Just because you wish you could work for yourself doesn’t mean your kids should

My son is selling 3D graphics online. He is teaching himself via YouTube and marketing his services via multiplayer game chat sessions. When I used to think everyone should be an entrepreneur, I would have encouraged my son to grow his business.

And I’m tempted to now anyway, because the odds of my son having a great graphics business are a lot higher than my son having a great career as a cello soloist. But you can’t change who you are.

And it became clear to me recently that my sons sees creating YouTube intros as a performance, a lot like cello. It’s just that kids online don’t understand cello, so my creates 3D graphics that dance to music. He made that one for OllyAwesome’s channel. I’m not sure if my son got paid; I think he is in it because he loves the moment of performance when he delivers the graphics .

My son is an ESFP. He was born to be a performer.

I am an ENTJ. I was born to run a business. We can try to adapt to the needs of our lives, but we can’t change who we are.

Not very many people have the personality to run their own business. For example, the most common trait of a startup founder is that they don’t care about people, only ideas. So that means that if your daughters care about other peoples’ feelings in even a pretty normal, caring way, they are not going to be top-flight entrepreneurs.

Then there are the tasks involved in working for yourself. You have to be great at marketing because that’s how you get clients. Working for yourself means marketing 80% of the time and doing the actual work 20% of the time. Not very many people like marketing that much.

And the hours. People who have their own businesses work longer hours than people who work for someone else. If you work for someone else your work has a start and an end. If you work for yourself, the work never ends. You can choose what hours you work if you work for yourself, but you work much longer hours than most people want to.

I think we all want stability in life. There are a lot of ways to get it besides working for yourself. Ideas:

  • Spend less than you earn.
  • Live in an inexpensive city.
  • Choose a spouse that is stable.
  • Choose a spouse that is high-earning.
  • Focus on feeling optimistic instead of feeling financially independent—optimism is more important for happiness.

This is all to say that you need to know your child’s personality type before you start hammering home the idea that working for themselves is important. If you know your child has the personality type to work for themselves, you can search on my career blog in the entrepreneurship category. People are born with skills for entrepreneurship, so a 30 year old is no more qualified than a 12 year old—if they are both born with the skills. Here’s a list of posts about entrepreneurship:


If you don’t know your child’s personality type, I can’t stress enough how important it is to find out and to start helping your child form goals that are true to her. There is nothing worse than taking a child who has no penchant for entrepreneurship and telling her for her whole childhood that that’s the best life to lead.

Here is a course I did on understanding your child’s personality type. I think you would benefit from this so much.

Understand Your Child’s Personality Type

And if your child is an ENFP, INTJ or INFJ, here are links to three courses especially for career paths for those three types:

Open Doors and Change the World with ENFP Magnetism

Be Your Real INFJ Self Without Feeling Frustrated

Best Practices for Leveraging INTJ Strengths

20 replies
  1. jessica
    jessica says:

    I don’t see why your son can’t work for himself? He’s already doing it?

    My whole family and friends of family run their own businesses. They all have extremely different personalities. I’ve noticed this in my friends families as well. Some own retail, some own restraunts, but they all run them. It’s almost like it’s an expectation passed around, it’s assumed.


    The difference is you have quicker upward mobility vs. a traditional career.

    Now we are seeing the kids get extraordinary opportunities (tv spots/ media posts etc) at young ages because of the nature of networking that comes along with everyone being in these positions (greater social network).

    I don’t see it hindering people, but maybe there are things I don’t know.

    Doesn’t your son have the same type as T Swift? She’s successful as a business/performer.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      Also, it sounds like he is great at Sales. Salespeople tend to be great at performing, at least from what I’ve seen.

      My father is a highly entertaining and high earning Sales guy who runs his own business. My husband works with some of the top Sales people tech.

      I guess, to be blunt, I’m wondering if you’d be ok with your son becoming more successful than you at business. It sounds like the Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and you’ve inspired him with his own journey. I’d say keep supporting him init. Your kids are going to go far anyway.

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        I’m quite confident that Penelope’s kids and the kids of the commenters here (GenZ) will all be just fine in life. Unschooling allows the opportunity to try things out now, see what works or doesn’t. Their future will most likely look nothing like the present and unschooling at home will help prepare them for whatever the future holds.

  2. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    I asked my older son last year if he’d ever heard of the MBTI and he said not only yes, but that he knew his type. Of course it was INFP, just like his old dad.

    I had my younger son take the test a couple weeks ago. He’s 16; I figure his personality is set enough. He scored ISTJ. And then promptly shrugged his shoulders over the whole thing.

    I’ve been considering becoming an independent consultant in my field. I’ve been doing it this summer to fill in while I look for a permanent gig (which I just landed; I start Aug. 3) and it’s been enormous fun. Meeting people in my industry isn’t dreadful when I get to talk about things I care about and exchange interesting ideas with them. Asking for the sale is surprisingly hard, though. Only reason I’m not just launching into this now is because I am petrified of not having a steady income while I am on the hook for my sons’ college. So I’m talking to people about launching this and what that might look like, trying to figure out my offering and the costs associated with this and how I should price what I do.

    • Joyce
      Joyce says:

      Hi, Jim Grey! Good luck with your independent consultancy!

      I am INFP so I am working to get experience and help people. I work in a small law firm from 9 am to 6:30 pm. Of course, that’s part-time in law. The pay is not as high as in big law or in government, but my work is not as stressful.

      Our managing partner would agree with this article. She always talks about marketing and getting money. She must be ENTJ like Penelope.

  3. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    He is so cute, and he did a great job on the 3D graphics! How exciting for him.

    Trying to figure out my youngest two girls MBTI has been tricky, so I got Paul & Barbara Tieger’s book Nurture by Nature that explains in detail each personality type for kids. I *think* my youngest might be ENTJ based on the book, and my middle child fits several of them but she is definitely an E and a P, and my oldest is either INTP or INTJ and she is a real hustler, has a true entrepreneurial spirit and is constantly looking for ways to create income.

  4. J
    J says:

    The fixation on personality type is a bit much. Very dated, grossly simplistic, highly debatable. Results change over time, even with the mood you are in when you take the “test”. Deciding how to raise your child based on a personality test is an embarrassment. “Best Practices for Leveraging INTJ Strengths”? Is that parenting tips or an MBA course? The only think being “leveraged” is second rate 1970s personality theory to make yourself money.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      I disagree that your personality changes. I have taken the mbti over the last 16 years through different testing sites and have consistently been INTJ and every description of INTJ fits me and none of the other types come close. In psychology one learns that one is born with their personality and cannot change it.

      There is something to be said about temperament and personality; however, I do think that aptitude and ability has more to do with one’s career potential than personality a profile.

      • Violet
        Violet says:

        Assessment of a child’s personality can change quite a bit. There may be a few things that are developmentally “off” leading incorrect assessments, even if a child’s personality is innate.

        Also, binary categorization of MBTI is a problem for people who fall in the middle of spectrum. They tend to slip between categories depending on the mood of the day. Is it so hard to deduce that normal distribution* could apply to I-E (say) and therefore, it is more likely that greater number of people are close to the middle than far ends of bell curve?

        If a person falls close to the middle (even if not “exactly” at center), how many life experiences (i.e, data) does a child have to distinguish between I-E and developmental noise?

        *I assume you are a mathy person. Forgive me if this isn’t your cup of tea.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          From birth I recognized each of my children’s distinct personalities. Those personalities haven’t changed at all through the years, but rather have been quite consistent. I would argue that any stable person cannot change their personality. I observe them daily, I unschool them at home giving them freedom to be individuals, the freedom to learn about whatever they wish, and freedom to live without fear of punishments or bribes. Wouldn’t you agree that it would be easy to recognize their personality types after observing them all these years and interacting with them on a daily basis?

          Tiegers’ book Nurture by Nature does not have a test for children to take, but rather a personality profile describing characteristics of each type from birth to teen years. Reading each type in their book helped me to match two of my kids quite easily, why couldn’t Penelope do the exact same thing for her kids? I think that understanding my kids’ temperaments along with my own mb type helps me be a more effective parent.

          • redrock
            redrock says:

            I tend to agree that the core of a personality is probably relatively stable barring any dramatic life events. However, I think it is a fallacy to take a personality test to assess your personality type and then conclude which profession will be your perfect fit or which partner would be the best. There are many more components to career and life then the segment capture by any personality test. I know mathematicians who are extremely extroverted and an MBTI is likely to place them in a field far away from math, and there is a wide spectrum of engineers (just going back to the database I know best) and scientists – some are outgoing and need personal contact as much as possible, very engaged in mentoring and advising of students, some are the stereotypical engineer and prefer to think and tinker in their offices. So, a wide spectrum of personality types can have the same profession due to their abilities. A personality test would not have helped them to find their place in the world.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:


            I agree and that is why I said in an earlier comment that one’s career potential is more likely based on aptitude and ability than a personality profile. Knowing your personality profile is part of knowing yourself. Embracing who you are, is a philosophy I live by.

            While PT’s son has a performers personality profile, how many A-lister performance celebrities are actually introverts and not extroverted at all? There are plenty.

            Aptitude and ability and knowing who you are. An unschooling lifestyle can lead to discovering one’s path much sooner than what I am witnessing from Gen Y and those on a traditional path of coercive education mixed with having helicopter parents.

          • Violet
            Violet says:


            Yes, it is entirely possible your kids are stereotypical for their MBTI category.

            For majority of other humans, their characteristics may take longer time to be assessed properly since they fall in the “average”.

            For example, if you were 6′ and your children are at 95 percentile height for their age, it would obvious that you are all “tall” people and going to be “tall”. If an adult is about 5′, it is easy to categorize them as “short”. But if someone is about 5’7″ to 5’5″ it is not at all clear if they fall under “tall” category or “short” category and depends on what kind of people they are usually surrounded with, and MBTI insists that there is only TALL or SHORT with no guidance for actual height in feet or inches. Do you not see how this would cause legitimate concern?

            A person’s height is stable over their lifetime and is about 80% determined from genes, but that doesn’t mean categorizing them as “TALL” or “SHORT” is guaranteed to be correct from that information alone. Particularly, if their parents are 5’7″ and 5’4″.

            Knowing yourself and your kid’s temperament and
            personality is a different thing than fitting yourself or your kid to be one of “16” types. That is my point.

          • Violet
            Violet says:

            “From birth I recognized each of my children’s distinct personalities. Those personalities haven’t changed at all through the years, but rather have been quite consistent. I would argue that any stable person cannot change their personality.”

            FTR, I am 100% in agreement with the above and would say exact same words about my kid. However, that doesn’t change the fact that four different child psychologists disagree over classifying him being in autism spectrum or not. (Two-No, one-Yes, one-Mildly). My kid is still my kid and I know what his personality is.

            So, being the same personality doesn’t mean the “assessment” of the personality would not change. Especially, if you have poor measuring tool. The point is about placing overconfidence in poor measurement units.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:


            If one has a child with any sort of exceptionality such as ASD, dyslexia, or SPD et al then it may be more difficult to get an exact MBTI, although I know plenty of parents who have a child with Asperger’s Syndrome who have successfully typed their children.

            The most important thing one can do as a parent of a child like this is to give them proper tools for their tool box, learn their triggers, as well as offer support and scaffolding for these kids which will be a full time job. MBTI profile is probably low on the list of things that need to be known.

            However, I know several kids with ASD and they tend to either be INTJ or INTP personality profiles but that isn’t to say that all kids with ASD are those two main types. I would start with the basic question, are they extroverted or introverted? Introversion or extroversion doesn’t mean one is social or not social, I am a very social introvert and my husband is a very shy extrovert. Introverts need time alone to recharge because being around other people drains their energy, regardless if they are having a good time or not. Extroverts seem to gain energy by being around people and want to keep talking after the party or social gathering is over. They don’t need that downtime to recharge, they need to be around people to recharge.

            Extraverts (E): think out loud, jump into new social situations, more concerned about how they affect others, like variety and action, are more expressive and enthusiastic, are life’s generalists, are energized by interaction.

            Introverts (I): think things through before speaking, wait and watch before getting involved, are more concerned about how others affect them, like to concentrate on one thing or person at a time, are more thoughtful, private and reserved, are life’s specialists, are energized by introspection.

            Sensors (S) are: realistic and practical, notice details and remember facts, like real toys that imitate real life, enjoy games with established rules, want clear step-by step-directions, like examples and models to follow, work at a steady space, accept things as they are.

            Intuitives (N): imaginative and creative, notices anything new or different, like unusual toys and open-ended activities, like to play “make believe”, make assumptions based on their hunches, want to find new ways of solving problems, work with bursts of energy, interested in how things could be.

            Thinking (T): Most convinced by logic, are objective and analytical; don’t take things personally, want fairness and justice, express themselves directly with honesty and clarity, want to be praised for their independence, place a high value on competence, hold themselves and others to consistent standards.

            Feeling (F): Are most convinced by how they feel, are sensitive and empathetic; take most thinks personally, want harmony and affection, express themselves with warmth, diplomacy and tact, want to be praised for their personal contribution and cooperative spirit, place a high value on relationships, accept extenuating circumstances and exceptions to the rule.

            Judgers (J): Like order and structure, make decisions quickly and easily, find comfort in rules, like to make and stick with a plan, are decisive and state opinions frankly, are productive and responsible, prefer to finish projects.

            Perceivers (P): Like flexibility and spontaneity, postpone decisions to gather more information, find rules limiting, like to adapt and respond to changes, are curious and ask a lot of questions, are playful and impulsive, prefer to start projects.

            Really, the book Nurture by Nature is great, it goes on, more into detail regarding temperament and human nature and tips for verifying the types or trying to figure out if your child is close to two types and narrowing it down to one. My middle daughter is difficult for me to type, the other two were a lot easier to pin down. After this conversation with you I am excited to jump into this again and see if I can figure it out. :)

  5. Bostonian
    Bostonian says:

    Yes indeed, it takes a peculiar sort of person to want to spend 80% of their time marketing.

  6. Aquinas Heard
    Aquinas Heard says:

    From Aquinas Heard

    I would say that people have personality traits that can endure over the course of their lifetime. I also admit that children are born with certain temperaments. In the past I use to teach gymnastics to 18 month olds. The difference in temperament among the toddlers was readily apparent at that age. The moms would tell me about how their children showed these different temperaments when they were even younger. So my conclusion was children are definitely born with different temperaments. And by temperament I am talking about: energy levels, physicality, socially or solitarily inclined, “loud”/quiet, “focused”/scattered and so forth.

    Personality is more complex and can be greatly influenced by environment. When I say environment, I am primarily talking about parents and other adults, who either spend a lot of time with these children or are in some way hugely influential in these children’s lives. The influence happens by way of how the adults respond to the child’s personality traits. The physical environment also plays a significant role. Are the children confined to staying inside or are they free to roam outside? – and other related questions.

    I bring up these points as background to address Penelope’s old idea of instilling entrepreneurship in all kids and how she was on to something, but something more fundamental.

    Entrepreneurs are about: making something happen, taking initiative, figuring out, discovering, trying things out, implementing, acting on their judgment, observing and putting things together. Does this sound familiar? The unschoolers out there should be familiar with these “traits”.

    What unschooling does is allow the entrepreneur mindset to develop in all children regardless of “personal type”. The reason for this is because unschooling is primarily (or should be) about honoring a child’s right for value pursuit. When a child is pursuing their freely chosen values they are actualizing many of the typical traits seen in an entrepreneur. Why are they doing this? They do so because they “have” to, if they want to attain/achieve their value.
    No doubt some kids will want to fulfill this value pursuit by eventually forming a business while others will be happy being the employee or the stay at home parent while still using many of these “entrepreneurial” traits in their chosen path.

    There is something important in recognizing your child’s personality traits. It’s called getting to know your children, understanding them, and recognizing their needs. But personality is not the be-all in life determination. Freely chosen value pursuit by your children is. Eventual career decisions are (or should be) the sole choice of the child. Of course parents can give advice on this, if the child asks. Otherwise, why not just enjoy your children as the go after life, regardless of their personality “type”.

    *I disagree that being an entrepreneur consists of 80% marketing unless I am interpreting that incorrectly. In the 18 years I’ve owned my gym I only paid for marketing twice (in a parent’s magazine). My “marketing” consisted of telling the parents, who walked in inquiring about classes, the facts of my gym: staff personalities, skills to be learned, the way the children would be taught, and payment information. I would often end by saying another “fact”. Your children would learn these gymnastics skills (up to Level 5) faster here compared to any other gym in the area, if I am teaching and my coaches are implementing what I taught them. *

    **Since my 20s, I’ve always tested as an INTJ**

  7. malaika
    malaika says:

    I feel this way all the time about self-employment. because I love it so much, I want all my friends and cousins to try it, too, convinced that everyone has it in them to sell their skills and/or knowledge.

    I ask myself, is it fear of the unknown that holds them back? but for so many, it’s not an exciting, self-driven career that brings joy but weekends spent gardening.

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