He’s entertained United States presidents, been hired by hundreds of Fortune 500 companies, works as a consultant on the hit show “The Mentalist” and knows exactly what you’re thinking right now

Written By: Jonathan Westman | Photographer: Grant L. Gursky

He is an internationally known mentalist who has performed for the likes of Presidents George H. W. Bush and Jimmy Carter, the King of Sweden, Donald Trump and the New England Patriots. Many aspects of his life are integral elements of Patrick Jane, the main character of the CBS smash-hit The Mentalist. He’s a third-generation master showman whose roots can be traced to performances by both of his grandfathers as early as 1903. The legendary Ted Williams, perhaps the greatest baseball player to have ever lived, was his godfather. And while he says he leaves his body on occasion during performances, he is completely down-to-earth. He is, quite profoundly and quite simply, Jon Stetson.
My recent interview with Stetson, the creator of entertaining and inspiring programs such as The Stetson Experience, Unleash Your Intuition, The Mentalist Mega Memory Method and The Fine Art of Engagement, covered an array of topics. Always insightful, engaging and tremendously passionate about his craft, what follows are a few of the highlights from our conversation. 
What is a perceptionist or a mentalist?
A perceptionist is someone who uses all of their senses and is able to read things in people, places and things, to be fully tuned and fully charged. 
How does one develop that ability?
It’s quite simple, really: by paying attention, by living in the moment. I know that sounds like a cliché, but it’s true. When you are living in the moment, you are at your best. That’s when you are in tune with your surroundings. You are sharp; you are aware; you are paying full attention. You are listening to people speak, and more important, listening to people when they don’t, because that is when they are telling you everything. And you don’t have to study the art of body language — your instincts will tell you everything you need to know. 
The bonus aspect of living in the moment is that you can never be depressed. If you’re depressed, you’re projecting backward. It could be five minutes ago or five decades ago. When it comes to stress and anxiety, it’s the same concept, except we are projecting forward. So if you are truly living in this very moment, all of those negative emotions are impossible. It’s the only way to truly be at peace and have serenity in our lives. It’s a struggle for everyone to live this way, including me. The key to it is being aware that these things are possible. 
What’s the downside to being a perceptionist?
The one danger of being a perceptionist is that one may become what we call a “judge-mentalist” — someone who uses their perception and makes an immediate judgment. It’s a delicate balance. It’s like the old books say: Use your powers for good [laughs], and don’t dilute yourself. There is a book that I am very fond of titled The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. Those agreements are: Be impeccable with your word; always do your best; never make assumptions; never take anything personally. If we could all live by these principles, the world would be a very different place.
Appreciate You
I always remind myself that anyone in my line of sight can tell me a personal story that can make me cry in 30 seconds, and that really grounds me. Any step forward is a celebration, and anything I can do right should be rewarded, even the little things. We shouldn’t be afraid to pat ourselves on the back and appreciate ourselves. You never know who you’ll inspire. We’re all fascinating in one aspect or another, and we can do some pretty freaking amazing things for one another and for ourselves.
The Early Years
Both of my grandfathers were in the mystery-entertainment business. That’s actually how my parents met. I had great- aunts who were psychic readers — one to the rich and famous, who made $1,000 for a reading in the 1950s — and they were held in high regard. My dad did a lot of the same mystery-entertainment work, as well as hypnosis, and was a competitive card player, which was his true love. There were always card games going on at the house. We knew a lot of athletes, too, and my father was friends with Ted Williams, who was my godfather. We had people from all walks of show business over at the house, more often than not from the comedic and mystery-entertainment industries, and some would stay with us for months at a time. The house was always percolating with interesting people. 
People have asked me: “When did you realize that you had some ability?” The fact is, it was never discussed. We all had ability. Every single one of us had ability. I was never sat down and given the talk that we were different than everybody else. I mean, I always felt different, but show me a kid who doesn’t feel that way. My circumstances may sound very interesting, but the emotions and things that I went through as a kid are no different than most other kids growing up. 
Uncle Ted
Uncle Ted — Ted Williams — well, he was like John Wayne. He was a larger-than-life guy, kind of like a cowboy. Of everything he did in life, he was most proud of being a Marine fighter pilot. He was a regular guy. Yes, when he entered a room, it was a big to-do. Very proud to have had a connection with him, if for no other reason than his dedication and service to our country. Then, when you take into account his accomplishments on the baseball field, it was incredible. His dedication and passion for the science of hitting a baseball was inspirational to me. A great man was Ted Williams.
The Lure of Janis Joplin
When I’m in Los Angeles, I stay in the room at the [Highland Gardens] hotel where Janis Joplin died. I’ve been doing this for about 20 years. I’m a history nut drawn to all kinds of history, especially show-business history, and interesting things have happened while I’ve been there. My cuff links often go awry. Back in my drinking days, when I woke up and my cuff links were in my nose, that was a little something I called “Tuesday.” But they would actively move, disappear and reappear, so she messes with them. I feel there’s something there in that room, and it’s either crazy-cool-wonderful or very sad-depressing, and I’ve experienced all of it. I’m lucky to have been there as many times as I have and to understand it and feel it. Some days, nothing happens. It’s not always like the movies where incredible special effects occur, but I have felt a ton of things happen in that room. A lot of them are feelings — like it gets cold or it gets hot — but I am really in tune with it as well. I meditate around it.
Bernie Madoff 
I lost a lot of money years ago because I didn’t pay attention. I gave my money and gave my money and gave my money… well, it was all part of the Madoff thing and everything that came with it. I was broke. People would say, “Nice going, intuitive boy!” I had to ask the universe for some clarity in my life because I needed some things to be sorted out, and it may have even included a little bit of growing up — and that was in my 40s. Throughout that, I learned some incredible life lessons. I learned a lot about myself, and it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. There’s a chance I might not be here now if that hadn’t happened.  
For more information on Jon Stetson, and to learn about his corporate engagements and programs, visit

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