An INTP Finds an Uncommon Niche as a Master Carpenter and Perpetual World Traveler

When a member of the rock band he played in during college hung the nickname “Spench” on Michael French, it never occurred to him that this moniker would have an extended lifespan. But after its resurrection a few years later at the hands of friends, the name stuck. Now, almost everyone who knows Michael well refers to him as Spench.

Rather than carefully choosing a nickname, Spench just sort of drifted into Michael’s lap by accident. Like a dried up leaf on a breezy autumn day, he landed where the winds carried him — a pattern that has continued to define his life. Spench has developed the habit of making his choices in the moment, without extensive pre-planning or forethought, based on what seems logical at the time. This approach to living has served him well and has carried him to places that others only dream about.

Most expert woodworkers who specialize in home restoration projects don’t have an extensive background in electronics manufacturing and development. In fact, these two career paths probably sound as incongruous as it can get, but according to Spench, they were both comprised of logical decisions that took him to exactly where he needed to be at the time.

Spench Goes in Search of…?

After college, Spench got a job in the shipping room of an electronics export company in New Hampshire. He didn’t have any clear idea where this would take him, but his intelligence, curiosity and adaptability caught the attention of higher-ups, and he was eventually bumped up into procurement. Buying components helped him deepen his knowledge of the high-tech electronic industry, and on the recommendation of friends, he eventually relocated to California and landed a position in procurement with another electronics manufacturer. Impressing his superiors with his quick mind once again, he was eventually promoted to a position in marketing. His reserved nature made this a poor fit however, and ultimately lead him to return to procurement when a job opened up with a promising company out in Silicon Valley.

In the 1990s the high-tech vibes were really humming in the Valley, and before he knew it, Spench found himself right in the center of all the action. His creative talent and expanding knowledge of the electronic industry were too obvious to hide, and he was soon transferred out of procurement and re-deployed right to the front lines, where new electronic devices were being conceived, designed and manufactured. 

Moving from the shipping room to a position as a major player in electronics research, development and invention hadn’t been a part of any plan, but that was where Spench’s unfolding strategy for life improvement had carried him. The fact that his ascension just happened to coincide with the tech boom of the 1990s was a perfect example of serendipity (happy coincidence) at its best. 

But as the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end.” So by the time the early 2000s rolled around the tech sector cooled as the dot com bubble imploded, and in 2003 Spench was laid off from his job in R&D with a small medical supply startup. Shrugging his shoulders and adopting a “that’s show business, folks” attitude, Spench took his dislodgement from electronics in stride and took advantage of an opportunity to gain training and experience in an entirely different field: home restoration and reconstruction. A friend of a friend needed help on a remodeling project and offered to teach Spench all about the business from the ground up. Spench wasn’t sure he was done with electronics at that point, but branching out into a different line of work seemed intriguing, so he decided to give it a shot. 

Jumping from electronics to construction might seem like it was a big leap, but it was his creative capacities and love for the creative process that allowed Spench to thrive in the high-tech environment, and soon enough he discovered that the same opportunities to conceptualize and construct something unique and distinctive were available working in home reconstruction and renovation, especially when working with wood. 

As a woodworker, Spench approaches his second profession with the sensibility of a craftsman. He specializes in the design and hands-on manufacturing of home furniture and accessories, including loft beds, cabinets, shoe racks, gift boxes, and more; you name it and he’s probably built it. Through diverse material choices, color selections, detailing, geometry of design and strategies of integration, he manages to put his personal imprint on each and every project he undertakes. And for Spench, that is an absolute requirement. He simply isn’t interested in following someone else’s blueprint, and refuses to stifle his imagination in any phase of his work.

But what makes Spench’s story and life so fascinating is that he doesn’t allow his work to define him or imprison him to any routine. Spench is an active and experienced world traveler and wouldn’t think of sacrificing his journeys just to stay home and make more money. For two to four months each year, Spench packs his bags and heads off to different locations in search of new adventures and experiences. 

Backpacking, snowboarding and cultural exploration are all a part of his regular travel routine, which is founded on his philosophy that you only live once so you might as well make the best of it while you’re here (Spench was a philosophy major in college so he comes by such ideas naturally).

One recent trip overseas saw Spench hiking on Europe’s most arduous trek, a 100-mile mountain trail in Corsica known as GR20. After making it halfway across, he peeled off and took a train back to the coast in order to soak up some scenery and culture in a quaint coastal harbor town. From there it was on to Sardinia and Italy on separate ferry trips, and finally on to Rome to spend some time with a friend. Another long excursion through Asia took him to Japan, Cambodia, Thailand and Singapore, and a few years ago he actually rode a motorcycle all the way to Tierra del Fuego on the southernmost tip of South America — a journey that took him four and a half months to complete. 

Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina (Spench is on the left) He also indulges his dare-devilish streak through regular trips to Lake Tahoe and other appropriate destinations across the western United States, searching for mountains to hurtle down with his feet attached to a snowboard. 

In search of fresh, raw and unscripted experiences, Spench has never been afraid to take chances. It has defined his approach to traveling and has led him to great success in two distinct, but highly rewarding careers.

Michael French as INTP

Michael French is an INTP and epitomizes this personality type in his thoughts, actions and social interactions. Spench’s INTP characteristics have guided his career choices and helped shape his patterns of travel.

INTPs have a strong creative bent and are intoxicated by the abstract and the theoretical, to the point where they can at times seem lost in the clouds. But given their initial preferences, they are surprisingly grounded and earthy as well. INTPs relish the long trip down from the theoretical to the concrete and like to see their most imaginative flights of fancy translated into material progress that enriches the world as it brings pleasure and enjoyment to people’s lives. There is a serious point to an INTP’s theorizing, in other words, just as there has always been a serious point behind Spench’s inspired leaps as an inventor and a craftsman. Like a trained skydiver plunging to earth from 10,000 feet, Spench always picks the right moment to pull the chord on his parachute of creativity, floating his ideas gently to earth before putting them into practical application. Spench’s personality type values knowledge above all else, and when INTPs can extend their knowledge bases in the career fields they enter, that is what really floats their boats.

Spench's handcrafted wooden barBecause of their preference for “head” work, most INTPs don’t like to labor with their hands. Normally they will rely on the able assistance of others to put their conceptual leaps into more usable form, watching from the sidelines with satisfaction as that process plays itself out. But Spench has discovered that opportunities for creative endeavor are often deeply embedded in physical work, so his craftwork has allowed him to experience the DIY-style joys of following things through from beginning to end.

Spench’s journey from high-end electronics to home restoration is eclectic and unique, and part of the reason why he was drawn toward such a radical departure from his previous activities. INTPs love to fashion singular and unprecedented lifestyles, as doing so fills their need to be independent and free in their thoughts and actions. They prefer to make up new rules as they go along, as opposed to playing by the old ones, and Spench’s determination to march to the beat of his own drum has motivated both his occupational arc and his ambitious travel schedule. 

What is also notable is the fact that Spench always likes to leave room for improvisation in his travel plans. Rather than taking others with him, he tends to seek out companions while on the road, and he seldom ends up visiting the exact places he expected to when he first left home. This is an example of the variety-oriented mindset that INTPs frequently adopt, reluctant to follow the path of least resistance or miss any chances to see, feel, taste or experience something exceptional.

An INTP who Never Re-Invents Himself Is Not an INTP

If we were to check in with Michael French again in, let’s say, a decade, it’s pretty safe to say that his life will bear only a partial resemblance to the one he is living now. He may have moved on to an entirely new career, he may have returned to the electronics industry (he speculates about the possibility often) or he may have found some totally idiosyncratic way to combine woodworking with high-tech electronics, carving out a new niche for himself among the world of creative thinkers. INTPs like to surprise those around them—and themselves—by turning things upside down every once in a while to see what shakes out, which means there is a good chance that Michael French will be doing something completely different in the near future.

And when we do catch up with him again, it wouldn’t be surprising to discover that he has picked up a brand-new nickname to go along with his brand-new lifestyle.   

Nathan Falde

Nathan Falde has been working as a freelance writer for the past six years. His ghostwritten work and bylined articles have appeared in numerous online outlets, and in 2014-2015 he acted as co-creator for a series of eBooks on the personality types. An INFJ and a native of Wisconsin, Nathan currently lives in Bogota, Colombia with his wife Martha and their son Nicholas.

Comments

Cameron1979 (not verified) says...

I'm so glad I came across this story. This just proves that people are not defined by the labels that are given to them. I have a similar story. I'm an INTP and was an automotive technician for 6 years. I got into the industry when I was 19 and loved it. I got such a rush and a great deal of satisfaction fixing cars. Especially engine repair. I love using tools and learning about all the new technology that is always coming out in the automotive industry. Meanwhile every single personality test tells me that as an INTP I shouldn't like to "work with my hands". I should be working as an electrical engineer, web developer, mathematician, or biologist.

But none of those fields interest me and I've never been very proficient in math, which you have to be good at in order to be successful in those fields. Spench's story reminds me of myself. I've had multiple careers, I love to travel, and I'm always trying to experience new things.

Tom777 (not verified) says...

Wow, it's like you're reading my mail! I'm an INTP who also never really grasped mathematics. I felt that this shut me out of the "traditional" INTP fields (software programming, engineering, research) and felt like I was hitting a career dead end as a result. Working on pulling myself out of this now, in fact.

At 34, I've realized that the marketing career path I'm currently on isn't the best alignment with my personality and I'm researching a career shift. (And trying not to get stuck in our INTP "analysis" mode.) While the research points to writer—something I've been engaged with throughout my career—I'd need to fall back into love with the written word for this to happen.

All told, I do enjoy being the one with all the answers and also seek out all kinds of information as a hobby. Thanks for letting me spill some thoughts. Cameron, hearing your and Spench's stories gives me hope that there are others out there like me and that pursuing the unconventional multi-career path is perfectly acceptable and healthy.

Guest (not verified) says...

I love this story.
I am INTP in my forties.Not the stereotyped INTP though.
I have this need to create tangible stuff. Or to do tangible stuff.
I mean i love cycling,swimming, freediving- spearfishing, road trips, hiking, camping, bq, etc. I do not really like sitting at home and reading about theories or fantasy worlds. I read some articles through the internet( non fiction) but thats as far as i go. Sometimes i might read a fiction book( Kafka, Lovecraft, ...) but I prefer action.
That is why sometimes i feel i more ISTP than INTP....but i am sure that i have strong Ne function( connecting unrelated things, predict future outcomes, always come up with ideas) so i am possitive i am INTP.
I would love to be able to create small furniture that i could build in my own home workshop.If Spench can provide me some advice on how to go about doing that - even as a hobby- that would be great. I have a clerical job which pays the bills.thanks.

AnINTP (not verified) says...

You're an ISTP.

As is probably the OP. There are lots of ISTP's who think they are an INTP, it's their inferior Ne calling to them. Fact is, if you are an INTP you KNOW you are an INTP, from b*lls to bones to quote The Matrix. It's thrown up in your face every moment of your life, that the external world is a very different place, and you are very different from everybody else.

AnINTP (not verified) says...

The post and followups sound more like mistyped ISTP's than INTP's ... typing is hard and self-typing is harder, because we misconstrue what we are for what we like to think we are. ISTP's share Ti dominant with INTP's and often mistype as them due to their inferior intuition attraction. What they want to think they are, in other words.

Extensive travel? Hiking? Woodworking? Snowboarding? Seriously? While there are exceptions it is the _very rare_ INTP that would be bothered to get off the computer for these activities. It's the ISTP and their penchant for _action_ who do it. INTPs can and do engage at physical action activities, but you can spot them as they peter out after a half hour while the dominant S types keep going.

Look deeper guys, plumb your stack and understand yourself, especially from an outside perspective. I've known a number of people who after extensive research are the best examples of INTP I've found, am one myself and happened to have an INTP child. Look closer.

Guest (not verified) says...

I am an INTP, and I'll admit that it seems to be a trait of INTPs to want it to be a rare type. Instead, I hope we can allow and embrace some diversity within the type. INTPs existed long before computers existed, and they have varied interests that drive them to explore different things. An INTP may enjoy snowboarding, hiking, woodworking, or mountain biking (my personal passion) because they offer many things that INTPs crave, such as a) a break from the constant swirl of ideas in our heads while we allow our intuitive decision making to flourish (or alternatively, having clear head space to fully consider big questions), b) separation from the influence of others on our exploratory needs, where we can be alone/independent and see so clearly, c) opportunities for broader exploration of the world and new experiences, d) opportunities for creativity alongside analysis (as a mountain biker, I take my interest in the mechanics and technique very seriously, and that intellectual component is part of what makes riding so fun)... I could go on and on and on about the attractiveness and value of physical activity to INTPs.

It's actually been a pet theory of mine that INTPs are particularly attracted to physical activities that allow us the opportunity to explore and exercise our intuition. Running on a treadmill would probably seem exceedingly dull to many INTPs, but trail running could be invigorating...biking, hiking, snowboarding, travel, etc., those types of unpredictable and intuitive activities are a haven for an active INTP to be ourselves; in these activities, we are utilizing many of the same intellectual qualities as an INTP sitting at a computer, working out a problem, writing, reading, theorizing, etc.

Side note, and a part of my very amateur MBTI-meets-sports theory: My sister is an ESTP and hates the unpredictability and instability of mountain biking. She loves karate -- repetitive, competitive, and somewhat social. I am curious if anyone has done studies on sports in relation to MBTI.

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