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The process of getting better at dating can be a difficult one. There are a lot of self-limiting beliefs that can be hard to overcome – not the least of which being that you’re “stuck” at wherever you are and there’s nothing you can do. It’s part of the binary-view of social skills that guys tend to get brought up in; you’re good with women or you aren’t. Either you’re socially awkward or you aren’t. You’re popular… or you aren’t.
And of course, there’re a lot of people who buy into this. It’s a tempting narrative after all; when there’s no hope and no choice, you are relieved of all responsibility. You can point to the world at being unfair or complain that other people demonize your natural-if-awkwardly-expressed desires. It absolves you, in many ways, of having to do any self-examination. After all, if the world’s unfair, then isn’t it better to demand that the world change?
But that’s not how it works. That’s not how any of it works.
One of the things that I like to emphasize is that dating is a skill. And any skill can be improved with practice. The tricky part though, is that developing a skill can take time. If we buy into the axiomatic 10,000 hours for mastery… that’s a lot of time before you can get good at something. And with all the skills that can comprise a successful dating life… well, that’s going to take forever, isn’t it?
No. No it isn’t.
Today, I’m going to teach you about how you can radically improve your social skills in almost no time. If you’re ready to shave off the time it takes to learn to be the dating master you know you can be… well, this week is for you.
The Inefficiencies of Practice
The way you improve any skill is simple: you put in deliberate practice. If you’re going to try to improve at basketball, you run drills, you take shots, you work on your hustle. If you want to get better at an academic discipline, you study, you read, you memorize, you take tests.
So it is with dating. If you want to get better at dating… you practice. You go out, you make approaches, you flirt with strangers and so forth and so on. At least… that’s what I did.
Turns out, I was doing it wrong.
As it turned out, the way I was practicing slowed me down. Without meaning to, I had actually made things more difficult. See, I introduced a lot of inefficiencies into how I was developing my skills as a PUA. The amount of time I had to devote to practice was getting dwarfed by how I was practicing.
In my case, all of my practice was focused on being out “in the field” as it were. All my practicing was based around going out and making constant approaches.
Now it makes sense that – especially at the time – if I wanted to get good at picking up girls and bars, then I needed to spend time picking up girls in bars. That was always going to be part of how I practiced, just as scrimmages and matches are part of practicing at sports. But that’s not the only way to practice. Because I was only practicing my skills at specific times – nights out, occasional daytime approaches – I was slowing myself down. Like trying to drive without leaving first gear, I was gonna get there eventually but it was going to take fucking forever.
The thing I missed at first is that the skills that make someone better at dating are discrete as well as amalgamated. You don’t only use them when you’re out getting laid; you use them all the time. They’re part of how we socialize; the only difference is in how we use them and the end goal. Once you understand that, you’re in a position to learn those skills far faster than you ever realized.
Breaking Down The Skills of Dating
One of the reasons why a lot of guys get frustrated learning how to flirt and date is that we try to do too much, all at once. My attention was too divided to make any substantive progress; I couldn’t focus on any one thing because I was trying to focus on all the things.
Just going to bars and hitting on women made it difficult to figure out where I was going wrong. Did this person not respond because I was too pushy? Was it because I wasn’t dressed cool enough? Maybe I didn’t generate enough chemistry. Or maybe she didn’t like me and I didn’t pick up on it. There was no real way to troubleshoot what I was doing wrong because there were too many variables.
It also didn’t help that I wasn’t sure what I needed to actually work on. Part of what slows us down when we’re learning how to date – or want to date better – is that we tend to focus on the wrong things. Just as trying to practice it all at once is inefficient, we often expend our time and energy on things that aren’t nearly as mission-critical as we believe. The Pareto Principle – the idea that 20% of your effort gets you 80% of your results – is incredibly relevant to dating. The things that we tend to think are important vs. what we actually need to focus on is often night-and-day different.
Take cold-approaches, for example. Part of what slows down a lot of men who try to approach people is that they think they need the first few seconds to be perfect. As a result, they obsess about opening lines and plausible reasons to approach someone. The problem is that the opener is literally one of the least important parts of an approach. You don’t need a perfect line because all you’re trying to do is get a conversation started. Understanding how to connect with someone and get them interested in you is far more important than the first words out of your mouth.
So before you drive yourself crazy trying to master everything at the same time, you want to take a little time to break down dating overall into its components. There’s the socialization aspects, the ways you generate chemistry, the way you present yourself… all of it. And to be fair: it can be a bit overwhelming. It can be useful to go through, say, New Game + and separate things out. Divide things into their own sub-categories to make it more manageable. From there, you want to figure out not only which aspects are the ones you need to work on the most. After all, not everybody is going to start at the same place. We all have our natural aptitudes and weaknesses, and we all have areas that require more work than others.
You might have a decent lifestyle but need to put more work into connecting with people, whereas someone else might have to deal with internal issues while otherwise being fairly charismatic. Still others will want to work on their external presentation.
But just as important as choosing what we need to work on is how to do it.
The Art of Integrating Life and Practice
Improving any skill takes practice and practice takes time. However, while you can’t cut down the total amount of time it takes to get better at a skill – particularly the skills involved in dating – you can spend that time more efficiently. In my case, if I wanted to practice, I had to go get gussied up, maybe get ahold of some of my friends or regular wingmen and head out to the bars. And since downtown doesn’t really get started until around 10 PM, that meant there was a lot of time spent not practicing. That, in turn, added to the amount of time it took for me to improve.
YouTuber Mike Boyd, who runs the Learn Quick channel has a great video explaining this issue:
Learning a new skill in a timely manner isn’t about cutting down the time it takes to learn it – you’re going to learn at your own pace, regardless of what you do – it’s about making it more efficient. The less time you have to devote to the things you need to do to practice in the first place, the faster you learn. That’s why it’s important to find ways to integrate practicing the skills you want to develop into your everyday life.
Fortunately, when it comes to dating, those opportunities are everywhere.
Let’s go back to the example of cold approaches. At it’s core, a cold approach is just starting a conversation with someone. There is fundamentally no difference between approaching a stranger at a bar and starting a brief conversation with the person in front of you when you’re in line for your daily latte at Starbucks. The only divergence is in the ultimate goal; presumably you’re not trying to fuck your fellow caffeine junkie. But it’s that very similarity that gives you opportunities to develop your skills.
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Having a brief conversation with somebody is a great way to develop those skills. It’s low-stakes (you’re not invested in the outcome) and it’s low risk (the worst case scenario is that they ignore you). But while the investment is low, the payoff is spectacular. The same skills that let you make brief small talk with a stranger are what help you out when it “counts”, whether it’s meeting people at parties or building up the relationships that strengthen your professional network.
This is why one of the things I advise people who deal with approach anxiety is to simply start by going up to people and asking them for the time. Once you’re used to asking for the time, you start pretending to be a tourist in your own town and ask for directions. Once you’re comfortable with asking for directions, you give a little context to your question – you’re new in town, you’re meeting someone, you just want to find the best tom young goong. They are small, incremental challenges that quickly demystify approaching people you might be attracted to. With time and practice, it becomes part of your muscle memory; eventually approaching strangers and ending up with a new friend is just something you do instead of having to force it every time.
Even time at home alone is time that you can devote to practice. There are a number of social skills you can refine during the time you’d otherwise be farting around on Facebook or getting into fights on Twitter.
Of course, as you’re doing this, you have to remember the other thing that prolongs the time it takes to get good:
Push Past The Pain Period
The hardest thing about any new skill is the first few hours of practice. No matter who you are and no matter what skill you’re trying to learn, you’re going to suck. There’s no getting around it. The process of learning a skill is the same, regardless of whether you’re learning an instrument or trying to learn to seduce women. You start with unconscious incompetence – that is: you don’t know what you don’t know because you’ve never done it before. When you first start to develop the skill you move to what’s called conscious incompetence: getting smacked in the face with just how bad you are at this.
This is the part that kicks most people square in their insecurities. Yeah, you may have been intellectually ready to admit you weren’t going to be great at this but getting hit with being that bad? That’s going to demoralize you and make you wonder why you’re even bothering. But the truth of the matter is: everyone goes through this. This is the pain period – the point where you are continually, uncomfortably aware being fucking awful. It will make you question why in pluperfect Hell you’re putting yourself through this torture. It will leave you feeling lower than a snake’s ass in a drainage ditch, convinced that literally anyone else would be better than you at this.
When it seems like you’re the worst, the absolute worst at something, it’s hard to want to continue. You lose your motivation to practice. After all, what’s the point? You’re awful, you know it, why keep underlining it? This is the part where most people quit.
But that’s the thing: you’re only bad at it because you’ve never done it before. The pain period hurts because there’s that part of you that expected it to be easy. It’s ok: everyone does, and everyone goes through this.
Think of it like the ache of underused muscles: it may hurt but only at first. If you can grit your teeth, clench your emotional fists and push through that frustration it will stop hurting. Not immediately. Not at first. First it will just hurt less. You may still suck but not as hard as before. But as you keep at it, if you keep practicing, you’ll reach the next level. You’ll hit the point of conscious competence: you know what you’re doing but you have to think about it. And if you continue practicing, you hit the final stage: unconscious competence. It’ll become part of your muscle memory, the things that you without thinking.
But only if you push through the pain period. Only if you take that frustration and redouble your efforts to improve.
Which is why the last point may be the most important:
Don’t Let The Perfect Become The Enemy of The Good
Remember what I said about taking 10,000 hours to master something? That’s actually an exaggeration. See, the 10,000 hours of practice is what it takes to be a master of something. Not just good but “best in the world” levels of good. That’s the level of Olympic athletes and chess Grandmasters. But we let the idea of 10,000 hours become our Everest. We assume we need to hit that level of mastery when in reality? You only need to be pretty good.
We let the idea of perfection fuck us over. We get angry when our practice is off, when we make minor mistakes we feel like we should be past already. If we don’t do everything 100% correctly, we’ve failed.
But it’s not true. The point of practice is to make mistakes – we want to learn so we can self-edit and self-correct. Practice is how we learn what mistakes we’re making and how to fix them. That’s the point. And by making those mistakes, we learn how to not make them again. Practice helps us realize how far we’ve come.
Learning a skill can be frustrating. There will be plateaus and mistakes and walls we think we can never overcome. This is as true in dating as it is in sports or chess or music. But you can break through, if you keep at it.
You don’t need to put in 10,000 hours to reach your goal – whether it’s one special person or a dozen sexual encounters. You just need to put in the work. By practicing in the right way, you can develop our skills faster than you ever believed you could.
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This article originally appeared on Doctor Nerd Love
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