Pixar’s Soul Searching & Personality Profiles

It’s not every day that I find myself explaining psychological assessments to a four-year-old. Why dogs have noses and why you shouldn’t eat ice cream for breakfast, sure. But personality profiles? First, by way of context: as a father of two young girls, I have found Disney Plus to be a lifesaver during this pandemic. Disney Plus’s latest addition is the new movie, Soul, with which Pixar achieves the impossible again. They took abstract concepts like personality profiles and development journeys and brilliantly brought them to life with visuals and story, much like they did with emotions in the movie, Inside Out or with flavor in Ratatouille.

Soul and Myers Briggs

Spoiler alert! In Soul, the main character dies and journeys to the ethereal Great Beyond. Upon his arrival, he’s quested with helping a lost soul find their spark. At the start, he’s shown an amusing “You Seminar” introductory video where several new souls, displaying personality charts on their chests, describe themselves as an “agreeable skeptic who’s cautious yet flamboyant,” an “irritable wallflower who’s dangerously curious” or as a “manipulative megalomaniac who’s intensely opportunistic.” It was at this point in the movie that I thought, this sounds familiar. Aside from the megalomaniac part, what Soul was exploring looked and sounded like a Myers Briggs profile to me.

A bit of background for those who might need it at this point, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a personality assessment, which is similar to others like the popular Enneagram. It uses a series of questions to establish your natural preferences, then uses those to build a profile. When I took the assessment, it classified me as an Extraverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Judging type (ENTJ), just like Bill Gates and Whoopi Goldberg!

Personality profiles – like those in the MBTI – are used by Cambria clients as building blocks for personal and team development. Every team is unique, and by examining the personalities that comprise it, you can start to develop what works best for that group of people. How do you deal with having that megalomaniac as a manager? How do you make sure that irritable wallflower’s valuable input is still being heard in meetings?

A little tidbit of post WW2 MBTI history: one of its creators, Elizabeth Briggs Meyers, wrote a book called Gifts Differing where she clarifies that all profiles are equal and our preferences should be viewed as gifts. (I named my youngest daughter Elizabeth after her … no, I didn’t!) For example, all salespeople don’t necessarily have to be extroverts – they might find it difficult to sell to an introvert, and vice versa. Therefore, when building a sales team, diversity is key.

Personality Profiles Start Early

Later in the movie Soul, the storyline explores how the personality diagrams on the soul’s chest are made up of various icons to represent their attributes or preferences and that they need to fill the one missing space on the chart with their “spark,” before they can be born on Earth.

I love the notion that babies are born with their profiles. I’m convinced that my daughters were born who they are, and their chart had already been filled in before I met them. Before either of my kids could talk, it was clear that they were very different souls. Our first daughter would wake up if a pin dropped and made her father go to ridiculous lengths to get even the smallest smile out of her. Her younger sister sleeps like a log and immediately thinks everything, especially the dog, is hilarious. They couldn’t be more different. In the nature vs nurture debate, I believe that you must nurture their nature. See what I did there?

Helping my Girls Find Their Spark

As my girls have gotten older, it’s easier to see what they’re passionate about. It turns out. they both want to be mermaids! To encourage their oceanographic curiosities, I showed them My Octopus Teacher on Netflix in preparation for their biannual post-Covid visits to Boston’s New England Aquarium – they both loved it. I’ve always wondered, how do you know you’re not born to be a dolphin trainer unless you try to train some dolphins? I want to be the kind of positive force in their lives who will drive them to the skating rink at 5AM or bring a pair of bolt-cutters to Sea World. ☺

Helping my daughters on their journey reminds me of my own journey – not just in life but in my job too. What is the soul of my job? What is the part of my job that gives me that spark? I know from my time at Cambria that an MBTI is a great way to start a development journey and a formal profile of the role I play there – my most important responsibilities, tasks, performance expectations, challenges, and the competencies I need to do well. Developing your own role profile such as this is a fantastic way to help you get to the soul of your job.

Personality Profiles: Not Permanent

One final thought: Personality profiles are snapshots in time, and just because someone is classified a certain way now doesn’t mean that their profile won’t change. By gaining an understanding of our natural preferences, we can start to focus on the less dominant parts of our profile that help us grow both personally and in our roles. It’s good to take the MBTI several times throughout your career as you expand and progress.

I love that my girls can grow up seeing themselves and each other as personality types. That kind of awareness and introspection will really help them growing up. It’s all too easy to compare yourself to others and feel more or less than. Pixar is doing a great service for parents by giving them some tools to talk with their kids about emotions, personalities and if a rat should be allowed to prepare food.

I hope that Pixar’s next movie will explore how personality charts can be used as a jump start for executive coaching. I can picture a story of a gruff NFL coach who retires to become an executive coach. Trademark Ian Kibbe 2021!

Soul is now streaming on Disney Plus.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

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