Independent Rockstar

Insight for Independent Musicians

Are You a Misfit?

The original concept I had for a blog a few years back was going to be called ‘The Misfit Musician’s Resource Page’. I felt like everyone at the time was talking about things like chords and scales and how to promote yourself on Myspace and other surface level BS and I wanted to write about more important issues that I thought had much more impact on musician’s careers and lives.

I had an intuitive concept of what the word misfit meant to me and I wanted to reach out to other people who also felt like misfits and to talk about the kinds of things that were important to us.

A few years later, I now have a better understanding of what I was really getting at with the whole ‘misfit’ thing – and it’s actually really interesting…

About 25-30% of the general population feel profoundly different from other people. There are actual neurological reasons for this (you can see the differences in EEG brain scans). Here’s how it goes down:

The brain on a general level does two things – it takes in information and it evaluates it. When it comes to taking in information there are two processes the brain uses – taking in direct sensory input and abstract pattern recognition. We each have a dominant preference for one or the other that we’re essentially hard-wired for. The implications of this difference are pretty amazing. What’s just as amazing, to me, is that so few people know about this.

70-75% of the population take most of their input directly from their senses. In the Myers-Briggs profiling system we call them ‘Sensors’. They live in a world that’s oriented towards concrete reality, verifiable proof, sensibility and security. They want things that can be verified by their senses and they typically don’t have much patience for abstract theory or far fetched ideas. They tend to seek security, contentment and pleasure and in most cases feel basically the same as other people (unless there’s a good reason – i.e. they’re 8 feet tall).

The rest of us are the weirdos. We take in information through a process of abstract pattern recognition called intuition.  We look for bits of information and map them together to create a pattern or understanding of things in our minds. We often have little patience for following rules and instructions because our brains don’t naturally process things in neat and tidy sequences.

We like deep conversation and we seek meaning. We’re the ones who don’t want to adapt to the world. We’re built to change it.  We’re not the ones who get married at an early age and buy houses with white picket fences and have 2.3 children and live happily ever after.

One of the many challenges of being an intuitive is that the world is basically designed for sensors.  Most of the advice that we get and most of the rules and customs we encounter were designed by sensors for sensors. One of my teachers, Antonia Dodge, uses the analogy that being intuitive is like being left handed in a right handed world. The world is mostly designed for right handers who rarely stop and think or care about how hard it can be to find a good left handed guitar or how annoying it is to use scissors backwards.  What’s worse still is that few sensors understand or realize that any difference even exists at all. Intuitives to them might just seem clumsy or unrealistic or weird.

And being that a much smaller percentage of the population are intuitives there are often cases where a person is the only intuitive in their immediate family. This can be very challenging for parents and of course for kids who often grow up feeling isolated and misunderstood. My Mom and one of my cousins is intuitive, otherwise everyone in my entire family tree, including my Dad’s entire side of the family are sensors.

This was tough at times, especially as I grew up and started going to work doing construction with my Dad. I had all these deep thoughts going on all the time, but unfortunately, deep thoughts don’t get houses built. I was in an environment that valued things I hated and ignored the things I valued. I’m sure my parents didn’t know what to do with me at times. I didn’t really fit in with any ‘normal’ life path. I wasn’t an easy kid to raise.

It’s very liberating though, to come to understand these natural differences. Many intuitives grow up thinking that there’s something wrong with them, when in fact, they’re exactly how the should be. The world needs a larger percentage of people to maintain structure and a smaller percentage to challenge the status quo. It’s the internal discomfort, which makes us feel different, that drives us to change the world around us.

Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people. - George Bernard Shaw

Intuitive Musicians you may have heard of:

  • Jeff Buckley
  • Tori Amos
  • KRS One
  • Marilyn Manson
  • Katy Perry
  • Bob Marley
  • Bruce Springsteen
  • Roger Waters
  • Lisa Loeb
  • Leonard Cohen
  • Anthony Keidis
  • Jewel
  • Gene Simmons
  • Neil Young
  • Les Paul
  • Neko Case
  • Pete Townshend
  • Neil Peart
  • Yukimi Nagano
  • Jay Z
  • Weird Al
  • Ben Gibbard
  • John Lennon
  • George Harrison
  • Carlos Santana
  • Maynard James Keenan
  • Chuck D
  • John Mayer
  • Zach de la Rocha
  • Fiona Apple
  • Kanye West
  • Frank Zappa
  • Bono
  • Derek Sivers
  • Bob Dylan
  • Conor Oberst
  • Freddy Mercury
  • Ariana Hall
  • Eddie Vedder
  • Regina Spektor
  • Thom Yorke
  • Tom Waits
  • Robert Smith
  • Billy Corgan
  • Wayne Coyne

Not sure if you’re an iNtuitive? Take the Test on TheiNtuitiveMusician.com.

For more information on intuition and the cognitive functions, check out TheiNtuitiveMusician.com

Got any questions? Any musicians you think should be on the list? Just leave a comment and I’ll respond.

About Scott James

Musician / Blogger / Web Designer / MBTI Nerd living in Hollywood, CA
Scott James

14 Responses to “Are You a Misfit?”

  1. Catherine Hol says:

    As an INFP I could totally relate to this post. I’d definitely recommend people to check out the Myers Briggs test if they haven’t already, as it’s kinda comforting to realize that there are others out there like you …

    There are quite a few Myers Briggs type tests around, but this one seemed good to me: http://similarminds.com/cgi-bin/newmb.pl

  2. Awesome. Thanks Catherine!

  3. Ken H says:

    Thanks Scott. I always find the posts on your site to be diverse and interesting.

    Meyers-Briggs and brain-based learning immediately came to mind. Also, another INFP here; we should start a club. :^)

    (Complex) pattern recognition is one of those skills (talents?) that will only be in increasing demand/of benefit– whether in business, arts, or you name it– as our world continues its exponential explosion into more data, more connections, more relationships, “always-on” communication, more!faster!more!faster!

    Being able to discern patterns and relationships among all the noise, identifying what is important or interesting, creating from multiple or disparate inputs, co-creating (a)synchronously– all these kinds of things and more will grow in importance.

    And in light of all this, finding and strengthening your authentic voice will also become that much more important. Plus, I always make sure to unplug more than once in a while…. Take care.

  4. Thanks Ken! Maybe we should start a club…

    I think you’re right. I think there will be a lot of demand for intuitive skills moving forward. I think the key to taking advantage is in appreciating and understanding the value of our intuition while also appreciating and understanding the skills of sensory thinkers and being able to effectively communicate with them. Here’s a great TED talk from one of my teachers Camronn Huff: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzGkqG9BtYA

  5. BTW – for anyone following along, INFP is an example of a code that we use to point to the order of a person’s cognitive functions – essentially the processes that a person comes pre-wired to favor. It would be a whole other blog post to really get into it, but the simplified version is this: INFP stands for Introvert, iNtuitive, Feeler, Perceiver. (there are two possibilities for each letter: Introvert/Extravert, Sensor/iNtuitive, Feeler/Thinker, Judger/Perciever) From that, if you understand what we call the ‘cognitive functions’ and how the ‘code’ works (which I won’t get into here), you can discern that the first function in this person’s hierarchy is internalized feeling. INFPs are primarily oriented towards how things feel internally, which heavily influences their decision making process. If it doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t fly. The second function, and primary way of taking in information is externalized intuition, or extraverted intuition, which is a sort of exploration process by which intuitive maps are formed by mixing with the outside world. There are also lesser used functions which are part of the INFP personality type, but we’ll leave it at that for now. Ben Gibbard and John Lennon are good examples on INFP musicians.

  6. John Thomas says:

    I’m an INFJ, so I can completely relate to this post. I’ve been studying this for years, too. I’d love to see more posts on this.

    John

  7. Awesome. Thanks John! I’m also INFJ btw.

  8. This is funny. I noticed that no one has voted saying they beleive they are a sensory person. I’m pretty sure that 13.3% who dont beleive in this concept are the ones who need “concrete reality, verifiable proof, sensibility and security” to beleive in something. Thus they are sensory. The survey really only needs two answers. Yes, and I dont beleive in this concept.

  9. Hey Rachel, interesting, huh? Actually, there are two distinctly different categories of sensors: those with introverted sensing (SJ or sensor judgers) and those with extraverted sensing (SP or sensor perceivers). Introverted sensing is a process where detailed sensory information is filed away internally. Extraverted sensing is a very present process where sensory information is perceived outside oneself in real time. Sensor judgers, who file sensory information internally are more likely to acknowledge and appreciate these distinctions. Sensor perceivers are more likely to either be disinterested or to outright reject them as labels that are confining and that diminish people as individuals. Sensor judgers are in the minority in popular music. Sensory perceivers (David Lee Roth, Brittany Spears, Axl Rose, Mick Jagger) are far more common.

  10. Matt says:

    Nice research summary, it seems most musicians would follow this left sided perspective, sort of the nature of the thing or probably for just about any relatively more creative type of endeavor. This could be painting, writing or designers, maybe being creative with a different set of rules to start from, as a musician does with chords.

    Definitely a good thing but also probably never the easy, convenient, or struggle-free one. Can be more fun though.

  11. Thanks Matt. Interestingly most musicians don’t actually fit into this category. To make an educated guess I’d say it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 40% in popular music – probably lower in some genres like classical. And I agree that it’s not easy being intuitive but it definitely has it’s benefits as well.

  12. Dreama says:

    I adored this post Scott! You should totally write more! ^_^

  13. Rockstar says:

    I’m sure that 13.3% who don’t believe in this concept are the ones who need “concrete reality, verifiable proof, sensibility and security” to believe in something.

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