The Tools Book Summary - The Tools Book explained in key points
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The Tools summary

Phil Stutz & Barry Michels

5 Tools to Help You Find Courage, Creativity, and Willpower--and Inspire You to Live Life in Forward Motion

4.4 (427 ratings)
16 mins

What is The Tools about?

The Tools: 5 Tools to Help You Find Courage, Creativity, and Willpower—and Inspire You to Live Life in Forward Motion (2012) outlines five mental exercises to immediately tackle common challenges that may be holding you back in life. The coauthors are therapists and include patient cases and sketches to elaborate on how to use each tool. 

Table of Contents

    The Tools
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    Key idea 1 of 6

    Tool #1: Welcoming Adversity

    What’s on your immediate must-do list that fills you with dread or even fear? Is there anything you’ve been putting off for longer? 

    While it’s human nature to avoid what we don’t like, uncomfortable and even painful situations are inevitable. In most cases, the challenges themselves aren’t what hold people back from achieving their greatest potential; it’s the avoidance of taking the next step to unlock the possibilities.

    The first tool helps you not only power through tough situations but learn to use them to your benefit. We are not talking about just accepting adversity, but actually being glad to see it when it inevitably appears. It sounds bizarre, but it’s a powerful way to reframe the role difficulty has in your life. 

    Here’s the exercise: First, visualize the emotion surrounding the task or situation. The emotion may be fear of a difficult conversation going badly. Perhaps it’s the humiliation if you slip up while giving a speech. It may be a less rational emotion, such as having a fear of flying despite statistics showing air travel is much safer than driving. 

    Whatever the pain is, give it a visual in your mind, and ask it to envelop you. As it does, accept it eagerly with the belief it will bring something good. Focus your mind on that good as you move yourself through and out, thanking the pain as you go for what’s on the other side. 

    Regardless of the outcome, you’ll gain power in overcoming the mental block, which is a win in itself. That satisfaction will encourage you to use the tool again and again to the point where you will naturally welcome pain points. Meanwhile, you are moving forward, which is the force that drives life itself.

    Using this tool also builds your capacity for commitment, which is essential for  making meaningful, long-term changes. Take the authors’ example of a beat cop who had initially pursued his talent for writing in college, only to drop out. Storytelling remained his passion, as evidenced by his ability to keep listeners engaged in tales he shared at the bar after work. However, he had an aversion to the extra focus needed to commit those stories to writing. Using the tool to overcome his uncomfortable feelings about concentration, he finally reignited his writing ability and pursued the career he’d always wanted.

    While this tool helps overcome daunting situations, the next will help with difficult people.

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    About the Author

    Phil Stutz is a sought-after psychiatrist and coach who received his MD from New York University. In 2022, his pioneering therapeutic methods were the subject of actor Jonah Hill’s documentary Stutz. 

    Barry Michels is a psychotherapist practicing since 1986, with a BA from Harvard University, a law degree from the University of California Berkeley, and a Master of Social Work from the University of Southern California. He and Stutz have also coauthored the 2017 best seller Coming Alive. 

    Who should read The Tools?

    • People seeking immediately actionable methods for life improvement
    • Those frustrated with traditional therapy
    • Anyone looking to interact more positively with other people

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