A Writer's Room of Requirement

A home for the many random insights that cross my mind from time to time.

Which types escape the Matrix?

neo-wakes-up

When faced with the incredibly realistic but ultimately false reality of The Matrix which cognitive functions would prove most useful in detecting the machines’ simulation?  Certainly not all functions were created equal in this regard.  Certain types have to prove more difficult to subdue.  Who bucks the simulation of this logical world?

To recognize the Matrix I would want the ability to think imaginatively, to see beyond what my senses tell me.  The machines own my senses now.  I need alternative means of perception.

It would also help if I had values and abilities that the machines themselves can’t emulate.  If they can’t feel what I feel, then that makes me far more difficult to predict.  They have more difficulty cutting my perceptions off before I can realize them.  They will always have a superior logic.  They possess flawless objective processes.  But as a mammal, I will always have more capacity for unique emotion.  I must fight them on the battlefield where I have the advantage.

With this rubric in mind, I outlined the eight cognitive functions from most potentially helpful to least:

High

Introverted Feeling (Fi) – No matter how long they study, the machines will never truly understand the depths of a man’s heart.  They will never find a way to emulate the connection the Fi type feels with their fellow man.  Of all the types, the Fi types possess the strongest sense of empathy.  Through the observation of so many cues of body language and speech, they begin to feel what someone else feels.  No matter how accurate the Matrix becomes, the simulation always puts a thin film, a slight barrier, between the full interaction of two human beings.  The Matrix places a wisp of haze in front of the feeler’s empathy.  With such a perfectly crafted world, these slight, constant inconsistencies mean all the difference.  The Fi type never feels as fully connected to humanity as they should.  Maybe that explains why so many great Fi artists  – Kurt Cobain, Heath Ledger, Jimi Hendrix – come to tragic ends.  They just finally escaped the Matrix.

Extraverted Intuition (Ne) – No cognitive function possesses a higher capacity for imagination.  The Ne types constantly scan their environment – on an almost subconscious level – for any and all connections between all things.  This form of intuition loves to follow each and every rabbit trail that springs to life in the mind’s eye.  This gives the user two advantages in fighting the Matrix.  First, the Ne types, more than any other, notice the inconsistencies in their reality.  They stands apart as the great satirists and revolutionaries like Machiavelli, Mark Twain, and Stephen Colbert.  This constant examination of their reality could potentially lead them to notice the machines pulling the puppet strings behind their reality.

The Ne type also has the imagination to create a world different from their own, a world where these puppet masters don’t exist or don’t hold any power over their human slaves.  Ne types don’t just imagine a better world, they seek to engineer one.  No matter how well the machines prepare, they can never fully plan for every permutation of an idea that can occur to these scatter brained geniuses.

Medium

Introverted Intuition (Ni) – Like their Ne brethren, Ni types possess a strong imagination.  They have an ability to plan for the future that borders on precognition.  They see all of the possible outcomes in a situation and can plan for the most likely ones.  They could entertain the idea of a world dominated by machines and a false reality.  However, because they direct their perception inward, it leaves them rather divorced from their external world.  As such, why should they care whether they live in a “real” world or one dominated by the simulation of an artificial intelligence.  As long as they remain free to read their books or organize that reality in a sensible manner, they could care less about their supposed slavery.  The Ni might see the Matrix, but will they do anything about it?

Low

Introverted Thinking (Ti) – Introverted thinking helps the user solve puzzles.  It provides a logical framework from which they can experiment with their external world.  In solving most problems – such as defeating your robot overlord – this kind of sharp, focused mind comes in handy.  Unfortunately for the Ti type in this universe, their enemy will always have a superior logic.  Like pitting the school chess champion against a grand master, the human simply has no chance.  The Ti type could potentially notice a logical inconsistency in the Matrix but the machines will probably always stay one step ahead.

Introverted Sensing (Si) – The machines have co-opted humanity’s five senses to an alarmingly accurate degree.  Thus, the Si type only notices the Matrix if they witness the machines change something.  They have such a sharp memory that they would pick up on any alterations made by the Agents or the Matrix’s over-arching program long before anyone else would.  However, the Si type probably goes their entire life without ever encountering such a change.  They still have long odds of noticing an event that has long odds of occurring in the first place.  The Si type lacks any agency in noticing the simulation.

Extraverted Thinking (Te) – Like the Ti type, the Te type uses a strong logic in an attempt to order their world.  I’ve already shown how hard a thinking mammal has it against a purely logical machine.  And like the Si type, the chances of a Te type noticing the Matrix rely purely on circumstances.  Te will only see proof of the Matrix when they try to order their external world and that world doesn’t react in a logical manner.  In other words, for an extraverted thinker to see the Matrix, they have to find a bug in an expertly crafted game.  The machines just don’t make those kinds of mistakes very often.

Completely Useless

Extraverted Feeling  (Fe) – The Fe type seeks the harmony and growth of all people in their tight-knit community.  They have no incentive to seek out the Matrix because the extraverted feeler can accomplish these aims within the confines of the simulation.  In fact, the Matrix actively uses community harmony to keep their subjects in line.  Morpheus tells us that you can feel the Matrix “when you go to work… when you go to church… when you pay your taxes.”  The Fe type may even aid the machines in working against those searching for proof of the Matrix.  They believe that such “terrorists” pose a threat to the harmony of society with their dangerous ideas.

Extraverted Sensing (Se) – Above all else, the Matrix seeks to corrupt our senses.  We see what they want us to see, hear what they want us to hear, etc.  Se type leans heavily and completely on those very senses.  Above all others, they find it the most difficult to extract themselves from the Matrix’s sticky web.  They think they see more than all others, but they are clearly the most blind.

neo stops

I  won’t bore you with the details, but I assigned a point total to each function and then weighted the impact of that function depending on where if falls in the stack of a given personality type.  I came to the following ranking for the most likely type to escape the Matrix.

Rank Type Functions
1. INFP Fi, Ne, Si, Te
2. ENFP Ne, Fi, Te, Si
3. ISFP Fi, Se, Ni, Te
4. ENTP Ne, Ti, Fe, Si
5. INTJ Ni, Te, Fi, Se
6. INTP Ti, Ne, Si, Fe
7. INFJ Ni, Fe, Ti, Se
8. ENTJ Te, Ni, Se, Fi
9. ESFP Se, Fi, Te, Ni
10. ISTJ Si, Te, Fi, Ne
11. ESTJ Te, Si, Ne, Fi
12. ENFJ Fe, Ni, Se, Ti
13. ISTP Ti, Se, Ni, Fe
14. ESFJ Fe, Si, Ne, Ti
15. ISFJ Si, Fe, Ti, Ne
16. ESTP Se, Ti, Fe, Ni
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Why more Sensing Types than Intuitive Types?

Every estimate I’ve seen on the number of Sensing (S) Types and Intuitive (N) types places S types in the majority.  The strength of that majority varies, but I’ve read estimates that range from a 55/45 spilt up to a 75/25 split in favor of the more grounded types.  Why?  What societal and evolutionary pressures leave my N brethren and I outnumbered?

Socially, a single visionary can come up with a great idea, but it often takes an army of workers to make it a reality.  For instance, to erect a building, it takes anywhere from a handful to hundreds of workers to lay the foundation, stand up the frame, insert electrical and plumbing, hang sheetrock for walls, paint those walls, and any other number of tasks.  Each of those teams needs a leader, someone who can make the trains run on time, who makes sure that the craftsman have the material and tools they need.  Most of all, the leader needs to make sure the craftsmen get paid on time.  The building only needs one architect.

skyscrapers

When breaking those careers down, SPs make the best craftsmen.  So right off the bat, we need a large number of hands-on S types to get the job done.  Leadership, the foremen and bean counters, attracts a number of xSTJs.  Their introverted sensing (Si) function remembers all of the minute details – they forget nothing  – and their extroverted thinking (Te) has no qualms reminding everyone else.  One or two xNTJs might sit at the top of the leadership hierarchy with their long term vision, and an INTP would make a great architect, but the job of building needs an overwhelming majority of sensing types.

This relationship seems to work across a variety organizations.  The educational theory or counseling tactic proposed by the xNFJ professor or priest gets used by any number of xSFJ teachers, sunday school leaders, and childcare workers.  It only takes one xNFP Joan of Arc or John Lennon or Gandhi to start a revolution that affects millions.  The invention created by the xNTP in his basement gets reproduced and used everywhere.  Dwight Eisenhower (ENTJ) plans the Normandy Invasion of D-Day, but he needs troops on the ground to make it happen.  One intuitive idea needs many hands.

Over the many years of human society, as we have moved more and more towards specialization, the S/N balance has evolved to fit the needs of society.  Perhaps we have more N types now as society adjusts to ever increasing complexity in the human experience.  We need more ideas.  Or perhaps we have fewer N types now as an intuitive idea can reach farther across nations than ever before.  Regardless, it would make sense that it remains a fluid thing.  A person successfully filling their niche will have more opportunities to mate and have a greater chance of keeping their offspring viable.  Over time, society will adapt to the problems it faces.

Of course a far older and more resilient factor might affect the N/S balance in humanity.  As with any species, the threat of predation and other dangers that we have faced along our evolutionary path has certainly directed our development.  Maybe N types just get eaten more than S types.

As an intuitive, I know just how oblivious I am to the actual reality around me sometimes.  When our perception relies so much on the possibility of a person, object, or environment, we can sometimes neglect to see that object for what it actually is.  This perception comes in handy for pushing the human race forward.  Less so when trying to notice the lion creeping up on you in the tall grass.

lion in grass

The extroverted sensing (Se) types constantly scan their environment for anything interesting.  The movement of the lion makes them take notice immediately.  If the lion pounces, they can easily dispatch it with their superior athleticism and well-practiced weapon skills.

The routine and memory of the Si often keeps them safe from the lion.  They never leave home without food, water, and their weapon.  They take the same route to and from the watering hole every day.  They remember the location of every blade of grass.  They soon notice the unusual void in the swaying grasses that hints at the lion and they cautiously return to their cave without disturbing the beast.

The intuitive types have more difficulty.  The extroverted intuitive (Ne) follows the trends.  They notice the migration patterns of the lion pride and try to avoid traveling during the pride’s most active times.  Still, that does nothing to save them from the outliers.  And what happens if they read the trends incorrectly?  I liken it to a quarterback reading defenses and throwing blind.  If he gets his pre-snap read right, he could complete pass after pass.  He just throws to a likely open man.  What happens when he reads the defense incorrectly?  What happens if he has a miscommunication with his receiver and the receiver takes a different route?  Well then you see the ball spiral perfectly into the hands of the safety with a receiver nowhere in sight.

The introverted intutitve (Ni) type has no chance.  The symbolic savannah in their mind’s eye has no lions, but try telling that to Leo.  On a related note, INFJs are the rarest type.

lion eating

Leo gets to know an INFJ gazelle

Other reasons likely account for the disparity between N and S types in the American population, but we can’t begin to tell that story or understand the nature of humanity in general without looking at the societal and environmental pressures on our physiology.

 

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MBTI and Sexual Enjoyment

While all personality types enjoy sex in different ways and to varying degrees, I can’t help but wonder if certain types are more drawn to that raw intimacy than others based on their cognitive types.  I have no scientific proof, but I thought I could begin the discussion with this hypothesis.

#1. ESFP

#2. ISFP

Enjoyment of sex often requires two things: an ability to live effortlessly in the moment and a deep, intimate connection. Extraverted sensing (Se) types and too a lesser extent extraverted intuitive (Ne) types are the most comfortable at living in the moment.  Those types constantly look outside themselves for their perceptions.  The Se-friendly type especially can enjoy every aspect of sight, touch, smell, sound, and taste that sex provides.  They are right here, right now, enjoying every sensual aspect of their partner.

Introverted feeling (Fi) types get the most enjoyment from the intimate spiritual connection of sex.  Fi provides individuals with strongly held values but, more importantly, well-developed empathy.  No other cognitive function offers more excitement in response to a partner’s excitement.

The xSFP types combine Se and Fi as their dominant and secondary cognitive functions.  I give the ESFP the nod here because of the dominant Se function.

3. ESTP

4. ISTP

Both xSTP types also share a strong familiarity with Se.  ESTPs use it as their dominant function and ISTPs use it as their secondary function.  However, they lack the empathy of their other SP companions.  Without that connection, they likely take a more lusty, animalistic pleasure in sex.

5. INFP

6. ENFP

These two types do share the empathy of Fi.  INFPs use it as their dominant function and ENFPs as their secondary function.  They seek a strong emotional connection in all of their relationships, especially their sexual encounters.  While their strong Ne allows them to explore their outside world with a fierce imagination, they likely enjoy sex only as much as the spiritual and emotional bond they share with their partner.

7. ENTP

8. INTP

Both types frequently explore their outside world with the imaginative exploration of Ne.  ENTPs possess dominant Ne and INTPs possess secondary Ne.  Sex provides a creative bounty of possibilities for the Ne.  While they may not have the deep emotional connection with their partner, they can enjoy constantly trying new things in the bedroom.  As long as sex continues to stimulate their mind and imagination, they can greatly enjoy its many experimentations.

9. ENFJ

10. INFJ

11. ESFJ

12. ISFJ

Extraverted feeling (Fe) types might enjoy sex in a more indirect manner.  Above all, Fe seeks harmony in their relationships.  They want people to get along.  A seamless and enjoyable sexual relationship stands at the pinnacle of harmonious interactions.  Like the Fi types, Fe types enjoy seeing their partner pleased and excited, though they probably don’t feel that deep heartfelt connection as much as the Fi types.  The extraverted xxFJs use Fe more frequently than the introverts.  The NFJs also possess a weak Se function. While they will never feel as comfortable with their sexuality as the SPs, they can, over time, grow to enjoy the raw physicality of sex to a certain degree.

13. ENTJ

14. INTJ

15. ESTJ

16. ISTJ

These four types are the most divorced from their own physical bodies and from physical connections from others. They all turn their perception inward, to their own past or future.  In relationships, they seek not harmony or empathy, but order and control.  I imagine the only pleasure they get from sex results from either dominating another or the wild thrill of submitting to another when they usually feel so much in control.  It reminds me of Kevin Spacey’s character in House of Cards, the way he uses sex as a political transaction.  Like the four Fe types above, the extraverts feel slightly more comfortable with their Te function than the introverts.  Similarly, the NJs have a weak Se function, but for someone so in control, it may take them years to get over the embarrassment they feel for enjoying physical pleasure.

Myers-Briggs Personalities and Morality

After reading some of Carl Jung’s original work on cognitive functions in the last year, I’ve taken issue with the labels “thinking” and “feeling.”  The dichotomy leads novice typers to believe that all feeling types lack rationality and that all thinking types have all the warmth of cold, heartless robots.  Naturally, the truth has far more complexity.  Feelers use the same rational processes as thinkers and can demonstrate a certain ruthlessness when their families or values appear threatened.  Think mama bear with her cubs.  Similarly, thinkers often have strong bonds and deeply held convictions that can result in very powerful emotions.  We all use some form of thinking and feeling in our cognitive function stack.  Rather than pure concepts, T and F denote a preference in judgement for the subjective or objective.  In making their rational decisions, F types prefer to focus on the subjective aspects: how the decision will make them feel, how it will affect the people close to them, and whether or not it remains in keeping with their values.  T types focus on how much a given decision remains in keeping with objective standards: does it hold up under unbiased logic?  Does it fit with their understanding of good order and justice?

We all use both the subjective F function and the objective T function with one directed inward and one directed outward. All this theory boils down to four relationships between T and F in the cognitive function stacks of each of the sixteen types.  Extraverted thinking (Te) dominates introverted feeling (Fi) or vice versa.  Or introverted thinking (Ti) dominates extraverted thinking (Fe) or vice versa.  Each of these four relationships offer different ways in which we approach morality.  The amoral Ti, the just Te, the communal Fe, and the innocent Fi all judge their interpersonal relationships from vastly different viewpoints.

 

captain jack sparrow

The Amoral Ti-Fe (ENTP, INTP, ESTP, ISTP)

Let me begin with the worldview with which I possess the most familiarity.  While some would see the hedonism of the more sensing introverted thinker or the curiosity with darkness and iconoclasm of the more intuitive introverted thinker as immoral or unprincipled, we really just possess a staunch amorality.  The subjective value of a judgement rarely, if ever, enters into the decision making process.  We do not seek to do evil, we simply believe that an efficient structure does not require consideration of the good/evil dichotomy.  For us, morality simply does not apply.

When placed in the introverted realm of the mind, detached from the tangible, thinking becomes pure logic.  Thus, we often develop mental frameworks, our own decision making rubrics.  When a problem arises, we consult the worldview flowchart completely devoid of the subjective emotions of ourselves or others.

When feeling does enter the decision making process, it becomes extraverted outward.  We seek harmony and a certain espirit de corps within our social groups.  The more extraverted Amorals attempt to disarm others with our charm.  We try to cache hard truths in the form of joke or satire.  Look at Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, Sasha Baron Cohen, or John Cleese.  Many of the world’s best satirists come in the form of the mischievous, nerdy ENTP.

The introverted Amorals take the philosophy of Ti to the extreme.  They make the best assassins and mad scientists.  Their sharp mental focus allows them to plan and pull off the perfect kill or delve ever deeper into ethically questionable science.  They can do this without conscience because we lack introverted feeling.  They have little empathy and few unimpeachable principles.  Poor, inferior Fe can only muster a mild “Doing it for the greater good” argument.  Captain Jack Sparrow verbalizes the motto of the introverted thinker best, “The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can’t do.”

 

stannis

The Just Te-Fi (ENTJ, INTJ, ESTJ, ISTJ)

If only the four letters of a Myers-Briggs type matter and not the cognitive functions, you could speculate that all thinking types would get along.  Yet, as an ENTP I have felt more frustration in dealing with these extraverted thinking types than with anyone else.  When you look at the judging process, we have nothing in common.  Amorals use thinking as pure logic. The Just want to apply objective law and order to the outside world.  Amorals want to please their community audience, while the Just must adhere to their own deep, personal values.

I find that strict adherence to the objective letter of the law particularly frustrating.  Amorals take a live and let live philosophy, but the extroverted thinking type requires that everything and everyone fall into line with the most rational order.  I find this difficult because the best plan for the group often doesn’t work to my advantage.  Sensing Te types seem especially determined to adhere to the letter of the law even when it violates a more abstract logical exploration.  They fear that in the absence of order, all of society will collapse.  Perhaps, my own biases make me too hard on the Te type though.  Without their steadfast determination, other types would not have the ordered room to create and dance.  The Just naturally fall into positions of leadership.  You often find them at the top of businesses, bureaucracies, and structured religious organizations.

The Just would most likely utter the phrase, “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear.”  Their tertiary or inferior introverted feeling provides a core value system, a moral compass from which they do no stray.  Many  Just assume all other types have this same inborn morality.  Thus, adherance to their system of law and order doesn’t just come from some rule of man.  It must have a higher, nobler origination, perhaps even a spiritual origination.  When the law is violated, they show no mercy, because the offender has not only disobeyed the law, but they clearly ignored their own conscience.

However, the Fi of the Just remains underdeveloped when compared to the Fi dominant Innocent.  I have often found the Just easily offended and quick to anger when someone begins to poke at their deeply cherished beliefs.  I once traded quips with an ENTJ roommate of mine.  We fired little good-natured jabs back and forth at one another.  However, I could tell I went too far when I obliquely mentioned his wife and children.  All jest ceased.  His smile disappeared, his eyes stormed over, and he icily warned me to never cross that line again.  The Just do not like their sacred cows trifled with.

I can’t help but think of Stannis Baratheon from Game of Thrones.  He remains a shining example of The Just.  When Davos Seaworth fed Stannis’ starving men at Storm’s End, Baratheon offered the smuggler a Lordship as a reward for his bravery and loyalty.  Yet he also ordered his men to cut off the tips of the fingers on Davos’ left hand as punishment for his years of smuggling.  Justice must be served in all things and the cherished values must be protected.

 

teacher pic

The Communal Fe-Ti (ENFJ, INFJ, ESFJ, ISFJ)

The types with dominant extraverted feeling seek to create harmony among all people.  Naturally, they see themselves in an advisory role, teaching others good manners, encouraging personal growth, and building warm spaces where people can come together.  Their ethics tend to revolve around the best practices for the community.  They are the mother teaching her children to share, for sharing promotes harmony.  They are the educator preparing students for the future so they can contribute to society.  They are the Sunday school teacher trying to instill good values in his or her charges so they don’t criminally violate their peaceful society.  Fe types strive for community, in extremes from the Hippie commune where everyone works towards the common good to the family dinner table where we share a Thanksgiving meal.

Of course this cooperative spirit does not mean that the Communal hold as fiercely to principle as the Just Te or the Innocent Fi.  Their inferior Ti function, rather than standing on some symbol, strives to find the best possible objective outcome for their respective charges.  They seek firm facts that will benefit their society and push it forward.  For instance, they learn the facts so they can teach them to their students and they appreciate those facts because they objectively understand that education has proven effects on a person’s life potential.  The combination of Fe and Ti does not ask that everyone agree; it merely encourages everyone to work together towards the same objective goal of peace and harmony.

Of course that inferior Ti also has a dark side with Communal types.  I doubt that anyone can hold grudges like a spurned Fe dominant.  They will give everyone a long leash, but you can only threaten their community so many times before they write you off as a permanent villain.  The Ti and introverted perceiving function work together to sear the image of the chronic offender in their mind’s eye as a threat to their goals.  At that point, they will not hesitate to eliminate the threat with ruthless intensity.  A Communal makes a staunch ally and a terrible foe.

 

joan of arc

The Innocent Fi-Te (ENFP, INFP, ESFP, ISFP)

More than any other type, the introverted feeler enters this world with a well-defined internal moral compass.  Fi forces them to constantly explore their values and whether or not their decisions fall in line with those values.  It produces in these types a strong empathy that prevents them from wantonly disregarding their fellow man.  Fi types know right and wrong at their very core.  They strive for authenticity.  The Innocent feel uncomfortable betraying even themselves.

However, this doesn’t mean that the Innocent feel compelled to keep pace with the man-made standards of decency espoused by the Communal.  Whether honoring their own hedonism or striving for some abstract social justice, they must answer to a higher power.  The Communal would find the xSFP hippocritical as they indulge both their own strong sexual desires and a passion for their particular spiritual tradition, but the Innocent does not feel this way.  They remain honest to their own person when they follow their desire and they remain honest to their broader values and others by participating in rites or volunteering to help others.  This also means that the Fi type does not judge others.  If they must remain honest to themselves, how can they criticize others for doing the same.

While far from the most organized types, the weak extraverted thinking function of the Innocent strives to bring some sense of order to their life.  If they can develop their Te on some minimal level it greatly aids their Fi as they start their particular revolution. The SFP artist strives to organize their workspace so they can continue to produce stunning works of art.  It may also help them plan their careers, booking gigs or planning displays.  The NFP uses their Te to organize the people that often flock to their social movement.  For instance, their civil rights movement dies at the grass roots level if they cannot organize letter writing campaigns and sit ins.

Inspiration remains the essence of the Innocent and Fi.  The sensing Innocent crafts songs that inspire people to dance, they develop their virtuosity, or they craft a painting that transfers strong emotion into the viewer.  The intuitive innocent crafts art that calls on the symbols that speak to greater meaning.  They lead armies of change, incited by the Innocent’s charisma and true belief.  The Fi types do not have the “peace at all cost” mentality of the Communal.  They will stir up trouble if they feel the system creates a chronic inequality.  The Innocent wants us all to grow into better people.

 

Each of these four ethical views has a necessary place in society.  The Just keep everything stable and running, while the Amoral dare to imagine new technologies and ideologies that push the society forward.  The Communal create a standard of cooperation that all must live up to, while the Innocent inspire us to go above and beyond that standard.  Without any one moral viewpoint, society becomes imbalanced .

The Most Predictable and Volatile Teams in the 2014 World Cup

Like many of the world’s soccer fans, excitement for the 2014 World Cup has taken me over.  In my passion, I have enjoyed delving into the various rating systems and statistics in an attempt to fill out my brackets and predict a winner.  The answer:  Brazil, Germany, Spain, and Argentina can all claim front-runner status, but any one of a dozen teams could end up taking the coveted trophy home with them.  So much for fool-proof predictions.

The kindred spirits over at FiveThirtyEight have also pursued this hopeless task of ranking the teams in Brazil this month.  Today, they posted a particularly interesting article where they standardized the scores of three other prominent rating systems and compared them against their own.  I found their chart interesting not so much because the systems had any clear consensus on a champion, but rather because it showed which national sides generated the most and least consensus.  I find consensus very useful in the prediction game.  For instance, in my yearly fantasy football draft, I often use fantasypros.com for my cheat sheet.  They combine the predictions of dozens of forecasters.  It tends to remove the bias that individuals and their systems have for or against certain players or teams.  We have bias.  We must recognize the bias and account for it.  The consensus cheat sheet provides a purer measurement of predicted value for every player.  It won’t always win me a championship.  Injuries happen and fantasy football playoffs remain a crapshoot, but I find myself in the playoffs year after year.

As I observed the great chart that Nate Silver populated, I quickly began calculating which teams had the largest and smallest spreads between their highest and lowest rating from the four ranking systems.  Below, I list the 11 most predictable or volatile teams in the 2014 World Cup.

 

switzerland soccer

Volatile: Switzerland

Why: Most raters have Switzerland rated as a mediocre to poor World Cup side.  They do have potential, but most of that potential rests in a young crop of immigrants working their way up through the Bundesliga and Serie A.  Switzerland makes the volatile list largely because of their strength in the much-criticized FIFA rankings.  FIFA only takes world cup qualification into account, where the other rankings consider friendlies, player form, player worth, and other factors.  The Swiss advanced to Brazil by dominating a weak qualification group.  However, that group happened to reside in UEFA, FIFAs favorite regional federation.  Switzerland has a chance to make noise in this tournament, but only if Europe is as strong as FIFA believes it is.

ivory coast soccer

Predictable: Ivory Coast

Why: It surprised me to see all four rankings predict a poor performance from the Ivory Coast.  They still have the world class talent that marked their golden generation.  On closer inspection, I realize that much of that talent has gotten a little long in the tooth.  Stars Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba have 31 years and 36 years, respectively.  Anything past 30 constitutes old age for a soccer player.  Ivory Coast benefits from a weak group after tough draws in 2006 and 2010, but no one expects anything past the round of sixteen from the elephants.

cameroon football

Volatile: Cameroon

Three of the ranking systems expect nothing from Cameroon except a swift exit.  Transfermarkt, a site that lists the likely transfer fees for professional soccer players, believes the Lions could at least steal a couple of points from their Group A competitors.  Players like Samuel Eto’o, Alex Song, and others that dot Europe’s domestic leagues provide Cameroon with the name-brand recognition.  If they hope to reach their subpar ceiling, those players must step up.

england football

Predictable: England

Why: The lack of expectations for this year’s England team feels a little unusual, but their outcome likely won’t surprise any supporters.  All four ranking systems believe the Three Lions have talent, but none believe they have the ceiling to win the whole thing.  England will escape the group only to suffer another disappointing exit in quarterfinals.  Same story, different year.

greece football

Volatile: Greece

Why: Like Switzerland, FIFA likes Greece far more than the other systems because they qualified through UEFA.  At the other end of the spectrum, Tranfermarkt abhors the utter lack of star power on the team.  No one on Greece plays for a team any average American fan would recognize. The Greeks could totally flame out, but they have a precedent for a completely unforeseen championship run.  They entered the European Championships with little history and low expectations and shocked the world by winning the whole thing.

costa rica football

Predictable: Costa Rica

Why: So long, Costa Rica.  Thank you for playing.  The only difference in the rating systems is whether Costa Rica will perform poorly or worse.  They qualified well, but they arrive from CONCACAF, one of the weaker regions.  Beyond their inherent team weaknesses, Costa Rica suffered the misfortune of falling into one of the strongest groups as the only weak team.  Costa Rica should consider it a victory to take a single point from the likes of England, Italy and Uruguay.

United-States-national-football-team-Logo

Volatile: United States

Why: My beloved national team enters this world cup with so many questions.  I would both believe it if they finished last in their group or if they made a run to the quarterfinals.  The team profiles as a slightly better Greece.  FIFA likes the US because we conquered CONCACAF en route to Brazil.  Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has produced a solid overall  record since taking over the team in 2011 and the US has had better results against the high caliber results they will likely see in the World Cup.  However, the Transfermarkt would seriously question Klinsmann’s decision to bring a young and untested team to the Finals.  The coach left off at least one player who would have certainly improved that ranking, US legend Landon Donovan, in favor of the likes of 19-year-old Julian Green.  Anything could happen.

iran football

Predictable: Iran

Why: Iran has no soccer history and qualified from the second weakest region in the world.  Pencil them in for zero points in group play and move on.  All rating systems see Iran as overmatched.

france football

Very Volatile: France

Why: The various rankings have good reason for being all over the board with the schizophrenic French soccer team.  Ratings that include player talent and form like Transfermarkt and SPI love the French.  With world class players like Benzema, Evra, and Lloris, France should contend for the Cup, even with Frank Ribery sidelined with a back injury.  With few notable exceptions, most of the soccer playing world envies France’s talent pool.  Unfortunately, that talent doesn’t always gel like it should.  The FIFA and ELO rankings take exception because of a less direct qualification season.  The French needed every goal in a 3-0 home win over Ukraine in their final match to reach Brazil.  Even France’s recent World Cup history demonstrates their boom or bust nature.  Over the last four Cups, they have alternated two finals appearances (including the 1998 Championship) and two first round exits (including one team mutiny).  If the trend holds, the French would play in this year’s championship match.  With an easy group, they appear primed for a long run, but they may flame out just to prove their unpredictability.

russia football

Very Predictable: Russia

Why: The four rating systems share the most consensus about Russia.  They all believe the Russians are thoroughly mediocre.  They played well enough to emerge from UEFA qualification, but every single player on the team plays in the Russian domestic league, a second-rate league.  You could easily mark the Russians down for four points.  That sometimes gets you to the second round.  Sometimes that sends you to a quick exit.  Regardless, I can say with certainty that Russia will not have a long run in the 2014 World Cup.

chile football

Very Volatile: Chile

The SPI and the Tranfermarkt rankings vehemently disagree on Chile’s ceiling in this world cup.  SPI ranks the South American squad fifth in the field and would back a deep tournament run, perhaps even an outside shot at the whole thing.  Chile qualified comfortably in CONMEBOL over the likes of Ecuador and Uruguay.  SPI feels the same way about the South American region as FIFA does about UEFA, seeing CONMEBOL as far and away the strongest region this qualification cycle.  However, Transfermarkt doesn’t see many of Chile’s players commanding high transfer fees.  They lack the international star power of even the two other contenders in their crowded group.  If the players of Spain and the Netherlands play up to their lofty potential, Chile could face an early dismissal.  No other team has such potential for joy or despair.

Of course, this shows just why we watch world soccer.  We think we know certain outcomes, but the game can surprise us.  I wish to see something extraordinary.

 

Blinded on the Road to Brazil: My Conversion to Soccer

red army for blog

I stood shoulder to shoulder with forty of my favorite soccer fans.  The Red Army, the supporters’ group of the Richmond Kickers, our local professional soccer club, had taken over the beer garden just behind the goal at Sports Backers Stadium.  On the field, Richmond played upstart RVA FC in the US Open cup.  The coach and owner of the crosstown team had incensed the Kickers’ fans with negative comments about the team’s history and fan base.  From behind the goal, the Red Army aimed to defend ourselves.  We chanted and sang from whistle to whistle, abusing the coach  – “We don’t hate your players… But your coach is a dick!” – and one particular defender who happened to make a negative challenge too close to our watchful eyes.  We offered constant encouragement to the Kickers and lost our minds every time they scored.  And score they did.  On the field, the Kickers cooly demonstrated the gulf in talent between the tier three USL Pro and the tier four, amateur NPSL.  The Kickers cruised to a 6-1 road victory and claimed the inaugural Richmond Derby in emphatic fashion.

The match, especially the riotous fan support, stands out as one of my better moments as a sports fan.  I love the sense of community and enthusiasm of a well-organized supporters group.  But how did I get here?  I ridiculed soccer players in high school.  How did I become one of the more dedicated soccer fans in one of America’s most soccer crazed cities?

I spent my childhood in an Appalachian corner of America’s Rust Belt.  We only had two sports that meant anything.  I played football and baseball as soon as I learned to run and joined their respective little leagues as soon as I reached the minimum age.  We played basketball in the backyard as a hobby, but we never took it seriously.  Hockey represented a strange oddity from the frozen north.  In that environment, soccer felt completely foreign, almost invasively so.  I doubt I knew the sport existed before I read about Alexi Lalas and Cobi Jones in Sports Illustrated for Kids at nine-years-old.  In cloistered West Virginia, foreignness often gets equated with evil, whether intended or not.  I made no exception for soccer.

While I moved to Virginia for middle school and high school, I found different reasons for disparaging the beautiful game.  Unconsciously,  it came to represent the class difference between my family the majority of my community.  Around the world, soccer has a much more populist appeal.  You only need a round ball and a few yards of space to play.  In the States the game has become strangely associated with “soccer moms,” white, upper-middle class suburbanites, a segment especially prone to ignoring the socio-economic issues of American society.  For them soccer became the sanitized alternative to the violent sports and people of the four major American sports.

Brookville High School sat in a community dominated by soccer moms.  I came from the lower middle class.  My grandfathers both worked in steel mills.  My family never had a lot, but we valued education, we worked hard, and we had our pride.  In the advanced courses, the upper middle class surrounded me.  Unlike West Virginia, I became the underprivileged minority.  I resented my classmates for how easy they had it and how little they appreciated what they had.  I resented their united families; my parents’ divorce had preceded the move to Virginia.  I hated their safe conservatism, their cookie cutter homes and businesses.  It reeked of avoiding life.  They had so much to lose, so they risked nothing. And they played soccer.  For me, supporting their passtime equated a traitorous support for the contradictions of American society.

So I ridiculed soccer for not being football.  I criticized soccer for lacking aggression.  Real men hit each other.  Obviously, soccer players were weaker than football players or they would play the true American sport.  Truly, I criticized the upper-middle class for playing it safe in their towers and not engaging the rest of us on our level.  They had their money and their health, but we were the true survivors.  I made these assumptions, but I had one little gap in my understanding of soccer.  I had never watched the game.

The month I graduated from high school, the soccer nations united to play the 2002 World Cup from Korea and Japan.  I don’t remember how it happened, why I turned on the TV to that particular channel at that particular time.  I have always loved having ESPN and other random sports on in the background.  Regardless, I suddenly found myself watching two random countries, countries I had no interest in, countries that have absolutely zero impact on my life in the states, kick a ball back and forth at 2 AM.

I found the sport enthralling.  I loved the constant action.  I never had to wait thirty seconds for another brief play, another solitary pitch, or another set of boring free throws.  The game ran at the speed of modern life.  And contrary to the criticisms often leveled against soccer, I enjoyed the low scores.  It made every goal vitally important.  One moment meant the difference between agony and glory.  Combined with the constant action, that singular moment could come at any time.  I sat on the edge of my seat in anticipation of that match defining goal.  These world class players also dispelled my notion of a softer athlete.  They threw their bodies at crosses with no regard for head or limb.  They didn’t need pads to get physical.  They embodied the essence of athleticism as they ran the length of the pitch over and over for a solid ninety minutes.  As I graduated from my suburban high school, I also graduated from the connection between soccer and the American soccer mom.

My new fascination with soccer would lie dormant for the next six or seven years except for the brief interruption of the 2006 World Cup.  During that time, I attended Virginia Tech where I earned my degree in fan support.  Hokies have an extreme dedication to our football team.  Like beleaguered Liverpool fans, over the last twenty-five years the team has flirted with a national championship only to see it slip from our fingers each time.  It only makes us fiercer in our determination to prove ourselves.  Every home game in the fall, whether Saturday afternoon or Thursday night, you could find me studying with the rest of the student section in the feared North End Zone.  I took courses on “Yelling the Entire Time the Defense is on the Field,” “Jangling Your Keys During Third and Fourth Down Stops,” and “Encouraging the Offense to ‘Stick It In.'”  With a collection of talented colleagues I completed my thesis on “How to Paint Your Body Maroon and Orange, Even in the Rain in November.”  We earned honors such as Rivals’ #1 Home Field Advantage in College Football and brief spots on ESPN and an EA Sports video game.  I graduated Cum Laude in more ways than one.

While at Tech, I often used the McComas Gym to stay in shape for my military service.  The gym sat in the same complex that held the soccer field where the men’s and women’s soccer teams competed.  To enter or exit the gym, I often had to walk right past a match.  The sport still intrigued me in so many ways.  Men’s or women’s, I found myself stopping to watch five-, ten-, fifteen-minute stretches of the matches.  I often had other priorities, but I couldn’t turn away from the great action.  In the fall of 2008 during my senior year, I finally sat through an entire live match with a couple of friends as the men’s team faced off against an ACC foe.

The live match planted a seed in my head, “Why was I waiting four years to enjoy soccer again?”  The following spring, only two weeks after I graduated from Tech, I cheered on Barcelona as they vanquished Manchester United in the 2009 Champions League Final.  At that moment, I knew I had to find a professional team.  It would bridge the gap between the World Cup every four years, the business end of the European soccer season fell during the fallow period for American football, and with my departure from Blacksburg, I would need to find another fan base as maniacal about their team as college football fans in the south.  Only soccer would do.

I just had to pick a team.  I didn’t have the advantages of a growing up with a local club or an evangelist to show me the way to his or her team’s gospel.  So, I did my research.  If I had no local team, I decided I wanted to watch soccer at the highest level – no second rate league would do.  This quickly ruled out MLS.  Also, as a typically monolingual American, I wanted a club I could support fully in a language I understood.  This quickly led me to the English Premier League.  I explored the clubs the best way I knew how, the internet and an old copy of FIFA for the X-box 360.  I found a great article by my favorite columnist, Bill Simmons, as he walked a similar path three years prior.  I sought a team that could win, that would finish every season in the top half of the table without fear of relegation.  I needed a team that could compete with Manchester United.  Above all, I went into my fandom knowing I hated the Red Devils.  If I joined them, I would feel like another bandwagon fan.  I despised the way their championship run smacked of purchased titles.  It reminded me too much of the New York Yankees and their Evil Empire.

Four teams made it to FIFA playing stage: Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Everton.  The first three made it on their reputation as part of the “Big Four,” the teams that routinely competed for English silverware.  Everton made it on the strength of America’s best soccer export, national team goalie Tim Howard.  I took turns playing with each of the four so I could get to know their players and style.  Chelsea fell away first as I learned of their quick rise behind Roman Abramovich’s deep pockets.  Arsenal followed soon after.  I enjoyed their fluid offense, but they had a reputation for choking in the big moments.  They seemed to lack the requisite toughness I expect from my chosen teams.  My choice became a Merseyside Derby.

I let the situation sit for a week or two, but despite my love for “Timmay!” I increasingly couldn’t fathom ever rooting against Liverpool.  It felt too much like home.  Whether for the Cincinnati Reds or the San Francisco 49ers, I have always had a peculiar habit of rooting for teams in red.  Like my 49ers, Liverpool had a long and rich history – they dominated European football in the late-seventies and eighties – but they hadn’t won the league title in two decades.  I got the benefit of tradition without riding a recent championship.  I felt comfortable with the culture of the city.  Liverpool rises up on the English coast, a dirty conglomeration of steel mills, Irish immigrants, and great music.  It brought me back to my rust belt roots.  Best of all, Liverpool and Manchester United fuel arguably England’s greatest rivalry.  During certain periods, the rivalry between the two has meant more than their own local derbies.  Liverpool remain the rebel alliance to Manchester United’s evil empire.  I sealed the decision when I moved to Richmond, VA, shortly thereafter to pursue grad school.  It turns out that Penny Lane Pub, the longtime purveyor of all visual needs EPL in the Richmond area, was founded by a Liverpool immigrant and fan.  Every Saturday, the EPL’s home bar in the RVA filled with fellow Reds.

Richmond provided another great soccer surprise.  The Kickers had called Richmond home since the days before MLS, a rarity considering the history of American soccer.  During that time, the Kickers had demonstrated a fair amount of success, winning four regular season titles and two playoff championships in seventeen seasons throughout the lower divisions of American soccer.  Most impressively, the Kickers had claimed the prestigious US Open Cup in the final tournament before the start of the MLS.  Not long after arriving in town, my brother-in-law invited me to my first match at City Stadium.  I went to the last four or five home matches of the season as the Kickers made a fabulous run to their second USL Championship in four years.  Even as a relatively new fan, I felt overcome with joy as I watched the team clinch on our home field.  They had me.  I’ve bought season tickets every year since.

In many respects, my interest in the Kickers exceeds my interest in Liverpool.  I feel a sense of ownership over my local team.  They represent me and the city I love.  For instance, despite our very beneficial relationship with DC United, I still find it difficult to support the MLS side.  I always remember those heartbreaking losses to DCU in the US Open Cup these last two seasons.  Both times, the Kickers played admirably in City Stadium, pushing Untied to extra time in 2012 and penalty kicks in 2013.  I can’t quite forgive DC for taking that from us.  I hold grudges against random fan bases like Wilmington, just because I happened to sit behind an obnoxious visitor in an opening round playoff loss two years ago.  My Kickers fandom has memory.  Joining the Red Army when RP Kirtland suggested it on behalf of the Kickers late last summer just felt like the next natural step.

This Saturday, I will once again stand in Section O with the Red Army and cheer on our Kickers.  I have learned a few things about my conversion to soccer and I want to share the gospel with others.  When trying to grow American soccer, don’t rush it.  People need time to dispel their old prejudices.  Let the sport speak for itself.  We admire a truly beautiful game that dazzles and excites, whether watching the highest levels from a pub or joining the throng in support of our local professional and college teams.  Above all, keep an open heart.  Through our attitude towards the sport and those outside our supporter’s group, we can either draw new fans in or we can push them away.  I would prefer to have everyone in the Red Army.

red army for blog 2

The Frustrations of a Millennial Career Hunter

sallie-mae

Millennials are frustrated. We feel like society lied to us. Throughout grade school and high school, the authority figures told us to get good grades, go to college and graduate with a degree, any degree, and they would have a great job waiting for us on the other side. The road would present difficulties, but this straight, simple path would take us to the Promised Land, our small corner of the middle class and the so-called “American Dream.” We had no reason to distrust our authority figures, our teachers, parents, and politicians. We grew up in the nineties. We saw prosperity all around us. The internet provided new and exciting opportunities and the economy prospered. So we diligently followed the path.

The first crack in the fantasy came when we started applying to universities and noticed the cost. Our parents had no idea how much had changed since they went to college thirty years prior. I’ve seen one of my dad’s tuition receipts. An entire quarter cost somewhere in the mid-hundreds. You can’t even cover the hidden fees with that cost anymore. Granted, they made less money then, but the cost of higher education has risen by leaps and bounds compared to the rise in inflation over the last three decades. My dad paid for college by working as a stockboy for K-Mart in the late-seventies. Now a retail clerk’s salary barely covers books. The GI Bill created a populist movement among higher education in the mid-twentieth century, creating access to universities that previously catered only to he wealthy. These soldiers expanded the middle class and lowered the cost of education for everybody. The elite have spent my lifetime raising the cost of education back to pre-WWII levels and reclaiming a dominance of knowledge for only the upper class. They can either force people out of educational opportunities or push the middle class so far into debt that they become enslaved to their student loans.

Still, millennials persisted in following the path. So education costs a little bit more than it once did; we can still make up the difference on the other side when we get to our stable middle class job, right? We join the Army National Guard and get stuck in some godforsaken desert for a year or we take out an ungodly amount of student loans. The promise we received makes it worth all that. But somewhere along the line, the market betrayed us. Just as we start our first post-college jobs, just as we prepare to graduate college, graduate high school, the authority figures who promised us work began to close the door on us. We got to the end of our path and realized that someone with ten pots already had stolen the pot of gold at the end of our rainbow, too. Every good job now required a minimum of two to three years experience, but no one would give us an opportunity to earn that experience. So we took our college degrees to low wage, hourly jobs as Starbucks baristas, overnight retail clerks, temporary cubicle fillers, and carpenter’s helpers. It has made us a little bitter.

To add insult to injury, the Baby Boomers have insisted on calling us lazy and selfish.  Who has worked harder?  They had jobs waiting for them after college starting at $47,000 a year (adjusted for inflation).  They came out debt free and bought their first homes before they turned thirty.  They relished in the stability of a career that would support them for twenty years or more.  They never had to fear a corporation would discard them as soon as they outlived their usefulness.  They never had to ask someone’s food order while a master’s degree sat tucked in a drawer in their dinky one-bedroom apartment.  They never suffered the indignity of working fifty hours a week at an unpaid internship just to get their foot in the door with some lousy entry-level position.  And selfish?  They created and fed this corporate monster of greed that crushes our economy and places more and more money and power in the hands of a select American oligarchy.  Our parents invented “Keeping up with the Joneses.”

old-economy-steve-meme

I wish I could go back ten years to my twenty-year-old self and offer some hard learned advice.  First, pick at least one practical major.  I studied psychology and history as an undergraduate at Virginia Tech.  After abandoning the more sensible Building Construction major because my idealist self disliked the business aspects, I decided that if I simply followed my passions, I would land on my feet no matter what I studied.  I still bought the fantasy.  When the economy collapsed right before I graduated in 2009, I chose to hide out in grad school and hope for a quick recovery.  I had escaped my bachelor’s degree debt free thanks to my military service, but I couldn’t pull off the same trick in grad school.  I would have to gamble $25,000 against my future.  I still didn’t learn my lesson.  I started in sociology before finally achieving my Master’s Degree in English from VCU in 2013.  I am now a well-rounded and talented asset of no interest to any employer.  In a strong economy, a company might take a chance on me because of my high upside.  I have proven that I can learn any subject and succeed in relative short order and I have a clear working understanding of people.  In this poor economy, I have no marketable expertise to give a hiring agent immediate impact.  When companies struggle to survive, they have no resources to waste on a project like me.  They prefer the apparent sure thing.

I think of the many turning points in my past where some pre-cognition could have forced a better choice.  My interests and talents in artistic, realistic, and investigative actions make me uniquely suited for architecture.  If I had entered Tech as an architecture major instead of building construction, I would have avoided the business aspects and stuck with it.  Architects have relatively subpar prospects right now, but at least I would have a clear plan of attack and confidence in my abilities.  If my younger self remained determined to study history, he could have at least paired that major with something more down to earth like journalism or marketing.  Even taking a stab at another bachelor’s degree would have made more sense than doubling down on liberal arts with a useless and expensive master’s degree.  The experience and networking gained from a marketing internship or working on the school paper would have made the cost more worthwhile.  Now, at thirty with a family to support, I have neither the time nor funds to make up for those poor choices.  I don’t get a third chance at the educational roulette wheel.

Speaking of networking, I would impress upon my younger self its vital importance.  “It’s all who you know” became cliche for a reason.  No one gets a good job anymore without networking.  I even found my current job as a carpenter’s helper through an alumni networking event.  It seems you can’t even work in construction any more without knowing the right person.  You may find hundreds of job listings online, but you have to understand the nature of those listings.  Job announcements only make it online after they have failed to secure a worthy candidate through the typical networking channels.  If a job makes it to public posting, it’s either such a poor position with terrible pay and a dreadful work environment that no one feels clean offering it to a friend, or it requires such a level of experience and expertise that the young millennial stands no chance.  Even if the rare quality job offering does make it to the public forum, the competition remains fierce.  Dozens, likely hundreds, of qualified professionals have all seen that posting.  It becomes incredibly difficult to get noticed.  The countless rejections drain the life from you until you become the bitter shell of your former job candidate self.  To gain access to the unseen half of the job market, the quality jobs with better competitive odds, you have to know the right people that will help you put your foot in the door.  Life remains unfair and inefficient.  I have to try to find a way to make those injustices work for me.

I will always believe that true success comes as a function of talent, hard work, and luck.  I know I have talent.  I have succeeded at every job I undertook.  I can always rely on my sharp mind and a touch of charm.  I have a strong work ethic.  My roots go back to Midwest steel mills.  I always take pride in what I do and my work ethic has only hardened since the birth of my daughter two months ago.  It just feels like luck remains in short supply for most millennials.  We try to put ourselves in good positions but do we really stand a chance?  Tomorrow morning, I will rise at 6:15 AM, I will work hard, and I will keep an eye out for opportunities, but I will fight the despair that always seems to lurk just below the surface.

Generation-Gap

The Rhythm of a Work Week: The Pattern of Our Most and Least Productive Times

I always discover the patterns in life, the natural rhythms that underlie the way we humans go about business.  I started working as a carpenter’s helper at a construction company a year ago last week.  It marked the first time I had a regular Monday through Friday job.  Every day, I arrive at the office by 7:30 AM and I take off for home again at 4 PM.  I hold my weekends entirely to myself.  After years of working retail jobs with ever changing schedules or military deployments where I always felt on-call, I found the routine refreshing, even in spite of the early wakeup.

Within my first month, I noticed the Curse of the Thursdays.  Other days of the week had their ups and downs, but Thursdays always felt awful.  They dragged on forever and never failed to drain me of my last scrap of energy.  I became convinced that Thursday had it in for me.  Only Thursdays forced me to move half a ton of gravel across a parking lot with a wheelbarrow and shovel.  Only Thursdays required me to dig three feet deep in search of water pipes and missing cables.

As my rationality prevailed, I quickly realized that Thursday held no supernatural sway over the work week.  Rather, it lay at the convergence of peculiar mental and physical realities.  By that fourth day of the week I had spent all of the wonderful stored energy of the weekend, but it lacked the emotional and mental pop of Friday.  By Thursday, I feel exhausted, but I know I still have eight to sixteen hours of hard labor to go.

I soon noticed that each day of the week fell within certain mental/emotional and physical parameters and the way they effected the productivity I could expect from each day of the week.

Monday

Mental/Emotional: Oblivious

Physical: Completely Fresh

Despite typically possessing more energy than I will have all week, I have come to not expect miracles from Monday.  I’m just not awake enough.  On this first day, I try to shake the frivolities of the weekend from my head and refocus on work.  I have to remember and relearn all the short cuts for the jobs left unfinished on Friday.  Monday feels like starting a cold engine: full of whines and groans until everything gets warmed up again.

Tuesday

Mental/Emotional: On Point

Physical: Fresh

Barring unforeseen setbacks, Tuesday always results in the most productivity.  I have shaken the cobwebs of Monday and found the melody of the work once again.  I still possess more than enough energy to perform all of the tasks set before me.  Tuesday can result in a very satisfying work day.

Wednesday

Mental/Emotional: Lagging Morning, Afternoon Boost

Physical: Declining

By Wednesday, it becomes harder to get out of bed.  My body lacks the perfect resiliency that it held earlier in the week.  While I start to feel more knocks and bruises, my physical state hasn’t yet intruded upon my mental and emotional well-being.  Wednesday morning has a slight sluggishness to it as I try to shake off the accumulating rust, but Wednesday afternoon provides a great jolt of mental energy to the system.  During lunch, I realize that the work week has reached its half-way point and I begin to anticipate the approaching weekend.

Thursday

Mental/Emotional: Frustrated

Physical: On Empty

As I mentioned before, Thursdays can have a hellish bent.  Thursday is the great tease of the work week.  It frustrates me because I can feel the closeness of the weekend, but, like the carrot on the stick, it never gets any closer.  I also get frustrated because my body quits answering my commands.  Tasks that I pull of with ease on Monday become a tangled mess of limbs and fingers on Thursday.  On some Thursdays, I feel like it I would get more done if I just stayed in bed.

Friday

Mental/Emotional: WEEKEND!

Physical: Bumbling Mess

On Friday, my mind takes over and I have small bursts of invincibility.  With the weekend so close, I no longer feel the need to hold anything back.  I just want to finish as much as possible and put and exclamation point on the work week.  However, as one of my older co-workers likes to point out, that enthusiasm also makes Friday the most dangerous day of the work week.  My mind and heart might try to write checks that my flagging body can no longer cash.  If my focus starts to wander towards the approaching time off, I risk losing focus on a table saw, a scaffold, even a simple hammer.  On Friday, I must remind myself not to do anything stupid.

 

In addition to the rhythm of the week, each day has its own ebb and flow.  Not all hours of the work day are created equal.

7:30-9:30 AM

These two hours seem to go by relatively quickly for a variety of reasons.  The first two hours of the day tend to mimic the obliviousness of Monday as I try to wake up and remember what I started the day before.  Also, the start of the day gets broken up with the business of preparation.  I arrive at the shop.  I get my assignment.  I take out the trash.  I load up my truck.  I help my co-workers load up their trucks.  I drive to the job site.  We might even make a detour to a side job before we get the main site.  The constant interaction keeps me from getting bored.  I don’t have the time to look at my watch.  Those first two ours might not feel very productive towards our ultimate goals, but they are vital towards our general success.

9:30-11:30 AM

Welcome to the slowest, most mind-numbing portion of the day.  The rush of preparation has worn off but the team hasn’t truly hit its rhythm for the day.  I finally wake up, but I get cranky because the sun still sits low in the sky and lunch still seems so far away.  These hours are furthest from the start, furthest from the finish, and furthest from lunch.  I check my watch a dozen times, but the clock never moves.  I start feeling just as sluggish and productivity lags.

11:30-1:00

We tend to eat lunch from noon to 12:30.  The half hour before and after spark my energy as I anticipate the coming break and then pep up from the sugar rush  Productivity varies, but the mental boost sets up the whole afternoon.

1:00-3:00 PM

I find this the most productive portion of the day.  We tend to work out the kinks of our process in the morning and hit our stride in the afternoon.  By this time of the day, everyone knows their role and how best to accomplish it.  The second half of our work day is also shorter than the first.  Mentally, it feels like much less of a challenge to stretch from lunch to quitting time.  The end of the day draws nigh and that motivates me to give everything I have left.

3:00-4:00 PM

Our main project goals tend to slow down around three as we begin to transition into the clean-up phase in preparation for the end of the day.  I always remain very productive and alert during this time, but necessity forces me towards ancillary tasks.

 

With an understanding of both the weekly and daily rhythm, I can locate the most and least productive moments of the work week and plan accordingly.  The most productive moment of the week should likely occur between one and three on Tuesday afternoon.  The least productive moment will likely fall between 9:30 and 11:30 on a Thursday morning.  If I had management responsibilities, I could take such information and try to organize tasks that play to the strengths of the best times of the week and minimize the shortcoming of the worst periods.

Using the MBTI in Everyday Life: Understanding Conflict

ford f-250

A disagreement at work, today, took me by surprise.  Myself, two co-workers, and the founder of the company found ourselves at a small home that the company wants to flip.  The house sits in a relatively quiet residential neighborhood with only street parking.  While I locked the red front door, my co-workers finished loading a washing machine and a dryer onto the trailer.

Suddenly, a gray haired man stepped into the street and asked,  “Who owns the white Ford F-250 parked in front of my house?”  I stood too far away to answer and I figured Bob, the co-worker who owned the truck, would respond.  When no one said anything, the older man stated snarkily, and with increased volume, “Is no one going to answer me?  Do one of you own this truck? It’s blocking the street.”

In Bob’s position, I would have offered a cursory, meaningless apology and calmly stated that we planned to leave momentarily.  Deflect and move on.  Bob’s truck really didn’t block the road – a box truck passed with ease a couple minutes later – but arguments reek of inefficiency.  And, honestly, I could understand if the homeowner didn’t want Bob’s truck in his parking area.

My co-worker’s heated response surprised me, “Yeah, it’s mine.  Do you want me to park in your yard next time?”  A few more words traded from Bob to the local before the old man went on his way.  When I walked down to the trailer, I found it even more perplexing that both men agreed with Bob.  I at least expected Allen, the founder of the company, to chastise Bob for not being more political with potential customers.

A couple seconds later, it came to me.  I work for a construction company full of individuals who must use tools on a daily basis to conquer the real problem set before them.  The three men before me, two carpenters and an entrepreneur, were all SPs.

Let me explain.  In Please Understand Me II, David Keirsey explains how we can define each temperament by looking at how each one values or uses the three tools that, I believe, put humanity at the top of the food chain: community, tool usage, and communication.  On one axis, he suggests that, while a well rounded personality uses all items at their disposal, most favor either a more tool oriented, utilitarian philosophy or a more community oriented, cooperative philosophy.  On the other axis, he contrasts the different ways in which sensing types and intuitive types communicate.  Sensing types prefer a more concrete, factual, and present language, while intuitive types bathe in the abstract questions, theories, and imaginings of the future.  This gives us the Concrete Cooperative SJs, the Concrete Utilitarian SPs, the Abstract Cooperative NFs, and the Abstract Utilitarian NTs.

Keirsey goes on to describe how each of these different strengths and values create different intellectual mindsets in each temperament.  SJs excel at logistics.  Logistics require a focus on the immediate physical needs of a community and making sure that the stores are stocked and the tools maintained so that people in their community never go without.  NFs excel at diplomacy.  With their abstract vision, they place themselves in the shoes of others and can reach an unmatched level of empathy.  SPs best all challengers at tactics.  They can drive, play, move, work, etc. anything they enjoy.  SPs own the action words.  NTs master strategy.  We see the world as a giant chess board with pieces we need to move here or there in order achieve a greater level of efficiency or a cunning victory.

A community needs all four forms of intelligence to succeed, and even an individual will need to perform in his or her weaker fields from time to time.  In this case, we don’t treat all of the other areas equally.  For example, as an ENTP, I love tasks that challenge my strategic intellect.  Sid Meier’s Civilization series has taken many hours from my life.  However, I show some ability at diplomacy and tactics.  I share abstract communication with the diplomatic NFs.  Thus, I can put myself in the place of the angry old man even if I never truly empathize.  I share a utilitarian focus with the SPs.  While I will never quite match their athleticism or hand-eye coordination, I think rationally and accomplish logical goals.  Thus, I have had a very successful first year as a carpenter’s helper.  I have nothing in common with the SJs and I find their logistics mentally exhausting.  I find cleaning and routine maintenance mind-numbing.  I did my taxes last weekend and it felt like having a tooth pulled.  I find it so hard to update my resume and scour the internet for writing jobs because the whole exercise feels like an inefficient colossal waste of time.

So back to our SP carpenter.  As much as I don’t do logistics, he feels the same way about diplomacy.  They find it incredibly difficult to see something from someone else’s point of view.  Only their goals and their own sense of pleasure matter.  Bob only saw an extroverted judging type trying to gum up the works, trying to keep him from performing his utilitarian task.  This made him angry in the same way I rage about paperwork and the mindless job search.

However, the SP lack of diplomacy isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  The SP is the “beachmaster” personality.  During World War II, the beachmaster had to make split decisions about manpower and weapons, whether to advance or pull back, whether to bring up the tanks or push them out of the way and into the sea.  SPs become our EMTs, our firefighters, our soldiers.  In those moments, seconds mean the difference between life and death.  They may not always think to make the best decision, but any decision is a good one.  If the SP had to consider how everyone felt in those moments, they couldn’t do their jobs.  We need someone there to take action when others can’t or won’t.

Bob may not have made the best decision with his response to the stranger, but a closer look at personality shows the complexity of our daily interactions.

 

Temperament, “Magic: The Gathering,” and Veronica Roth’s “Divergent”

magic five colors

Several years ago, while I still studied at Virginia Tech, I made an association between the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering  and the Keirsey temperaments of Myers-Briggs typology.  I found that the flavor of each one of the five colors of magic correlated to one of the four temperaments of the MBTI.  Now, I know that four does not equal five, but it made perfect sense to me that a rational competition based in a fantastic world would appeal to NTs enough that they could happily support two colors.  I broke the NTJs off to the more ordered blue magic and the NTPs inhabited the more chaotic black magic.  For the other three temperaments, I placed the SPs with red magic, the NFs with green magic, and the SJs with white magic.  I remember writing a blog post about my discovery and I even created a Facebook quiz that used MBTI type questions to help people discover their preferred color of magic.  Unfortunately, those works have become lost to the archives of Xanga and Facebook, respectively.

For Christmas, my wife received the first book in Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy.  We both tore through all three books in the span of a week, often competing over who got to read the book next.  Roth writes a thrilling tale that often struggles with hard ethical questions, never shying away from real life.  She creates conflicted characters and places them a rich world with a unique, well-developed culture.  I enjoyed Roth’s creation of five factions, each with their own personal goals, mores, and values.  The five factions – Candor, Dauntless, Erudite, Amity, and Abnegation – quickly reminded me of my prior connection between the MBTI and Magic.

I have always appreciated the MBTI compared to other personality tests, especially the Big Five, because the MBTI does not make value judgements about the types.  For instance, intuition in the MBTI correlates highly with Openness to Ideas in the Big Five personality measurement.  However, the MBTI does not suggest that sensing types have a deficiency while the Big Five would say those without Openness do.  We have differences, but that does not make one person better or worse.  I think Roth would agree with this sentiment.  We have genetic differences, but that does not mean some people possess pure genes and others are damaged.

Furthermore, our inborn personalities represent the hardware on which we build our lives, but we add a multitude of unique experiences and environments to our base personality.  We maintain the free will to make independent choices.  This can provide two people with the same personality with vastly different outcomes.  As such, a person can see the benefits of a different color of magic than their own.  More importantly, a person can choose a faction that differs from the ideal one for their type.  Perhaps, they feel compelled to stick with the faction they grew up in.  Perhaps, they need a change, having spent 16 years with the drawbacks of the faction of their birth.  Thus, while a greater percentage of SPs will likely land among the Dauntless, not all SPs will choose Dauntless and not all Dauntless will type out as SPs.  As with the Hogwart’s Houses, I simply aim to find the most likely home for each temperament.  We all retain choice.

I have tried to limit spoilers, but I still urge you to read the books before continuing.

candor_simple_black__png__by_sashi0-d55ueai

Candor – Black Magic – NTP

As an ENTP, I should begin with the color and faction that I know the best.  At first appearance, black magic and Candor might not seem that similar with the way black magic prefers to slink through the shadows while the Candor aim to shine the light truth into all the dark corners.  I believe that the two groups show us at our best and our worst.

NTPs often possess an amorality.  We don’t actively seek to hurt others, the thought just never enters the equation in our search for knowledge and perfect efficiency.  Morality makes no impact one way or the other.  This allows the black mage to delve into the depths that others would shy away from.  He deals with vampires and demons.  He raises the dead from their shallow graves.  He sacrifices his own life force in the search for knowledge, the search for truth, the search for power.

Candor too recognizes this basic selfishness in the heart of every man.  To keep from hurting each other, we must lay all our cards on the table.  If we maintain complete honesty, if we take our ulterior motives from their hiding places, then we can avoid conflicts.  Our competition for knowledge and power becomes an honorable game rather than assassins in corners.  Truth makes this game of life equal for everyone and we find it much more acceptable if we lose under such circumstances.  I don’t mind if you honestly beat me.  Just don’t stab me in the back.

It also helps the Candor that our amorality leaves us without any sense of shame.  It does not matter if we know each other’s darkest secrets because we all exist as broken and selfish people.  Let’s just get it all out on the table.  In fact, I have often used my radical honesty for my own entertainment.  Like the Candor, I love a good debate and I have often tossed out statement grenades, honest truths about myself or the world, to see how people react once I have shattered their fragile political correctness.  I am much more comfortable with the initial chaos of truth than the slow inefficient oppression of manners.

While I prefer a bit more color in my attire from time to time, I do own a sizable amount of black clothing.  Black represents the never ending search for truth, the prying of secrets from dark mystery.  No wonder the black mage in his dark cloak and the Candor lawyer in his black and white suit prefer such trappings.

In Magic: The Gathering, a deck cannot stand on the the power of one color.  You may have all of the strengths of black, but you also have all of its weaknesses.  For efficiency’s sake, most mages pare their deck down to two or, at most, three colors.  Certain colors tend to work better together than others.

In similar fashion, I find that each temperament has an ideal faction, two factions that fit certain aspects of their personality, and two factions that confuse or intrigue that particular faction with their stark differences.  NTPs seem particularly well suited for Candor.  NTPs who desire more than just truth, those who desire a technical knowledge of how things work, a purer know-how, will feel drawn to the Erudite.  NTPs who seek more than just idle words but wish to enforce truth more than just discover it will seek out the experiences of the Dauntless.  NTPs often have an experience addiction.  We constantly seek novel truths.  To the outsider this often looks indistinguishable from the adrenaline seeking personality of the SP.  The NTP questions the motives of the Amity and the Abnegation.  Believing that all people act from selfishness, we see the true altruism of those two groups as an illusion.  If one submits his will to the needs of someone else or the needs of the many it can only lead to resentment and deception.

Erudite-Faction

Erudite – Blue Magic – NTJ

I have some familiarity with the Erudite.  I did well in school and participated in the gifted program and a Governor’s School during my time in public education.  I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology and history.  I studied graduate sociology and eventually received my Masters in English.  I found that the higher I went the more knowledge obscured the truth and prevented actual action in reality.  The scholar becomes more and more focused in a smaller and smaller arena of data.  It seemed intellectually incestuous.  I imagine that a true Erudite would not share my misgivings.

NTJs search for knowledge so that they can better order and control their environment.  Blue magic seeks that same power of control and manipulation.  Blue does much to slow the game down, countering opponents spells and reducing the number of cards in an opponents hand or deck.  Conversely, the blue mage constantly adds to his own base of knowledge by adding cards to his hands and stealing his opponents creatures.  The blue mage derives his power from the tides of the great oceans and the winds of the air and he seeks to control those very elements.

Similarly, the Erudite seek a greater knowledge so they can control the forces of nature.  They provide much of the technology that the Amity use to farm and feed the rest of the city.  However, that same desire for control often pushes the Erudite to clash with the Abnegation for political control of the city and leads them to manipulate the other factions behind the scenes.  The Wizards of the Coast website has a great description of the full capacity of blue magic, but it works just as well for the Erudite: “At their best, blue mages [and Erudite] are inventive and progressive.  At their worst, blue mages [and Erudite] are manipulative and treacherous.”

The blue mages and Erudite share symbols.  The Erudite wear blue clothing as they believe it produces the calm emotional state most ideal for rational thought and learning.  Keirsey noted that all NTs seek calm as our preferred emotional state.  A clear head provides access to our greatest resource.  Also, the Erudite use the bowl of water as their symbol during the choosing ceremony.  The NTJ believes that with enough patience, knowledge, like a small drip of water, can erode stone and get to the very heart of truth and power.  With enough time, water can accomplish great feats.

While NTJs would most readily join Erudite, they would likely feel an affinity towards Candor and Abnegation as well. Candor displays the same search for knowledge and truth.  Abnegation believes that self-denial leads to order.  NTJs already deny their emotional response so they can achieve greater clarity in the search for the most rational outcome.  A more religious NTJ might find the Abnegation particularly attractive.

The NTJs would have more difficulty understanding the values of the Amity and Dauntless.  An NTJ would find the collective agreement of the Amity incredibly inefficient.  I doubt they would see their decision-making system as anything more than mob rule.  The NTJ would find the thrill-seeking of the Dauntless a foolish and pointless action.  Much like the science nerd and bookworm, to the NTJ the Dauntless would appear as nothing more than dumb jocks.

daunt pic 2

Dauntless – Red Magic – SP

I have felt an attraction to the free lifestyle of the Dauntless from a very young age.  My earliest heroes included cool and composed athletes like quarterback Joe Montana.  I threw my body around in little league football as I tried to emulate them.  The athletes would eventually have to share the stage with hedonistic and revolutionary rock stars as my love of music developed throughout my teens.  In my youth I loved a chaotic mosh pit.  I joined the United States Army Infantry out of high school and served in Afghanistan and Iraq.  I have four tattoos and counting and I even considered a septum piercing for a fleeting half second.  There is an honesty in the individual freedom of the Dauntless.  It is far from certain that I would choose the Candor over the Dauntless if given the chance.  The agency of the Dauntless might provide the best chance to pursue justice and truth.

SPs love red magic as much as I do.  I always enjoyed “burn” decks, decks full of lightning bolts and fire balls and other direct magics that instantly dispatched a creature or opponent as soon as they started to annoy me.  Goblin decks allowed me to overrun my opponent with a number of quick, cheap creatures.  Red magic erupts from passion and spontaneity.  SPs feel that same need for action.  They seem happiest when indulging their desire to move and change the world around them, in those moments when they can feel the adrenaline course through their bodies.

The Dauntless would welcome the athletic nature of the SPs.  Many SPs would find great joy in tossing themselves from moving trains and high buildings, in constantly practicing the martial arts, and even the rush of facing their darkest fears.  Like a shark, SPs feel most alive in constant action.  The SP would also most readily approve of the Dauntless lifestyle.  For the SP, every moment is a game or competition and they love to entertain whether through a smart quip or a flashy tattoo.  The pain and pleasure dichotomy of getting tattooed fits right in with their personalities.

Red magic shares the symbol of fire with the Dauntless.  While the red mage uses fire as a powerful force of destruction, the Dauntless pledge their faith to the burning  coals of passion and action at the faction choosing ceremony.  Red mages draw their power from the lava and stone of the highest mountains.  Dauntless headquarters exist in a steep, rocky cavern surrounding a chasm.  The Dauntless test themselves by ascending the highest structures.  Trees, ferris wheels, the Hancock Building: the Dauntless have challenged them all.

SPs, especially the more feeling types, might also feel drawn to Amity.  They would enjoy the manual labor, the action of plowing fields, picking fruit, and repairing farm machinery.  They would likely make great musicians, plucking their banjos and dancing through the fields.  For the SP, Amity might offer an extended camping trip or a long backyard cookout.  Other SPs, especially the thinking types, could prefer Candor.  The STPs I know have a knack for saying exactly what they think or observe with a complete obliviousness to social custom and manners.

The SPs would have more difficulty with the Erudite and the Abnegation.  How can an Erudite keep their nose entirely in a book when mountains stand out there begging for climbers?  As the most hedonistic of the temperaments, SPs tend to deny themselves nothing.  I think they would soon grow weary of the stiff and uneventful lifestyle of Abnegation.

amity_simple_red__png__by_sashi0-d55udi5

Amity – Green Magic – NF

I have affection for those most likely to choose Amity.  My mother, sister, wife, my other best friend, and a number of our closest companions are all NFs.  I admire their diplomacy and creativity.  They make my world a better place to live in.  I even admire the Amity lifestyle.  It seems wholesome to throw your back to the plow, lose yourself in your work and enjoy good friends and a good meal at the end of the day.  However, I know I could never live that lifestyle myself.  Even when I try to focus on a more elegant habit, my mind wanders to adventure and the more complex questions of the world.  In their desire for consensus, the Amity would stifle my well-crafted individualism.

The NF’s personality mimics the ebbs and flows of green magic.  Green magic emanates from the harmony of nature.  It represents the growth of forest, jungle, and animal and the peace of creatures connected to the land like the elves.  NFs seek growth and harmony in their relationships and communities.  An NF mother wants nothing more than to see her children and grandchildren grow into healthy, emotionally stable adults.  Like nature, NFs also fiercely defend their own.  If an NF sees someone attacking their friends, family, or most closely held values, they can unleash a fury on their enemies like a hurricane force wind or a stampede of buffalo.  Though the current incarnation of Amity in Divergent attempt complete non-intervention, I find it interesting that their original manifesto included a paragraph for the active defense of a friend that they later deleted.  This protection of their own is an honest NF trait.

NF would merge easily into the Amity lifestyle.  They would feel refreshed by the open space of the fields and they would find purpose in bringing growth to the environment.  They would find deep significance in the personal, relationship-based religion of the Amity and total comfort in the consensus-based decision making process of the faction.  Everything, from the earth to the relationships feels organic and wholesome to the idealistic NF.

The green mage and the Amity share the symbols of earth and tree.  More than any other mage, the green mage derives his power from the life-giving earth.  The many creatures he summons find sustenance and protection under the trees of the forest.  Amity sees these same benefits.  They ask their initiates to pledge their blood to the bowl of earth at the faction choosing ceremony and they use the blossoming tree as their sigil.

The NF might also feel comfortable in Abnegation or Dauntless.  The NFJ especially might take comfort in the ordered, simple life of the Abnegation while helping the poor and downtrodden in a more active way.  The NFP might prefer Dauntless and an opportunity to actively defend his or her people, a crusade for justice, a hard fought peace.

The NF would have more difficulty feeling happy in Erudite or Candor.  Though they might find certain members of those factions attractive, they would see the pure rationality of the Erudite as cold and devoid of humanity.  The radical honesty of the Candor would also seem a step too far when a white lie or a diplomatic word could avoid conflict and bring a community closer together.

abnegation

Abnegation – White Magic – SJ

I have the greatest difficulty understanding why anyone would choose the Abnegation lifestyle, but like many NTs, I have difficulty communicating with SJs.  I have found SJs to be, at their best, curiosities from my point of view.  At their worst they seem to obstruct and hamper my efforts for efficiency at every turn.  Yet at their core, I know that they have a value system and reliability that our society needs.

SJs would feel a certain attachment to the flavor of white magic.  White magic radiates from law and order, from civilization and its durable structures.  For avatars, white magic chooses humanity and the divine, the average man that performs heroic acts of sacrifice and angels that act as the warriors of God.  At its best, white magic protects and heals the smallest and poorest people.  Like all groups though, even the perceived good of white magic has its dark side.  The same civilization that promotes rule of law can also use that rule of law to enforce a caste system that keeps down the same people it claims to help.

SJs would certainly appreciate the way Abnegation serves others.  Above all, SJs want society to view them as dependable and respectable.  They want to stand as the pillars of the community.  They would enjoy the simple, unfashionable life of the Abnegation.  The SJ finds security in that life’s routines.  SJs have no time for frivolous pursuits like art or thrill-seeking.  They have work to do.  Like the Abnegation, SJs often fill roles in the middle management and civil service of governments and faith organizations.  Others rely on SJs to always do the right thing in the same fashion time after time.

Abnegation shares with white magic a preference for a simple color shade.  Though gray claims a bit more subdued tone, both colors indicate  a life of service.  More telling though, both Abnegation and White Magic share (spoiler alert) a preference for the non-lethal kill.  White magic deploys spells like “Pacifism” and “Swords to Plowshares” that effectively remove an enemy combatant from the battlefield.  Abnegation holds sway over the powerful memory serum that destroys the events that change a person without killing the organism that contains the memories.

SJs might also join Erudite or Amity.  The more thinking oriented SJs, especially the less religious, would find order in the scientific method and the lists of facts and data espoused by the Erudite.  The more feeling SJs would enjoy the warmth of the hearth shared by the Amity.  They could serve their tight knit family, their personal community, instead of the faceless stranger of the needy.

SJs would tend to shy away from Dauntless and Candor.  Dauntless sports too much flash.  They always want to take the spotlight for themselves.  The SJ would prefer to work behind the scenes or at least not risk making such a fool of themselves.  Meanwhile, the SJ would feel that the Candor upset the social order, the well-crafted manners meant to direct the way we interact with one another.  Too much honesty rocks the boat and they will have none of that.

divergent five

From Myers-Briggs typology, from the many colors of Magic: The Gathering, from Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, I have learned that it takes many types of people all pulling their weight to make society work.  We do not have good or bad personalities, good or bad genes.  We simply have people with different strengths and weaknesses trying to make the best choices every day.  No one color of magic can stand alone.  It must work with another to protect its shortcomings and maximize its advantages.  No one faction of society can make it alone.  We must all do our part and humbly respect others doing their part in a different way.  Only together can our strengths create progress.

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