How to Make Your Ideas Succeed as an INTJ


As an INTJ personality type I make big plans. I automatically see ways to improve things—from how I do the dishes to how a company does its marketing. But I find that it’s hard to communicate these ideas to others, and that many people don’t want them at all. I think most INTJs feel this way. We figure out solutions only to have them ignored.

This isn’t just bad for us, it’s bad for the world. A high functioning INTJ can reduce costs, increase profit, prevent accidents, and even improve society. Or we may simply come up with a better server configuration. No matter what an INTJ does for a living, I’ve never met one who couldn’t improve something in their workplace—or their community—if only they could get their ideas implemented.

But INTJs can learn to make our plans succeed. In fact, the INTJ personality type is wired to be successful, if we learn to leverage our natural strengths. In this article I’ll discuss the specific skills I learned to get my ideas out of my head and into the world, and the trap that used to hold me back.

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The Core Problem

Many INTJs think that the reason we’re not succeeding is because we’re solitary, because we’re not “warm” socially, or because people don’t understand us. All of these can be very real obstacles for an INTJ. But none of them is the core problem.

The core problem is effectiveness. It’s learning how to gather resources and test our ideas in the real world. No one wants untested ideas, no matter how genius they sound. But when you learn the basic skills needed to implement those ideas, you prove their worth and you succeed.

This has benefits for any career path:

  • In a traditional job you rise to the top because you solve high-level problems.
  • As a freelancer you get paid more because you deliver better results.
  • As an entrepreneur you get your own ideas off the drawing board and make them into products or startups.
  • In creative work you see your dream projects get finished and reach their intended audience.

Effectiveness helps in every part of life. It’s the ability to make things run the way you picture them running. That’s an INTJ’s Zen moment.

What Prevents Us from Being Effective?

As an INTJ your mind is built to be effective. It also has a crucial weak spot that can hold you back. According to personality type theory, INTJs use two main mental functions to make decisions:

  • Our brilliant thinking function. INTJs are “Thinkers” and we make our best decisions logically. But our way of using logic is to look for results. We set big goals, build systems to meet those goals, and evaluate the outcomes. Not all Thinkers think this way—some are more interested in simply knowing the facts. To us, that’s boring.
  • Our underdeveloped feeling function. Like all Thinkers we have feelings. Our feeling function is not well developed, but it does affect our decisions. The way this comes out in INTJs is standing by our values and our sense of dignity. We would rather be true to ourselves than do something just to please others.

Interestingly, our thinking function is sometimes nicknamed Effectiveness. INTJs are built to be effective. It’s in the wiring of our brain.

Our feeling function is nicknamed Authenticity. Authenticity isn’t a bad thing. But we don’t use it in the mature, powerful way that some Feeler types do. It’s our weak spot. Making decisions based on Authenticity is like letting a child drive a car.

High functioning INTJs develop their Effectiveness, but many of us fall into the trap of overusing Authenticity instead. The result is INTJs who think big but accomplish little. This was me for years. My ideas lived only in my laptop, and I felt like no one understood me.

What It Looks Like When You Misuse Authenticity

Your Authenticity moments are easy to recognize. You will say things like:

  • I can’t move up the ladder because my boss is an idiot.
  • I don’t have the funding for my idea.
  • Work is a popularity contest, and no one likes me.
  • I didn’t go to the right school/I don’t have the right connections.
  • Everybody around me is stupid.

INTJs using Effectiveness see these as solvable problems:

  • They focus on people higher up than their boss.
  • They assemble resources to seek funding.
  • They succeed by delivering results, not by being popular.
  • They learn to network and make new connections.
  • They identify people’s strengths and delegate work accordingly.

Succeeding as an INTJ means learning how to utilize every resource you have in a systematic way—including people. It doesn’t mean you have to pretend to be warm and fuzzy. You only have to know how to delegate work in a way that advances a goal. That’s what an executive does, and it’s exactly what our Effectiveness function is for.

Using Effectiveness Instead of Authenticity

It’s not hard to get out of the rut of Authenticity. It just means practicing habits that push you back to Effectiveness. Effectiveness habits involve setting a goal and making steps toward it. Or, making day to day systems to minimize busy work. These systems let you focus on the big, important tasks and get results.

Specific habits you can use to build your Effectiveness include:

  • Make a daily to-do list and cross off items as you finish them.
  • Keep a weekly schedule that includes all work, chores, and errands.
  • Start your morning with one productive task before you do anything else. Get it done before you even have breakfast.
  • Set goals and list the steps it will take to reach each goal.
  • When a goal seems too big, break it down into smaller pieces. List the steps for each piece. Can you do the first step right away?
  • Track things. If you’re trying to get fit, track your calories and daily exercise. If you want to save money, track your daily spending. Effectiveness means using measurable data to improve results.
  • Learn to recognize “low hanging fruit” on your to-do list (items you can accomplish in less than 15 minutes). Do them first.
  • Work sequentially, not in parallel. Know your priorities and do one project or task at a time.
  • Outsource whenever possible. This can mean hiring people or it can just mean getting things off your plate. For example, instead of researching fitness plans all weekend, ask a knowledgeable friend to recommend one.

To some INTJs, the list above will seem strict. Start with the items that are easiest for you. As INTJs we get a huge rush from accomplishing things—it’s the best feeling we can have. Practicing Effectiveness will be fatiguing at times, but almost euphorically rewarding.

How to Learn from Other INTJs

I am not an INTJ who was blessed with natural effectiveness. I spent years thinking I had great ideas but somehow never making them happen. When I finally realized what I was doing wrong, it wasn’t some breakthrough of my own—it was by learning from others. I took courses, spoke with career coaches, and learned from fellow INTJs. It’s rare to meet other people who think like you, and when you do, it’s exciting.

The lessons I learned seem simple now, but the impact on my career has been tremendous. INTJs are valuable. We can be great executives and leaders, or, like all introverts, we can thrive working completely on our own. And when we learn to launch our ideas we finally start to feel like the world “gets” us.

Please leave a comment below and tell me about your goals. Is it hard to achieve them? Have you been able to make your plans a reality? What strategies have you learned to be more effective?  retina_favicon1

Read this: 6 Ways to Succeed in Your Career as an INTJ Personality Type

Seminar for INTJs: Our partner Quistic offers a course for INTJ success. “Best Practices for Leveraging INTJ Strengths (and How to Be a Likable INTJ)” is a four-part webinar from career coach Penelope Trunk. Includes access to a private Facebook group with nearly 200 success-oriented INTJs. Learn more about the INTJ course here.


  • DEAS says:

    Thank you very much for this article. It will be very helpful. I am doing most of the things listed, so I can say it very true and you can get so much things done in less time you could of been imagine. Very intelligent article.

  • Lisa Touchette says:

    Very interesting and informative article. I can definitely relate. Another issue I had was that I was just trying to survive (I felt like I did not belong in this world because I was so different), so I could never devote the mental time and attention needed. The thoughts were always there, but just outside of my grasp. Talk about frustrating. As my life has finally started to settled down, I am now trying to figure out how to to effectuating my visions (I hope). Thanks you for the advice and pointers!

  • David says:

    Great article! It can be tough to try to get people to understand my well thought out ideas when they can’t see inside my mind.

  • Kendra says:

    I can fully relate to this struggle. I can see times when I existed in an Ni/Fi loop as well as the times when I broke free and used my Te. My primary frustration is when I can’t seem to bend the ear of the persons who can authorize my ideas. Do you have more thoughts on how to get people to listen and give permission for an INTJ to implement their ideas?

    • Kendra, good question. One way is to identify the people above you who are fellow NTJs. They will value results and give your plan/idea a fair shake. I talk about this is my other INTJ success article:

      Other options (depending on the idea and context): find a way to launch it without needing anyone’s permission (publish independently, build a prototype, hire the talent you need and build your idea); consider making a visual or mockup to better communicate your idea to decision makers; or get a single ally on your side first.

      This last one is key in office settings. It can help to feel out your ideas one-on-one with decision makers (or even colleagues) before you pitch an idea at a meeting, for example.

      This is something I’m still learning too. It’s tough for all of us. But so good when it pays off.

      • Kendra says:

        Thank you so much for this response, Andre – it’s full of wise advice. I think my primary struggle right now lies in the fact that the ENTJ in charge keeps passing me off to the 2nd in command ENFP. I will keep plugging away until I have something more tangible than my “far-fetched idea” to present!

  • Julian says:

    Hi ! Your advices can be applied to anyone who lacks Te in fact, which is a good point. I’m an INTP and applying these advices would make my life more meaningful.
    Thank you for this article !

  • Ale says:

    I guess i needed that. Thank you for the article.

  • If you consider cognitive function theory, our Feeling function isn’t really “undeveloped” (at least, not past age 30 or so). But it’s Fi (introverted Feeling), not Fe (extraverted Feeling).

    Fi is personal values, not group values. The definition of Fi is “standing by our values and our sense of dignity.” INTJs would rather be true to ourselves than do something just to please others _bacause our Feeling function is well developed_.

    It’s when it’s NOT well-developed that we dont recognize our values or allow someone to try to pressure us into doing something to please other people. That’s FE, not Fi.

    • Thanks for the comment Vicki. You seem to be suggesting that since we have four different functions, we are equally good at all four of them. I personally don’t see cognitive functions working that way. As INTJs we do use Fi as our feeling function, and you described it very well, but that doesn’t mean we use it as fluently as we use Ni or Te. There’s a reason the functions are ordered and referred to as “dominant,” “auxiliary,” “inferior,” etc. – it’s precisely because no one uses all four of their functions equally, and we get better at the ones we use most often. Meanwhile, we tend to go to the lower functions when we are stressed, defensive or worn out, which means we don’t get much practice with them and also, like anything someone does only when stressed, we’re not necessarily very adept at it.

      Of course, since there is no hard evidence for the cognitive functions, I can’t prove that my interpretation is right. But my understanding is that cognitive function theory suggests it works this way. It also just seems to make sense, on a gut level: of course people will develop the functions they use most often. That’s why I refer to our use of Fi as underdeveloped – we can spend a lifetime consciously developing Fi, and it still won’t be as developed as the way an INFP uses it.

  • sister2sister2sister says:

    Thank you! I am experiencing this very frustrating dynamic in work and desire the change you describe here. Understanding what is happening, and how to change this gives hope!!! Thank you!!!

  • As an INTJ a the lesson I learned was sometimes the ladder really is leaning on the wrong wall and the rungs above you have been removed. So effectiveness sometime means finding a new wall and making your own leader. When the game is rigged against you, change the game.

  • Timothy Hossfeld says:

    ….but how?

  • Andre, I’m so glad I found this post and the one about 6 ways to succeed as an INTJ. They’re amazing.
    Now the challenge is to constantly come back to them and take action, exercise Te. Thank you!

  • Gail H-P says:

    Thank you so much for this Andre. This describes me to a T! I truly have some world-changing ideas, but my logical mind continually tells me why they won’t work i.e. potential legal issues, ideas are too big, people won’t get it etc. I think it’s time to just jump in and do it. Just start checking off my list, one thing at a time.

  • AJ says:

    I think you’ve definitely nailed something here. From this, however, and the part I struggle with even more, is what ARE those goals? Actually, I take that back. I have the answer, but I think that “authenticity” has definitely been a hang-up and allowed the excuses to win out!

  • Alikwe Oghenetegar Philip II says:

    Thank you, I really need to connect with other INTJ’s