Elon Musk and his INTP search for ‘the truth’

Elon Musk and his INTP search for ‘the truth’

Last week, Errol Musk, Elon’s dad, questioned if he had been as successful as he should have been and that maybe he was, “five years behind where he would want to be.” Would Elon agree? Probably, and that is not a measure of success, a totally subjective phenomenon, but because of his endless quest to go further and discover the ‘ultimate truth.’ So, if that is the case then de facto we never get there. He has always been concerned with ‘the truth,’ and indeed cited this as the reason for studying physics and philosophy as a teenager, citing, “Physics is simply the search for the truth.” Even in smaller situations, he is looking for unvarnished truth. In an interview in 2017, he spoke of how he recruits and the need to spot if someone is telling the truth. He, in his words, has a single question that he uses to spot untruthfulness: “Tell me about some of the most difficult problems you worked on and how you solved them.” He explained the rationale as being on the basis that, “The people who really solved the problem know exactly how they solved it. They know and can describe the little details.” This is so interesting. Not as a silver bullet question to discover ‘the truth,’ it’s far too easy to fake, especially for an ENTP! No, what is interesting is how much ‘the truth’ means to Elon Musk, his almost obsession with it and what it might tell us about his personality type.

Most commentators agree that he is an INTJ or INTP, with a small majority plumping for INTJ, on the basis that he is a long-range planner, and we can really understand that thinking. On ‘Personality Database,’ 1,731 people voted him as INTJ and 1,589 voted him as an INTP. So, we kind of all agree an Introvert, and we can see that on his Ted Talks, he is not as lucid or entertaining as, say, an ENTP, but of course, he is comfortable with that, he doesn’t want to be so, remember his ultimate desire is ‘the truth,’ not entertainment. He, I think all would agree is an iNtuitive, creative, bursting with big global ideas, massive ones, he wants to change the world, indeed the universe. He is also a Thinker, we believe, although some have questioned this due to his desire to save humanity, from asteroid, ‘Robocops,’ famine, well everything. But this is, we believe, more a logical desire to do good, rather than the more basic feeling which is more empathetic and ‘feeling what other people are feeling.’ He has a physics and philosophy-based desire to change the world, stemming from logical precepts rather than emotion, it seems to us. When asked about Tesla, he once said: "If there's something that goes wrong with the vehicle, it's fundamentally my fault." That isn’t a “my goodness I feel for some poor person whose car has broken down in the rain and is upset,” it’s more of a logical foundation about the responsibility for the smooth running of his science, his idea, his car.

So, then we come to the J-P dichotomy, what can we deduce? One piece of ‘evidence,’ (we use the term advisedly) is that Musk breaks his days into 5-minute slots, an extremely ‘J’ thing to do. But then Musk took to Twitter in 2018 to deny it, on the basis that, “I need to have long uninterrupted times to think. [I] can't be creative otherwise," A bigger clue is that he is quoted as having said that he “multi-tasks and avoids unnecessary meetings,” indeed he is reported as telling his staff to, “walk out of meetings if they felt they weren’t contributing.” What personality type would do that? Well, probably both an INTP and an INTJ, but on balance this would suggest a slightly more ‘P’ approach.

If we drill a little deeper, then we would probably conclude that an INTJ, whose primary focus, would be taking the endless possibilities, joining the dots and building them into one overarching plan, a single vision which they would defend to the death, whilst seeking to persuade and bring other people round to their way of thinking. With the INTP we would expect multiple visions and endless opportunities and probabilities, boiling the ocean, no single visualisation but a myriad of endless possibilities. Two very different approaches. So, where does that leave us sitting? On the fence? No, we believe Elon Musk is an INTP, like Einstein before him, but we do really ‘get’ that in this case, it is more difficult to gauge. But finally, that’s what makes him, and to be fair all of us, such interesting individuals.

Check out the differences between INTP and INTJ