A Former Pickup Artist Gives Us A Sneak Peek Into The Secret World Of PUAs

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Last week, two of our bloggers were duped into attending a pickup artist (aka PUA) training bootcamp as “fresh meat” for the trainees to practice on. After reading about our experience, one male reader – a former PUA trainee – decided to come forward and share his story. 


So, disclaimer here: I’m a guy, and I’m about to talk about pickup artistry.

Before I jump in, let me make one thing clear: I don’t condone misogyny, rape, harassment or manipulation in any shape or form, period. I’m of the position that there is a ton of misinformation regarding this stuff based on events that have happened in recent months. I acknowledge that we have larger issues in society about how we treat women, and relationships between the sexes in general. I don’t intend to wade into that pool. I believe if we can treat each other with the respect we deserve, it solves 90 percent of the problems that pickup artistry poses to solve.


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With all that being said – ‘game’ has gotten a really bad rap these days.

What started innocently enough with a book, “The Game” by Neil Strauss, has evolved in ways most didn’t expect. The book itself wasn’t really a guide to picking up girls, it was more of a story penned by Neil about his journey to getting better with girls, and the characters he met along the way. Most of the criticism of the book was related that fact that it seemed unreal, and I thought it was misplaced.  I read it as just a first person perspective on a crazy world.  Everything published after was to capitalize on the book’s success and provide how-to guides on how to talk to girls.

However, with the recent tragedy in California, more attention has been paid to a sub-genre of the world called the Pickup Artist (PUA). The mostly widely known and caricatured figure is a guy nicknamed “Mystery”. His life was chronicled in Neil’s book and went on to do a television show on VH1.  Most of what gets criticized is his initial ‘Mystery Method’ system, which sought to provide some kind of structured system in a world of chaos.

Then, there are people like myself. After resisting reading it for fear of ridicule, I finally gave in. Although, like most guys that end up reading this material, I had reached a breaking point. For myself, it was breaking up with my girlfriend and considering suicide because she accused me of cheating. I was deathly afraid of even LOOKING at another girl. I didn’t feel confident in myself, or even worthy.

So, I picked up the book.  To say it blew my mind was an understatement. I instantly connected with Neil and his story. His experiences and explanations made a ton of sense.  To date I have met both Neil and Mystery and they don’t seem all that horrible.

There was also something else – Neil was originally from Chicago, and the book mentioned a seduction group (or ‘lair’ as they called it) that existed in Chicago. So, out of morbid curiosity I decided to go find these guys and see if any of this was real. To be honest, I couldn’t believe spouting off stupid pickup lines could attract girls. Let’s put it this way – I was both wrong and right.


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My first meeting with this group of guys was at a college bar in Lincoln Park. For the uninitiated, the whole premise of pickup artistry is to ‘open’ or chat up with as many girls as possible, using canned lines or routines. Unfortunately, I only remembered one of the ‘openers’ from the book.  Nonetheless, I tried it, and it worked. I couldn’t believe it at the time. Thinking back, it was like the first hit of a crackpipe. I didn’t get any phone numbers that night, but I did make friends with some guys and got immersed in the culture. The stereotypes were all true – we were just a bunch of nerds trying to figure all this stuff out.

So, for the next few years, I dressed up, went out with my newly minted wingmen and tried to game up girls. I had some moderate success – at least for me. Success meant that I got some of the female attention of which I so craved. I finally was able to talk to girls, go out to venues that I wouldn’t have dared otherwise, and have some really awesome experiences.

However, there came a point where it became to be a problem – particularly the exposure pickup artistry was getting. Also, I began to realize that I wasn’t getting a lot out of going out at night and talking to girls that I would never want to talk to in the first place. To be honest, after that first night out, I never went home feeling awesome, even though I could see some tangible results.

Then there was an additional problem – I didn’t want to be disrespectful to women, as some of the material had advised. I was criticized for not going hard enough, but I had a legitimate fear that it would backfire or I would have additional consequences of which I didn’t want to endure.  Also, these rote lines and routines we used to talk to girls were great in theory, but they didn’t help with the things that arise when you are actually out in the field.


pickup artist training bootcamp


Most of the interaction we had with the ‘community’ was online. There was a ton of information being put out there, but most of it was conflicting information. There was dissension among the ranks as to how to go about all this stuff. There was a few camps out there – one sided with Mystery and his line of thinking, and then there were other factions.

On top of this, tons of male-dominated pickup and seduction companies all started springing up. Most of the owners were former students of Mystery that decided to get a bigger piece of the action. Predictably, they would create lists about how their previous master skills didn’t work, and the discussion was just as dramatic as you can imagine high school girl’s gossip can be.  They worked on a horrible business model using high-pressure commissioned sales and information products. The info products themselves were low quality and loss leading type stuff, and anything expensive was typically pirated and uploaded online someplace for consumption.

Then there were the PUA bootcamps. These consisted of having the “seduction expert” of choice train you and accompany you out into the field in order to push you into interactions. The cost, however was usually exorbitant – anywhere between $5,000 to $10,000 bucks for a weekend bootcamp. Even worse? The sales process usually preyed on your insecurities and self-worth, promising you a near magic bullet to solve your romantic woes.

But in truth – there is no magic bullet.


pickup artistry


I did participate in a bootcamp myself, which helped a little bit to improve my game. I only participated because I got a huge discount on the bootcamp for hosting both the coach and the class in my apartment. At the time, I couldn’t believe that the men behind this seemingly glamorous lifestyle who were running this expensive bootcamp couldn’t afford a conference room to train these guys in.

The first part of the bootcamp was just ‘classroom’ instruction and taking notes. The second part consisted of going out to a night club both Friday and Saturday night and having someone just observe you talk to girls. I remember not having a good time because of the live criticism I was getting – there was no way for me to digest or process it all in one sitting.

In defense of it all, the tactics I learned truly did help me in other areas of my life. I found that the skills I had learned at the bootcamp helped me immensely at networking events. While I wasn’t trying to pick anyone up, it helped to start some conversations and drum up business. Ultimately, the major takeaway from PUA training I participated in was this: don’t take rejection personally, and always talk to a bunch of girls when going out.


pickup artists


In the end, PUA training was only a starting point. I finally went to see a therapist, and that was the best ‘game’ investment (and improvement!) I could have made. I started working out some of my personal issues, which in turn made my relationships better. Additionally, I made a conscious effort to build a social circle of outgoing friends. Going out and doing fun things with them allowed me to meet new girls and ask them out. I’ve met my last few serious girlfriends that way, and it lasted longer than anyone I had met going out and spitting PUA lines.

I have to admit – I do still have one opener that I use, which is simple: “Hi, my name is James. I thought you were gorgeous, so I wanted to say hi.” and I take it from there.

No matter what is being debated in the war of the sexes, we do know that “game” is happening and people are hooking up. Sadly, the pickup community has not stopped since my departure from it. There are still companies out there peddling the same crap, some right here in Chicago. Many of them have begun distancing themselves from traditional PUAs. In addition, many master pickup artists are running into a wall with feminist supporters finally calling them out on their bull. From my own experience, investing money into these companies was a waste of time.


I have some quick takeaways for guy friends thinking this stuff might solve their dating problems.

  • Read this article by Mark Manson. Yes he was featured in The Game – and he’s now out of it.
  • Work on yourself first. Common denominator is you in all interactions. No amount of game will cover it.
  • The most useful information falls into the self-help arena. Tony Robbins and a few other entrepreneurial books are much better than any pickup artistry book out there.
  • Seek professional help. Don’t trust your sanity to unlicensed and potentially dangerous people.
  • Get a social life. Meetup.com, recreational sports leagues, all provide a steady stream of available single people who want to meet you.
  • Make an effort to meet new people. Don’t sit and wait for new people to meet you.
  • Choose wisely. If you are going to get dating advice / help, make sure it’s a complement to your life and not a detriment.


Lastly, I stick with a few sources for dating and life advice now and one is The Art of Charm. Tip: ignore their marketing bullcrap and download their free podcasts and material, which you’ll find to be quite useful.

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