This will be the last pick up artist centered post I plan on writing. The blog has moved on and so have I. There will continue to be articles on women, sex and love. But I have nothing more to say about the pick up industry or its tactics which I have not already said. Before we close the door on an era, I want to give my uncensored thoughts on the bread and butter of the pick up industry from the perspective of a long-time coach: the bootcamp.
From 2007 to 2011, I personally coached approximately 50 bootcamps and worked with over 150 different men over that time. Most of my experience came through my own business and website, but I assisted three other companies with clients and programs as well. I coached “night game” (taking men into bars and night clubs to meet women) as well as “day game” (meeting women on the street or in shops or stores). I worked in eight different countries and I spoke at about 20 different men’s groups and conventions. In the beginning, most of the coaching was done with groups of two to six guys at a time. Later, I restricted the coaching sessions to one on one, partly because I wanted to give students 100% of my focus and attention, but also partly because it allowed me to charge more.
Bootcamps in the pick up industry range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands. They typically involve one to three coaches and one to eight students. The cornerstone of the bootcamp is the “field” time where inexperienced students can go out and meet women with the coaches, men who are ostensibly more experienced and knowledgeable with women.
The utility and value of bootcamps has been hotly debated in recent years. Some people contend that they’re a scam, swindlers preying on the insecurities and hero worship of helpless nerds for massive amounts of money. Others contend that they’re the quickest and easiest way to jump start your dating life. My personal view is that bootcamps are an inefficient way for most men to learn, and likely a poor use of their time and money. I’m not saying they don’t work. I’m just saying they’re inefficient and overpriced.
Some may criticize my point of view saying, “Well, maybe it was just your students who didn’t get much out of your bootcamps. Maybe you were a shitty coach and don’t realize it.” Well, maybe. But in four years I never once got a negative review or a refund request. I’m proud of that. Many of my former students are still in touch with me on a friendly basis. Some are married. Most have gotten girlfriends. And many of them were disgruntled alumni of other companies before they signed up for coaching with me. So given the evidence, I’d like to think I was one of the better coaches in the industry. Maybe I wasn’t great, but I’m pretty certain I wasn’t bad.
I’ll give a quick rundown of what happens on a bootcamp and then dive into the problems they present.
What Happens On A Bootcamp?
Bootcamps vary from company to company and from coach to coach. They usually last three days and two nights. Some go longer. Some are slightly shorter. Most follow a similar structure:
- Seminar – Almost all bootcamps contain some element of seminar and lecturing by the coach on theory and techniques. These seminars can range from eight hours (all day) each of the days, to only being a few hours long. Many coaches and companies implement drills, exercises and roleplays into their seminars. But not all of them. I think seminar time is a waste. It exhausts students without accomplishing anything. It creates a perception of value when there is none. Any information you need to know about getting good with women can be found on the internet for free or in a few books for less than $50. I personally did little to no seminar time and instead spent more time getting to know each student individually and figuring out what their needs were so I could help them understand their own process better.
- “Field” Time – Time spent out approachingand talking to women with the coach. This includes both day and night. Most field sessions last three to four hours at a time. The most common configuration is two nights out and one afternoon. But again, it varies widely. Unlike a lot of critics of the pick up industry, I honestly believe few of the coaches are consciously out to scam guys and take their money. I do believe a lot of them are narcissistic and buy into their own bullshit. But I think most of them actually believe they’re helping people. And some of them are. Sometimes.My contention is that most of the coaches are ignorant to how their practices affect others and how useful their teachings actually are. That may come across as arrogant, but I’ve made a lot of the same coaching mistakes and corrected them in the past because I realized they were ineffective or even hurting my clients. Unfortunately, most coaches buy into their own personal ideology and don’t adapt. Instead of adapting their teachings to what the client needs most, they blame the client for not adapting to what the they want to teach. And to complicate things, we’re dealing with an entire customer-base of guys who are poor at distinguishing good social cues from bad ones, so they’re almost always completely unaware of the quality of coaching they’re receiving.
In no particular order, here are the problems with the bootcamp model and why it’s an inefficient way to learn pick up:
1. Success with women is based on habits, not knowledge or a few experiences. Becoming successful with women requires a process of building a series of overlapping habits: good conversational habits, habits for expressing your sexuality, creating a habit of acting despite your anxiety, a habit of teasing and making jokes, a habit of dressing well, etc. All of these habits require two things: conscious practice and time. A bootcamp can provide one, but not both. And it’s debatable that a bootcamp provides better practice than a student would get on his own.
2. Bootcamps do not address poor lifestyle decisions. If you make poor lifestyle decisions, there is little that a bootcamp or that learning game can do to make you attractive. This includes being broke, unemployed, living with mom, having no friends or hobbies, dressing horribly, or being 40 pounds overweight — there were sadly a number of clients I had where most anything we did was ineffective because their personal lives were such a mess.
3. The bootcamp “high” and other concerns. One aspect of bootcamps which many companies take advantage of is the “high” a student gets in the immediate aftermath. Whenever people do something which is far outside of their comfort zone, they get a huge shot of adrenaline and endorphins. This often carries them for the next several hours or even days to do all sorts of actions or behaviors which they’d be too intimidated to do normally. Students often come out the other end of the bootcamp with the perception of massive improvement, even though what they were experiencing was a short-term emotional high. Some companies even consciously pursue giving students this high and then ask students for testimonials immediately afterward.
There’s nothing wrong with the bootcamp high. It can be great. The problem is the next week, or next month, when the coach is gone, the high has worn off and the student realizes he hasn’t really changed (success is based on habits, remember?). He’s stuck back at square one. Many men blame themselves for this. They become even more disillusioned and frustrated with their situation and give up. Others sign up for another bootcamp.
4. More does not necessarily equal better. The bootcamp model bases itself on the idea that more is better. More approaches. More theory. More phone numbers. More practice. More money. Little attention is paid to quality of interactions and the quality of habits being developed. What’s more useful, three approaches which really test a student’s boundaries and beliefs, or 20 which are hardly outside of his comfort zone? Is it better to get eight phone numbers from girls he doesn’t really care about, or one phone number from a girl he likes a lot? Is it better to learn how to approach a lot of women in a crude and manipulative way, or approach a few in an honest and authentic way?
5. Bootcamps cannot fix one’s poor self-perception. Something which surprised me, particularly early on, was how many of my clients were actually cooler and more successful guys than I was. They were already successful entrepreneurs, had interesting hobbies, were funny and charming, were bad asses in their careers, had amazing life experiences and stories to tell. And yet, here I was: this broke, unhealthy kid, who just happened to get laid a lot, and they were looking up to me. They thought I had it all figured out. It made no sense.
I never got far with these guys. Girls would love them, but they couldn’t see it. In their eyes, they were losers and someone needed to fix them. You couldn’t get this out of their heads. I even had a few clients who had slept with more women than me, who were still convinced that they sucked with women and I needed to teach them. One of them had already been with over 100 women. Yet he was paying me over a $1,000 to help him get more. Why? I have no idea, to be honest.
Looking back, I understand now these men needed therapy, not a dating coach. They suffered from low self-esteem and horrible self-images, both things I was not qualified to deal with. Hiring me was treating the symptom of their problems, not the illness. It’s because of cases like this that I began screening my clients in 2009 before accepting them. I couldn’t bring myself to take money of guys I couldn’t help. Over the last two years, I turned down approximately 10 men and told them to attend therapy, not a bootcamp. I never heard from them again.
6. Bootcamps can remove a man’s sense of responsibility to himself. We’re all experts at avoiding what makes us uncomfortable. As explained above, developing a habit of confronting our fears is a crucial step to becoming successful with women. It’s pretty sick, but there are a number of guys — usually rich guys — who have struggled with their anxiety for years and barely taken any action, so they hire a coach to relieve themselves of any responsibility. They throw money at you expecting you to fix them like they pay a mechanic to fix a car or something. They don’t actually want to take on any of the burden of improving themselves. These are the worst students. They refuse to cooperate. They try to debate you on theory when they have no experience. And they insist that you do everything, as if you’re a street performer they’ve hired for their evening entertainment. Anything to avoid doing it themselves.
The truth is that many people simply don’t want to improve. They want to find others to take the responsibility away from them. They want to live vicariously through others. They want validation and someone to complain to. One coach in the industry used to refer to this dynamic as the “rent a cool friend service.” That’s what it felt like at times. These miserable, nerdy guys paying you tons of money to come and just hang out with them and argue about evolutionary psychology for hours. It was another way of tricking themselves into thinking they were accomplishing something without actually having to risk accomplishing something.
Who Benefits From A Bootcamp?
With all of the flaws mentioned above, bootcamps can still be effective tools for specific individuals. When judging how much value one would get out of a program, here’s a good checklist to run through:
- Do you already have your life put together? Are you employed, do you have your own place, have friends and hobbies, and are you already in decent health?
- Do you feel that you are already somewhat confident in general? Do you have a positive and optimistic attitude about yourself? Do you honestly believe women can find you attractive if you just put in the work?
- Do you have one specific sticking point with women? For instance, once you meet them you do great, but you are just scared to death of approaching. Or perhaps you can already get dates, but they just never go anywhere. Does this describe you?
- Have you already gone out on your own and attempted to tackle the problem with friends or local wingmen?
- Are you NOT starstruck by the coach you want to hire? If the coach you want to hire was just a random guy you had never heard of, but he was guaranteed to fix your problem, would you be just as excited to sign up with him?
- Can you afford the cost of a program without burdening yourself financially?
If you answered “yes” to every question above, then chances are you’ll get value out of a program, assuming you go with a good coach/company. But if you answered to “yes” to every question above, then chances are you’d end up being successful eventually anyway. So it’s hard to say if the money is worth it.
In the case of men who already have their act together for a certain degree, bootcamps will speed up the process by quite a bit. And if they’ve got the money lying around, then it may be worth it to them.
Speaking of which…
Why Does It Cost So Much?
Pick up companies and their marketing will tell you bootcamps are expensive because they are the most valuable form of self improvement. They’re also labor-intensive and have a lot of expenses (travel, hotel, seminar rooms, etc.)
But there are other reasons bootcamps cost so much.
The pick up market is what’s referred to as price inelastic. That means that it’s a market where raising prices doesn’t affect demand very much. It’s why pick up books are often $47 or even $67, why seminars cost hundreds and bootcamps cost thousands. Unlike say, the market for milk, dating advice solves such a deep and painful problem that many men are willing to pay a lot to try and fix it. No one would pay $67 for a carton of milk. But a lot of people can be talked into $67 for a 150-page book.
This means for businesses to maximize revenue, they should have products both on the low end of the scale ($20-$50) and on the high end of the scale ($1,000+). It’s good business.
The other aspect of the market which makes this particularly profitable is what in psychology is referred to as the Dunning-Kruger Effect. The Dunning-Kruger Effect states that people of low competence in a skill are unable to recognize people of high competence of that same skill. For instance, people who are really bad at music will be poor at recognizing the difference between someone who’s a good musician and who’s a bad musician who says they’re good.
When you apply this to pick up, you get a large market of men with very low social competence, who are unable to recognize high competence, therefore they can be easily led into believing ridiculous claims and will be more likely to pay a lot of money to meet a coach for a weekend, when really there are probably a dozen guys in his neighborhood who are just as socially competent and just as successful with women if he looked for them.
And that’s the ultimate problem with bootcamps, and why companies are able to charge so much. It’s not just about the advice. It’s about the personalities. Many times, consumers in the market begin to look up to the coaches as role models whether they realize it or not. As men, our sexuality is closely tied to our self-esteem. So when we see someone who is achieving the kind of sexual success we can only dream of, they begin to become a form of celebrity in our minds. This is why Mystery can charge people $10,000 a weekend to learn some weird magic tricks. People aren’t just paying for the advice anymore. They’re paying to see Mystery. To hang out with him. To talk to him. It’s human nature.
But you don’t need to spend a weekend with a personality to improve yourself. You don’t even need to pay anyone. If you have trouble approaching and are considering getting coached, consider this option. Take your $2,000. Give it to your best friend. Tell your friend to come out with you for three nights and not to give the $2,000 back until you approach 25 girls. Do this for conversations or escalation or whatever your issue is. Tell him to watch you and tell you if he sees you doing anything weird. Do NOT discuss pick up theory with him, just ask him to mention anything he sees which seems weird. Chances are, your friend will notice a few obvious places you’re screwing up. They’re usually not hard for others to notice.
There are some men out there who get a lot of value out of coaching. But I honestly think that the above strategy would be almost as useful for 80% of the guys out there. And if you do screw up and chicken out, if you fail and don’t improve, you’ll still be out $2,000. But at least your best friend will have it and not some guy you read about on the internet.
Overall I’m satisfied with my experiences with my former clients. There certainly were some I didn’t help. There certainly were some who probably shouldn’t have signed up for coaching and wouldn’t have if they were more aware of their problems. But there were many who did benefit, and a few who benefited a lot. It was an interesting experience, and I actually learned a lot about teaching and motivating.
A number of people have asked me if I will ever start coaching again. The answer is no. At least in the form that coaching takes in the pick up industry. If I ever return to working with people in person, it will be in a new and different capacity, and hopefully one that’s far more effective.