The career passion myth and how it derails you


The career passion myth and how it derails you

You do not need to have a life full of passion. What is that life, anyway?

You probably don’t even know what passion is. But if you really thought about what you were aiming for when you talk about passion and careers, eventually you’d get to the idea of engagement.

This is not a controversial thought: that you would want to be engaged in your work. Engagement is one of the most important aspects of your worklife. Almost every study about what makes people happy at work comes down to engagement.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of the book Flow, transformed the idea of work passion to be the idea of engagement. The work we do leading up to engagement is just practice time until we are so proficient at what we’re doing that we enter the state of flow, which is such a high level of engagement that we don’t even notice time passing.

Getting to the state of flow requires years and years of practice at a single thing so that work is so much a part of us that we can get to the high level of flow. (As I write this post, I think to myself that I should be there with writing, and I can get there sometimes, but then every time I think, “Am I there?” and I stumble. So part of flow is not thinking.)

Sonja Lyubomirsky talks about workplace engagement as a result of having control over one’s time and being able to make people feel good. Janitors, she finds, are happiest at work because they can control their workday and they can see immediately how they are helping people. Lawyers, by contrast, are the most universally unhappy, because they have little control over their hours and they are generally dealing with people who hate that they have to hire a lawyer, whatever the lawyer is doing.

Lyubomirsky’s research is freeing because she finds that happiness comes from the most simple lives, rather than the lives with big, complicated, impressive careers. (You can read her book, The How of Happiness to find out why I realized that it’s hopeless for me to be happy—I relish the complications of life too much. But there’s still hope for me in the engagement arena.)

When you say you want to do something you’re passionate about, you really mean, when you think about it, that you want to do something that is right for you. Something that is fulfilling and feels like the thing you should be doing with your life.

Ironically, you can prepare kids for this adult-life hurdle by letting them play unlimited video games. Because video games are engaging, challenging, and social. This is why I took my kids out of school. So they could learn how to find their own paths to engagement.

However schools train kids to subdue their own drive in order to pass required tests. Then we toss those kids into the adult world and tell them to do what they are passionate about. So you need to bridge the gap between what you learn in school to pass tests and what you need to learn about yourself to have a good adult life. This comes down to Myers Briggs.

So here’s the link to a fast, free Myers Briggs test.

So go take the test. You will be one of sixteen personality types. Only two or three types of personalities are made for saving starving babies in Sudan, and rescuing crime victims from chains in dark basements. Most people would be psychologically destroyed doing that kind of work. Most of us need stability and order and predictability in our lives. Some of us need to control other people. Some of us need to be alone all the time. All of these types of people should not be doing that traditionally meaningful, passion-filled work of saving lives.

You will find, after discovering your personality type, that you are well suited for a particular type of work. It might not be what your dad wanted, or what your wife wants, or what fits your idea of who you wish you were. But if you do the work that meets the core needs of your personality type, you will feel passion. Because you will be engaged in your work. If you refuse to pay heed to your core personality, you will always feel that you’re searching for something elusive in your career.

Are you an ISTP? You need to use your hands to make things. Are you an ENTJ? You need to lead people. Are you an INTJ? You’ll go nuts if you don’t get something done every day. Are you an INFP? You’ll go nuts if you have to get something done every day.

Figure out what you need in your life to be fulfilled. Find that work. Then, as long as you have control over your hours and you can see how you help people, you will feel good about your work. And you know what happens when people feel good in their work? They stop asking themselves bullshit questions about what they are passionate about.

101 replies
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    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      You should give a one-liner now. We all learn from the quick summaries of personality types.


      • Crystal
        Crystal says:

        I wanted to see specifically how YOU would choose to do a quick summary of INFJ (obviously that’s my type, but this might also be interesting for all the types you didn’t do a one-liner for in this article). But I’ll give it a go.

        If you’re an INFJ, you’ll go nuts if you have someone telling you what to do or hovering over you.

        or maybe

        If you’re an INFJ, you need independence and freedom to rely on your own judgment and capabilities.

        It’s tough trying to pick what could be the most important point.

      • karelys
        karelys says:

        It IS funny! haha!

        I find that I’ve tried so hard to be someone I wish I was that when I take a personality test it describes me but not to a T in some areas. But I don’t know if I just don’t know myself or if I’ve lost touch with who I am and so I only see the shortcomings of the person I wish I was.

  1. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Being an ISTJ makes me a perfectionistic know-it-all, and one piece of (very solid, of course, ha ha!) advice I give anyone who will listen is to study personality types. It helps in all areas–marriage, job satisfaction, parenting, and on and on.

    Myers-Briggs is best for getting a good look at yourself (and those close to you) but I’m also a big fan of the Melancholy-Phlegmatic-Choleric-Sanguine categories for the big-picture understanding of people.

  2. Luke Redd
    Luke Redd says:

    I tend to agree with this, Penelope. Passion isn’t something you find. Passion is something you experience in the moment, in the flow of doing something you enjoy, something you can get lost in. Passion is fleeting. It comes and goes. And it tends to show up most when you and engaged in something that aligns with who you really are, not some fake version of yourself that you’ve created to please other people. And definitely not to conform to some reductionist “wisdom” from a tweet or bumper sticker.

  3. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I know what helped me find more fulfillment in my career: reading your blog. Thanks, I will tell you every day thank you to help make up for the fact that Meyers Briggs never do.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      This is so nice. Thanks. It means so much to me to hear that I helped you with your career. Better than the Myers Briggs people thanking me for traffic :)


      • Roger J.
        Roger J. says:

        What traffic are you sending Myers-Briggs? As far as I can tell you send traffic to knock-off assessments…

  4. lucinda (singlewithluggage)
    lucinda (singlewithluggage) says:

    Interesting timing for me since I JUST took the test. I am an INFP, and I am in just about the worst career possible for me. I didn’t really need the test to tell me how unhappy I am being an attorney. But at least I find some strange comfort in knowing my personality is not suited to the work. After nine years of progressive misery trying to work harder and harder only to be more and more unhappy – the test helped me see that giving up something I hate might be an act of courage. And it also gave me hope that things could be much better were I doing something that better suits my strengths and personality.

    Another interesting testing tool is through the Johnson O’Connor Research Foundation, where they test aptitudes. They have been studying aptitudes as they relate to careers since, I believe, the 1930’s. I was surprised to learn some of my lowest aptitudes are in the areas of analytical and inductive reasoning. Analytical was shockingly low – especially since I’m an attorney and scored in the top 1% on the LSAT. I also scored off the charts in ideation or idea generation. Great information to have, figuring out how to use the info was made much much easier after taking Myers Briggs for some reason.

    So, interesting post. But certainly some will find, like I did, that we absolutely are not suited to our careers. If you are working hard and still find yourself miserable and dreading work – the answer may not lie in powering through the pain. While I absolutely agree attitude can conquer many things and is essential to how your life unfolds, it is also possible to be in the wrong job. The idea that one can be happy in their work is just a concept to me, but I’m going on faith that its not only possible, but also a worthy goal.

    • Joselle
      Joselle says:

      I’m an INFP, too. I was an editor and hated it because it’s not writing. I HATED looking for commas. It was excruciating. So, I left that and, in a depression and after a move, decided I wanted to be a midwife so I went to nursing school.

      I hate it.

      I am 32 and still have not figured out my career and I feel like a loser and now I have to finish school, a kind of school that is so regimented and disorganized all at once. I have to get something done everyday, I never sleep, I’m always ON and around people and god, this is so hard. And it feels like a mistake.

      What I really want to be is a mom. I want to stay home with them. But we can’t afford it. Or maybe we can since I haven’t worked in nearly 3 years and my husband has managed to feed us both during that time (believe me, he manages because I’ve gained 15 lbs. since going back to school). I do love being with patients. I love taking care of them and talking to them. But all the technical stuff, oy, how did I get myself into this? I wanted to be a midwife because really, I wanted to be a mom. Or maybe I should have been a therapist. I don’t know. It’s a mess.

      PT, I should have listened to you about not going back to school.

      • Jenn`
        Jenn` says:

        @Joselle, You might find that you enjoy the job of being a midwife much more than getting the education necessary to do the job.

      • Rebecca
        Rebecca says:

        If you haven’t read a lot of Penelope’s blog, dig around. She talks a lot about how you can choose to be home with kids, and not apologize for it, etc. Very practical and supportive.

      • Sarah
        Sarah says:


        I found your comment after doing a google search… I’m iNFP and applying to a non-nursing bachelor’s to NP program in midwifery… the amount of school is really not my idea of fun. Would you update us on how things are after a year?

        Wishing you best of luck! Sarah

    • CL
      CL says:

      I got tested at JOCRF, too. I had eleven aptitudes and they told me that it was almost impossible to have a job that used all of them. And funnily enough they told me to be a corporate lawyer. I don’t think I will be, though, because paying attention to minutiae drives me crazy.

    • Laura Thomas, MFT
      Laura Thomas, MFT says:


      Funny! Well, not really, but man oh man, can I relate. My big early mid-life crisis came when I was working as a paralegal in a major law firm in downtown LA and had just been accepted to law school. I practically fell apart . . . and at the very last minute, I gave up my seat for a wait-listed student.

      THANK GOD.

      I had to continue working as a paralegal for a long time after this melt down, but I also went into therapy and began to do the self exploration that I had so assiduously avoided up til then. And somewhere along THAT line, I decided to become a therapist myself which is what I did. And I love it.

      I’m not that great at the business part, but I also remarried during the end of my intern years and before I set out my shingle, so money frankly isn’t that big a deal. Working with amazing people who are struggling to find their way (and yes, I refer them regularly to this testing), now that works well for me.

      So – good luck – ! One nice thing about having the law degree is that it can transition nicely to many other areas of business and you generally CAN earn a good living, even if you hate the work (and the people, and the administration, and . . .). Because I chose not to walk that path and stayed as a paralegal, my income never got that high – a mixed blessing because it would have been nice to have a higher salary for my son, but this way he actually HAD a mom.

      Another INFP (who has some INFJ moments, too) –


      • MM
        MM says:

        Add another INFP who isn’t happy in law to the pot. It’s the career (along with doctor) my parents could understand as “proof we didn’t waste our money on a dumb kid” but could not be less well suited to me.

        I’m almost out…. No one browbeats me into a type of work for their reasons ever again.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      My youngest son is an ENFP, so I read about it a lot.

      People. People are what matters to ENFPs. It’s like nothing is happening unless there are other people there. So you need a job where you inspire other people to be their best selves and you, in turn, get to perform for them at your best. You are the one who creates everyone’s fun.

      Here’s a good link:


        • Rebecca
          Rebecca says:

          I thought this test from Gallup, “Clifton Youth Strengths Explorer for ages 10-14” provided me some interesting insights into my son. Based on the “Discover Your Strengths” test. Not sure if Penelope likes/recommends this test, but I found it good in terms of understanding what he tests high at so I could understand him a little more. I thought he was a day dreamer, turns out he is a “future thinker” … for example.

      • Jessica
        Jessica says:

        Thank you! I just took a Meyers-Briggs test and upon finding out I’m an ENFP I immediately googled your name and my type. This post was something I needed to read during my job search.

      • Kate
        Kate says:

        I came across this post after being laid off from a job that drained my confidence and made me question my career path. I feel like I’ve been handed an opportunity to make a change. As an ENFP, I relate 100% to what you wrote above, Penelope: “People are what matters to ENFPs. It’s like nothing is happening unless there are other people there.” For the longest time, I’ve felt like something was wrong with me because it’s like my whole universe grinds to a halt when there aren’t people around or I don’t have some sort of partner in an activity. Ideas don’t come to fruition and things tend to not get done if it’s just me. It’s good to know that there are people out there who have this same “problem” – but maybe it isn’t a problem after all, just something to recognize about ourselves and try fill that need in any way we can.

    • Rachel
      Rachel says:

      I’m an ENFP and I work as a Tour Director, leading people on motor coach vacations. It really is a job where I create everyone’s fun. The company I work for also runs cruises– a cruise ship is not a bad place for an ENFP, you are never alone! Most people couldn’t stand it!

  5. Gene Bellotti
    Gene Bellotti says:

    ” If anyone is qualified and able to build me a test for my site, please email me. ”

    Penelope, we can build you a custom type assessment. Since you see the benefits of knowing about behavior patterns, you should have your own assessment! Either type, temperament or dominant function. Or something else.

  6. L.
    L. says:

    What exactly is the job where you don’t have to get something done every day? If I could figure out how to be paid for not getting things done I’d have it made! (I say this as a INF/TP – the T or F changes depending on the day I take the test)

    • Jenn`
      Jenn` says:

      I am a translator so some days I have a lot to do and some days, not so much. Unless I have a same day deadline, I control how much work I do on any particular day. It is tremendously liberating.

    • Joyce
      Joyce says:

      Hi! I’m INFP and also want to know jobs where I don’t have to get something done every day.

      I used to work in writing and research, and I always had a supervisor who edits my work. If I work in an office with a supervisor, I get things done early.

      But when I study my lessons on my own, I tend to cram at the last minute or even during class time. i tend to surf the internet a lot in my spare time. Maybe I should always have a boss until I could be a good boss to myself.

    • CS2010
      CS2010 says:

      This is so true. Thanks for that link, CL.

      I know the only reason why I love my job so much is because I worked so damn hard at it for so many years to become great at it. I know how to inject passion into it to make it enjoyable simply from building on experience.

      I know a lot of jobs really suck out there, but sometimes it really does come down to just putting in the time and effort, and discovering yourself and your gifts in the process of applying yourself.

      The way Penelope writes is an art. From what I can tell, she’s always been this good. Maybe after 10,000 hours of writing my own blog I can hope to be half as engaging. The only thing I can do is keep applying myself and be patient, and keep the process fun.

  7. Daniel Baskin
    Daniel Baskin says:

    After you take the test, go here to judge / verify your results:

    This is my first year as a teacher–I teach middle school strings. In from January to March, more than half of the days I considered quitting. I lamented being an INTP in a profession (K-8 classroom teaching) biased toward, meant for, and dominated by ESFJ’s. I still have my days sometimes, but I’ve realized that I can do my job in creative and analytical ways that many other teachers don’t.

    I was really hard on myself because I value competence, and couldn’t handle not meeting my own high standards. That, and I didn’t like the fact that I was validating an institution I don’t believe in (public school)–at least, I don’t believe in it in its overly regulated and antiquated inception. I also hated how unthinking and vulgar (in the Aristotle sense) some of the students were raised to be.

    In hindsight, I don’t think I was wrong in wanting to quit, I just now see that staying is not only the financially realistic solution, but is what I’ve realized is cool to be good at empowered people to become more mature musicians and get paid for doing it. (Teaching music, as opposed to teaching a core subject in public school).

    • Laura Thomas, MFT
      Laura Thomas, MFT says:


      You’re the teacher I WISHED I’d had. Because, as you say, the “system” is set up for ESFJ’s, kids who are different often get left behind. Having a teacher who’s like you must really be helpful for them.

      So it’s good to see how you can find a way to adapt who you are to the situation – and make a meaningful contribution.

      By the way – I do not understand how any thoughtful person can teach in the current public school system – !

      Good luck to you, Daniel


      • Daniel Baskin
        Daniel Baskin says:


        Thank you so much for your kind words! The realizations that I am trying to validate the weird, independent kids and expose students to unfamiliar ideas keeps me going.


        • Marita
          Marita says:

          Daniel I just wanted to tell you that it is because of teachers like you that I survived school!

          I couldn’t stand the Es who would just ramble on about their own lives and would teach their classes without any sense of logic. (often ‘unthinking and vulgar’ as well :))

          It would be so confusing to me. You might not fit the ‘typical’ teacher type but the kids don’t care :)

          I’ve taken this test several times in my life and where at first I’d always get an INTJ, now in middle age I always get an INFP.

    • MBL
      MBL says:

      Another INFP chiming in to say how grateful I am that there are teachers out there for students like we were. (I just couldn’t bring myself to type “students like us.”)

  8. EmilyF
    EmilyF says:

    What do I do if I can’t even fairly assess myself enough to take this test. Every time I take one of these tests I mostly get a different result. Grrr…

  9. Daniel Baskin
    Daniel Baskin says:

    INFJ one-liner / list: Conspiracy theorist, visionary, sees an ideal moral version of the world, deep imagination.

    Mine (INTP): Seemless devil’s advocate, taxonomy-creating, comedian that can’t deliver the punch-line, analytically creative, values autonomy, won’t do anything until they understand all the why’s and how’s.

    • IMKenny
      IMKenny says:

      I can really relate to the “devil’s advocate” bit. When my boss gets all enthusiastic about the latest technology bandwagon (“X is fabulous! We must drop everything else and do X”), I cannot help leaning in the opposite direction. Management by excitement drives me crazy. I want to think through the pros and cons. I got into strife with my boss that way a few days ago: he was wanting enthusiastic agreement, not someone contradicting him.

  10. Kirs Costello
    Kirs Costello says:

    Very interesting stuff! So I figure, I’ll leave a message for the Myers briggs site that they really should THANK Penelope. Their contact form obviously written by someone that loves forms (makes sense, I guess!) The form was much to daunting for my disliking forms, routine and directions self…but I did discover this site,
    which I almost find more interesting, at least in the descriptions. And maybe, just maybe they will send a thank you! Seriously though, this is such important info, kids and adults should know this stuff early on!
    THANKS for reminding me of this again.I came up Performer! what a surprise….

  11. Harriet May
    Harriet May says:

    I am an INFP and I cannot stand to-do lists. If I even get around to writing one I either just write down the stuff I’ve already done so I can check it off, or I completely forget the list exists. And I hate this about myself. Because how am I supposed to find out where I fit, where I can make a difference, or at least write my book if I can’t get things done?

    • Marita
      Marita says:

      Harriet, I’ve tried to do lists in every shape and form and color and it’s just not happening! I feel your frustration.

      Eventually I realized that I simply need variety so there is always something I can do that I Feel like doing. I know to the average person that sounds either like a spoiled brat or lazy, but you’ll see, you get so much done that way!

      My main mistake was that I tried to censor myself by trying to pick just one thing when I was interested in so many things. Who said we need to do and find just one thing? The variety is what will keep you going and getting things done. So start your book and when you’re bored with it, start something else and so on and eventually you’ll write another chapter in your book and so on. Eventually you’ll have several projects that are all growing at the same time. Slowly but surely.

  12. Yuliana
    Yuliana says:

    Thanks Penelope, great post. I took the Myers Briggs thanks to you, but underestimated the results. Then I wondered why I was so miserable sitting in front of computer all day.
    As an ENFJ, I need to work with people, solve their problems (after all, I wanted to be a Psychologist, but was not willing to invest all that time and money). I need variety in my work. I need to be challenged on daily basis. I need to see direct impact of my work. (also a necessary component for job satistaction, according to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi). After much self-reflection and trying on different positions and industries, I am currently applying for sales positions in tech. And for the first time, I am excited about my career and my future.
    Self knowledge truly is the best career tool. Thanks Penelope, you’ve been a huge motivator and a role model for me. Always look forward to your posts.

  13. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    I’m going to get my partner to take this. But I’d send you the traffic instead in a heartbeat. BTW, I still get about 10 hits/month from our flower moment. But I will remember and enjoy it much more than the hits indicate.

  14. Mustafa
    Mustafa says:

    I love the way you cut the crap from feel good / idealistic / unreal writing and theories. I salute your courage Penelope.

  15. Maria
    Maria says:

    I can’t even figure out what type I am from that questionnaire. How can I say whether I usually make decisions spontaneously or through advance planning? Well, are we talking about long term career and marriage decisions, or whether I should join people for a drink after work today? And do I determine whether I’m good at talking to people based on my awkward moments, or the ones where I have great conversations?

    Honestly, how do you answer these big general questions when there’s a lot more variety in your actual life?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      It’s not a career if you don’t make money from it. If you find something you enjoy that you don’t make money from it’s a hobby.


  16. Ann
    Ann says:

    Having to get things done – excruciating sometimes – it’s my INFP nature. But making a list and getting through it – triumph! – successfully doing what doesn’t come naturally!
    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to honour and celbrate your true nature and at the same time learn not to fall into its traps.

  17. Priya
    Priya says:

    Great post again, Penelope. I agree about being passionate about work. I am having a hard time right now because while I love my job, I am having an uphill battle with trying to change the reactive philosophy of my CFO. My style is proactive planning, and he doesn’t see the need for this! Everything usually works out, is his M.O. I am having a hard time with continuing to come up with ideas and watch them get tossed aside for mediocrity.

  18. Travis
    Travis says:

    Great post! You make some awesome points (as usual). Schools do a terrible job at preparing kids for the real world…schools should incorporate classes that focus on personality types, how to find a major, and the important things in life! Thanks

  19. dl
    dl says:

    I’ve taken the test in the past and taking it again right now. My problem is determining the answer that’s truly me. Sometimes I select what I WANT to be, or mistakenly THINK I am. Other times I have to select one because I am that way, but only because I HAVE to be given my life situation.

  20. Jason
    Jason says:

    I am curious – would you recommend in the workplace that all the members of a team take the myers-briggs test and share their results?

  21. Masha
    Masha says:

    So true. We just get caught up in those fancy words and Hollywood style of thinking, while the answer is right in front of us (or even – inside is).

    As an INTJ, I would like to get something done. I’m a software dev and I can code this test for your website! Please let me know if you were serious about it.

  22. K
    K says:

    Yes and ISTPs are pushed toward engineering (which is what I did) and then we find out that it’s a lot of paper pushing and boring stuff.

    I’m in the middle of a crisis because I need to get out of my office and work with my hands.

    My ENTJ boss has absolutely no clue how close I am to jumping ship. ;)

  23. Gib Wallis
    Gib Wallis says:

    Penelope, the problem with what you’re suggesting is that a lot of people don’t find their correct type from a test. That’s why the MBTI folks require that you validate your results after reading about the types, etc.

    Also, everyone has their own way of doing things and sometimes people create wonderful, meaningful careers that don’t sound like the cookie cutter descriptions.

    For instance, you identify as ENTJ and someone who needs to lead but you write a lot about how your blog should be your business, not chasing after startups with bad hours as a mom.

    ENTJs are extraverted thinkers, and they tend to use the rules of conventional thought a lot but do so with unconvential intuition. That’s how I see you, referring to a body of knowledge and research to spin around pre-conceptions. But from this post it would seem that you would tell someone else with your same type preferences to run board meetings and do the public speaking circuit — both of which made you unhappy.

    You seem better off devoting yourself to solitary writing, reading and research and doing one-on-one coaching using those extraverted Thinking and introverted Intuition preferences of the ENTJ.

  24. Katy
    Katy says:

    Last week someone asked me what I’m passionate about these days and I was stumped. I’ve had a ‘passion’ from ages 14-34 and realised that as of today, I can’t say I have anything going on that I’m passionate about.

    I don’t need a 60 hour a week obsession, I just need projects that I’m engaged in. Even just one. I’m an INTJ and can drive myself nuts when I’m not focused in moving some kind of project forward. I’m currently treading water in my career and personal life so that is likely while I feel disengaged.

    Thanks for the well timed post.

  25. Simon
    Simon says:

    “But if you really thought about what you were aiming for when you talk about passion and careers, eventually you’d get to the idea of engagement.”<—I don't think it matters what we call it; just have to follow that voice inside; that thing, principle or way of living, that keeps calling us whatever happens.

  26. Southern Man
    Southern Man says:

    You can’t have your own Meyers-Briggs test on the site unless you license it. Sorry.

    I took it again, as I have countless times over the last thirty years, and came up INTJ (with I and J hard against the wall), as I always do. Personality type is set early; my ex and I had all three kids pegged by five, and as teens and young adults they test just as we predicted they would.

    I disagree with the notion that one must be passionate about their work. Like most people, I don’t have my own business but have to convince someone else to hire me for my skills. I’m fortunate that through intelligence, perseverance, and good luck to have earned a PhD in a STEM field and made a career teaching in mid-sized liberal-arts colleges. It’s interesting and occasionally approaches fun. But am I passionate about teaching? Hell, no. It’s my JOB. When I leave the office, I leave the job behind. That job pays for the things that I AM passionate about. If I could turn those things into an income stream, I would. But I can’t. Thus, I do my job. But it’s just a job, not my life. A lot of guys tend to self-identify with what they do, but not me; as what I do and I say “ride motorcycles and geocache,” not teach STEM grad students.

  27. Alan
    Alan says:

    I don’t know much about passion but I do know that the successful people that I know all knew what they wanted to do with themselves early in life. I’m getting senior discounts, I still don’t know what I want to do, and I’m pretty out of luck. There should be a service that tests 18-20-year-olds who want to be tested, and assigns them a career path.

  28. Martyn
    Martyn says:

    Hi Penelope:

    Briggs-Meyer has recently given me insights that allowed me to better understand my motivations. I am a INFP, and lean to working with people one to one. I am a massage therapist/healer in Madison, WI. Suits my profile quite well I think.
    I give myself office tasks to do every Sunday an once again I’m am proud to say, I am avoiding the work for the 26th consecutive Sunday! As you stated, I like having blank to-do lists.
    Shameless commercial plug: Call me sometime if you crave good bodywork. I’m on Madison’s westside.

  29. Beverly
    Beverly says:

    I find your voice so obnoxious and trite. The way you write is condescending to your own readers, but maybe you just want to sell books or something … yet I keep coming back and reading your blog. There are little gold nuggets on big topics within your writing here and there, though, which makes it worth my time to sift through your thoughts, for now, until the next mama blogger comes along with treasured insight on raising kids against the social grain.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Do you know what is interesting to me? The question of whether a person can be both obnoxious and trite at the same time.

      I think, actually, that the adjectives are opposites. If you are trite you are saying things that are so common they are boring. But if you are obnoxious you are saying things so outside the norm that you are objectionable.

      So I don’t actually think a person can be obnoxious and trite at the same time.


  30. Erin
    Erin says:

    I went and found a site for testing children’s personality types and it was dead-on. I wish I had done that a long time ago. I think it will help me support my daughter better.

    Also, the whole new-age blubber about doing what you are passionate about or “the money will follow” crap always really pissed me off.

    I am good at many things but HR is my profession. I am a gifted, natural talent when it comes to creative writing but being a novelist doesn’t satisfy all of my INTJ needs.

    Figuring out an organization’s complicated people issues REALLY satisfies my INTJ and I really love the crazy money they pay me to do it. I write on the side as a hobby. Maybe someday someone will pay me for it but it isn’t my goal. All the “passion” whack-o’s in my life have tried to get me to write full time but none of them pay cash for brand new cars or feel good at the end of the day because they “won” at work.

    At the end of the day very few of us are going to “change the world” with our work so figuring out what satisfies your needs on a regular basis and getting paid for it is key.

    This kind of post is why I read your blog. It is like one giant fuck you to Oprah.

  31. Carmen
    Carmen says:

    I’ve gotten 3 results for that test in the past year. I’m thinking maybe I’m going through some sort of transition?? All 3 seem relevant somehow: ENFJ, INFJ and now ENFP.

    Can starting a blog somehow have an effect on this? I’ve never scored ENFP before. Very strange.

    • Carmen
      Carmen says:

      INFP….I went back to the book PT recommended, Do What You Are, and started from scratch.

      Last year I was ENFJ/INFJ.

      I think since I’ve tried new things this year, I’ve discovered strengths and pitfalls that were never really clear to me before.

      INFP’s make good mediators. I’m going to look into this and see what opportunities there are. My background is in the legal field, so this might be a new path to try.

  32. JustynaK
    JustynaK says:

    Agreed. Myers Briggs is of much help when figuring out what one should be doing career-wise (and otherwise, for that matter). But the freebie, online tests can be confusing rather than helpful (as evidenced by the number of people that get inconsistent scores). You should check out DaveSuperPowers videos on YouTube; he makes sense of the functions and how those can be used to type yourself instead. And he’s a funny dude, in dry, not for the common masses kind of way.

    Penelope – he’s an INTJ, so you’ll like him.

    • Jacqueline
      Jacqueline says:

      thank you Penelope for the link – I do like him, now to understand what he is saying and how to apply it will take some time!


  33. Kent Julian
    Kent Julian says:

    Great post Penelope! I couldn’t agree more when you said that engagement is one of the most important aspects of your worklife. I definitely agree that for people to feel the joy out of their career, one must be thoroughly engaged and get immersed with their work.

    After reading your post, I realized that before we can move to the life and work we love, we need to determine what kind of life we want to live first, and then to become intentional and proactive about figuring out ways to make your career goals and career objectives fit that kind of life. And if we add passion on our career menu, I bet it will all be more fulfilling and gratifying.

    Thanks for this great reminder Penelope. Keep on inspiring :)

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