And they fall on only a few binary spectrums
Let me just walk you through two high-level binary scales, the second of which is broken out into four sub-groups.
1.) YOU ARE EITHER GOOD AT “PEOPLE” OR YOU ARE GOOD AT “THINGS” (or you’re good at LOGIC or FEELING)
We’ll get to the last two in a second.
THINGS are tangible objects. Things are also systems.
Science, engineering, mechanics, and medicine are all things. Art, perhaps surprisingly, is also a thing.
What’s not a “thing:”
“Logic” is not a thing. “Ideas” are not a thing. “Organization” is not a thing (or system.) “Philosophy” and “theory” are not things. “Action” is not a thing. “Business” is not a thing. This article isn’t even a “thing.” These fall under other categories. We’ll get to that.
PEOPLE are, of course, people.
They are individuals or groups. They are friends, family, clients, customers, colleagues, teams. “The market” is people, and unless you’re heads down on product or establishing / maintaining systems, “business” is people. Creating something within the direct context of someone else consuming it is “people.” (Conversely: creating something simply for the sake of creating it, regardless of whether anybody likes it, is “thing.”) “The human experience” is people.
What’s not “people:”
“Extroversion” is not people — it’s just extroversion.“Sensitivity” is not people. It is “feeling.”
If you’re best at LOGIC
Good on you! But even if this is true, you still secondarily fall under people or systems/things — and it’s probably not the one you think.
If you get off on playing devil’s advocate or debating just for the fuck of debating, I know this is going to fire up your defensive engines and piss you right off, but: logic is, even if only secondarily, “people,” not “things.”
True “things” people don’t care enough about people to even debate shit with them or get angry over logic.
And I say this as one of you. For years I didn’t think I was “people” oriented because a.) I am an introvert, b.) people are not as important to me as what’s in my head, and c.) I would keep them at arm’s length with “logic.” But what do we feel compelled to do with logic? And how do we feel when people don’t “get it?” Wanting to articulate logic is “people.” Wanting to debate with people is “people.” Being affected — or angered — by people’s “lack of logic” is “people.” “Things” people don’t care.
Regardless of your field, if your focus is primarily client or prospect-facing, or “market-driven,” then you are “people,” not things. And I say this as someone who has a degree in finance and started my career in private equity and corporate banking. My focus was always more logic and people than systems.
Note that this also includes people who just like tinkering for the sake of tinkering — even when it’s tangible shit, like mechanics. They touch things, but their real drive is “understanding,” and they are still primarily logic (people.)
Aren’t “systems” logical?
Yes, but “systems” people are still primarily motivated by the systems themselves — getting them into place, maintaining them, using them to achieve specific goals — and the “logic” behind systems is simply a means to an ends. “Logic” people don’t really care about systems — they love “logic” in and of itself.
Systems are exacting, specific, singular, and meant to achieve something.
Logic is stand-alone.
If you‘re best at FEELING
If you are sensitive, self-expressive, authentic, and unique; someone who speaks their truth or loves adventure etc.—then make your art and have your journey, because you are “things.” (It’s just that your “things” are not science and engineering, but objets d’art or expressions.)
True “people” people don’t really care about art (or poetry or performance or crafts, etc) — and they don’t care that much about being unique — as much as they just want people.
IMPORTANT: WHY “LOGIC” or “FEELING” should still align with people or things
Look, if you’re happy with where you’re at, and have all you want, then that’s all you have to have! Go for it. You don’t need to align with people or things.
But for people who want more:
The reason to embrace either “people” or “things” is because nothing happens in your head!
Statistically speaking, the highest-earning people are those whose primary, driving focus is one of those two. (The lowest earners are those who don’t.)
If you have less than you want, it’s because you spend too much time mulling over your thoughts or emotions and not enough time putting shit out into the real world. So when you’re ready, that’s where it has to happen: people or things. If you’re logical, apply it to people (“the market,” a team, or open debate.) If you love your individuality and experience, apply it to “things” (or art, adventure, or performance.)
Can’t I be JUST “logic” or “feelings?”
No. They’re always paired — logic and people, feelings and things. You’re just stronger in one than the other.
Can’t I be “logic + systems” and “feelings + people?”
Not technically. I know that seems the most logical (lol), but it’s not the way cognitive functions work, for all of the reasons I explained above.
Well. I still think I am!
You’re still technically not. But okay.
Plenty of “feelings” people make more headway with people than physical expressions, and plenty of “logic” people are more comfortable with tangible things. You do you.
If you feel like you’re not on this list
First of all: you are. Everyone is either people, things, logic or feeling (either primarily or secondarily.)
But if you prefer insights, ideas, organization, action, etc. — we’ll get to that.
How this plays out…
In business: you have to love the product — or you have to love the people.
“Things” people will double-down on the product or system. They’re obsessed with it, consumed with knowing its in and outs, digging all the way to the depths of what it is or what it could be (though rarely both), knowing it front and back, in a linear fashion, or developed in a multitude of ways.
“People” people love: taking care of and coaching their teams — or being cared for by their manager. They love their clients or customers. They love their market.
As leaders: you have to develop and invest in people — or you have to develop and invest in product and systems.
Mediocre managers are lukewarm on both. Great leaders are obsessed with one of the two (and too few fall in this category.)
On a team: You have to be competent or you have to be likeable.
(And yes, Janice, because I know you’re just dying to ask — of course you can be both. But most people are more one than the other, and being successful at work means leaning into the right one, and having the right job.)
Job security depends on one of these. I once read that employees are either good, likeable, or deliver on time, and that you have to be at least two of them. (The point was that you could slip on the third and nobody would care.) And sure, that’s true, but it’s also true that you have to be either great at what you do or personable, regardless of whether or not shit’s done on time. (And, it goes without saying, you have to be at least decent at the other one in most workplaces.)
If you want to build a business: you have to be a builder, or you have to be a seller.
Obviously builders are “things” people; sellers are “people” people.
And it’s worth noting:
Builders don’t need permission to build. They don’t care about whether or not anybody wants to buy it, because all they care about is building it.
Sellers don’t need to sell their own product. They don’t care what they sell, so long as it’s good, and they don’t give a fuck if its “their” sweet baby product or not. They’d rather work for someone else, selling a better product, than work alone selling something mediocre that they hobbled together.
Pretty much every business ever starts with two founders — one who knows the product and one who sells it. If you want to be a founder, you’d better figure out which you are. (And if you don’t know which you are, knowing whether you are “people” (or logic) or “things” (or feelings) helps out a lot.)
And with only a few exceptions (one being Sam Walton at Walmart (systems/thing), another being Zuck at facebook (thing)), most all of the great founders we think of were “sales” people, with the “builders” tucked away somewhere in the back — the public-facing “founders” of McDonalds, Starbucks, Apple, and Nike were all built by “sellers” who just knew how to throw down on a good product when they saw one — and communicate the right feedback to the “builders.”
If you wanted to start a business but weren’t sure what to do — or actually thought you could get away with being the “ideas” person (lolol) — you should realize by now that it’s only one of these two. “Ideas vs. execution” is a thing, but only later. Early on, it’s everyone’s job to have ideas. And it’s everyone’s job to actually execute on more than coming up with them — i.e., doing either product or sales.
There are many entrepreneurs who get away with both building and selling — I certainly did when I had my business — but they either cap themselves out as a “lifestyle” business, burn themselves out, or eventually hire for whichever of the two they’re not as good at.
If you’re still just internally screaming, “neither people nor things are my favorite!”
(And presumably neither is “logic” or “emotion” — because, like, dawg, we covered that.)
If you’re thinking, “I love ideas the most!” Or “I just want to experience things!” Or “I get off on insight!” or “whatever — I just want things clearly-defined, organized, planned-out and stable” then I will say: yes, chickadee. I see you. And we’re getting to that right now:
2:) YOU EITHER LIKE IT ABSTRACT OR YOU LIKE IT CLEARLY-DEFINED
What?! KG, this is literally not at all what I am thinking or just said!…
I know, bud. Hang with me here…
Like living in the fray, existing at the outer edges of society and doing what they want to do regardless of what other people are doing.
They don’t just have a high tolerance for ambiguity — they actively seek it. They don’t plan for the future — they live there, in their heads. They don’t just “think outside the box” — they often don’t even care about it.
There are two sub-types of “abstract” people:
- “Ideas” types: never-ending brainstorming; a constant stream of expansive options, opportunities, adventures, experiences. They want “everything.”
- “Insight” types: they don’t want “everything;” they just want singular, universal truths. This is me.
“Abstract + People/Logic:”
- + “Ideas:” like “logic” more than “people;” often master debators, theorists, inventors, “idea person” entrepreneurs. (Also love leaving “logical” rage-comments and/or troll.)
- + “Insights:” philosophers, writers, humanitarians, and coaches.
“Abstract + Things/Feeling:”
- + “Ideas:” poets, artists, adventurers, motivated by their own experience.
- + “Insights:” discrete systems (i.e., engineering) or expansive ones (i.e., conventional corporations.)
Want things literal, clear, and black and white. And even if they are more adventurous or less conventional or more well-traveled than their peers, they fundamentally do not want to live in the fray. They like things simple, and succinct. They almost always like history.
There are two sub-types of “concrete” people:
- “Organization.” Like planning and structure. Might also enjoy “brainstorming,” but only as it fuels “the plan.” They don’t live and breathe brainstorming above their need for specifics.
- “Action.” Those who just mothafuckin love action, regardless of “a plan”
“Concrete + People/Logic:”
- + “Organization:” teachers, project managers, etc.
- + “Action:” they’re, well, active — high energy levels and usually athletic. They often like “logic” over “people,” yet are almost always in professions involving others (sports teams, sales, etc.)
“Concrete + Things/Feeling:”
- + “Organization:” systems, system admin, accounting, insurance, risk mitigation, security
- + “Action:” often performers or crafters, channeling their emotions towards creative outlets
The people most comfortable with change: the “expansive abstracts” and the action-oriented “concrete” types — both “things” and “people” oriented.
The people most comfortable with this post: the “abstract” ones
The people most pissed off by this post: the “logical” and “emotional” ones (who, to be clear, are still totally different people, Bob!) even though we already went through it.
Why should I care?
If you’re happy, then you do you, boo boo.
But if you’re not happy, I’d be willing to bet it’s because you’re caught up in your head. You’re hung up on wanting to do “everything” (ideas), or rejecting everything, or being hyper-critical, or caring more about debating shit and “winning at logic,” or doing “what’s right,” and you aren’t getting shit out into the real world. Not “plans” or “organization” or “on paper/in my head” shit, but real shit — either people or products/systems.
If you want to see things happen, you have to make externalized efforts.
And knowing which type of person you are helps to direct those in the most meaningful and impactful ways. Throwing ourselves at “insights” or “logic” in our head will only end in circle-jerking, but conversations or tangibles + action triggers meaningful results.