My INTP Career Journey (Success Story?)

‘Success,” for those of the INTP personality persuasion, looks starkly different from how it appears to the conventional eye. INTPs have little concern for getting rich or amassing more stuff. As enumerated in my books, The INTP and The INTP Quest, they value money only for its role in procuring certain intangibles — things like freedom, meaning, purpose, and truth — viewed as integral to their vision of the good life; more freedom, more meaning, more purpose, more truth — this is how the INTP defines success.

Freedom is both a means and an end for the INTP. There is nothing INTPs abhor more than being subjected to the rules and dictates of others, as this precludes them from what they do best: paving their own path. INTPs are neither followers nor collaborators. They are self-driven individualists, deeply committed to following their own interests wherever they may lead. Indeed, having the time and freedom to pursue their own path is one of INTPs’ greatest sources of pleasure and meaning in life. Consequently, they can’t help but want to carve out more time for themselves, which they typically do through minimizing their material needs. Like the proverbial “starving artist,” many are willing to live with next to nothing if it promises more opportunity to do their own thing.

With that said, INTPs obviously need some form of income, which typically means working as an either an employee or entrepreneur. Although most INTPs despise the idea of working for someone else, in many cases, doing so is their most viable option, at least in the short term. While entrepreneurship is always a temptation for INTPs, it is not without its difficulties and drawbacks.

All INTPs dream of making money doing what they love. But before they can authentically do so, they must clarify their identity and their purpose by embarking on a quest of self-discovery. During this phase of discovery, INTPs are typically uncomfortable with the idea of monetizing their work, as the nature of their interests and identity have yet to be sufficiently clarified. They thus adopt a future-oriented mindset in which they expect that their best work (as well its financial rewards) will come later, after they have achieved greater clarity. In the meantime, they strive to carve out as much time as possible for continued exploration and reflection.

INTPs are also quite particular about the manner in which they make a living. They don’t want to sell widgets, no matter how lucrative, but to earn a living doing something that is meaningful and adds real value to the world. Consequently, it is hard to grant greater priority to any of the elements of INTPs’ vision of success and the good life; all are symbiotic and interrelated, and therefore equally essential.

While younger INTPs may lack the life experience required to articulate these matters in the above fashion, those who have exited college and entered the working world will at least have an inchoate sense of what I’m describing. Perhaps more than any other type, INTPs are quick to feel restless and dissatisfied, convinced that there is something better or more important for them to be doing. This sense of being called to something greater serves as the primary driver of their quest.

My INTP Career Journey

Despite having completed my doctorate and secured a good-paying job, it wasn’t long before I started feeling disillusioned with my professional path. My sentiments resembled those of author and psychoanalyst (and likely an INTP), Allen Wheelis, who in his 1958 book, The Quest for Identity, observed:

There are psychoanalysts who, at the cost of deepening inner conflict, maintain an open mind and persist in evaluating theory and technique in the light of clinical observation. Their experience is one of progressive discouragement and spreading skepticism. It seems that they accomplish nothing of lasting value. Even when a cure is effected they cannot with confidence take credit…At times, they regard themselves with distaste as highly skilled and overpaid professional comforters. Their experience and skepticism transform the principles of psychoanalysis into conjectures, which are one by one jettisoned.

As I explored alternative vocational paths, it became increasingly clear that finding a prefab career capable of satisfying my admittedly high and idiosyncratic standards was unlikely. While there were certain INTP careers that seemed closer to my ideal than others, none were without major drawbacks, including a substantial investment of time and money. Again Wheelis:

He will think about getting out. Such a change in life direction is easily made in one’s teens, but he is now in his forties and deeply committed…He knows that he is a complex person and suspects that any vocation would have presented him with comparable troubles. He cannot keep changing. Somewhere he must take a stand.

After over a decade of self / philosophical / career exploration and having come to the understanding that, to paraphrase Wheelis, “any career would present me with comparable troubles,” I finally concluded that my best option was to take the plunge as a freelance writer / blogger. That would be my craft, one which could furnish the autonomy and creative freedom my soul was demanding. The focus of my blog, I decided, would be personality psychology / typology, which had been a long-standing interest of mine. While I still wasn’t sure if this would prove to be my “once and for all” purpose, it seemed about as close as I could get at the time.

In 2009, PersonalityJunkie™ was born. I began by writing just a few posts on the INTP and related types, such as INTJ, INFJ, and INFP, which I hoped could garner an audience for a future book project. Much to my surprise, it wasn’t long before I was seeing a couple hundred daily blog visitors, many of whom seemed to appreciate my articles. This was encouraging and bolstered my sense that I was on the right track.

As I continued in my blogging efforts, I often felt torn between writing about my own personal interests versus the topics that seemed trendy or popular on the internet. I desperately wanted to follow my own interests, which furnished more inspiration and, in turn, better writing. But I also knew that more popular topics might bring more blog traffic and could thereby move me closer to my dream of achieving financial freedom as a freelancer.

For the most part, I have tended listen to myself more than the crowd. Not only has this made the writing process more satisfying, but has also inspired positive responses in others. Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the enthusiastic reception of my INTP books.

Since launching PersonalityJunkie™ about eight years ago, I have authored four books and a couple hundred blog posts. And, you may be surprised to learn (assuming you are familiar with INTPs) that I still consider this my passion. The icing on the cake is that I also make a few thousand dollars each month from selling my books and products on Personality Junkie and Amazon. I say this not to boast (I truly believe my success has been a matter of good fortune as much as anything else), but simply to illustrate that it is possible for INTPs to be successful and, most importantly, to do so in our own idiosyncratic, INTP way.

This should in no way be taken to mean that my life, especially when considered as a whole, is always smooth or perfect. I still struggle, among other things, with the degree to which I should permit my work to be influenced by popular trends and market forces. Like any other INTP, I am ever-thirsting for more freedom, but this hinges on having a reliable stream of income. In The INTP Quest, I refer to these sorts of self-world problems as the “I-E (introverted-extraverted) struggle.” As an introvert, I am always concerned with staying true to myself, but as a business owner, I must devote some measure of attention to what is happening “out there,” including how my work is being received. Moreover, had I completely ignored the outside world, I would have never discovered the Holy Grail that is blogging — my salvation from the perils of inauthentic work.

My life also remains a perpetual quest for meaning. I feel fortunate to have discovered writing, as well as other rewarding elements of running a blog (e.g., strategy, coding, web design), as a sort of “means to meaning.” Having the opportunity to invest so much time and energy in my own enterprise continues to be deeply rewarding. As other entrepreneurs have remarked, I would rather work 80 hours a week on my own business than spend 20 hours working for someone else. Like many INTPs, I’m happiest when I’m engaged in self-guided and self-motivated work, which engenders a profound sense of freedom, meaning, and accomplishment.

To learn more about INTPs, including their personality, careers, relationships, and existential challenges, I encourage you to visit PersonalityJunkie™ and explore my highly regarded eBooks:

The INTP: Personality, Careers, Relationships & the Quest for Truth and Meaning

The INTP Quest: INTPs’ Search for their Core Self, Purpose, & Philosophy

To learn more about my experiences and recommendations as a blogger, see my post:

Keys to Starting a Blog or a Web Business

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