My interview with a pickup artist
January 28th, 2011 - 77 Comments
About 18 months ago, I was in a strategy meeting with my publisher. There were about 7 people around the table — all women. (Most of publishing is women.) We were discussing which markets to promote my book to, and we’d discussed all the obvious ones: Men 24-35, women, moms, parents, etc.
Then I spoke up. “I want to talk to the pickup artists.”
The room got quiet. “Who?” somebody asked.
“There’s a huge sub-culture of guys who help other guys learn how to be more confident and get a girlfriend,” I said. “They’re all interested in self-development and psychology — which is exactly what my book is about.”
“Ugh,” somebody else said. “Is this like those guys who ‘neg’ women to try to take them home from bars?”
I was not surprised to hear the skepticism. Pickup artists (PUA) have gotten a terrible name — and rightfully so. They first become famous through the fascinating book, The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, and have gone on to create a multi-million-dollar market.
The main idea was to help men learn how to approach and engage women. It could be used for short-term gain or to help men become more confident and get into long-term relationships. Personally, I have many friends who could benefit from some coaching.
Predictably, many people saw only the surface applications and were angry. Common complaints include “How dare they use tricks on women,” “Only certain kinds of girls fall for this crap,” and “This is only for weirdos who have no social life.”
However, I was hearing dozens and dozens of stories from guys who’d had success from using the principles. Notice I said principles — not tactics. Principles underlie everything you do and are critically important to long-term behavioral change.
For example, I can teach you a cool negotiation script — a tactic — and it will probably work. But once you use it, have you changed anything long-term? No. That comes with automating the behavior and changing your overall mindset.
So I got interested. I investigated the field. I examined the principles and tactics. I made friends with some people in the field.
And I became simultaneously fascinated and disgusted.
I was fascinated because pickup artists employ extremely sophisticated applied persuasion techniques, including inoculation, commitment, and social influence. They rigorously test their ideas to find out which works. And they are committed to deeply understanding their approach.
However, PUA quickly became ethically questionable. The first players in this game kept it to themselves and a small group of people, who all shared techniques to encourage self-development. Once The Game launched, the market exploded — and where there are young guys with money, there is a rich market.
To many, PUA became less about self-development and more about extremely expensive seminars and bootcamps.
Now, I have nothing against expensive educational material. In fact, I sell some of the most expensive material you can buy on earning more money. And it is extremely good. But I can only sell it for such a high price because my free material works — and my premium material works even better. Slowly, steadily, I’ve built up trust with my readers over the last 6 years.
Some of the PUA guys are very, very good. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. But many are bad and sleazy, and the field is now filled with a combination of excellent instructors and disenchanted customers who were promised a quick fix but failed to see it — even after spending thousands of dollars.
The importance of being interdisciplinary
It’s controversial to talk about pickup on this site. Women get angry, men scoff publicly (but secretly go Google “PUA forum”), and nobody likes thinking that we’re susceptible to scripts and techniques to get us to go to bed with someone else.
But I’m going to talk about PUA anyway.
Do you know why?
Because you need to be more interdisciplinary.
Enough reading 50 blogs about the same topic.
For example, I’m honestly bored by most personal-finance sites. With a few excellent exceptions, most of it is trite, conformist, and reveals very few new insights about money. Instead, I read books and blogs on psychology, persuasion, deception, biology, health and fitness, entrepreneurship, and gender relations.
And that is why I like to think this site keeps you engaged.
This is why I bring you exclusive material like my interview with BJ Fogg, a Stanford psychologist who is one of the foremost experts on persuasion.
It’s why I did an interview with my friend Derek Sivers, a successful entrepreneur who’s a keen observer of human behavior that’s systematically studied how to get disproportionate results.
And that’s why I did an interview with a group of pickup artists.
I hope this doesn’t offend you. There are critical insights to be gained here, even if the topic is controversial. And I think you’ll find that I presented my argument respectfully.
If you are offended, let me remind you that skepticism is not a strategy.
If you’re open to the ideas, I invite you to listen. I covered some material that will challenge the way you think — specifically about the similarities between the personal finance and pickup.
How are personal finance and pickup similar?
- We all think we “should” know about money — and meeting women (or men) — but nobody really teaches us
- Friends give us random “tips” and “tricks” (say this! invest in that!) but we never have a holistic, systematic understanding of the process
- It’s taboo to talk about money — and it’s taboo to talk about how you’re failing with women
- Quick wins are important, but BIG WINS — attitudinal and behavioral changes — provide the best long-term benefits
- We can read book after book about investing…but it means nothing until we implement
- Testing is critical
- 99% of people will stop at the surface of both topics — PUA and personal finance — but the very few, the very best, will see them as deeply connected in the area of self-development. This is why so many people who succeed in automating their finances go on to improve themselves in health & fitness, public speaking, and relationships
- Many more
Making connections between fields is so important. For instance, in undergrad and grad school, I took courses on negotiation, deception, cults, magic, minority influence, organizational development, group dynamics, arbitration, personality/social psychology, persuasive technology, and social systems.
Some were controversial. But every one contributed to my views on human behavior.
And I hope to bring that to you through this site and my premium products.
If you’re interested in checking out my interview with Jordan Harbinger of The Art of Charm, I’ve put together the full 69-min recording for you. I’ve included a transcript, too.
This is free to readers of “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” — but in exchange, I ask that you trust me with your name and email address so I can continue to challenge the way you think.
You can get the recording of my pickup podcast interview, here:
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