would ride shotgun when you needed a friend. He would drive you if you needed a ride. These sound like simple things. These may even sound borderline co-dependent. But his heart was so big, there's no way to refute the natural kindness he had for those around him.

Then there was his sense of humor. This has been a recent high point in an otherwise stressful life for me. As I've been bogged down in the administrative jumble which is applying to graduate school, I have been fortunate enough to be engaged in a series of e-mails regarding superheroes, fictional cartoon characters, and toys. Essentially, Custer, my friend Cole (another great leader and friend), and myself have started this e-mail chain which consists of us asking the important questions like:
-If you could have Castle Greyskull or Boulder Mountain as a HQ which would you pick?
-Second in command: Soundwave or Destro?
-Which of the GI Joes would you road trip with?

Do any of these questions have any bearing on real life? Of course not. That's the beauty of the humor which Custer shares with his friends. Cole, Custer and myself have been enjoying these e-mails ridiculously.

On a personal Custer note, I will never forget the time we had mid year training at ASU. We had an optional bowling night. Custer and I were determined to go dressed up. He had on a pair of old man warm up pants, ugly shirt, and he frosted and gelled his hair (imagine Frank N. Further from Rocky Horror without the lingerie but with tacky clothes). A perfect compliment to my camp skirt, purple/yellow bowling shirt, and 1/2 cut soccer ball. The picture, which I still have and display proudly, is priceless.

Custer teaches us two important lessons: Life is never too hard for yourself, where you can't spend five minutes listening to a friend, to hear what they're up to, to hear what's troubling them. And life's never too difficult where you can't find the humor in something. A good laugh gets you far.


PS Quick shout out to two of my not oft seen "posse" of friends: the Tosa Crew is looking for a triumphant reunion in the near future and the e-mail conversations have been priceless. The ASU Crew, likewise, started a perfect e-mail chain regarding logic puzzles and games. Thanks guys for the smiles!!!