Aging Shrinks and Mental Wizardry
Jonah Hill’s therapist rewired my brain.
This is the story of how I came to believe in magic.
After reading How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, I decided to become a software engineer. I took courses, built projects, and completed internships.
I also looked for ways to be useful.
One day in late 2020, Jonah Hill posted on Instagram. The picture caught my eye as I scrolled through my feed. It was of a little old man in front of a green screen.
The caption said that the man was Hill’s therapist, Dr. Phil Stutz. Hill was making a documentary about Stutz. I Googled “Phil Stutz” and was transfixed. “Genius” is a strong word, but Stutz is a regular Master Yoda. Like Carl Jung with a Brooklyn accent and a penchant for swearing.
With Barry Michels, he invented “Tools,” a hybrid of Jungian psychoanalysis and cognitive-behavioural therapy. Their website is littered with phrases like “spiritual system” and “higher forces.” Yeah, I scoffed too. And then I learned of their clientele. They work with A-List actors, like Hill and Joaquin Phoenix, and billionaire businessmen.
I became obsessed with their ideas. I read their books, listened to their interviews, and started using the Tools myself.
So when I found myself sitting idle last summer, I decided to make an app about their Tools. I was always forgetting to use them — maybe this would help. Plus, maybe people would watch Jonah Hill’s documentary and then get the app.
I built the app and released it in August. I forgot about it until October, when I received some bad news. I was reeling, but I decided to keep moving forward. I remembered the app, and decided to pitch it to Stutz and Michels.
I cold-called Phil Stutz on Tuesday the 5th of October, 2021.
I wasn’t expecting much. I’d tried a few numbers, and they’d all been duds. So I was stunned when he picked up and asked me who I was. My hands started to tremble, and my throat dried up.
I pulled myself together and made my pitch. He told me to email him, so I did.
He never replied. I revered him, and he’d ignored me. I was crushed. Especially because he’d been so receptive on the phone. I called him again a couple weeks later.
This time we ended up on Zoom. And he told me he couldn’t work with me.
But he didn’t stop there. We spoke for nearly an hour. He asked about me, encouraged me, and gave me advice.
And then, in true “Wizard of Oz” style, he changed me forever.
He asked how old I was.
I said “21.”
“Yeah, I’m… impressed with how you’re handling yourself.”
“H-how so?” I squeaked.
“Most people who achieve things are a pain in the ass. You’re kind of a pain in the ass too,” he replied.
My brain spun in my head.
I had been obsessed with Phil Stutz for a year. By the time we spoke, he was my hero. And the man himself — spiritual guru to the rich, famous, and glamorous — had just told me I had what it took to be successful.
This story is tepid without a moral. So here’s two things you can take away:
- Boldness: Calling Phil Stutz was bold. I’m a nobody, and he deals with household names. Calling him again after he’d ignored me was delusional. But it also led my most cherished memory. Boldness is the closest thing we have to magic.
- Preparedness: Phil said no to me. But he wouldn’t even have answered the phone if I hadn’t spent ~40 hours designing, building, and releasing the app before getting in touch. I’d shown that I was serious by doing the work up-front. Preparedness meant I could tell him about the man who’d used my app and emailed me with glowing feedback. If you’re going to pitch someone who’s out of your league, do the work up-front. They’ll pay attention.
I’ve thought about my “Wizard of Oz” moment every day since it happened.
The memory of my hero telling me that I’m a pain in the ass is burned into my brain.
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