The introvert/extrovert dichotomy gets plenty of lip service. What doesn’t get attention is the difference between perceiving and judging.
By getting in touch with the perceiver or judger in your personality, you can be more effective and focused, while still doing great creative work.
The concept of perceiving vs. judging comes from the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator — the same domain where you’ll see introvert vs. extrovert being discussed. You might be an ISFJ, or an ENTP, for example. The E and the I stand for extrovert and introvert. The P and the J for perceiving and judging.
Don’t confuse “perceiving” with the often positive trait of being “perceptive.” Don’t confuse “judging” with the negative connotations of being “judgmental.” Neither is necessarily good or bad, and we all have a little of both.
An extreme perceiver always wants to take in new information. An extreme judger wants to make a decision.
Myself and the people who follow my work tend to be perceivers. I often have readers come to me, lamenting that they have “too many interests,” or that they “lack focus.”
I can totally relate. After all, I’ve worked as a designer—in about any industry in which a designer can work—and now I’m a writer and podcaster. My Kindle is full of dozens of half-read books on any subject you can imagine. I’m like Johnny 5 from the movie Short Circuit. I need input! input!
As a result, my work is all over the place. I have a book about design, a book about writing, a book about a cryptocurrency. I have a handful of websites, all about different concepts. My podcast is intentionally positioned as an umbrella under which I can follow whatever interests me.
Meanwhile, I’ve watched others become wildly successful by following one thing. They are decisive. They execute.
John Lee Dumas of Entrepreneur On Fire would be an example of a “judger” (again, not in a negative way). He makes a daily podcast. He has systems, pre-decided rules, and processes he follows to crank it out. As I’ve heard him say before, he likes to go “an inch wide, and a mile deep.”
At Jeff Goins’s Tribe conference over the weekend, I told him that if I could steal one superpower from him, it would be his focus. He refers to himself as Jeff Goins, writer. His domain is goinswriter.com. He teaches writers how to write and writes books and runs a conference about writing. Not surprisingly, Jeff told me he’s a judger.
On the other hand, someone like Nassim Nicholas Taleb has to be a perceiver. His books swirl around a variety of different subjects. They tend to be around the theme of irrationality in our perceptions of risk, but you could probably read one of his entire books and still not know what it was about. (Which I happen to enjoy).
Or take this very “perceiver” tweet from author Neil Strauss.
What’s hard for perceivers and judgers? Perceivers have no problem coming up with creative ideas, but struggle to make the decisions necessary to make those ideas a reality. The final product may never see the light of day. Judgers can make the decisions, but may struggle with coming up with creative ideas. The final product may lack nuance.
If you want to be a successful creator, you’ve gotta have some perceiver so you can come up with creative ideas; but you’ve gotta have some judger to make those ideas a reality.
I can’t speak much about how judgers can be more “perceptive.” Maybe they don’t need to. But I’ve taken many measures to be more “judgemental.”
Here are some ways to embrace your inner perceiver, while bringing out just enough judger:
- Make the process the product. Don’t hold off on starting because you’re trying to home in on the perfect idea. Do the work, and let it define itself. I think of it like cell division: Bits from one piece of work can divide off into their own pieces of work.
- Make rules and follow them. Perceivers value freedom and flexibility. But that freedom and flexibility can prevent you from ever getting anything done. Start with very simple rules, such as a tiny habit. Work on your skills of making rules and following them. The flexibility lies in the spaces between.
- End projects. Perceivers don’t want to close doors—they want to remain open to new opportunities. Force yourself to end projects, even if they’re going well. Or, force yourself to finish deliverables on a set schedule, such as I do with my podcast. To a perceiver, that feels like you’re missing out, when in reality you’re giving yourself more options.
If you’re a strong perceiver, you may get frustrated with yourself for not being able to follow through. But if you embrace the perceiver in you, while borrowing a few tricks from judgers, you can make your brilliant ideas into not just finished products—but an entire body of work.
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