The ISTP is called the “Virtuoso” (or sometimes “The Craftsperson”) because of their ability to use their five senses in a manner that is concrete and literal. They often have innate mechanical abilities and love to understand how things work.
In this article, we are going to look at the key traits, strengths, weaknesses, career options and famous ISTPs. If you have tested as an ISTP, then we hope you find the below information useful!
The ISTP, or the Virtuoso, is one of the of the “16 personality types” that we see in several different models based on the work of Carl Jung. These models include the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and Keirsey Temperament Sorter, among others.
ISTP represents an individual who is Introverted, Sensing, Thinking and Perceiving. This means that they are energized by spending time alone, they focus on facts and details, make decisions based on logic and reason and prefer to be spontaneous and flexible.
ISTP personality type prefers to evaluate people and situations using logic and reason. They tend to be mechanical and enjoy figuring out how things work. In general, they enjoy taking things apart as well as applying logical analysis. They have strong reasoning powers, but they dislike concepts and theories unless you can find a practical way to apply them.
One of the hallmark characteristics of this personality type is a strong sense of adventure. The ISTP loves the adrenaline rush from risky activities, such as skydiving, and is always seeking the next thrill. Because of this, they have little tolerance for the normal routines of life and are easily bored. Their independence means they require a lot of personal space in order to think through decisions. Rules and regulations don’t appeal to the ISTP, especially when they prevent them from doing their own thing.
The nickname, “The Virtuosos” is given to them because of their outstanding technical ability and desire to use logic to solve problems.
ISTP Strengths and Weaknesses
ISTPs are extremely committed to the values, people and activities which mean the most to them. They are extremely bothered when people are not treated with equality and fairness, which makes them incredibly loyal friends to those who they connect with. ISTPs are action-oriented and, as a result, are excellent at tackling problems directly in front of them. ISTPs are good at technical work, since they tend to be quite mechanical and have good hand-eye coordination.
However, ISTPs may run into problems with their relations with others. They can sometimes appear to others to lack commitment to certain tasks. ISTPs also don’t always respect the rules of establishment and often follow their own internal value system quite closely, which can cause some tension with others. Finally, ISTPs don’t trust their own feelings and aren’t particularly good at evaluating the emotions of others. Therefore, they may act in ways that are inappropriate in professional or social situations.
ISTP Cognitive Functions (Functional Stack)
Each of the 16 personality types has four cognitive functions, as introduced by Carl Jung. These functions are the two scales of Sensing-Intuition (used to process information) and Thinking-Feeling (used to make decisions), each of which can be expressed both in an extraverted manner (e.g., displayed outwardly/externally) or an introverted manner (e.g., displayed inwardly or internally). The ISTP, or Virtuoso, has a ‘Ti, Se, Ni, Fe” cognitive stack. However, they are called the ‘TiSe” due to their top two functions. This cognitive stacks means that:
- Dominant: Ti (internal Thinking) means that ISTPs make decisions based on logical analysis which is done over time in their head.
- Auxiliary: Se (external Sensing) means that ISTPs use their senses to take in information and understand the world around them. This is why ISTPs live in the moment and prefer to deal with things that are real and solid.
- Tertiary: Ni (internal iNtuition) means that ISTPs can solve problems by pulling information from every area of their brain. They can look for patterns in information, or they can skip ten steps ahead to predict what would happen in the future.
- Inferior: Fe – (external Feeling) allows ISTPs to use their intelligence and creative problem-solving to help others fix the world in some way. Fe is an ISTPs inferior function, meaning it is only used when necessary. Due to this, ISTPs are likely to be less aware of and equipped to deal with feelings than other types.
ISTP and Work/Career
Given their nickname, “Virtuoso”, is it not surprising that ISTPs often excel in careers, such as carpentry, that allow them to use their innate mechanical ability. Their strong problem solving skills make them a huge asset to any position, so long as they don’t have to remain in one place all day. Some excellent career possibilities for the ISTP personality type include engineering, computers and IT or surveying.
Check out our comprehensive page on ISTP careers to see more job titles specific to ISTPs.
ISTPs make up about 5% of the general population and is the third most common type in men. However, in women the Virtuoso type is rather rare. Some examples of famous ISTPs include:
- Lance Armstrong
- Bruce Lee
- Miles Davis
- Tiger Woods
- Chuck Yaeger
- Katherine Hepburn
- Clint Eastwood
- Amelia Earhart
- Demi Moore
- Adrenaline-inducing activities: rock climbing, speed boating, stunt driving
- Fixing robots, tools, sheds, furniture, trinkets…the list is endless
- Gambling (many famous poker players are unanimously typed as ISTP)
- Hiking, taking nature walks, exploring new places, geocaching, camping
- Watching how-to videos on Youtube or reading up guides on Wikihow
“In soloing—as in other activities—it is far easier to start something than it is to finish it.”
– Amelia Earhart
“I felt the less [my character] said, the stronger he became and the more he grew.”
– Clint Eastwood
“I wanted to be a forest ranger…at a very early age, I knew I didn’t want to do what my dad did, which was work in an office.”
– Harrison Ford
“Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.”
– Bruce Lee
“Really skillful people… never appear busy.”
– Miyamoto Musashi
ISTP-A Versus ISTP-T
Those who score as an ISTP will sit somewhere on the identity scale, ranging from assertive (A) to turbulent (T). Those who score is ISTP-A tend to be confident in their knowledge, with a steady mind-set. They are confident that they know the right way of doing things and rarely doubt themselves or their abilities.
At the other end of the scale, the ISTP-T tends to lack confidence. When they make mistakes, they are far more self-doubting and are known for comparing themselves to others. However, the ISTP-T is far more curious than their assertive cousin. They are restless in nature and are always looking for new hobbies!
ISTP vs. Similar Personality Types
The ESTP directs their sensations outwards, due to their leading function Extraverted Sensation (Se) and typically has a wider range of hobbies than ISTPs, who work best with plenty of alone time and lead with Introverted Thinking (Ti) instead.
The INTP is more focused on outworldly matters and can seem haphazardly absentminded, because they have Extraverted Intuition (Ne) as their secondary function. ISTPs are far better grounded in reality and present themselves in a more put-together yet aloof manner.
The ISFP places greater value on their personal emotions, as they lead with Introverted Feeling (Fi) and express them in the real world often through various art forms. ISTPs instead lead with Introverted Thinking (Ti), and aim to figure out how mechanical systems work.
The ISTJ has an end goal in mind, and is more focused on small details that can be completed within a specific time frame, which is influenced by their second function, Extraverted Thinking (Te). ISTPs are moreso systems thinkers, and work best seeing how a part works with the whole. This is because they lead with Introverted Thinking (Ti), which is followed by Extraverted Sensation (Se).
When making the decision of which career to pursue, its important to understand your personality so that you find one that matches your interests and talents. Browse our career guides to learn more about different career options. Or, check out our job profiles, which are informational interviews with real-world professionals sharing their “inside scoop” on what their job is really like.
Finally, for more information on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, read our first post in this series.