The Tools: A book review by Bob Morris

The ToolsThe Tools: Transform Your Problems into Courage, Confidence, and Creativity
Phil Stutz and Barry Michels
Spiegel & Grau/Random House (2012)

How a transformation of negatives into positives can help people to achieve personal growth and professional development

This book has an unorthodox narrative in that the co-authors, Phil Stutz and Barry Michels, either speak directly to the reader (often referring to the other when doing so) or one speaks on their behalf. This approach works remarkably well, creating an almost three- (or even four-) dimensional effect. In a word, reverberation. The material is carefully organized within eight chapters, of which four (2-5) devoted to the “tools” or pathways that will enable almost anyone to live a much more fulfilling life. They offer what they are convinced is a “new” and much better way to achieve personal growth and professional development.

As Michels explains, “Twenty-five years have passed since Phil and I met. The tools delivered exactly what he said they would: a daily connection to life-changing higher forces. The more I used the tools, the more clearly I felt that these forces came through me, not from me — they were a gift from somewhere else. They carried an extraordinary power that made it possible to do things I had never done before. Over time, I was able to accept that these new powers were given to me by higher forces. Not only have I experienced these forces for two and a half decades, I’ve had the privilege of training patients to access them just as consistently.”

Readers will appreciate Stutz and Michels’ effective use of an end-of-chapter Summary format (in Chapters 2-6) that consists of these components:

o Summary of [the given tool]
o What the Tool Is For
o What You’re Fighting Against
o Cues to Use the Tool
o The Tool in Brief
o The Higher Force You’re Using

This device serves three separate but interdependent purposes: it creates a context, a frame of reference for the given tool; it adds another essential “piece” to what is — for most people — a very daunting “puzzle” of self-understanding; and it facilitates, indeed expedites frequent review of key points later.

With regard to “higher forces,” Stutz and Michels fully realize that it can be an especially slippery slope for many people. Michels duly acknowledges that, when he first met Stutz, “there was a point I could not swallow: it was the part about these higher forces he kept referring to.” Many others will have the same doubt and apprehension when they begin to read this book. Before concluding the book, Michels notes that he and Stutz have gained a faith based on the patterns they could actually see in the spiritual world. They share these “pillars” of this faith:

1. Thinking about higher forces is worthless, you have to experience them.
2. When it comes to spiritual reality, each of us is his own authority.
3. Personal problems drive the evolution of the individual.

Now what? Read the book, re-read it, and then begin to apply the tools. Be patient and persistent. Over time, a faith in higher forces that only you can — and should — characterize will develop. Embrace them with humility and appreciation.

A personal note: I am in debt to many thoughtful and sensitive people who have helped me to gain a much better understanding of who I am…and who I am not. They include Alan Watts (The Book), Rick Warren (The Purpose Driven Life), Randy Pausch (The Last Lecture), Clayton Christensen (How Will You Measure Your Life?), Ken Robinson (two: The Element and Finding Your Element), and, yes, Phil Stutz and Barry Michels.

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