Finding Humans Less Scary 2.0

Join Jacob Towery, M.D. and Michael Luo, M.D. for a two-day weekend intensive dedicated to addressing social anxiety.

Date and time:
Saturday and Sunday, March 16-17, 2024
9:30 AM - 5:30 PM 

Learn more to RSVP for the event,

Richard Lam, LMFT, featuring Jacob Towery, M.D. and Michael Luo, M.D.

*Based on the techniques of Dr. David Burns, M.D. Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Stanford and best-selling author

This video describes an upcoming intensive mental health workshop called "Finding Humans Less Scary 2.0," organized by Jacob Towery, MD and Michael Luo.

The event aims to help participants in overcoming social anxiety and foster authentic connections with others.

Dr. Jacob, an adolescent and adult psychiatrist, explains that the event involves workshops and exercises to guide people on how to build social skills, while promoting vulnerability and genuine interaction. Michael, a budding psychiatrist, highlights the positive atmosphere and emphasizes the importance of being open-minded and authentic. The event focuses on behavioral activities rather than cognitive discussions, encouraging participants to challenge their fears and engage in social interactions, leading to interpersonal skills training.

Attendees are advised to come with an open mind, embrace vulnerability, and be willing to question their assumptions. The event will take place in person in Palo Alto, California, and participants are urged not to over-schedule their weekend. Additionally, it's emphasized that the event will not be conducted over Zoom and that participants should expect high-quality content despite the free registration.


Richard: Welcome, everyone, to the Feeling Good Therapist. And today we have two really special guests. First, we have Jacob Towery, and then Michael Luo, who will be telling us a little bit more about this really exciting event that they'll be hosting. Can you introduce yourself a little bit? Maybe we can start with you, Jacob.

Jacob: Hello, I'm Jacob Towery. I am an adolescent and adult psychiatrist and therapist in Palo Alto, California.

Richard: Wonderful. And Michael, what about you?

Michael: Hello, my name is Michael Luo. I am currently a budding psychiatrist, an intern psychiatrist that's currently studying in the Chicago area. But I did grow up in the Bay Area.

Richard: Wonderful. Well, what I'm hoping to start with, and what people are probably curious about, is what is this event, and would one of you two want to kind of take the lead and tell us a little more about what this event is all about?

Michael: Yeah, I would love to start. It's really Jacob's brainchild and kind of his gift to the world right now where he has kind of put on this amazing workshop where he has taught me and many others how to kind of be the most vulnerable and genuine self, how to think about others in a way where we're actually much closer and more similar than we might think. And to me personally, it's been quite life-changing and something that I will never understand. So I just, my intention of hosting this and spending the time with admin work is that other people can also benefit from his thought processes and kind of his gift. So, yeah, Jacob, anything else?

Jacob: No, thank you, Michael. That feels good to hear. That's a very generous description. This event would absolutely not happen without Michael. We had a great time this year, and I think it's going to be awesome when we do it again in March. And it's going to be a big event. We're going to have up to 100 people from anywhere in the world that want to come and fly in or drive in or walk in or bus in or skateboard in or fall in or break dance in. But those are the only acceptable means of transportation into Palo Alto. And then, yeah, we're going to try to help people get over their social anxiety.

Richard: Wonderful. And I'm not sure if you two mentioned already, but what is the name of this event?

Michael: Yes, it's "Finding Humans Less Scary 2.0" because it's our second iteration. We thought about calling it "Finding Humans More Scary and Stay at Home and Avoid Humanity," but that was a bit long and clunky, so we changed it.

Richard: Yeah, sounds like the better choice. So tell me a little bit more. I can imagine people are interested in this. And what is the fee to be able to help them find humans less scary?

Jacob: We actually just increased it. It's going to be $887,000 per minute, and it's going to be 15 hours. So, it'll be like $230 trillion per person. But we think it's worth it. So, hopefully, that won't be a barrier to too many people. But if you act right after watching this video, we'll make it free with a $20 donation to a charity of your choice on the website. So, it's a pretty good discount. $230 trillion? It definitely sounds like a steal.

Michael: Yeah, it's pretty much exactly what Jacob has said. We're pretty much throwing this thing for free. We just ask for you to donate at least $20 to one of the listed charities on the website, I think the purpose of this event is really not to make a profit but to kind of share together and kind of experience something together as a group that kind of feels out of the ordinary and something that's on a different level.

Jacob: Yeah, this way we can make it a fundraiser for some causes that we believe in. And just as importantly, in my opinion, is we want people to pitch in a little money and feel like they've got some skin in the game and then actually show up. We don't want people to snag a valuable spot and then be like, 'Well, I'm nervous, I just won't come.' Be like, 'Well, I've already thrown down some money, I might as well show up and get the most out of it.' And then we hope people will get a ton out of it because it's going to be 15 hours of really high-quality stuff over a weekend. Everybody's in it together; there's no stigma. Everyone's suffering from some of the same challenges. So, we want it to be awesome.

Richard: Wonderful. And I know one thing is you guys threw this event before, a year or two ago. And I'm wondering, what are kind of the outcomes people can expect?

Michael: I can speak from personal experience, and I can also read some of the glowing reviews that people have left us. From personal experience, I remember the very next morning, I went for a run, and it's not something I normally do. And I started to just wave at the people who were passing me by, kind of like I was some kind of lunatic. And then they would smile and wave back, and it was more positive reinforcement that humans are actually not super scary. Yeah, it just gave me a lot of courage and bravery. I'm looking forward to having that high again. So, I'm looking forward to that.

Jacob: The outcomes that we can guarantee are your cancer will go away, any warts will disappear, your face will be smooth and youthful. And if these things don't happen, you get your money back. Not the charity donation, but any other money you've given to us, you'll get a full refund. And we're also hoping that people will have fun, they will learn:

  • How to be more playful,
  • How to feel more comfortable in social situations,
  • How to have more fun in social situations,
  • How to not avoid social situations,
  • How to get up and give a performance if they want to without being as nervous,
  • How to have more authentic connections with other people,
  • How to not just engage in boring small talk, which I hate and I think a lot of people hate.
  • How to enjoy life more,
  • How to connect more easily with other people.


So, those are our preferred outcomes, plus the whole 'no cancer' thing.

Richard: Wonderful. I can imagine people are pretty excited about this, especially knowing that there are potential outcomes that they can achieve here. And I wonder, what are the prerequisites when it comes to attending this event?

Jacob: I can talk about that. We're pretty strict about this. You must have skin. So if you don't have any skin, you can't come. Noses are preferred; we're not going to be total sticklers, but we prefer if you have a nose. Fingernails are kind of nice, but we might let in one or two people with no fingernails. Let's see, any other prerequisites? You've got to register, so we will be sticklers about that. You've got to register at First come, first served. You've got to be one of the first 100 people, and then just be willing to show up for both days, the full time, be willing to be authentic, be willing to take some risks, be willing to participate. That's about it for prerequisites. Michael, am I forgetting anything?"

Michael: Yeah, I think being authentic and bringing your bravest self is pretty much all that we ask. Oh, also, that you don't sue us.

Richard: Yeah, that's great. It kind of sounds like these are pretty good requirements that you guys are asking here. And one of the things that I'm wondering about, and what probably a lot of people are wondering about, is what does this event look like exactly?

Jacob: What does it look like? What I used to do was all my pro bono stuff was one-on-one, and that was great. I love doing one-on-one work, you guys do one-on-one work, I do one-on-one work, it's great. But it's harder to scale that, right? It's harder to impact a ton of people. So I remember thinking, like, 'Oh, it'd be fun, like, how could I have more of an impact on the world? What could this look like?' And I remember calling Michael and being like, 'I have this hair-brained scheme, like, I don't know if it would work, but like, you know, maybe we could talk about it.'

So, I think there's a lot of stigma around many things in the mental health world, including social anxiety. People feel very lonely and isolated, and they're like, 'Is this just me?' So when we get a hundred people in a room together, and everyone's struggling with feeling kind of nervous and worried that other people are judging them or looking down on them or if they can say what's on their mind, like, 'Oh, this isn't just me. Like, this is everybody.' Everybody in this room is struggling with this. So, that alone, I think, has kind of magical properties for people to feel like, 'Oh, yeah, like, these are my people, and like, I'm not alone with this.' And then, we're going to have people do some fun things, and I think that's also easier to do when you see other people doing it. You're like, 'I can do it too, I can be brave and do this, it's not just me.' Other people are doing it, so it's going to be very behavioral. So, this is not just like talk, talk, talk, and then boom, magic, magical things happen.

This is like, you actually have to do stuff. So, we're going to have people do a bunch of activities and exercises. It's going to be fun. If anyone wants to get over their performance anxiety, we'll have people get up. We had a great time; we did it earlier this year. We had people get up and do music or give a speech or show their art, or we even had someone jump over hurdles. We had some imaginary hurdles, and it was really fun. People were really brave, and they were scared to do these things, and they did them anyway, and they got way less scared. So, we're hoping it's going to be a fun weekend.

Richard: It kind of sounds like what you're saying is they're going to be essentially learning skills and tools, but also learning to overcome their fears and challenging the things that they're most scared of, whether it's public speaking or actually jumping hurdles. And it kind of sounds like there's going to be a lot of change that can happen.

Jacob: Exactly. And one thing I'm really excited about for this year is, last year, we made it more cognitive. We had many hours of cognitive stuff, and cognitive stuff is great. You know, as you guys know, we spend a lot of our time teaching people to change their thoughts, change their feelings. This year, more behavioral, way less cognitive. We're going to throw in rejection training; we'll probably throw in a little flirting training.

Because, as you guys know, a lot of people who suffer from social anxiety also have trouble in their romantic lives. And it's scary to go up and approach new people. So, we want to help make that easier for people and make it so that they could move around the world and be like, 'Oh, that person's kind of cute, maybe I'll go talk to them.' And that probably, if you're watching this, that probably sounds terrifying right now. So, we want to help you make that less terrifying.

Richard: Wonderful! Anything else that you’d like to add as well, Michael?

Michael: Yeah, um, I also wanted to reiterate what Jacob was saying. It's such a positive and encouraging atmosphere to be with others who are going through exactly the same thing. It's actually very contagious. I remember being there and just being very inspired that people were on stage and performing. We definitely did a lot of cognitive work last year. This year, I definitely see us going out more, being really active. This is not going to be a seminar-type of event where we're taking notes for like two-hour blocks, then taking a break and then taking more notes. No, no, no. We are going to be going out and we are gonna be having fun and making a fool of ourselves sometimes and doing some crazy awesome things that you might never expect that you would do, but in a group like this, it's very encouraging and you might be surprised at yourself afterwards.

Jacob: Yeah, I'm glad you said that, Michael. That was something I was really pleased with. I don't know that we put any thought into this or intention, but it just evolved that it was a super supportive environment and by the end, people were hugging each other and trading phone numbers and saying that this changed their life profoundly and they got a lot out of it. It ended up being a very warm group and I think that it makes sense that if people are being vulnerable and they're taking risks, other people want to like be sensitive to that. So, hopefully, we'll have something similar this year.

Richard: I bet. I can imagine. So many people are very understanding because they experience very similar things and they kind of get it and they empathize and feel connected, and the vulnerability is so helpful. So if I were a participant attending, what would your advice be to me on how to maximize my learning and experience at this event?

Jacob: One, show up. If you don't show up, you will get nothing out of it. So, show up. Two, register so you can show up. Three, get tons of sleep every night before and during so that you're well-rested. Four, show up. Five, just come with an open mind. Don't come rigid and be like, "I'm going to do this but I'm not going to do that." Just be open-minded. Just be like, "Well, these people probably have something to teach me about some stuff that's hard for me. I'm just gonna try it. I'm going to take some risks and try it and trust that this will be good for me."

Richard: Wonderful. Anything you want to add as well?

Michael: Yeah, thanks. Exactly what Jacob has said is to kind of come and be hopeful about it. A lot of the things that we are going to be doing this weekend is probably not going to feel familiar and it might even feel uncomfortable and even crazy. What I love about Jacob is that he embraces the craziness and he's the perfect example of how to live a life so free and so crazy, it's awesome and fun and energetic. So, yeah, come hopeful, come open-minded, and yeah, give it all you got.

Jacob: Yeah, I like that. And you know, be willing to question some of your assumptions. I think something that I find endlessly fascinating about people is that we can just imagine that other people see the world in a similar way that we do, but then when you actually dig deep, you're like, "Wow, people can have like radically different worldviews compared to me." And they have, you know, we all have these lenses through which we see the world. So, if you're watching this video, you might have certain lenses through which you see the world that some of them may not be serving you right.

You might have ideas that like people are bad or most people are dangerous or people can't be trusted, or I must be wary and guarded at all times, I must be very skeptical of most things and assume things will suck and people will suck and people betray me, you know. And if that's working for you, then that's great, don't change that at all. But if that it's not serving you and it's causing you to have more distance in your relationships with other people than you want, be willing to question those lenses, be willing to like play around with other lenses and see if those serve you.

The fact that we did this last year kind of inspired me. I was just at Sundance Film Festival for the first time in Utah just last week and it was amazing. I loved it. I think I want to go back like all the time. And I just assumed people would have like pretty wild clothes at Sundance and I think I was the most wildly dressed every day. And I was like, "I didn't know what to wear. I was like, I'll just wear what I would wear to Burning Man." So, I had this really long white faux fur coat and I had these super shiny sparkly pants on and there was one point where people weren't, they were kind of looking down or, you know, this is in Park City, Utah, and I was like, "I'm just gonna do a smile and hello practice, just for fun. I don't care how people respond." So, every single person that was anywhere near me, I just like, "Hi, hello, hi, hi, hi," and then it was really fun for me. And then some people responded, some people didn't, but many people were like, "Oh, hi, nice to meet you," and like, "Oh, hi, nice to meet you. I love your pants," or like, "Your jacket," or "How's it going?" And people then just became more warm.

So, like, when I was just bringing that friendly energy, a lot of people responded well to it and made me have a better time. And I think a lot of people were hungry for connection. There were definitely people that I think were like, on, you know, have their AirPods in or looking on their phone and feeling kind of lonely, wondering who are my people. And then here I was, just this stranger wanting to connect with them, and I think a lot of people smiled and liked it. So, it's fun that we can just bring that energy wherever we are and when we want to.

Richard: Absolutely. I love that. I love the examples that you're sharing because it kind of sounds like not only is it something that you teach, but it's something that you continue to use and it seems like a lot of people connect with people. It's like the new way of life, the new way you can change your life to be the person that you want to be, someone who can talk to people, feel more closely connected with people, develop some core group of people that can support you and really understand you and really be yourself. Am I getting all this?

Michael: Yeah. One thing I learned from Jacob is that you actually can become quite close to someone in a very short amount of time. It's a common misconception that we have to grow up with our best friends from kindergarten and live all these years together with vulnerability and with some of the skills that Jacob will be teaching this weekend, you can actually connect with someone very quickly. It's all a matter of bravery and putting yourself out there. I love that.

Richard: So, tell me if there's anything else that would be helpful to know about the training program. Is there anything I'm missing that you would love for people to like, "Hey, you gotta remember this, this is what we need"?

Jacob: I'll say two small things. One, don't pack your weekend with things before or after this event. If you come to this event, it's going to be consuming, so don't make it so you have to like race out of there the moment it ends to go meet a friend or you know, go watch a movie. Just schedule this. If you're going to come for this on March 16th and 17th, just schedule this. That way, you won't feel in a rush, that way, like if you're tired, you can go rest. So, don't over schedule yourself. It's going to be a lot. It's going to be like eight-hour days, you know, two days in a row and big active days. So, don't schedule other things.

Number two, every time that we advertise this and we forget to say "in-person only", we get a million emails. It's like, "Is this gonna be over Zoom? I don't live there. I want to do Zoom." No, it's not going to be over Zoom. I think it would be really lame over Zoom, to be honest. Not only do I not like Zoom, but I think it'd be boring over Zoom and not connecting and just lame in many ways. So, it's not going to be over Zoom. But if you thought, "Oh, I wanted over Zoom," just come, like come to the event. If you can afford it, come to the event because we're going to try to bring like tens of thousands of dollars worth of information and treatment and transformation for each person who comes. So please don't discount it and think, "Oh, because it's free it must suck or must be worth like $30."

No, like our intention is for every single person to make it that if they were to try to do this one-on-one with a therapist, it would be like many tens of thousands of dollars worth of high-quality stuff. So, that's our intention. The reason I wanted to make it free was that's one of the principles of Burning Man is no cost, right? Everything's free. It's a gifting economy. So, we could charge a lot for this, we could absolutely charge a lot of money for this, but we want this to be affordable to people and we want to be able to have fun with it. When there's no money on the table, people's expectations are different, so we want to be able to have fun with it. So, that's why there's no cost. But please don't discount it and think it's not worthwhile. It's going to be very worthwhile. So if you live somewhere in the world and you can access a plane, like, come.

We'd love to have you and we want it to be really life-changing for you.

Richard: And I'm wondering, is there an age limit?

Jacob: I think the bottom age limit, I think we said, is like 14, 15, yeah. And then, you cannot be over 237. Exactly. If you're over 237, we're going to kick you out. We have bouncers and they're going to look at your ID and once you get to 238 or over, you're done.

Richard: You're gonna have a lot of disappointed people who are over 237.

Jacob: Yeah, and sorry, we'll still like you but you can't come in. Sorry.

Richard: Wonderful. Is there anything else that would be helpful to know? And of course, I'll link your guys' link on the bottom so they can register. And of course, I know you mentioned there's a 100 people limit so definitely act fast on this. Anything?

Michael: Yeah, first come, first serve. Yeah, we're about like above 50% capacity already. I would say if you have questions, feel free to email me at I check the inbox periodically. And the other thing is, yeah, bring comfortable clothes, comfortable shoes because we're going to be pretty active throughout the day. It will be like the whole weekend is an experience. It will require energy, it will require bravery, everything you got. We're going to ask for all of it, so just looking forward to it and be ready.

Richard: Well, one last thing I just wanted to share is, I know Jacob and know Michael and they're very skilled clinicians and ones that are very generous with their time and money to be able to offer this. So those of you who are kind of like on the fence, I really hope that you choose to go through with this because this could be really life-changing and very affordable as well, given that you only have to donate $20. And I can imagine it goes to somewhere that's really great and helpful as well, so thank you.

Jacob: And then one thing I'll just add on to that is, we're also very fortunate that we have, I don't know exactly how many are signed up but probably around 10 therapists from not only California but some people that are going to fly in and they're donating their time. So these are skilled therapists who understand this model and they're coming in, we're not getting a penny, they're not getting a penny out of this.

This is just because we believe in this work and we want to help people. So, there will be support people. So, I know this might sound scary if you've watched this video, you might be thinking like, 'Oh my gosh, what would I be getting myself into?' But like, we want it to be active and fun and a little scary but not too scary. So, we're really going to try to titrate the scariness to make it doable so that's why we're going to have a lot of awesome people.

We've chosen the helpers thoughtfully so that it's going to be a good experience for people. So, we wanted to be moderately gentle, we want it to be safe, we want it to be doable, to be a good experience for people. So, if you're feeling scared, show up, come, we'll try to make it a really good experience for you.

Richard: I love the balance of it all trying to have fun but also maybe challenging a little bit of anxiety creating sense of more bravery for people. I love it, sounds like there's a lot of growth. Well that being said, a pleasure having the two of you on today.

I'll see everyone next time. Bye everyone!

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