These excerpts are from my book on personality types: 16 Kinds of Crazy: The Sixteen Personalities.
Ernest Hemingway said, “Learning to live completely in the very second of the present with no before and no after is the greatest gift (one) can acquire.” That’s me! I care about what’s happening now and what I can do about it. The present utterly absorbs me.
Life is whatever engages my five senses. It’s making love, riding a bike, seeing a movie, or eating a five course meal at a restaurant. I notice opportunities to act and take advantage of them. It seems a shame to miss out. On vacation in the mountains, I drive past a whitewater rafting sign. That looks like fun! What a chance to experience a new unbelievable sensation! If I have the resources and time, I will pull over the car and sign up for the next raft. On the water, I feel like a part of nature and the waves. The sun beats on my neck. Adrenaline pumps through my muscles while I do my part at the oars. I’m so alive. This is incredible. I never want to miss an experience!
In deep diving training, there’s a moment where your instructor turns off the oxygen to limit your air supply. It teaches you what it’s like to run out of air so you won’t let your tank run low. Scary as it is, there’s also a thrill to it. It’s a life or death experience. The absence of enough oxygen vibrates through your body. It squeezes your lungs and makes your head feel heavier. Your heart quickens as every fiber of your being fears suffocation. A rush of adrenaline vibrates through your entire body.
That’s what being me is like; I feel everything through my body. I have a constant state of self-awareness of reality and my place in it centered on my sensations. I feel all my reactions to the physical environment. Being fully awake and tuned in to what’s happening is important to me. I automatically know what I can do to push a situation forward or make it stop. I do it without thinking about it. It’s instinctual for me to leap into action. As a teacher, part of my responsibility is supervising the kids at recess. I know where they are and what they’re doing. The unspoken body language between them tells me who’s about to start a fight. I can insert myself between them to stop it, or lift one of them onto the monkey bars. Swinging on them will open up a new life experience for him.
As a child, I hated being on the bench. I wanted to do things for myself, and to teach myself. I did not stay on the sidelines; I ran into the new playground, skinned my knees on the jungle gym, climbed the highest tree, taught myself to skateboard, came home covered in mud, hated the safety scissors, and took things apart. The impulse to connect tangibly to things never went away.
I learn best by doing. Life teaches me what I need to know. I don’t watch other people build my garage; I build it myself. Being told how to hold a hammer isn’t the same as gripping the handle. Hearing about swimming with dolphins is a poor substitute for getting in the water with them. I learned to drive by doing it.
Connecting to my activity lets me sense when it’s going wrong. I adjust while in motion. If I feel my motorcycle slip left on a curve, I can compensate by letting off the gas. If I can’t do this in time, I learn from my mistake so next time I won’t repeat it.
Doing something shows me what it’s like. I want that knowledge. I need it. I would rather have sex than hear someone talk about it. Listening to what it feels like to have a blue marlin on the line isn’t as intense as being in the seat and trying to reel in an incredible fish. My hands are shaking from the strain of holding onto it!
For me, experience outweighs books or observation. I learn by watching and copying. It reminds me of an anecdote from Shirley Temple’s biography. As a child, she got into trouble for sitting and listening to tap-dancing legend Bojangles perform their stair-step routine instead of practicing. When confronted, the pint-sized girl said she was memorizing the steps according to how they sounded on the staircase. Shirley counted the steps and beats, absorbed this knowledge into her body, and mastered them on her first try.
It baffles me when others talk about doing things instead of doing them. Why would anyone live on the sidelines and not take action? Who doesn’t want to get involved?
How did I master great sex? I climbed into bed. Learn to paint? I bought art supplies. When I want to know something, I don’t turn to a textbook. I ask someone who has done it. Who makes sushi, skydives, competes in cross-country racing tournaments, or climbs mountains. These people teach me what to expect from my own experience. They tell me about the burn in my calf muscles, the shortness of breath in my lungs, how much my hand will ache, the exhilaration of a free fall or of touching a great white shark. A full-body experience is incredible. I want it.
Live in the Now
Whatever I want to experience needs to happen immediately. I don’t want to waste time, because now is all I get. Only the present exists. If there’s no tomorrow until it arrives, I must seize everything at once—an experience, a lover, a job. It feels urgent, like if I don’t get this today, or next week at the latest, I’ll never get it. If I wait too long, I may not even want it. It’s better to find out if I want it by having it or doing it than to pine for it. That’s why I jump on things, but struggle to stay interested. It makes sense for today to take a job, get involved with a person, or start a hobby.
There’s a downside to this, however. If nothing matters beyond today, whenever my life is awful, it feels like it will last forever. My loss, pain, disappointment, etc., will never fade. It suffocates me. That’s one reason I stay busy. Too much downtime makes me sad.
I chase after whatever catches my attention until it wanes, then I drop it and move on to something else. I watch for opportunities. While running a landscaping business, I find out there’s better money in lumber, so I change my career. I serve as a construction overseer for a time, but quit to start building houses. Manual labor interests me more than management. My career or college major changed several times while I tried out things. A lifetime of doing one thing will bore me. I need a steady diet of challenges.
I don’t see the point of beating around a bush or delaying what I want if I can take a direct approach. I don’t wait for life to happen to me. I chase it. My thoughts lead to swift actions. To use the whitewater rafting analogy, I drove through the mountains to go hiking in a national park. I love driving. It’s one way I connect to nature. Driving this stretch of mountain terrain requires awareness of the winding, narrow roads to know where my car is in nearness to animals and people. The experience fills my senses. I bask in the sun beating into my truck. I crack open the window to let in the sharp Tennessee air that smells of autumn and turning leaves. A thousand different shades of red, green, and orange exist on the crags. That’s when I notice a sign nestled against a cliff: Whitewater Rafting, the experience of a lifetime! I’ve always wanted to do it, and promised myself I would! It’s Saturday. There’s no one waiting for me. Why not change my plans? I can hike afterward. I need this! I drive up a side road to the registry office. Wouldn’t you know it—a raft leaves in twenty minutes! This is the best day ever!
Keeping myself open to possibilities lets good things happen. If I hadn’t paid attention to my surroundings, I might not have seen the sign. Another year would have passed without me discovering how much I love whitewater rafting. It’s all I do now. Out on that river, with my heart pounding and my lungs full, I feel alive. I never want to lose that sensation. Life is short. I want to live it. Chase it. Risk has its own rewards. My confidence comes from my body. I know it can handle it. Failure is yet another experience. I’ll find a new challenge. The world has limitless possibilities.
Discussions interest me less than doing things. My hobbies involve my hands and body. I love activities that let me experience nature or test my physical limits. Scuba diving, snorkeling, spelunking, boating, fishing, skydiving, hunting, camping, surfing, hiking, rock climbing, archery lessons, motorcycle riding… my list of activities is endless. Other people talk about taking a class or hiring a yacht. I do it. The world offers me exciting places to visit, sensations to experience, foods to eat, and people to meet.
A busy environment stimulates me. At a street fair, I notice the swarm of people, the artisan booths full of colorful things for sale, the sweat on the back of my neck, the pull in my muscles as I walk up the incline, and the smell of beer and hot dogs on the air. It’s great. I want to touch and feel things, to tastea cinnamon roll, feel the wind whip through my shirt on a boat, or blow a raspberry on a baby’s foot to make them laugh. Life energizes and motivates me. I need to savor a good meal, kiss an attractive date, and put a beautiful car on the road. I don’t want to hide it under a tarp in the garage. Music makes a road trip better… along with windows down and my favorite people in the backseat.
Being unable to act makes me feel frustrated and helpless. I can’t cure your cancer, but let me stop you from stepping on that rake. I can’t find a lost pet, but I can put up reward posters.
Give me something to do in a crisis. Otherwise, I feel at a loss.
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ESTP: The Opportunist
Call me the ultimate survivalist. There’s always a way to influence a situation, solve a quandary by trying different tactics, or hack the system. I think about the problem until rational fixes occur to me. Logic and being there are inseparable. I find the best solutions while taking action. Reality and improvisation are the best teacher.
I figure out how things work by doing them. My cousin asks me to build a safe tree house in the backyard for her kids. I drop in to assess the environment. I ask, what kind of tree is it? Some trees are harder wood, others are softer. The latter bend in the wind, but may not support the weight of a tree house. I need to stabilize the structure with a pole. What’s the ground like? Clay requires a different approach than sand or rocks. How high should I make it? How much weight can the branches bear? I use measurements and an idea of what I want to set up a process, but improvise along the way. There’s a knot in the tree that won’t take nails, so I work around it. Getting a feel for things tells me what to do and what adjustments to make.
It’s the same with anything. Sports, business, dating, whatever. Doing it teaches me how to manipulate it for success. Knowing rules lets me bend them to my advantage. I think in terms of what benefits me. What makes the most rational sense? In Gone With the Wind, Scarlett discovers Frank is putting all his time into a grocery store, when he should sell lumber. She saw what I would: the South needed rebuilt. Frank could double his profits by selling building supplies. Despite all the harm the Yankees had done to Scarlett, doing business with them didn’t bother her if she could profit off it. Rather than take their abuse personally, she saw an opportunity.
Life throws a lot at me, but I still come out on top. How? I use whatever opportunities are available. The more I know about how the rules of my environment work, the faster I turn a situation to my advantage. Loopholes exist for me to exploit. How do I build a garage without paying for a permit? I do research! The county government website tells me if a structure isn’t permanent, I don’t need a city inspection permit. Movable buildings are an exception to the rule, so that’s what I do. I buy it and set it in place.
If I want Fridays off, but my manager hates me and refuses, that doesn’t stop me. I know the company lets people trade work days without managerial approval. I convince my coworker to trade (she wanted Sundays off anyway) and come out a winner. Leverage exists in every situation. If my boss has a crush on me and it gets me a bonus, I see no problem with a little flirting.
I look for situations to exploit and use logic to decide how. Not sure what I mean? Check out the episode Brasada Spur in the series Maverick. Bart Maverick gets conned into accepting stock into a money-losing railroad that makes him liable for its financial crisis. It’s in peril because a larger railroad can afford to undercut their cattle shipping prices and run at a loss long enough to drive them out of business. Under Brett’s encouragement, the smaller railroad ships cattle at a loss of $2 a head. Their competition undercuts them at a $6 per head loss. What nobody in town knows is Bart has bought up all the cattle and uses the railroad to earn a profit. He doesn’t have to pay to ship them, which means he makes more per cow at the auction yard. They can’t arrest him, since he did nothing illegal. He just outsmarted them.
Living smart means knowing the rules and calculating the odds. There are 52 cards in a deck. 12 face cards. My chances of drawing a face card at random is 23%. How many people sit at the table changes the odds of me drawing specific cards. It’s the same with any major decision. I factor in the cost and the benefits. How can I squeeze one more advantage out of this venture?
When learning anything new, from a computer system to how a jet engine works, I need time to process it and learn how it all fits together. I take it apart, literally or in my mind, to see where each piece goes and understand its function. Though tedious, this helps me build a comprehensive mental blueprint of it. Knowing what each component does, and how they all work together to run a system or a machine gives me options if one thing quits working.
Take a keyboard. It has a processor and circuitry built around a key matrix—a collection of circuits under the keyboard, broken at a point under every key. Pressing any key completes the circuit, sending a command to the processor. This process pushes a small bar through a hole lined with rubber. The rubber prevents the key from moving down and pushes it back up when it’s released. If a key sticks, the rubber has worn out, gotten sticky, has crumbs in it, or needs replaced.
I could use a computer without thinking about how keys work, but knowing their functional process helps me identify solutions if they don’t. It’s the same with a car engine. A battery and alternator work together to maintain the electrical system. A gas engine spins wheels under the hood, which cranks a wheel on the alternator to generate energy. Batteries have a limited lifespan. You can start a vehicle despite a dead battery by attaching it with cables to another car. This gives your dead battery a temporary boost by sending an electrical charge to it. Once your car has enough power to turn on the alternator, it will recharge your battery as it runs.
Knowing how things work makes it easier to manipulate them. I take apart any system and understand its parts before I trust it. My knowledge builds into a database of logical understanding. This creates hacks that shorten the learning curve on related processes.
My logic is instinctual. I don’t notice it most of the time, just that I seem more capable of detachment and fixing things than others. I don’t always need to focus on my inner process, either. There’s a difference between learning how a mathematical formula, scientific process, or compression valve works, and knowing how to land a dirt bike. How I land depends on what I know about gravity, acceleration, balance, and terrain. I calculate this in midair without noticing it.
Unless I take apart systems and build a mental map of how each piece connects and interacts, I won’t hold on to the information or benefit from it. Next time, I’ll have to learn it all over again. I did not appreciate personality types until I deconstructed them. Taking them apart to determine what distinctions lie between each type gave me an image of each personality to use for comparison. Finishing this process ensures I never need to relearn information.
People interest me as something to take apart and understand. I got into personality types out of an interest in “hacking people.” Humans function off a complicated operating system. Their brain sends their body signals. We call their mental process cognition. Personalities result from them using different sections of the brain to process information, which means each type has a unique mental track. Knowing that gives me insight into their psyche. I now know how to appeal to them on a level they understand.
Staying present in a situation and adjusting to it teaches me better methods. It’s like riding a bike. You learn how to balance once you climb on the seat. No one can tell you about balancing. It happens after you fall a dozen times. Then you get the hang of it. You learn that leaning too far in either direction tips you over after you do it. At a certain point, you don’t think about it anymore. Your body does it right automatically.
I must get into action to assess what’s in front of me. A good mechanic doesn’t look at a computer diagnostic. They pop the hood. Relying on computers instead of logic and insight causes problems. A girl once came into the auto body shop complaining of the “service engine” light staying on. The last guy who checked it said dirt around the gas tank lid tripped the sensor. Wrong. A rabbit had chewed through the wiring under her car. He checked the manual for his answer. I looked underneath the vehicle.
Speculating how to solve theoretical problems doesn’t appeal to me. Show it to me. I must get “dirty.” I learn more by being an assistant and thinking my way through a crisis than by listening to lectures. Don’t tell me in vet school how a cow delivers her calf; give me a detailed diagram. Better yet, let me help her give birth. My best work happens when I can see and touch a problem.
Book learning bores me. Put me on-site. There’s an example of this in the series All Creatures Great & Small. In one episode, a cow might suffocate unless they remove a puss-filled growth in her throat. The ESTP, Tristan, sketches her blood vessels and muscle tissues to determine whether they can operate. They cut into her neck and find the mass under her carotid artery. One nick with the scalpel will kill her. Tristan suggests they use tongs to puncture the growth, since it’s not sharp enough to nick the artery. He devised a logical solution in the present moment to suit the current situation. That’s when I do my best work, too.
Real learning takes time. I study by tinkering inside systems to determine their limits. That means establishing how they work. It may involve taking a machine apart. Can a clock function without this wire? How many pieces must I remove before it loses time?
I eliminate possibilities through experimentation. If my toilet won’t stop running, I adjust the float. If that fails, I swap out the fill valve. Next, I replace the toilet flapper or the overflow tube. I don’t mind taking time to find an answer if it teaches me a better method for next time.
Technical data fascinates me, because statistics and facts stick in my head. I love learning how things function. Don’t just show me an airplane. Let me see the engine. Better yet, I’d rather fly it.
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ESFP: The Improviser
I don’t say no to experiences. They teach me who I am. I try things to determine whether they’re for me. Placing myself into situations helps me figure out what makes me uncomfortable. I don’t know how I might react until confronted with a situation. My response reveals my values. It can be anything subjective and rooted in what I care about. I make decisions for me and about me.
A friend betrayed me by applying for a job he knew I wanted. Though furious at him, I forgave him… not for his sake, but for mine. He never asked for my forgiveness, but I didn’t want to carry around bitterness and resentment. That isn’t being my best self. He has reasons for his decisions. So do I. I don’t force myself on others, but I need to be true to how I feel.
Another time, a different friend got me to smoke a joint behind the school. I did it. Why not? I felt sick afterward, not physically, but angry at myself for having done it. It wasn’t being “me.” Now, I say no to anything similar. Been there, done that, it’s not for me.
I take information learned through my experiences about myself and use it to create boundaries under which I live my life. I tried this; it felt okay, so it’s fine for me to do. Or I tried it and hated it, so it’s not right for me. I want to honor my conscience, because not listening to myself means living with guilt. That’s worse than standing on my convictions even if it earns me disapproval. What society thinks doesn’t impact what I deem right or wrong. I decide that based on how I feel about it.
I discover what my main convictions are by how I react to the opportunities around me. The boss left the register unlocked. Do I take out fifty bucks or lock it? Who am I? My boyfriend needs a hunting partner; I don’t eat meat. Is it okay to accompany him? Would that bother me? A friend asked me what I think of his new girlfriend. She flirted with me behind his back. Do I tell him the truth or lie to protect his feelings? What would I want him to do in my place? What qualifies as a good friend? Dad wants me to escort him to the hospital to visit Grandpa. I can’t stand the man. Which matters more, my dad’s need for support or my dislike for him?
Sometimes I get involved and find out… this isn’t okay. Alarm bells go off inside me. “I can’t help you carry the elk to the truck.” “I won’t go along with breaking into your ex’s house.” “Dad, I love you, but you know how I feel about Grandpa. The last time we met, he laid into me for voting for a political candidate he hates. I don’t want to see him.” Though I hate to disappoint people and care about their feelings, I also need to listen to my feelings and obey them. It’s time for me to leave this relationship or quit this class. This isn’t okay with me.
Many of my decisions stem from who I want to be and how I define my relationships. Say a friend invites me to attend his first swimming competition, but it’s during college finals week. How do I decide whether to go or to spend my time cramming for a test? Which one is more important? Would a friend show their support by attending? If I can’t make it, do I still consider myself a good friend? People are my life. I want to maintain my relationships. If I decide not to go, I make sure he understands why, text him before the race to encourage him, and celebrate his victory with him later.
I do whatever I can live with, all the time.
Things either bother me or not. Does it make me uncomfortable to sit in a room full of people who don’t agree with me? I found out the day it happened. As a vegetarian, can I date a hunter? Let’s go out and see. Whatever doesn’t bother me, I don’t care about. I tell you as much and mean it. I am not just lying to protect your feelings. My reactions are subjective. I don’t expect others to share them. I stay open to trying things that don’t generate an automatic no. Refusal means a lost opportunity to find out, “Is this me?” All my experiences teach me something about myself.
Other people’s reactions don’t change how I feel about it. They may experience moral outrage upon seeing someone burn our flag, but it doesn’t bother me. Or I get mad enough to spit nails seeing that happen, but they don’t care. My response is mine alone. Their emotions don’t rub off on me, and I never feel what they feel.
I don’t need you to support how I feel or understand it, but I want you to respect it and not pressure me to change my mind. It won’t happen. The harder you push me, the angrier it will make me. I won’t ask you to reflect my values. Don’t try to change mine. I can’t alter how I feel, but I must honor it.
My feelings don’t become clear to me until I experience them. An event that asks me to respond out of instinct triggers them and shows me what matters to me. I may give no thought to my family until my mom gets hurt. The thought of losing her reveals to me how much I adore her, and that tells me I must take care of her. Any emotion leads to direct action. When my daughter feels overwhelmed with her first kid, I pack my stuff in a car and drive 700 miles to stay with her for a month. A film on animal testing makes me so angry, I join an animal welfare organization.
Listening to my heart never leads me wrong. Being in a situation and reacting gives me context to know myself for future situations. Doing something brings out my feelings. A job in construction felt like a great idea, but I hate it. I can’t keep doing it forever. It takes a while for my emotions to catch up to my actions.
I’m always asking myself, is this me?
Reality influences my opinions. I know how the world works and accept it. Not everyone will share my views. That’s okay. We each must decide what’s best based on our values and live by it. To find mine involves checking in with myself and asking, “Do I care? Does this bother me?” Ignoring how I feel is to deny myself. It’s important for me to be honest about my feelings on issues that matter to me. I can’t go against my scruples to keep others happy.
I want the freedom to live my life the way I want. Though I care about others, it’s more important for me to respect myself than to conform. Relationships come and go. I will be with myself forever. I don’t want to create or take part in any situation that won’t let me face myself in a mirror. I can alter my behavior to suit you, but don’t ask me to go against my beliefs. If it comes down to losing your respect or me losing respect for myself, I will choose me.
I won’t discuss politics if you prefer not to talk about it because I value our friendship enough to not cross that line, but I expect the same courtesy from you in return.
I won’t say what I don’t feel. Though I may not speak my mind to protect a friendship, I can’t be insincere to my inner experience. Certain things trigger such a strong inner response, I must take a stand against them. In a public meeting, one of the speakers made a comment I found reprehensible. Despite how everyone stared at me, I got up and left, because I couldn’t stand being there.
If something strikes me as morally wrong, I become inflexible. I can’t compromise on it and won’t change my mind about it. My inner self screams that it’s bad. It won’t matter how you feel about it, what you say about it, or whether it causes me trouble, I won’t yield. No amount of pleading or threats will alter my viewpoint. I had two mutual friends start a fight. Both wanted me to take their side. I refused. I care about them, but their problems aren’t mine. They needed to sort out their issues themselves, not drag me into it. I shut down any conversation where one of them complained about the other. Did it make them happy? No. Did I relent? Nope.
Things that don’t concern me are none of my business. Period.
I treat others how I want to be treated. If I want them to protect my feelings, I guard theirs. If I wouldn’t want them to cheat me, I don’t cheat them. It’s all part of being the person I need to be.
My emotional triggers are random. I can’t explain how I feel, but know that something bothers me. I loathe historical inaccuracies if I think people believe what they see or read. If you misrepresent the past, you give them a false view of it. By changing historical figures to suit a narrative, you slander them. Nobody ever understands this. “It’s fiction, meant to entertain.” To me, it isn’t. It makes me livid. I don’t know why, it just does.
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