October 21, 2006

Tying Up Loose Ends -- Pyramid Scheme, Part IV

I hope this will be my last entry about TEAM. I have enjoyed dissecting this fraudulent business, but I want to write about other things too! In the first three parts of this series, I described my encounter with Darren (notice that I no longer refer to him as a friend) and his pyramid scheme, TEAM, which is a subsidiary of Quixtar, Amway's internet-based sister company. Today I just want to wrap up by discussing a few things I didn't manage to get to before.

I have explained why TEAM is evil and why it creeps me out, but I haven't quite explained why it is a pyramid scheme. To get there, let me start with Amway. Amway was founded in 1959 right here in Michigan by Jay van Andel and Rich DeVos (father of our current Republican gubernatorial candidate, Dick DeVos). For evidence of the company's success, look no further than the city of Grand Rapids, which appears to have been built entirely with Amway money. Amway works in much the same way as TEAM, but without the internet. People sign on as "Independent Business Owners" (IBOs), paying yearly fees that allow them to sell Amway products. They also have to attend training seminars and purchase training materials. IBOs move up in the Amway hierarchy by recruiting other IBOs below them and by selling higher volumes of Amway product.

In 1979 the FTC ruled that Amway is not a pyramid scheme, but rather an example of Multilevel Marketing, and hence legal. Multilevel marketing (MLM) is the business model used by such companies as Tupperware (I use Tupperware as an example because I am a sucker for their products). Salespeople register as independent contractors and earn a commission, not just on the stuff they sell, but also on the stuff sold by salespeople they have recruited. In a legitimate MLM business, members only earn commission on stuff, and are not paid to recruit. Another marker of a legitimate MLM is that it sells a unique and useful product at fair market value, and it sells to people who are not themselves salespeople.

Amway is technically an MLM business because one can buy Amway products without being an IBO. The question is, would one want to? I don't know enough about Amway's products to answer this question, but David, an avid reader of Consumer Reports, tells me that Amway products are of neither high quality nor low price. They always score poorly in CR ratings. Moving from Amway to TEAM, I can tell you that I, as an ordinary consumer, would never buy their products. As I related yesterday, they don't offer anything I can't get from amazon.com, and their prices are much higher. TEAM is thus a dubious model of MLM because only its salespeople buy its products.

When we get to why TEAM members buy from TEAM it becomes apparent that TEAM is, in fact, a pyramid scheme. A traditional pyramid scheme might look like a chain letter. I get a letter asking me to send $1 to the person at the top of the list, and to send the letter on to a certain number of my friends. As they send the letter on and on, my name moves higher up in the list, and, as they pyramid widens, more and more people will send me their $1. Thus, for an initial "investment" of $1 I receive exponentially more money. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it. TEAM works in the same way. If I were an IBO, I would buy a product from the TEAM website, knowing full well that I could have bought the exact same product somewhere else at a much lower price. In effect, buying the product from TEAM rather than from TEAM's competitor is like writing a check to someone higher up the chain of IBOs. Why on earth would I do such a thing? Because I know that, as I recruit people below me, and they recruit people below them, when enough layers get added to the pyramid, I will receive some piece of that differential between the fair market value of the product and the TEAM price.

I'm not saying that people don't get rich from this. TEAM is able to recruit suckers like Darren by inviting them to workshops and seminars where people who have gotten rich tell the suckers that, if they simply follow the example of those who have gone before, they will become rich too. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite work that way. A pyramid scheme is an unsustainable business model, as a result of market saturation. For example, say that TEAM managed to recruit everyone in the US (or even everyone in the world). The people at the bottom of the pyramid have nobody left to recruit. They will, by definition, lose their "investment."

Poor suckers like Darren don't understand why they lose their money. When I asked him why he hadn't yet seen a return on his $12,500 "investment," he replied that it was because he has poor people skills. Gosh, Darren, if you have such poor people skills, why did you get involved in a company where your income depends on swindling people? The point is, he thinks it is his fault that his "business" isn't succeeding, while the truth is that failure is built into this business model. TEAM gurus tell the IBOs they recruit that they want them to succeed, which is the truth. After all, the more people Darren recruits, the more commissions his recruiter earns. But the recruiter's livelihood doesn't depend on Darren's success, it just depends on Darren's gullibility and his willingness to continue to "invest" without seeing a return on his investment.

Darren's sales pitch met all of the identifying criteria for pyramid schemes listed by Wikipedia. I'll add one more: Darren himself didn't quite seem to know what his business was or what he was selling. When he told me that he would continue to "invest" in his "business" for as long as it took to turn a profit, I warned him that it might take longer than his natural life. He didn't care. He told me that, even if he never turned a profit, simply being a part of this business had made him a better person. It had taught him people skills (I beg to differ) and had increased his perseverence (I'll concede that one). I said that I was very happy for him that he had gained so much from being a part of TEAM, and then asked, "so is this a program of personal development?" He brightened up and told me that that is exactly what it is. So I asked why he was promising me money, rather than personal growth. He said that he had simply not pitched TEAM to me correctly, that "Orrin says" different recruits need different kinds of pitches. Then I asked what exactly he was selling. He picked up his half-drunk energy drink and said "we specialize in sports and nutrition products, but we also offer a website where you can buy anything through our partners." Again, I ask, "Darren, what are you selling? Is it an energy drink, a business opportunity, or a personal development program?" I guess he is selling all of these things, but the reality is that he is selling none of them. Legitimate businesses offer a product or a service. Granted, in a profit-making venture, that product or service is always secondary to the goal of making money, but TEAM dispenses with the product or service altogether. For example, David and I buy a lot of Kleenex products. The Kleenex company exists primarily to make a buck for its shareholders, but in the process, it offers the public top-quality toilet paper and paper towels (plus the obvious, tissues). TEAM doesn't offer me anything I couldn't get if TEAM didn't exist. The product is there, but only as wallpaper to fool the FTC. What TEAM actually sells a promise that it can't fulfill, which is why it is a scam.

The part that hurts me to the core is that TEAM taps right into the capitalist American dream. Our country was founded on the premise that money makes the man. We worship the independent entrepreneur, but most of all we worship the independent entrepreneur who makes money. TEAM sells the right to call oneself an "Independent Business Owner" and the belief that one is no longer an employee, but rather an entrepreneur. It also sells the potential for creating a system that will make money without the need to work. It offers a semblance of ownership (as in George W.'s "ownership society") and the vague promise of unlimited unearned income. The founders of Amway knew what they were selling: they were selling the "American Way."

I'll wrap up by listing three more features of TEAM (of the many) that rub me the wrong way. First, TEAM utilizes the language of revolutions and grassroots movements. Their recruiting book is titled Leading the Consumer Rebellion. Its authors refer to their company as a "grassroots movement" of consumers who are banding together to take the profit from the retailer and keep it for themselves. Gosh, why not form a consumers' cooperative or operate on a business model like amazon.com? Because co-ops don't turn a profit (by definition) and Jeff Bezos already thought up Amazon. Second, TEAM takes advantage of Christian trust. The book's acknowledgements list Jesus himself, stating "we also want to give all glory to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Everything we have and will ever accomplish is by His grace." If I were a Christian, I might be duped into thinking that this must be a good organization because its founders are good Christians. I don't know much about Christianity, but I am willing to bet that swindling is not a Christian value. Finally, this organization is uber-sexist. IBOs work in husband-wife teams. When Darren was trying to sell me on the "business," he kept referring to all the money "Dave" and I would make. I didn't bring David into it; the TEAM simply assumes that women can't run businesses on their own, so I would need "Dave's" help. The goal of each husband/wife team is to earn enough so that the wife can stay home and raise the kids. The overall company is headed by a group of four men, known as the "Policy Council." Their wives form the "Ladies' Council," which "has provided common sense and perspective where we otherwise would have been remiss." In other words, women's status in the company is based, not on their own achievements, but on whom they have married. Furthermore, women provide "common sense" because everybody knows that women have no business sense. Please.

Apparently, my vitriol is unlimited, but I'll wrap up this four-day-long rant by pointing to some other resources. The Quixtar Blog offers much more information about TEAM, Quixtar, Amway, Alticor, and MLM in general, presented by the husband of a former IBO. Blogs by other former IBOs include Quixtar Demons Blog and Quixtar Inside Out. The Cleveland Free Times recently published an article about TEAM that doesn't give a whole lot of information, but is a good quick summary of the organization. I printed it out for Darren, but he refused to read it.

Okay, I think I'm done!

Posted by eklanche at 08:23 AM | Comments (4)

October 20, 2006

How It Works -- Pyramid Scheme, Part III

Today, as I promised, I will explain how TEAM works. In parts one and two of the pyramid scheme saga, I described the sales pitch I received to become an "Independent Business Owner" with TEAM, and I reviewed three of the business models on which TEAM is based.

What TEAM offers is a website that, like Amazon, allows users to buy products from a whole range of partner businesses, such as Barnes and Noble and Disnesy. This website concentrates ordering so that, like Wal-Mart, TEAM can buy from its partner businesses in large enough volume to leverage a discount.

The difference is that, unlike Wal-Mart, which passes a bit of that savings on to customers, TEAM's website does not offer any kind of discount to its users. Rather, it divides the differential between what the customer pays and what the supplier gets between the people who recruited that customer. What it is is a commission. For example, as a consumer, I could buy a book for $20 from www.barnesandnoble.com or I could buy the same book for the same $20 from www.the-team.biz. However, because TEAM brought the business to B&N, they get a commission. Who gets that commission? It gets split up among the person who recruited me (which would be Darren), the person who recruited him, and so on, all the way up to the founders of TEAM, Chris Brady and Orrin Woodward.

In a sense, it is almost like a consumers' cooperative, although it is totally uncooperative. Co-ops work by allowing consumers to buy products together in order to get a discount from the supplier; they then split the discount among themselves. For example, the People's Food Co-op buys 50 lb. sacks of brown rice. No individual consumer could eat 50 lbs. of brown rice before it went off, but together, the people who shop at the PFC can. Because the Co-op doesn't make a profit, it sells the brown rice to the customers at the same price per pound as it gets the rice from its supplier, or adds a slight markup to rent the the storefront and to pay employees. In contrast, TEAM takes that discount and pays everyone up the chain from the consumer, such that people who recruit more customers make more money.

This is not illegal. Darren was offended when I referred to it as a scam, arguing that scams are, by definition, illegal. I used the lottery as an example of a legal scam. But at least the proceeds from the lottery go to the government, rather than into the pockets of unscrupulous individuals.

So, if the TEAM isn't illegal, what is wrong with it? My main objection is that it is totally dishonest. A business sells either a product or a service. What the TEAM sells is a dream. Granted, there is a product, which is what makes this scheme legal. But there is no reason why anyone would buy the product from the TEAM. With very few exceptions, they don't sell anything you can't get somewhere else. They don't even offer a discount on the product. Rather, everything is marked up. Orrin Woodward, TEAM's founder, even admitted that a person who typically spent $300 a month on household goods would probably spend $350-400 on the exact same products buying them through TEAM's website. So TEAM is selling products, and it is selling a service (the convenience of buying online at one website), but there is absolutely no reason why a person would buy these products from TEAM, rather than buying the exact same products for a lot less money from a website like Amazon.

In order to get people to buy from this website, TEAM makes people think that their livelihood depends on it. Rather, they convince people to believe that, by buying from this website, they are actually investing in a business that will eventually earn them money beyond their wildest dreams.

Let me back up for a minute to describe the TEAM's definition of a business. TEAM's business philosophy is based on Robert Kiyosaki's Cashflow Quadrant. Imagine a 2x2 grid with the letter E in the upper left corner, S in the lower left corner, B in the upper right corner, and I in the lower right corner. The left side of the grid represents active income -- working for money. E is employment, working for someone else, and S is self-employment, working for yourself. The right side represents passive, or unearned income. I stands for investment; B stands for business. So what is the difference between S and B? An example that comes to mind is hairdressing. An S hairdresser works out of her house; a B hairdresser owns a salon. In other words, S business owners make money from their own labor, while B business owners make money from other people's labor.

TEAM basically works by convincing people that they can become B business owners by recruiting people to work under them. The sales pitch I received from Darren on Tuesday included absolutely no information about what the business actually was; he just told me that it would fund a lifestyle in which I wouldn't have to work. Instead of telling me what he was selling, or what I would be selling, he asked me where I wanted to have my vacation home. Instead of describing a typical work day, he promised me that, if I worked hard at the beginning, I would be able to retire soon and raise a family. What TEAM is selling, then, is not a product, but a dream. In business terms, Darren is selling a franchise. His business isn't selling products, but selling the right to sell products. In other words, he is selling me his business. The products are incidental. Yesterday I compared TEAM to McDonald's in the sense that both are franchise businesses. There is, however, a major difference. The McDonald's franchisee buys a burger store, but he doesn't sell burger stores; he sells burgers. His profit is based on selling burgers. The burgers serve a purpose. Imagine if you went into McDonald's and they were flipping burgers in the background, but what they were really trying to sell you is your own burger store. Or imagine if you couldn't even buy a burger unless you first bought a burger store.

That is exactly how TEAM works. I can't just go to their website and buy an energy drink. First I have to become an "Independent Business Owner." So Darren isn't selling products, or a convenient way of ordering products. He is selling a business, a vision, a dream. I say vision and dream because it isn't really a business. Orrin Woodward owns a business. He consolidates orders for online businesses and recruits people to recruit people to recruit people to buy from those businesses. In fact, by this point, he probably doesn't have to recruit people any more because he has so many people under him recruiting people. He has achieved B business-owner status. He can just sit back and watch the bucks roll in.

In contrast, Darren doesn't own a business. Rather, he is simply a recruiter for Orrin Woodward's business, paid in commission. Unfortunately, he isn't smart enough to realize this. Orrin Woodward has told him that he is an Independent Business Owner, and he believes it. This phrase, however, is Orwellian; it doesn't mean what it says. In fact, in TEAM's literature, Independent Business Owner is always capitalized because it is trademarked by Alticor, the parent company of both TEAM and Amway. Once you trademark a term, it can mean whatever you want it to mean. Similarly, when I worked at Starbucks, my job title was Partner, but I sure as heck wasn't a partner in the business!

So how does one become an Independent Business Owner with TEAM? There is an initial investment of $270. That $270 gives one the privilege of buying marked-up goods from the TEAM website and the opportunity to begin making commission by bringing people in under oneself to buy products as well. But, again, why would they want to buy those products? Well, the truth is, they wouldn't want to unless they thought they could eventually earn money by recruiting people under them. But that isn't all. TEAM promises to help its Independent Business Owners (IBOs) succeed in their "businesses" through a series of seminars and workshops, not to mention a whole raft of motivational books and CDs. So in addition to the initial investment, TEAM members also spend $50 a month for these workshops and seminars, and $25 a pop for book/CD packages. IBOs also buy all their consumer products from TEAM's website, which raises their own cost of living by at least $100 every month.

Darren estimates that he has "invested" about $12,500 in his "business" so far. He has been doing it for four years. When I asked how much he has earned, he said I wouldn't believe him if he told me. Why wouldn't I believe him? "Well," he answered, "because it isn't very much." No, Darren, I believe it isn't very much! But he kept saying "yet." He hasn't earned much "yet," but he is sure that he eventually will, and he won't stop until he does. He will keep on "investing" $3000 a year until he sees a return. When I asked why he was so sure he was going to see a return, he that he believed it because the person who recruited him told him so.

The sad part is that Darren truly believes that he is failing at this business because he isn't good at it. On the McDonald's website, the corporation tells potential franchisees that "profitability depends on many factors including operating and occupancy costs, financing terms and most important, your ability to operate the business effectively." TEAM tells its members the same thing: if you don't succeed at this, it is your own damn fault. After all, look at how much money Orrin Woodward has made! Furthermore, when I told Darren that the TEAM is a scam, he refuted my argument, saying that it wasn't a scam; I just thought it was a scam because he didn't explain it very well. Poor guy -- he is blaming himself. Then he offered to lend me a CD by Orrin Woodward explaining to team members how to deal with criticism of the "business." If this business were legitimate, such a CD wouldn't even exist.

Darren has been brainwashed, and it is easy to understand why. The more money you invest in something like this, the more desperately you want it to work, and the less willing you are to see the truth.

Posted by eklanche at 11:58 AM | Comments (10)

October 19, 2006

The Inspiration -- Pyramid Scheme, Part II

Yesterday I started to tell the story about being recruited into a pyramid scheme by my so-called "friend" (with friends like that, who needs con artists?) Darren. I have already described our meeting, so today I'll relate what I have learned about Darren's organization, TEAM, which is owned by Alticor, the parent company of Amway.

I'll begin with a disclaimer: it is very difficult to get any real information about this company, so what follows is my own synthesis of the research I have done over the past few days.

TEAM combines and builds on three different business models, those of Amazon.com, Wal-Mart, and McDonald's. I'll briefly describe the innovative aspects of these three businesses and how they make money:

Amazon.com is one of the most successful businesses that operates solely online, with no real-live stores. The innovation here is virtual centralization. In the beginning, Amazon's operations were centralized. From one warehouse, they shipped books all over the country, saving all kinds of money on distribution and passing that savings along to its customers. As Amazon expanded beyond books, it partnered with manufacturers to move products directly from the manufacturers to the consumers. For example, if I were to go to Amazon to buy a toaster, that toaster doesn't come from Amazon's warehouse, but rather from Kitchen Aid's warehouse. By selling me a toaster through Amazon, Kitchen Aid saves on distribution, warehousing, and advertising. It passes some of that savings along to Jeff Bezos, who passes it along to me. I buy a toaster from Amazon rather than going into a store to buy it because I get a better price.

Wal-Mart's contribution to the business world is the economy of scale. Wal-Mart is the world's largest retailer, and its size gives it leverage over its suppliers. Just like Amazon, Wal-Mart doesn't sell anything you can't get somewhere else. But also like Amazon, it gains a following by offering its shoppers the convenience of buying everything they need in one place. Furthermore, it sells in such quantity that it can leverage low prices from its suppliers, and it achieves customer loyalty by sharing that savings with its customers. People buy at Wal-Mart because, let's face it, Wal-Mart is cheap. Economy of scale, however, is not the only innovation that has enabled Sam Walton to offer his customers such low prices. He also engages in highly unethical business practices, such as forcing employees to work unpaid overtime, hiring part-time workers rather than full-time workers in order to avoid having to provide health benefits, and simply refusing to pay its suppliers for the goods. What makes Wal-Mart even more dangerous is that it has achieved monopsony status, which allows it to dictate what goods are actually produced. As the world's largest retailer, it can put manufacturers out of business by refusing to buy items that don't meet its specifications. This means that Wal-Mart has the power to determine not only what is sold in its own stores, but what is sold period. Again, Wal-Mart's innovation is size, which it has achieved by offering a substantial savings to its customers, thus building their loyalty.

McDonald's is (in)famous, not for inventing burgers and fries, or even for inventing the drive-thru, but for popularizing the franchise as a business model. Franchises are great for people who want to own a business but don't have the intelligence or creativity to come up with their own product, service, or business plan. They simply buy the right to operate a new location of an existing business. In effect, they are buying a system: everything they need, from the advertising, to the employee training, to the raw materials, to the storefront itself, is provided by the franchising company. This is, in effect, what McDonald's is. The McDonald's Corporation doesn't sell burgers; it sells burger stores. The individual stores, each owned by an individual franchisee, then sell the burgers. I won't get into the dark side of franchised businesses here, but Eric Schlosser does a good job of it in Fast Food Nation. Suffice it to say that the least evil of the fast-food companies he discussess are corporately owned and not franchised.

Now that I have described the inspiration for TEAM, it is time for me to eat breakfast. But stay tuned for Part III, when I will reveal how TEAM's founders combined these three business innovations and built on them in a truly evil way!

Posted by eklanche at 09:06 AM | Comments (0)

October 18, 2006

Pyramid Scheme

Yesterday, someone who I thought was a friend tried to recruit me into a pyramid scheme. It was one of the most bizarre experiences I have had in a long time. At first I was angry and felt violated. After all, I thought he was a friend, so why was he trying to scam me? And then I got intensely curious, both about this company, TEAM, which is basically Amway's internet-based sister company, and about pyramid schemes in general, so I did what I do best. Research.

The whole thing started when I met Darren through another organization with which I am affiliated. In the context of a friendly conversation, I asked Darren what he did for a living. He replied that his day job was providing direct care for "retards" (his word), but that he also had his own internet business. When I asked what it was, he replied that it was too complicated to explain at that point, but that he would be happy to call me back another time to tell me. I figured it was probably porn, and didn't care enough to find out, so I let it go.

Last weekend, I was talking to Darren again. Ever since I decided to go on leave from grad school, I have become very curious about what other people do for a living, so I asked Darren again. He said he would call me at 10am on Monday to tell me about it. When 10am Monday rolled around, my curiosity had waned, and I found myself too busy blogging to take Darren's call. Darren is a persistent guy and, as soon as I loggd off, the phone rang. But he still wouldn't actually tell me what his business was. Each time I asked him what he does, he would ask if I had heard of some business principle, such as Robert Kiyosaki's "Cash Flow Quadrant." When I said no, he would reply with, "well, it will all make more sense when we meet in person. How about eleven o'clock tomorrow?" After going through this about three times, the curiosity overcame me, and I agreed to let him come to my house Tuesday at eleven.

David was pretty skeptical about the whole thing and, as he left home yesterday morning, reminded me that, if any trouble came up with Darren, 911 is only three digits. Darren showed up promptly at eleven, wearing a dark suit and red tie, and bearing two cans of a root-beer flavored energy drink. My first thought was, maybe that's his business -- selling energy drinks.

Darren began with chitchat and, when it seemed after ten minutes like we weren't getting anywhere, I asked how it was that he got into this business. He said that he had run into an old friend, and the next day her son had called him up to offer him a business opportunity. So what was this business? Darren wouldn't actually tell me. All he would say is that it offers a fantastic lifestyle: he works for himself and can earn as much as he wants to.

But what does he do? Again, Darren wouldn't answer this question. He opened up a case that contained two CDs and a booklet, and told me that these would explain the business better than he ever could. When I asked him what TEAM is, he told me that it is an acronym that stands for Together Everyone Achieves More. But what do they achieve? Money. Where does that money come from? Again, Darren referred me to the book and CDs. Maybe the business was selling these books and CDs, so I asked if he was selling them to me or lending them to me. He assured me that it was a loan; I wouldn't have to pay anything.

Darren kept referring to himself as an Independent Business Owner, but when I asked him what his business was, he didn't seem to know. He also kept saying that, before he could offer me this fabulous opportunity to earn as much money as I want to, he had to know why I wanted to join TEAM. He didn't quite seem to get it when I told him that I didn't want to join TEAM, I just wanted to know more about it. Or, rather, that if I knew something about TEAM, I might be able to decide whether or not I wanted to join. But Darren couldn't or wouldn't tell me anything about it.

After having given me absolutely no information about this business, Darren said that I could get started right away, by going to a workshop that evening, right here in Ann Arbor. Since it was my first one, he could get me in for free. When I asked what the workshop was about, he told me that two couples would be speaking, and that these couples were so amazing because they had earned enough through TEAM to have the lifestyle they always wanted: the wives had been able to quit their jobs to raise babies!

The workshop was from 8pm to 10:30, which is when I typically eat dinner, watch television, and go to bed, so I told Darren I couldn't make it. He tried for quite a while to talk me into going, but I finally said, "Darren, I'm not going." By that point, I was so curious that I desperately wanted to read the book and listen to the CDs, just to find out what this was all about. I told Darren that I needed to know more about TEAM before I could make any further decisions, but that if he would leave the stuff with me, I would return it to him on Saturday, when we would be seeing each other anyway. That wasn't soon enough for Darren, however. He also said that I would probably have a lot of questions after reading the book and listening to the CDs (because they don't actually give any real information either), so we made another appointment for Friday.

I've got to run now, but I'll continue the story in another post soon.

Posted by eklanche at 11:31 AM | Comments (0)

October 14, 2006

More About Me

Awake at 4am, I decided it would be a good time to take the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. Why? Because the internet is fastest early in the morning, and it is also my most honest and least self-censoring time of day. The results?

I am an Idealist. This means that I am

passionately concerned with personal growth and development. Idealists strive to discover who they are and how they can become their best possible self -- always this quest for self-knowledge and self-improvement drives their imagination. And they want to help others make the journey. Idealists are naturally drawn to working with people, and whether in education or counseling, in social services or personnel work, in journalism or the ministry, they are gifted at helping others find their way in life, often inspiring them to grow as individuals and to fulfill their potentials. Idealists are sure that friendly cooperation is the best way for people to achieve their goals. Conflict and confrontation upset them because they seem to put up angry barriers between people. Idealists dream of creating harmonious, even caring personal relations, and they have a unique talent for helping people get along with each other and work together for the good of all. Such interpersonal harmony might be a romantic ideal, but then Idealists are incurable romantics who prefer to focus on what might be, rather than what is. The real, practical world is only a starting place for Idealists; they believe that life is filled with possibilities waiting to be realized, rich with meanings calling out to be udnerstood. This idea of a mystical or spiritual dimension to life, the "not visible" or the "not yet" that can only be known through intuition or by a leap of faith, is far more important to Idealists than the world of material things. Highly ethical in their actions, Idealists hold themselves to a strict standard of personal integrity. They must be true to themselves and to others, and they can be quite hard on themselves when they are dishonest, or when they are false or incinsere. More often, however, Idealists are the very soul of kindness. Particularly in their personal relationships, Idealists are without question filled with love and good will. They believe in giving of themselves to help others; they cherish a few warm, sensitive friendships; they strive for a special rapport with their children; and in marriage they wish to find a "soulmate," someone with whom they can bond emotionally and spiritually, sharing their deepest feelings and their complex inner worlds.
I quoted this description at length because it is so flattering, which makes sense because the website wants me to sell me my full "Temperament Report."

I was actually a bit surprised to score as an Idealist, because Idealists are NF (iNtuitive Feeling) in terms of the Myers-Briggs personality types, and I thought I was NT (iNtuitive Thinking). In the Keirsey temperaments, NTs are Rationals. In Myers-Briggs terms, I thought I was ENTJ (Extraverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, Judging), which, translated into Keirsey, would make me a Field Marshal, one of the four types of Rationals. The famous example given is Margaret Thatcher. Given that I don't identify in any way with Margaret Thatcher and because, let's face it, she is just downright evil, I'm glad I scored as an Idealist rather than a Rational! Of the four types of Idealists, my extraversion and judging make me a Teacher, or an "educative mentor." Big suprise there, given how much I have always wanted to teach and mentor. The famous example of a Teacher is Margaret Mead, with whom I identify much more than Margaret Thatcher!

I'm still surprised to have scored as a feeler rather than a thinker, though, because I have always prized my rationality. However, as I learned when I initially took the Myers-Briggs test in college (my results at that point were inconclusive), women are socialized to be feelers rather than thinkers. So maybe, as I have gotten older, that socialization has become more complete. But when I think about my teaching experience it makes a bit more sense. The hardest part of teaching for me has always been grading (don't tell my students!). As a grader for multivariate calculus in college, I put happy faces next to all of my students' correct answers, and I was always eager to give them partial credit whenever I could. But I am definitely Judging rather than Perceiving, as my fondness for deadlines and insistence on "correct" grammar suggest!

Posted by eklanche at 04:32 AM | Comments (0)


At the Career Center yesterday I took a rather playful test of personal values. The test went like this. The following five things are all happening at once:

1. The phone is ringing
2. The kitchen faucet is running
3. Someone is banging on the door
4. The kids are screaming
5. The laundry is hanging outside and it is starting to rain

In what order do you deal with these problems?

My answer: First I deal with the screaming kids because I hate discord and I absolutely can't stand screaming. Plus I want my (hypothetical) kids to know that I am there for them when they need me. Second is the kitchen faucet. I once had a toilet overflow all over the house and I know how damaging water can be. Third, I answer the door. If the person outside hears the kids screaming and the water running, she knows I'm home, and, if it is important, she will wait for me to come to the door. If it isn't important, having to wait may drive her away! I deal with the laundry fourth for two reasons: first, by the time I have dealt with the other three things, the phone is probably no longer ringing; second, if I haven't dealt with the laundry first, it is already wet, and getting a bit wetter won't hurt. I deal with the phone last because I have an answering machine -- if the phone wasn't my first priority (which it obviously wasn't), then the machine has gotten it either way, and I might as well wait until I have taken care of the more pressing issues before calling the person back anyway.

So what does all this mean?

Apparently, the kids represent family, the faucet represents money, the person at the door represents friends, the laundry represents my sex life, and the phone represents my job. The order in which I deal with them reveals my priorities. A child of communist parents, I was surprised that money scored so high on my priority list, but readers of this site are probably less surprised, given how often I write about it. The more important question for my job search, however, is what does it say about me that I answered the phone last? And David is probably wondering why it took me so long to get the laundry!

Posted by eklanche at 04:11 AM | Comments (0)