The Power of Introverts is one of my all-time favourite TED talks. I could immediately identify with Susan Cain (who has the same INFP type as me). I felt enormous relief after watching her talk as I had been ashamed of my introversion for basically all of my life. And here was this lady telling everyone how great introverts are. For one, introverts are often more competent at what they do for a living or their hobbies than extroverts as they tend to stick with an activity for longer. And yet, when it comes to pay introverts get paid less (see the difference in the chart below).
And yet, there was something important missing from Susan Cain’s talk and book. It turned out that about half of all people are introverts (in Asia more, in America fewer). However, I had always felt a bit like an alien and I felt the people who were similar to me were more like 10% than 50% of the population. What was more, the few people I often was on the same wavelength with and who I had suspected to be introverted like me more often turned out to be extroverts at some stage or our friendship. In a way, it was weird, because I had been drawn to them because I felt they were introverts like me in the first place. So, introversion wasn’t really the answer to everything after all.
When I discovered intuitives from the Myers-Briggs personality inventory and Carl Jung’s types, I realized that introverted intuitives, who make up about 10% of the population, were what I really had been looking for. IN types are often very reserved and may even suffer from social anxiety, like I did in my teens. They are typically highly open to experience and often have nerdy interests like science, psychology and video games. What’s more, most of us have an acute sense of being very different from the majority of people. So, I went on a quest to find out who we are. Who are we? Some of us do believe we are Starseed aliens. A Starseed is said to be an advanced spiritual being. Originating from other planets and realms and possessing spiritual and scientific knowledge dating back hundreds of thousands of years.
Of course, I find the idea pretty outlandish. However, my research led me to a conclusion that seems just as outlandish to many people: we are hunter-gatherers in a farmer world.
There are actually many physical traits that Starseeds, foragers (hunter-gatherers) and IN types share: we are most often ectomorphs with elongated faces. It turned out that pretty much the majority of famous people from history are intuitives, including greats such as Aristotle, Abraham Lincoln and Einstein. Also including some of the most horrible humans that ever lived, including Hitler, Stalin, and almost every school shooter there was.
Among contemporary celebrities, intuitives feature far less prominently, though. Why? Because intuitives have always been the visionary people who changed the world and many were not recognized during their lifetime; like Vincent van Gogh, to name just one example. A lot of people famous from entertainment and sports aren’t intuitives. A lot of tech entrepreneurs are. Elon Musk is probably the most prominent example of a hunter type intuitive alive.
N types are famously known as visionaries in MBTI. But what made me conclude that they are evolutionary hunter-gatherer types? A lot of intuitives have changed the world so that it would resemble the world of foragers more: more egalitarian, more humanitarian (out-group social), less work, reducing (farmer) routine work by inventions and optimizing workflows. Egalitarian is the keyword here: Einstein chatted with the university cleaners in the same way as with the university president, Lady Diana ate together with the kitchen staff and Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery in the USA.
The problem is, that scientists basically have abolished us intuitives less than a hundred years after Jung discovered us, giving preference to the Big 5 personality test, which doesn’t have a category for intuitives. Even so, it has a close correlate: openness to experience.
My hypothesis doesn’t need MBTI to work. However, people who strongly identify as intuitives have told me that they also strongly identify as hunter-gatherer types, as I have defined them. I often avoid MBTI in my work as many people immediately assume that it is unscientific because of the confusion with MBTI and my hypothesis. However, this book is explicitly dedicated to intuitives, so there is no need to hide my liking for it.
So, what is the secret power of intuitives? To begin with, many intuitives feel like they really do have secret superpowers in childhood. I heard stories ranging from “I thought I was a superhero” to “I thought I had powers of witchcraft”. The X-men may be a perfect metaphor for us: admired for their special powers, shunned for their being different. This is how many of us feel. And many of us are indeed gifted. The rate of MBTI types among the gifted is:
Of course, this doesn’t mean that all N types are gifted. Far from it. N types are typical orchids and you may find them overrepresented among the gifted as well as the special ed children. Many famous intuitives were definitely neurodiverse, perhaps most famously Newton who was almost certainly autistic.
Now, if you compare this statistic with the above income statistic you will find an almost inverse relationship. What’s going on here? Something can’t be right here, or is there a way to resolve this paradox? A study among MENSA members revealed that the most common type for their members is ENFP, the most important reason probably being simply that ENFPs are the most common of all N types. Surprise, you may never have guessed that just by looking at the performance of the various types
ENFPs come last in GPA scores. Well, who can blame psychologists for abolishing intuitives? These statistics are plainly paradoxical and an embarrassment for psychology (which has been struggling with the replication problem for a while anyway).
And yet, as a teacher I can confirm that ENFPs students are much more often at the bottom of the class than at the top and on top of that among the most likely to drop out from school. Why? When Myers-Briggs used their tests on school pupils early on they found that sensors outperformed intuitives. This is also true in my experience, with an amendment, however: NJ students tend to outperform everyone else and when students are recognized as gifted, it is more often than NP students, who often have abysmal grades even when they are gifted. How can these be the innovative people who go on to change the world?
NP students are the most common type in my creative animation classes. So, at least they are creative after all, even if they don’t have stellar grades. One of the secrets here is that intuitives have rote learning and rote work. SJ or farmer types outshine them, after all, that is what they had to be good at as early farmers. If you look at the statistics regarding income again, it’s also the farmer types who earn most. Intuitives aren’t that much into material possessions, but more into ideas and ideals. Paradoxically, this is what often makes them earn more money than sensors. Elon Musk didn’t become a millionaire because he was after money, he was after new ideas (and still is).
Of course, few intuitives will be able to do what Musk or Einstein did. You will find intuitives in all walks of life and many do live rather ordinary lives. But if a person rises to genius status like Musk or Einstein, you can almost be certain it will be an intuitive. Why? What is the power of intuitives?
The innovative power of intuitives consists of several factors. Among them the most important ones are:
- They are born pattern-seekers
- They find it hard to follow traditional routes to success and have to carve out their own niches
- They are able to hyperfocus when “on the hunt” (the “zone” or just playing video games)
- They are non-conformists and will try to do things their way
Ironically the song “I did it my way” was written by an ISFP (Paul Anka) and performed by an ESTJ (Frank Sinatra).
I explore the power of intuitives in more detail in my latest book
Originally published at http://the-big-ger-picture.blogspot.com on June 10, 2021.