Myers-Briggs “E” or “I”

Let’s continue riffing on Myers-Briggs.  This time, we can explore the impact on “Introverts” and Extroverts” of transitioning beyond one’s long career.

The Myers-Briggs definition of an “E” (extrovert) is someone who is energized by being with other people.  By contrast, an “I” (introvert) is someone for whom being around other people depletes energy.

Now, you may have in your head that en extrovert is a life-of-the-party, glad-handing, loud person.  And you may have in your head that an introvert is somebody sitting at home with a book.  For our purposes here, I’m talking about the definitions noted in the prior paragraph, not such societal stereotypes as may exist.

People are surprised when they learn that I am an “I”.  This is because I’m gregarious, socially at ease, like to joke around, and so on.  And it’s true that that’s all fun for me.  It just uses up a lot of my energy.  So after a certain amount of that sort of socializing, I need to go be by myself to recharge.  I do this playing piano, riding my bike, eating lunch alone, going to museums, taking day trips, reading, and many other ways.  And all of them are solo, because I am recharging.

“E”s have much more capacity to be with others — because it’s actually a source of energy.  My wife is an “E” and it fascinates me that sometimes she’ll be tired and not wanting to do much, but then a friend calls, or a person stops by, or we run into someone we know.  There’s lots of interaction and magically she’s full of life again — because the interaction recharged her batteries, so to speak.

When your long career is over, if you are an “I”, there’s suddenly a ton of alone time.  It’s soooo refreshing.  In fact, there’s about as much alone time as one could wish for!  What a glorious change from interacting with people all day long.  You may find the transition to a Tapas Life pretty easy, from this particular standpoint.  Of course, you’ll still need to have enough social interaction, because being a hermit won’t likely be so good.  Happily, you’ll be able to have just as much as you want/need, and no more.

But if you’re an “E”, you may find that your are just as suddenly devoid of human interaction, and therefore in a big energy deficit.  For an “E”, action is needed to organize interaction.  Get together with friends or old workmates for lunch.  Join a volunteer organization and do some good while working with others.  See who else is done with their long career so you can do stuff together.  Put lots of social activity on the calendar.  If you don’t, you’ll likely find yourself feeling marooned in a lonely place, and very low on your personal energy.  Human interaction is something that during your long career almost surely happened automatically.  And now it may well require significant effort.

Along with the difference in how life beyond one’s long career can feel to a “P” or a “J” (which I talked about in the last post), whether one is an “I” or an “E” can also have a profound effect on this transition.  It’s a good idea to be mindful of these issues.

For completeness, I note that I won’t be talking about Myers-Briggs “N” vs “S” or “F” vs “T”, as it’s not obvious to me that these aspects will necessarily dictate any particular course of action for people completing their long career.

Myers-Briggs isn’t for everybody, perhaps, but I find it quite useful in our context.



My bike is crappy.  I bought it 10-15 years ago for around $250 at Target.  It is a 21-speed “mountain bike” which I ride on city streets, mostly the flats, but some pretty good sized hills.  I bought it to go bike riding with the kids when they were younger.

Once the kids moved away, I bought a really spiffy scooter!  It looks just like a vintage Vespa, but it’s electric.  Where there’s supposed to be storage space under the seat, there are several large batteries.  It’s got a range of a little over 20 miles and doesn’t like going up the big hills (works fine but, as I learned the hard way, destroys the electric motor after a while…).  It charges overnight.

This thing is a gas (an electron?) to drive around town as I run my errands, especially in the summer when I’m in shorts and a polo shirt — and a helmet, of course.  Some are horrified that I’m not clothed in a full leather outfit, and they periodically stop me to wag their finger at me.  The worst are the doctors who tell me about the broken bodies they see delivered from motorcycles (and scooters, I suppose) to the E.R.  They like to be graphic about it, hoping that I will come to my senses.  Minimizing the chances of that is a big goal of mine, so I drive only on back streets where there are pretty much no cars.  And I don’t ride my scooter when it’s wet.  So far, I’ve only had one close call, when a young lady in the lane next to me in front of the grocery store I was headed to decided to pull into my lane — in fact into my currently occupied space — without looking (maybe had something to do with the cute guy in the passenger seat).  I had to slam on my brakes and almost steer into a parked car.  She was a little mortified.  I was glad not to need a mortician.  That’s why I stay on car-less streets whenever possible.  Unfortunately, there are no grocery stores on car-less streets.

At the beginning of 2011, I decided to do more exercise.  The scooter got parked in the garage (I’ll get around to selling it on Craigslist someday, no doubt), and took to my crappy bicycle.  Wow — was this ever a good move.  The aerobic exercise that has come from this has greatly increased my stamina and it takes a lot now to get me winded.  Moreover, the scooter was good for noticing more about my environs as I rode around, and the bike is another great improvement that way.  Parking’s really easy, too, and the bike makes it super-easy to get around the Stanford campus for my many outings there.

Now, I’m not one of those guys in the colorful nylon racing suits.  My shoes don’t clip to the pedals.  Remember, I’m on my crappy 10+-year-old Target bike.  Doesn’t matter:  it’s still been excellent.  And now my shifter doesn’t work very well and multiple other things are failing on the bike, so I’m finally thinking about a new one.  The important thing, though, is just to be on the bike, enjoying the outdoors, enjoying the neighborhood, and taking care of my health while getting my errands done.

If you want to enjoy the gift of longevity that our generation has in the U.S., you’ve got to be in good shape.  What’s the benefit of living to 85-90 if you’re falling apart?  OK, a lot of it is genetic, but a lot of it is lifestyle, too.  Maybe I’ll fall apart, maybe I won’t, but at least I will have made an effort to keep myself healthy.  This feels good to the mind.  And the endorphins that come from the exercise help one’s spirit, which in turn affects one’s outlook on life.  It’s an upwards spiral.

I chose biking because it fits as part of running my errands and I don’t find it boring.  Working out at the gym, I find boring.  I do that not nearly enough during the cold/wet days we get in the winter — not nearly often enough, because it’s boring.

So consider some exercise that gives you a chance to be as healthy as your genes will allow.  And if you can find one that doesn’t bore you, that doesn’t feel like homework or a task or a burden — that’s much better.  There are plenty of sources out there that will lecture you about how the “I don’t have time” excuse or “It’s too difficult” or “whatever” excuse are just excuses.  If you start doing it a bit, it will give you more energy, and then it’ll be easy to do more.

Oh, and it’s never too late.  I read a good study in Science News that says that octogenarians who haven’t done any exercise in decades benefit measurably in muscle mass, strength, and endurance after modest exercise for just a few weeks.

What about my upper body?  Fortunately, I like some pretty energetic piano pieces!