Who do you think you are?

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Our personalities are as distinct as our clothing choices, but commonalities exist among people with similar psychological traits just as they do with shoppers who are guided by similar fashions. Among the options available to learn more about what makes us tick, becoming aware of one’s Myers-Briggs personality type is perhaps the most powerful. For me, a reflective individual who has spent years contemplating why I think and behave as I do, identifying my personality type — and studying its characteristics — has been life-changing.

recommend three online resources for learning more about your psychological wardrobe. If you wonder why you instinctively feel drawn to the noisy center of a crowded room or why you exhaustively analyze all of the competing variables before making a decision, these three websites could provide meaningful answers. Whether you possess a casual interest in gaining more personality insight or a gnawing hunger to interpret the complex inner workings of your mind, these platforms serve as worthy portals to the knowledge you seek.

First, a brief background.

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961), who was a younger peer of the legendary Sigmund Freud, developed a theory of personality concepts as part of his pioneering work in analytical psychology. Two of the best known of these concepts are introversion and extroversion, which many contemporary practitioners believe exist on a continuum. Those who are more introverted in nature generally gain energy in solitude; those who are more extroverted typically charge their batteries when in the presence of others.

In the 1920s, an American educator named Katharine Cook Briggs (1875-1968) took a keen interest in Jung’s work in personality concepts. She did so after investing considerable time and energy formulating her own personality theories while raising and homeschooling her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers (1897-1980). After Katherine Cook Briggs read Jung’s work in the early 1920s, she dove into the psychiatrist’s theories and convinced her daughter to follow her on the intellectual journey.

What emerged from their collaboration — and the resulting decades of scholarship with her husband, Lyman Briggs (1874-1963), an engineer with the National Bureau of Standards in Washington D.C. — was a four-letter personality type. Today it is identified as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® or MBTI®. Once you become aware of which of the 16 four-letter code combinations you most closely align with, an extraordinary door opens into a room (or a walk-in closet) filled with wonder and understanding.

My first recommendation for learning more about your personality type is the official Myers & Briggs Foundation website, which is the authority on all things related to this renowned — yet still sometimes controversial — framework. The beginning of the “MBTI® Basics” page is featured here:

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My second recommendation is for MBTIonline.com, which allows you to discover your official MBTI® identifier by taking the 93-question Myers-Briggs assessment for $49.95. The estimated time for this instrument is 15 minutes. (Note — A link to MBTIonline.com is also found on the Myers & Briggs Foundation site.)

The welcome page of MBTIonline looks like this:

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My third recommendation is for 16Personalities, which is hosted by UK-based NERIS Analytics Limited. This user-friendly and pleasingly visual website offers insightful descriptors of NERIS’ own modified versions of the official MBTI® four-letter designator.

The modified versions, which feature a fifth letter — A or T, representing assertive and turbulent, respectively — still include the sixteen separate personality types. However, each one is complemented by the fifth A or T descriptor*. The sixteen basic types are presented here using names, illustrations, and four categorical groups (Analysts, Diplomats, Sentinels, and Explorers).

You can identify your type by taking their free NERIS Type Explorer®.

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Each of these sixteen types features its own detailed series of pages that offer insights into how that type’s tendencies (in thought and behavior) manifest in such areas as Friendships, Romantic Relationships, Parenthood, Career Path, and Workplace Habits.

Here is an overview of the ESFP type, which 16Personalities identifies as “The Entertainer.” The four-letter acronym stands for Extroverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving.

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As an INTJ (“The Architect,” pictured below) — a type that describes introverted individuals who rely on intuition and deep thought to navigate their lives — I have found tremendous value in both the Myers & Briggs Foundation website and 16Personalities.com. By revisiting these destinations, I am reminded why I possess the psychological wardrobe that I do — the symbolic pants, shirts, sweaters, and shoes that reflect the different parts of my personality.

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When I find myself struggling to understand why and how I act, I am grateful for the insights that these sources offer. Although I give serious consideration to the materials they provide, I also scrutinize them as a healthy skeptic. I think it is best to be cautious about adopting any framework in its entirety. The three resources recommended in this post provide general roadmaps for greater understanding — not prescriptive, turn-by-turn directions for living a better life.

* — Please be aware that this fifth letter is an element that is not endorsed by the Myers & Briggs Foundation.

Note — All of the images in this post were obtained from the official Myers & Briggs Foundation website and 16Personalities.com.

Authenticity in exhaustion

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When do you feel like your most genuine self?

During moments of praise or celebration? After achieving a victory, beating a fierce opponent? In the wake of reaching a long-standing goal? While experiencing an insight or stumbling upon a link between seemingly unconnected events?

Or, do you feel most authentic when you have reached your limits — when you have nothing else to give?

The man pictured above may be uniquely qualified to provide an answer, one that could reveal a fundamental (yet often ignored) truth about the human experience. And his answer might change the way you think about the relationship between the intelligence of your mind, and the wisdom of your body.

More than three weeks ago I listened to podcast host Rich Roll’s interview with former water polo player Ross Edgley (above), a 33-year-old British phenom known for extra-ordinary athletic feats. For example, he has…

  • run a marathon while towing a Mini Cooper
  • rope-climbed the equivalent of Mount Everest in 24 hours
  • swum 100 kilometers in the Caribbean while dragging a 100-pound tree stump

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Google his name, and you’ll find more photographic evidence. The man’s accomplishments are incredible. And as you can see, he looks like a cross between a Navy SEAL and a magazine cover model.

But you would never assume Edgley’s unfathomable physical determination and athletic prowess by listening to his cheerful banter, which features a disarming English accent. His laugh-punctuated delivery and self-deprecating humor make him sound like a twenty-something sociology major living on his own for the first time in a London flat.

During Edgley’s conversation with Rich Roll, the Brit recounts his experience swimming around mainland England — a distance of over 3,200 kilometers (more than 1,700 miles) — in 157 days. During the nearly six-month journey, he never once stepped foot onto land. The closest he got to terra firma was the boat he slept on for six hours at a stretch before he got back out into the Atlantic’s frigid waters. This incomparable event was known as the Great British Swim.

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Rich Roll’s full podcast interview is available at “Ross Edgley is the Real Aquaman — Lessons in Fortitude From (Arguably) the Fittest Man Alive.” Even if you are not into swimming or endurance sports, what Edgley accomplished — and the struggles he faced while doing so — will blow your mind. He voluntarily subjected himself to unbelievable hardships, and he shares the insights he gleaned from those obstacles in his conversation.

Perhaps the most powerful remark from the cheerfully-boyish Englishman is the one that Rich Roll, who is himself an ultra-endurance triathlete and former Stanford swimmer, featured in the podcast’s promotional image:

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This is the line that — more than three weeks after listening to the full two-hour conversation — continues to reverberate in my head.

“You find the most honest version of yourself in complete exhaustion.” 

Every time I consider these words I acknowledge the wisdom that they contain. As more and more of us are spending our days seated at the office, riding elevators instead of taking the stairs, and stopping the car at the mailbox rather than walking to the curb, true physical exhaustion is almost never encountered.

Yes, many of us do work ourselves into stupors while leaning toward computer monitors for hours on end. And many of us do run ourselves ragged chauffeuring the kids to six different after-school activities every week. And many of us do frantically tackle every imaginable task in order to climb one rung higher on the corporate or organizational ladder. In these efforts, however, we become weary out of wear.

What about exhaustion caused by physical exertion for the sake of exercise? Or transportation (e.g. walking or bicycling)? Or gardening? Or the sheer joy of movement found in climbing a tree, navigating a playground, or scrambling up a steep hillside to catch a sunset? 

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Far too few of us experience the pleasurable fatigue of a body testing its limits, however modest those current limits might be.  

I don’t believe that a person needs to resemble Ross Edgley to benefit from the clarity of mind, sharpness of focus, and renewal of the spirit that complete exhaustion can yield. As a recreational runner — and a very slow one, at that — I regularly shuffle through one-hour workouts and feel physically depleted. But I also feel remarkably calm, centered, and capable. My senses of sight, touch, and smell become acutely sharp, and I am aware of subtle shifts in wind speed, humidity, and temperature.

Somewhere along my normal route, which features a long stretch of rail-to-trail hard-pack, my mind releases the worries that were churning when I laced up my running shoes. I’ll likely return to those stresses later, but during the slow cool-down walk to my apartment door I revel in the steady insistence of my breath and the reassuring prominence of my heartbeat. My limbs are tired, but also fluid and responsive.

The moments when I feel the most authentic — the most me — occur when I am physically spent. And maybe that is where we all can find our truest selves.

You don’t need to be Ross Edgley to do this, however.

  • Rather than tow a Mini Cooper through a marathon, what if you briskly towed your kids in a wagon for 26.2 minutes?
  • Rather than rope-climb the equivalent of Mount Everest, what if you climbed the stairs to your office every day next week?
  • Rather than swim 100 kilometers while dragging a tree stump, what if you swam several lengths of the local pool while pulling your doubts through the water?

In these efforts that exhaust the body, you just might find who you really are.

Instead of working yourself under, what if you worked your body out?

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For more about Rich Roll (pictured below), please see these blog posts:

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Note — The image of the map of the Great British Swim and the photographs of Ross Edgley were obtained from redbull.com. The only exception is the one of Edgley towing the Mini Cooper, which was located on the website of Littlegate Publishing. The publicity image for Edgley’s appearance on the Rich Roll Podcast (RRP) and the photo of Rich Roll were obtained from richroll.com. The photograph of the sunset was taken in Longmont, Colorado by the author of this blog post.

Guest Spotlight — AC’s Medici Lion Journal

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This gorgeous tooled-leather journal belongs to Adriana Cashwell, a former Michigan resident who now lives in Richmond, VA, where she studied psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University. She received this notebook from a family member when she was a student at Lake Orion High School, but has not begun using it until now. Why? She explains that, “I’ve always found it too beautiful to write in if I wasn’t going to be serious about it.” I can relate, as I have received several journals over the years that seemed too ornamental for regular use.

Fortunately, Adriana has started journaling again, citing the fact that she has “always considered writing as a part of [her] soul.” And she maintains “hopes of getting her thoughts out of [her] head and onto paper, where they feel a little less threatening and make more sense.” Again, I can fully understand; writing helps me to re-consider the perplexing thoughts — and difficult decisions — that I ruminate about.

To make the transfer process as smooth as possible, Adriana relies on Pilot’s G2 Gel Ink pens. Most often she uses the fine-point variety, but recently she has been reaching for an extra-fine pen that has found its way into her arsenal. The G2, which is available in a striking range of colors, is a favorite of mine. I explain why on ink + sky‘s Materials page.

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Adriana’s journal was imported to the U.S. by Fiorentina, a distributor of stationery and gifts from across the Atlantic. One of its primary sources of leather goods is Italy, but it also gathers high-quality writing-related products from artisans in many European countries. If you are looking for its products locally, one of the best bets is Barnes & Noble. And online, check out BarnesAndNoble.com. Please be aware that Fiorentina’s website loads very slowly.

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Although the 9″ x 7″ Medici Lions Italian Leather Journal seems expensive at $39.95, it features refillable pages; therefore, you can use it for years because its recycled leather exterior is rugged and wear-resistant. Simply insert a new pad of paper when you finish the current one!

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Here is an image displaying the perimeter’s woven binding as well as the tooled leather interior of the front cover. Notice how the first page of the inner paper tablet inserts into the inside cover’s vertical leather “pocket,” which holds it securely.

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The lion is a common symbol of nobility in heraldry, a word that refers to the art and science of armorial bearings (or the armory). The most well-known segment of heraldry encompasses the coat of arms. For hundreds of years, lions have been used in countless coats of arms of different families, countries, and nations. The lions featured in coats of arms — as well as on actual armor and weaponry — are presented in different positions or attitudes. The Wikipedia.org page for “Lion (heraldry)” features a fascinating chart that outlines the most common lion attitudes.

The attitude of the lion on Adriana’s journal is known as rampant. Why? The Lion is standing erect, and its forepaws are raised. It is ready for battle.

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As a companion image, consider this photograph of an amazing 800-year-old shield that belonged to Konrad von Thüringen (ca. 1201-1240). Its lion also stands in the rampant attitude (but faces the opposite direction):

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Finally, what does the word Medici mean?

Medici is the name of a family from Italy that was very influential in the financial sector. The Medici Bank was founded in Florence in 1397, but the family did not achieve its greatest social, political, artistic, and economic power until the early 15th century. An incredible resource for learning more about this legendary family — and its many noteworthy members — is The Medici Archive Project.

In 2016, Netflix released an original 8-part series entitled Medici: Masters of Florence. It carries an IMDB rating of 7.9/10. Actor Richard Madden (seen below) plays the role of Cosimo de Medici, the young heir to his murdered father’s banking fortune. A second season of the historical drama ran in the fall of 2018.

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Note — The image of the Fiorentina logo was obtained from Fiorentinaltd.com. The image of the Medici Lion journal found beneath the logo was located on BarnesAndNoble.com. The close-up shots of the notebook were taken by the author of this blog post. The image of the Pilot Pens was borrowed from Walmart.com. The publicity image of Netflix’s Medici series was located on IMDB.com.

ink + sky is now on Facebook

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Today ink sky made its first Facebook post, an invitation to visitors to begin keeping a journal in 2019. Because FB does not permit the use of plus signs, the page is listed as “ink and sky.” The text and image of that post read as follows:

Join me. Go beyond a resolution, and start a journal in 2019. Just five minutes at a time will change your awareness, outlook, and self-concept. Trust me. I’ve been doing it for twenty-eight years. Click here to see my New Year’s journal: https://inkandsky.com/2018/…/30/new-years-adventure-journal/

If you start a journal in 2019, please send me a photo of your notebook and I will feature it on my website as a separate post. Think of it as an affirmation of your resolve.

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To see the first notebook that was featured in ink + skys new Guest Spotlight series of visitors’ journals, please click on Guest Spotlight — KP’s Lemon Journal.

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In the fall of 2018, ink + sky began sharing its photographs on Instagram. To view its first published image — a sunrise over Square Lake in Orion, MI — please see the blog post entitled The antidote to gray.

Note — The image of the lemons pictured above, which was obtained from Unsplash.com, was taken by a photographer who identifies as rawpixel.

Suicide, and the inadequacy of language

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The following was originally shared as a Facebook post on Sunday, December 16, 2018.


As a long-time Michigan resident, I am deeply saddened by the loss of Jessica Starr. As an English teacher, I am also remorseful for the seeming inadequacy of language to address the manner of her passing: suicide. This limitation is very troubling.

The word suicide can strike such fear, grief, and discomfort in us that we do not even want to *consider* discussing the concept of taking one’s own life – and, nearly as important, the painful circumstances that precede that dire decision. Few words carry such terrible weight.

I am not a psychologist, nor a physician. But as a human being, I believe that greater awareness about suicide needs to be spread. That understanding begins with conversations — ones that necessitate vulnerability. Therefore, they are not easy. So too often, I fear, they are avoided in favor of less-sensitive topics.

Since learning of Ms. Starr’s passing Thursday morning, I have been wondering if I should say anything about her loss. In the wake of such a tragedy, demonstrating respect and remembrance are essential. As the days have passed and I have read stories about her life, my resolve to express “something” has built. That something is this post.

Our current language around suicide is insufficient; the dialogue is often too infrequent, and too clinical. A change is needed. If you are a Lake Orion resident, and you feel similarly, please feel free to reach out to me – or to share any comments and/or ideas below. I want to get a conversation started. Thank you.

Respectfully,
Brian

Postscript — If my words have caused any unintended offense and/or exceeded my good judgment, then I humbly apologize. They are meant to, in some small way, honor Jessica Starr’s life and legacy.


Note – The image featured above is the official headshot of Jessica Starr (1983-2018), and I obtained it from her bio on the Fox 2 Detroit website.