By Jennifer Johnson
I don’t know what it’s like to grow from boyhood to manhood or, for that matter, to spend four days wandering through Angeles National Forest. However, one part of my conversation with Dane Johnson about Christ’s Church of the Valley’s new Leadership USA program did resonate with me. (Read the related article.)
“The guys explore whether they are a doer, a thinker, or a feeler,” he told me, “and they learn that each one is valuable. If you don’t fill your role, the team suffers.”
I agree with the idea that each type is important, but after reflecting on our conversation I realized that for too long I have identified with the wrong type.
I got straight A’s throughout school, graduating 36th in a high school class of 600, earning some decent scholarships for my freshman year of college and graduating after four years with a summa cum laude. Then I took white-collar jobs that involved marketing, strategic planning, communications, organizational design and, most recently, lots and lots of writing. I also love to read, experience art in every form, and consider new ideas. I’m a thinker I, um, thought.
Except, no. I hated school, every second of its bathroom passes and mandatory reading and worksheets and pages of footnotes. I still do—I am enjoying the people I’m meeting through my seminary program and the material I’m learning, but recently I sat in a university library on a warm spring evening researching a project for my latest class and realized I was just plain ticked off that I had to do it. I wanted to be ANYWHERE but stuck in that fluorescent room, scanning journal articles and noting sources.
A few weeks later it was time for the final. I overstudied for it (98 percent!) and hated every minute. I realized I would rather shovel mulch or paint a wall or plant a flowerbed or cook or even clean instead of study. I would rather do any of those things for four hours instead of study for one. I am not a thinker. I’m a doer.
Just as we pigeonhole introverts (another category I belong to) as “shy” when many are very friendly and personable, it’s tempting to assume the thinkers among us are intelligent and the doers are not. But I’m smart—smart enough to now wonder if the life I’ve created for myself needs to change significantly to accommodate my personality.
Doers can be leaders who take action or they can be key results people who make things happen behind the scenes, just as thinkers can be the engineers who design a building or the people who write about its grand opening. As Dane pointed out, both temperaments have value, but they are also happiest when doing very different things. And I think the next thing for this doer to do is figure out what comes next.