Lessons Learned From My INTJ Father

July 2013. Originally copyrighted and posted in "Type for Life" by the Center for the Applications of Psychological Type, Gainesville, FL. Used with permission.

My Dad is 98 years old. He lives in his own home (with lots of help). And he still works as a research biochemist. I've learned a lot about INTJs from him and how my ESTJ preferences work somewhat differently!!

INTJs are future-oriented, more so than any of the other types. I am much more present-oriented. Dad has been railing against the effects of trans-fat in our diets. (These are hydrogenated fats contained in many processed foods; they extend the shelf life of foods, and they are spreadable even when they are chilled.) He has known since the late 1950's that these fats, while providing energy, are metabolized in unhealthy ways.

He has a petition before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban these from our diets entirely, but it has yet to be acted upon. Currently, if a serving of food contains less than half a gram of trans-fat it can be labeled as containing no trans-fat. These servings can add up. He wants it eliminated entirely. Hydrogenated fats can be made trans free, but it is more costly.

INTJs form a vision of their world and act accordingly. His vision is to save the world through healthy eating and finding the causes of heart disease. His research has long supported that. When he disagreed with the prevailing wisdom of the times (he always said we should eat eggs and butter and not to be concerned with cholesterol levels), he lost major grant funding for his research. But he found private foundations that listened to him and he carried on. This ESTJ cannot imagine such a wide focus and such persistence.

INTJs are original. If something blocks him, he finds another way around, rather than accepting "no" as an answer. And guess what - butter and eggs are now being seen as healthy! Just wait…high cholesterol levels might be seen that way in 50 more years as well! This has been helpful to me; without his influence, I might have accepted the status quo much more than I tend to do.

INTJs have routines. For sixty years, he ate the same breakfast (eggs, oat cereal and fruit), swam at noontime and ate the same meal (Swiss cheese on rye bread with lettuce, apple and milk), and dinner (meat, potatoes, several kinds of vegetables, and fruit). He's had to cut out swimming but now bikes on a stationary bike. His diet is much the same! While I have routines, they are much more flexible than his.

Perhaps it is this use of routines that help him cope with the details of life. He is not one to balance his checkbook or one to remember his wedding anniversary. But, through his routines, he managed to live frugally and have enough money in his accounts to avoid tracking them very closely. And he married an independent woman who managed just fine without anniversary cards. In contrast, the details of life come easily to me. I have always balanced my checkbook and remembered important dates.

INTJs like to learn. One of his caregivers is in college; she reads her anatomy books to him, and he learns something each time. He loves public television documentaries. Having watched him all my life (ESTJs learn from observations), I place a high priority on learning, too.

INTJs are independent and determined. Most people at his age and in his physical condition would be in an assisted living or nursing facility. He has arranged his life to avoid those. There's no way to tell him to change that! Many of my friends would say that about me as well, and I got that from observing him.

So I am grateful as an ESTJ to have learned so much from him about how to live in the world and how to ignore it as needed.

Additional Note: my Dad lived to the age of 102, long enough to see the FDA ban trans fats; he said, "Science has won!"