Perhaps the most “personality descriptor” that is widely known is the Myers-Briggs. I have most commonly tested as an INTJ: introspective, logical, rational, pragmatic, clear-headed, directive, and attentive. At the same time, I’ve also tested as an ISTJ: careful and thorough in examining people and institutions. As it turns out I feel both of these describe me and depending on the day I take the test I am either a moderate I (introversion) or a very soft E (extraversion).

At the end of the day, I find it hard to put yourself squarely in one of 16 buckets. There is also the fact that I have heard that your Myers-Briggs changes over time. What if your “personality inventory” isn’t driven by who you are, so much as your collection of thoughts over time and who you are becoming.

Last year I ran across the concept of a Codex Vitae from my colleague Buster:

This is an idea coined by Robin Sloan in his book Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. The idea is to write a book, the Codex Vitae or Book of Life, that represents everything I have learned in my life. If I lost all of my memories somehow, this could be something that helped me remember who I am.

I found it fascinating as a way of describing one’s self, and letting others know who you are and potentially how to engage with you, without pigeon holing yourself in to a psychologist’s model or making excuses for yourself because of your “personality type”. Another fundamental concept of the Codex Vitae is the ability for your beliefs to change and to track those changes. Whether this is growth, maturity, or stubbornness doesn’t matter so much as the fact that our perspective truly does change as we go through life.

I have found a couple of other examples of codex vitae to draw from, but here’s my general stab at the high level categories (again, subject to change, perfect for a master of none like myself):

  • Philosophy
    • Meta-beliefs: beliefs about beliefs
    • Principles: fundamentals that guide my life
    • Politics and Society
  • Learning
  • Material World
    • Money
    • Possessions
  • Work
    • Systems
    • Career
    • Business
    • Management
  • People
  • Fears
  • Aspirations
  • Predictions
  • Bests
    • Food
    • Wine
    • Car
  • Influences
    • Concepts: philosophies or ideas
    • Media: readings that have impacted my beliefs
    • Quotations: quotes and mottos to live by
    • Inspirations: people who I aspire to be

Writing a Codex Vitae as an Asian-American Christian feels frightening because of the potential of being labeled a closed-minded racist. This scares me.


I first registered this domain in May of 2008. I was working on a personal finance blog and was looking for space for a personal blog. pistevo was meant to be a triple entendre:

  • piste-stevo: the stevo that goes down a ski run
  • pissed-stevo: the adventures of emo stevo
  • pistevo: the greek verb form of “believe”

I believe it is this space that is best used to capture my book of life and beliefs. Going forward I am going to try to use this space as my codex vitae and transfer more of the regular blogging to svenchen.com (don’t bother clicking, there currently isn’t anything there). I look forward to seeing you there and here and seeing your own codex vitae!