Susan Cain’s TED talk entitled The Power of Introverts came up recently (thanks John) and presents a great opportunity to merge many of my prior posts on spiral memes with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) that many of us experienced as youths.

To provide some context, in 1962 Isabel Briggs and her spouse Clarence Myers co-created MBTI as an associative test for the Theory of Psychological type originated by the Swiss Psychiatrist Carl Jung in 1921. MBTI seeks to inform a person of their “personality type” through four measures:

  1. Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)
  2. Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)
  3. Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)
  4. Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)

So that you too can decisively answer whether you’re ESFJ or INTP. I find that folks seldom care about anything past the first letter, because the others are difficult to define and remember.

I remember back in 3rd-6th grade being annually frustrated by the MBTI. Every time I took the exam I would be classified differently. And for a precocious 3rd-6th grader trying to get a gold star, that variability was frustrating! My 6th grade teacher, Duane Meske, decided to have some fun with this and had me repeat the MBTI at different times during the day over the course of a week or a few weeks (I can’t remember exactly now). Sure enough, my MBTI would change based on the circumstances surrounding the test, a personal trait I’ve noticed repeatedly throughout life. Thankfully I’m not trapped in MBTI purgatory, a definition was created so that I too can be classified- ambivert: someone who has a balance of introvert and extravert traits.

The funny thing is, evolution has ensured that we’re all ambiverts to some degree. Society is defined as extraverts. But nothing new ever happens if everyone does the same thing, and individuals seldom advance without seeing the need to (often through the advantages of others). We all know these traits as hallmarks of Darwinian evolution and the rate in which we advance directly depends on our ability to phase shift between individual and collective needs. We hold ourselves back when we become too introverted or extraverted such that we forget the wonder of contrast.

So may’be (and I completely own that this is self-serving within the context of this post) overall personal awareness and advancement on the spiral meme continuum is a function of introverted vs. extraverted, not in the explicit measure of one versus the other, but in ones ability to contrast freely between the duality of individual vs. collective memes.

Here’s an opportunity, not to rush out and take the MBTI in all of it’s legalistic dichotomous glory, but to evaluate the introverted vs. extraverted activities in life and see where you have opportunity for contrast.