If you read The Game, you saw him use it to transform himself from an average frustrated chump to a master pickup artist. When you read his upcoming book, Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead, you’ll see how he uses it to get celebrities like Tom Cruise and Madonna to open up.
Neil Strauss can create extreme rapport quickly, and in this rare, audio-only interview, he’ll show you how he does it.
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Here’s the program.
Andrew: Hi, everyone. It’s Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. How do you create extreme rapport? That’s what I set out to learn in this audio only interview, with author Neil Strauss. In his previous book, “The Game,” Neil talked about how he transformed himself from an average frustrated chump to a pickup artist by building quick rapport with women. And in his latest book, “Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead,” you can see how his ability to break through people’s facades and create a real connection led to powerful interviews with celebrities like Tom Cruise and Madonna. But what can you do if you can create extreme rapport? You’ll find out in this program.
By the way, you’ll notice as I start this program that my voice is a little nervous in it. At the end of the conversation, Neil gives one suggestion for one thing you can do if your ever as nervous as I was in a conversation. When I do it, pay attention to my voice and tell me if you think it works. So, I won’t reveal much more than that.
I’ll just say, here’s the program, and I’ll start you off with the first question that I asked Neil Strauss in my phone call interview with him. Here we go.
Neil, your next book is “Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead.” What’s the book about?
Neil: Before I did “The Game,” I spent, probably 15 years as a journalist in these sort of high pressure situations with celebrities, where your forced to, you know, Lady Gaga has given you just one hour of time. You have to somehow get three days with her or Courtney Love or what have you. So it’s really a collection of the kind of like most, kind of revealing or dark or insane moments of these celebrity interviews. Each with sort of like either a lesson about life or about rapport or about breaking through someone’s facade and inside. It’s sort of all these interview moments sort of strung together, these kind of educational, entertaining tidbits.
Andrew: You know, I understand why I, as an entrepreneur going into a conference, might have a hard time getting someone who I meet to open up. I understand maybe how a guy going into a bar might have a tough time getting a woman who he had never met before to open up, but is it really that hard to get a celebrity, someone who is so fascinating that there are magazines and books and TV shows all about them, is it that tough to get them to open up and be interesting?
Neil: Oh, yeah. I mean it’s ridiculous. I mean, of course with somebody who wants press, they’re going to kind of give you what you want. But even then, if you’re doing an interview, as you know, someone is only showing a side of themselves and they’re showing what they want everyone to see. So there are two kind of challenges to it. The first is breaking through to the real person, not the mask they want to present to the public, but who they really are, which is what you want to present to the world. And the second thing is, if you’re dealing with someone one on the level of . . . remember, the most recent ones would be Lady Gaga and Ben Stiller, even Tom Cruise, that there were situations where that person is so busy that they only wanted to give a journalist an hour of time. How do you break through that and get three days or a week with probably one of the most famous and busy people in the world, to not only give you that time, but there’s also a level of trust, because when you walk away with all their words on your recording, you have their entire public image in your hands. You know, you can, and that’s a scary thing for them, because that’s losing control over their image when they give that power to somebody else.
Andrew: So how do you do that? Can you give me an example of someone who only gave you maybe an hour and ended up spending more than a day with you?
Neil: Yeah. I think Lady Gaga was the most recent example. And it was funny because you never really know how it’s going to happen. You don’t really have this planned. But I think what happened was she didn’t want me to see a certain show of hers, and I was like, “Listen I want to go see the show. I want to see your current tour. I want to see what’s going on, so that inform the interview better.” She finally said to me backstage that, you know when you were pushing to see that show and I knew that you just didn’t want to do a hack article on me, but you really wanted to get the information, I knew I could trust you and I could let you into my world. So with her, it was showing that you genuinely cared about her and her music and were not someone who’s just kind of coming in to exploit her or take advantage of her. I think with these people on this level, and it’s true in business as well as in pop and fame, is they’re so used to getting used and they also all feel misunderstood and like no one really knows them on some level. It’s showing them that (a) you’re coming from where they’re coming from.
So I think there is an art of empathy. There’s an art of caring and there’s truly not coming in with an agenda. And I’m sure you guys know if you’re coming into someone and you have a use for them and this is true in the game of dating, if you’re coming and approaching a girl and you just want to get laid. If you walk into a situation with someone who runs a very powerful company that you want help from and you want their help. Or (c) you’re walking into an interviewer, to a subject and you just want to sell a bunch of magazines. Whatever that situation is, as soon as they feel your neediness, they’re instantly repelled. But on the other hand, as soon as they feel some level of empathy and understanding and your lack of an agenda, it really helps. I mean I have a lot of friends that I’ve had through these interviews, and I keep those friends by never asking them for anything.
Andrew: How do you do that? How do you, when you meet somebody for the first time, who doesn’t have much time for you, create that or communicate empathy? Or communicate that you’re someone worth spending time with?
Neil: Yeah. I think it’s interesting and it’s almost ironic, which is I think the first thing, is, and it’s funny, now that we’re talking, I really see the parallels now between “The Game” and my kind of interviewing like that I didn’t before, but there’s an idea being non-threatening, right? And to draw the parallel, in “The Game,” for example why was it easier for me, like a five foot six scrawny guy to approach a woman than for like some like guy who looked like a quarterback or something like that? The truth was I could come in non-threatening, and then give them time to know my personality. And it’s the same thing, if you walk into an interview, whether it’s with a celebrity or again with an executive, you’re trying to pretend like you’re an equal when you’re not. Right away they’re repelled. It seems phony, it seems insincere, it seems try hard. So, I usually walk in and I’m almost tiptoeing gingerly around that world of allowing them to get comfortable with you. It’s almost like introducing two cats, right? If you just throw them together in a box, they’re going to start fighting. But if you leave them out in the center of the floor, you let them sniff each other a little bit, and slowly they get comfortable with each other. It’s the exact same thing, and it’s all about that first . . . it’s just so funny man, and again because this is the first interview I’ve really done about the new book, I’m realizing the parallels. But those first 60 seconds are so important, because people, maybe even 30 seconds, because people make up their mind right away, I like this guy or I don’t like this guy.
Andrew: You literally, in “The Game,” had a bag of tricks that you would go out to pick up women with. Do you have a bag of tricks here when you go to get a celebrity to open up?
Neil: Yeah, you know, it’s funny. I mean in “The Game” I eventually got rid, I mean I literally had a bag of tricks like you’re saying, this prop bag. I eventually got rid of it as I learned the internal tools. Those props were necessary, but they were sort of the baby steps to make up for eventually learning to demonstrate those skills inside. So, you know, the one thing that I do with every interview is, and again I would recommend this for kind of any situation, is I sit there before I’m going into a situation. I’m going to write down like every question I could ever possibly ask. Pages and pages and pages of questions. It might be five handwritten pages. Before I go to the interview till the last second, I’m studying those questions, every single question. And once I get into the room, I fold up that paper. I put it in my back pocket, and I never look at it again. I let the conversation take its course, but I know where to direct it, where to guide it, you know, where the flow is. And I think the same is true, when I was out doing “The Game,” I would really prepare. But when I’m in the moment, you have to be in the moment because I think a lot of, if we’re going to be talking about journalism, if we’re going to talk about interviews, again if we’re going to talk about “The Game,” people might make a mistake of trying to follow a format rather than letting the organic nature of the social interaction take its own course.
Andrew: You know, I notice that people, whether it’s in private conversations or in interviews like this, often have a set pattern that they go back to when they feel threatened. Maybe they start using corporate words, like verticals and customer centric. Maybe it’s something else. But once they get into that, how do you snap them out of it and get them into normal conversation, and better still get them to open up about who they really are?
Neil: Yeah, it’s true. It’s true. It’s funny that you said that. I think this is going to be like the worst parallel ever drawn on your show, in the history of your show, but I’m going to draw this parallel because it comes to mind, and I apologize to some of you I’m about to offend. But I would say the worst example and the most dangerous example of that, in my experience, whether it’s journalism or pick-up or what have you, is strippers. Which is that, there’s really a binary code, and when went out, and again, it was sort of just a challenge, you know there was a challenge when we’re doing “The Game.” Some of the stuff was just a challenge. Can you go into these different situations and make it work? They have these auto pilot responses, kind of like you’re saying about executives. And you know when someone is going into auto pilot. And then the tendency to just be nice and to listen, to play along. But we call these things bad threads. And you have to cut off that bad thread right away because the deeper you get into it, the harder it is to go there. Sometimes that bad thread is like what you said. It’s somebody who starts to go into the safety of jargon. Sometimes it’s somebody who starts, you know, you feel like they’re starting to wrap it up and go somewhere else, or it could be the fact that somebody is, you’ve actually touched on something they disagree with, and you’re trying to, like, dig yourself out of the hole but you keep digging yourself deeper into the hole. Those are bad threads, and you cut them right away. So as soon as you hit those bad threads . . . did you see the movie “Inception”?
Andrew: Yes, I did. The one with all the dreams.
Neil: Right. So the thing about “Inception” is, and by the way I just did it. It doesn’t matter. People try to transition out of it. You just pop into something else with higher energy. Did you see the movie “Inception,” or whatever you’re going to talk about. You just cut that thread off and you talk about something else, and you don’t need transitions. People think they need transitions to get out of it. You just say it with higher energy. Someone gets caught into the conversation, and they forget that it was ever linked to what you said before. So right away you cut the bad thread.
Andrew: Oh. That’s amazing. So can you give me an example of who you’ve done that with? Do you remember doing it, or does it just now come naturally?
Neil: Let me think of a good one. I definitely think with Madonna. It’s interesting because “The Game” really affected my interviewing life. You’ll see it in the book. Once I found the game, my interviews got a lot better. I’ll give you another kind of tip, another thing I learned that’s related to both, which is what the opposite of neediness is being able to offer something. I’m sure a lot of other people have said this on your interviews. But what you offer doesn’t have to have a material benefit, like designing a website or giving a gift or time or something. Benefit can really be teaching somebody something about themselves. There is a famous example in “The Game” one of the big interviews was going really poorly, with Britney Spears, maybe that’s a good example I’ll use that one. And then also, I kind of transcribed it word for word in the new book, just to help people kind of replicate that with other people. But with Britney Spears, you were saying sometimes you talk with celebrities and they just don’t care. They’re just not there. You’re just half an hour blocked on their schedule that they’re going to tolerate. It’s not like an article in the New York Times, which would be huge for probably a lot of people on this call and for myself and just about anybody else. It’s not really going to affect Britney Spears’ career one way or the other, at that point, which was at the top of her kind of game. So the interview was just going poorly. It was just kind of yes/no answers, nothing was happening. All of a sudden, a gear just started in my brain. I was like, “Let me just do what’s worked on every woman I’ve ever talked to in “The Game,” which is start teaching her something about herself. So I think we started talking about . . . sometimes you have studied NLP, talking about eye access and cues and eye movements and what those mean. I remember doing the same thing with Madonna as well. In Britney Spears’ case, it was a way to get her to trust me and open up. With Madonna, it was a case of kind of getting her off her program. I think you were talking earlier about the programs. You know her program is like, “I’m the Queen and everybody else is my subjects.” And saying, “Hey, man, there’s something you can learn from me if you pay more attention.”
Andrew: Can you give me more details on how you did that with Madonna? With Britney Spears, by the way, what you said, if I remember it right, was you gave her some insight to who she was. When she said yes that’s perfectly me and ask how you did that, you said well it had something to do with the way you move your eyes to the left and to the top and so on. And she said tell me more, she wanted more insight into herself. How did you do that with Madonna?
Neil: I think it was something similar, like I think we did the lying game. I said, you know what, I’ll teach you something, I’ll tell you what, I’ll teach you something interesting which is a great way to tell when people are lying. And everybody by the way always wants to know, who isn’t afraid of being lied to or led along. And I said, you know if you, a great way to tell if someone is lying without them even saying a word by just watching their body language and their movements. So we kind of took her and I think her manager and her like stylist, we were like on her plane flying to Germany for this interview. And I kind of taught her this game, and she got like just super, super into it. Everywhere we went, she was testing it out on people, and I’ll tell you guys what it is, just so you know. And I think it relates to where you’re going anyway, which is the idea of rapport and building rapport is watching what people’s body language means, because their body language will tell you more than anything their words will say. Like I know if I’m talking to someone and they like start to look at their watch or tug at their watch or anything, okay, it’s time for me to end this before they end it.
So I’m always watching body language as much so if not more than, as much as I’m listening. So with this, it’s really cool and I hate to give it away, but you can kind of try it with your friends which is you have somebody think of five things about their brother or their sister, about a car, about their house, about anything. They don’t say them, they think them. And right before they’re about to think about these five things, you say, “I’ll say one, think the first thing. Two, think the second thing.” And right before you say it, you say, “And make one of them a lie.” And now think the first thing, and they think five things. All you are looking for is a variance in their eye movements. In other words, if someone goes up and to the right to think and they once go up and to the left on one, that’s probably the lie. So you can generally, about 80% accuracy or 85% accuracy guess the lie. And even if you’re wrong, it’s still fun, so it doesn’t matter. You know they had fun and they learned something and it’s still true. A lot of people worry about, when they do these kind of exercises, they have to be right. It doesn’t matter if you’re right, as long as somebody is enjoying the experience and learning something.
I remember after the Madonna interview, she like actually counts on her fingers the things she had learned from me. It turned out to be a great story. I think that’s why I’ve [inaudible 17:24] for so long, and it’s not even being purposeful or trying to be scheming about doing it. I just know it’s more interesting for that person because they’ve met so many journalists before, and it’s going to get a more interesting interview and let them let down their guard.
I think that there is one other important piece I want to mention. I think I left out besides not conveying neediness, besides being able to offer something, another key is not judging someone. Like as soon as somebody feels judged, they’re not going to show you who they are and they are going to limit their communications and what they show to you. So there are some people who almost . . . I’m sure you’ve met those people, almost by nature, you just feel like they’re there evaluating you and judging people. And I think judging is a nice way to have power in a situation. Someone feels like your the judge, and they’re going to try to behave well for you, and that’s good in certain situations. But when you’re trying to create rapport, especially with someone who is above one’s level or someone you want to do business with, by them not feeling judged, they really let down their guard and open up with you, whether it’s about just who they are, or maybe they’ve done some unsavory things. Maybe you’re with them in some other country and they’re cheating on their wife or something like that. If you start judging that or talking negatively about that, they’re going to close off that part of their life from you and that is a choice you can make. You know that may be important to express your feelings on it, than to let them do that. But, you know, it has consequences. And I know personally, from having been interviewed and being an interviewer, that the most important thing that I think that I subconsciously do is, because I’m not a judgmental person, is not judging that person. The less you judge, the more they open up.
Andrew: I hope this doesn’t come off as judgmental, but I’m looking here at the list of people who you’ve interviewed – Dave Navarro, Cher, Johnny Cash, Bryan Wilson, Eric Clapton. They’re all in the upcoming book. What’s the name of the book? It’s “Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead.” So I’m looking at all these celebrities and wondering why, why celebrities? Why is Neil Strauss so fascinated by celebrities that he has dedicated years of his life to studying them, to interviewing them, to promoting them? Why?
Neil: I think that’s a good question. I think to me it’s more a fascination with culture. I’m not that interested in celebrity, like you’re not going to see Kim Kardashian in there. I’m interested, to me having grown up in music, this whole game thing was like a complete accident. You know, it definitely wasn’t an intention. I was just lonely. I was like a lonely kid who found people who understood me through music. Because if you’re lonely, you listen to some sad music. If you’re happy, happy, exciting music connects with you. So to me originally, it was a chance to meet those people who you’ve idolized as a kid, who you grew up with, who are able to communicate on this amazing level. So to me it wasn’t, I’m not interested in the celebrity factor. I’m more interested in the artist factor, although occasionally you end up interviewing people who are bigger celebrities than they are artists. And I’ll tell you something else interesting, because it’s a really good question. I’ve never gone to therapy in my life, and these things are almost like a form of therapy because whether as a young guy growing up, or even now, when I’m interviewing these people and they’re living, Bruce Springstein said that the leap of consciousness that it takes to go from being unknown to being famous is something most human beings are just not able to healthily handle. And because they’re living life in such an extreme way, I always felt like . . . I would go into these interviews not just trying to get a story for Rolling Stone or what have you about who is dating who. I was really like looking back through the interviews trying to ask questions about the meaning of life from them and to learn about it from them. And on a level, I did. To learn about the importance of family versus career and art. To learn about, you know, belief in God versus not belief in God and how does that affect one’s career. To learn about, you know, ambition versus balance versus, and also how do they run it. I think you are doing the same thing with these interviews, is what are you learning from the people who are successful in their lives, that you can then apply to your own life. So there was initially an element of fandom and excitement. And then later there was that element of what can I learn from them that I can apply to my own life.
Andrew: You know one thing I noticed about my life was that when I was a loser with dating, it fired me up to work harder because I thought that every minute and every bit of effort that I put into my work would mean that Id be much more successful and then girls and everything else would come to me. And I see that fires up a lot of other entrepreneurs. When you were in that stage, do you feel like you were fired up because of it? That you worked harder, that you were maybe writing 5,000 questions instead of a few hundred questions before an interview? Were things different?
Neil: I think I understand the question, but I want to make sure I do. The motivating factor to work hard was . . .
Andrew: How did it impact your work ethic, to feel like you were lesser than other guys when it came to dating, to feel that there was something that you still needed to do?
Neil: Yeah, I defiantly think it’s fully responsible for my success. I mean for one thing, there’s just the amount of free time, right? If I was successful, I would have been going on dates and having girls sleep over all the time and probably wouldn’t have written 4,000 articles combined for the New York Times and Rolling Stone and everywhere else. You know, just a lot of freaking free time. I definitely would not have been successful as a writer if I didn’t have the trouble that I did.
Andrew: Beyond the free time, what about the motivation? What about your own inner need that came out through the work?
Neil: Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t think that was it. Yeah, but I mean I understand what you’re saying, because there was this level and there a lot of people I interviewed, who were like, you know, and they can really point to those things that I’m going to go prove myself through this that I’m worthy of being a human being of consideration in this world. Now there is that element, but in my case and for this anthology and for this kind of collection, one of the original ideas I was actually going to go collect my writings back to the first things I ever wrote, which I didn’t do. But I went back and I found in like second grade, so this is a part before you’re even say sexually sexualized. Even in second grade I wrote like my dream was to, I wanted to become a writer. And in sixth grade, I even wrote a book and sent it out to a bunch of agents. So, for some reason, I think I always loved books and music and maybe that was sort of like a lonely kid thing to do, but I always related to books and music. So I think, actually no, that was separate. But here’s what it was though. Was, when I was writing for the New York Times and I would walk into clubs and I started, I was pretty young. I was like kind of just out of college, and I would walk into places and say, and they would almost, I’d walk in the guest list line and they would just kind of treat me like shit. And once I said I was Neil Strauss from the New York Times, they’d let me in or I’d get that interview. And I thought, how can I, instead of having to say I’m Neil Strauss from the New York Times, how can I embody being a guy who they would let in or open up a door to? How can I embody that instead of having to use the New York Times as my calling card? How can I embody being someone of respect and authority versus someone who . . .
Andrew: So how could you? How could you embody that? How could I embody that? How could the person listening to us embody that?
Neil: Yeah. I mean I definitely think that’s what “The Game” is, in a lot of ways, because I know there are a lot of guys who use “The Game” for business reasons, and even for married guys use it to help with their relationships. But I think there are all kinds of way we sub- communicate it. Whether it’s posture, whether it’s confidence, whether it’s the way we treat people, whether it’s dress and grooming, there are all kinds of elements of one’s presentation to go back to those first 30 seconds that we were talking about. Every element of who you are and how you carry yourself and how you speak and communicate counts,. So in my case, and like you had said earlier about yourself, I’m the guy who goes to the extreme. Because I hate when someone says just be confident. That’s like the worst advice in the world. Like how do you just go be confident? I took Alexander technique to help with my posture. I went to vocal courses with a guy who does something called vocal awareness for my voice, which I literally, in the street, I would actually look at people and think who is carrying themselves in a way which other people respond to and who’s not? There are a lot of guys who do this and they end up becoming really fake and phony. It’s a danger that you’re not trying to become a blustery alpha male guy, because those guys there just as bad as the wimpy guys. It’s just another expression of the same insecurity. So you’re finding a way to be what we call congruent, which is who you are on the outside is who you are on the inside. Trying to fake your way into something, trying to fake confidence, trying to fake any of these things is just as bad as not doing it sometimes because it’s just another form of phoniness.
Andrew: You talked about all the different things that you did to improve yourself — voice lessons, hair, and so on. Tim Ferris would say, “You’re probably wasting your time, that there’s probably maybe 5% effort that you can put in that would get you 80% of the results. Concentrate on that 5% and move on.” What would you think that 5% is?
Neil: Right. Yeah. Tim and I are good friends actually, and he’s never said that. I mean we have had long conversations about “The Game,” but . . .
Andrew: But every time I talk to him, he always says that he is always looking for that 5% of effort that gets you 80% results, whether it’s body building. whether it’s work, whether it’s anything else in life.
Neil: I’ll tell you something, Andrew, and again I agree with that. But I think there’s a misinterpretation of it. Again, it might be something Tim can address better, but in his new book “The 4-Hour Body,” I was one of the guinea pigs in his book for one of his experiments. So having done the Tim Ferris method of things. So what it was, was 30 days to put on 10 pounds of muscle. So there was a 5% element of it, which is hey I only spent maybe only two days in the gym a week and I think it was about 10 minutes in the gym each day. So I was putting in 5% of time in the gym that most other people do, right?
Neil: When you look at the big picture, I spent all of my days making shakes, eating, taking supplements. It was a lot of work, and anyone who’s read his new book knows it is a highly detailed thing. So, as I interpret it, 5% means why don’t you make sure that you’re putting all your energy in the right places. If you’re doing something, you could be spending 5% of your energy is only meaningful spent energy. So make sure that 100% of your energy is having 100% of the effect it’s having, and a lot of these things, there are shortcuts, there are ways around it, there are ways to accomplish it, and it’s really about having a goal and about knowing what all the hacks are. You know, what are the hacks for your body? What are the hacks for getting that meeting? I think that’s worth discussing, because there’s another friend of mine who is sort of a guru of sorts and we have long discussions about shortcuts and what’s a shortcut that makes things work faster and what’s the shortcut that hurts the result? Right? I think that there is an element of taking out all the data, taking all the experience, and then boiling it down to the things that still work.
Andrew: So, then with relationships, what are the hacks, what are the shortcuts that will help me get rapport quickly with someone?
Neil: Right. To me, the shortcuts, first of all, are understanding. The key is, George Clooney said something really smart, he said, “Auditions change for me the moment I stop thinking about what they can do for me and start thinking what I can do for them.” So the simplest shortcut is . . . to me first of all I don’t think in terms of shortcuts. I think in terms of understanding. I think in terms of like seeing the matrix, right? How easy is it to do something when you know everything someone is thinking before they think it, every step that needs to be done. So for me, I think of it more as understanding, and once you have the understanding, you’re automatically going to take the shortcuts because it’s like . . . I guess like if you’re in the forest and you’re trying to get to the other side of the forest and you already know what path leads you there, you’re taking the shortcuts because it’s the shortest way. If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re wondering around the forest lost. So to me, there’s no other option but the shortest cut. And you only know the shortest cut if you have that bird’s eye view and can see the matrix. Does that make sense?
Andrew: Yeah, it does. Its not an easy solution but it does make sense. So you’re saying . . .
Neil: It is an easy solution. I realize I mixed about five metaphors in that one example, but it is an easy solution because it’s a lot easier than wasting all that time wandering around the forest. Before you go in the forest, get in a freaking airplane, you know, see where the paths are and map it out, and then go into the forest and run to the end of it. Do you know what I mean? And that’s a lot easier than wondering for days starving and lost and forgetting where your goal was. So, it’s a smart solution and it’s easier.
Andrew: Have you ever tried to talk to someone, do an interview with them . . . actually let’s focus on the interviews. Have you tried to interview someone who just would not let their guard down? Would not open up, would not have a real conversation?
Neil: Yeah. Let me think of a couple of examples. Obviously, there are the Britney Spears and Madonna examples where I was able to break through that by cutting the thread and then, as I call it, demonstrating value. So and I think this happened with Billy Joel as well, so it isn’t just a male/female thing. What I generally do is, instead of trying and trying and trying, which of course as anyone knows if someone is trying harder and harder to get something from you, it makes you back and withdraw more. Cut the thread and you try another approach. It’s like bashing your head against a wall. You can go around the wall. So in most of those cases, I’ve cut it and thought, “What do they need? What can I give them that they need to allow them to open up and feel comfortable? Do they need trust? Well, hey, I’ll give them a little trust, or maybe a story about how I’ve conveyed trust. Do they need value? Do they need to know what they can learn from me? I’ll give them a little value.” There’s a word called calibration, and I don’t know if you use it a lot. But I’ve found, to me, that when you talk about reducing stuff to the 5% like you were saying earlier, that the better I’ve gotten, the better I can reduce stuff to really just calibration, which is knowing where that person is at and what they need more of to get closer to where I want them to be.
Andrew: What kind of post mortem do you do on conversations to help you figure out what’s worked and what you can do next time?
Neil: Yeah. I think the exact post mortem . . . I think it’s important to do that post mortem. And by the way, did I answer your question earlier or not?
Andrew: Yeah, I think you did.
Neil: You, sure?
Andrew: Yeah, I hope you answered it for the audience too, but I think you did.
Neil: Okay. I thought that was a warm-up to the answer, but okay. So what’s the new question?
Andrew: You know what? It sounds like you were warming up and then I cut you off.
Neil: That’s fine.
Andrew: No please do. What else were you going to say?
Neil: I can’t remember the old question or the new question now, so. Oh, post mortem. Yeah, you got to do the post mortem. I think it’s the most important thing you can do. Again when I was doing :The Game,” there’s was a guy name Ross Jeffries, who was the sort of father of this sort of modern seduction movement who made this observation about why I seem to improve faster than the other guys who were learning this stuff. He said after a situation, you step out of the situation, you analyze what happened and what went wrong, and then here’s the keyword, without taking it personally figure out what you have to do to do it right next time. Because you see so many freaking people who keep doing the same thing and expect to get the same results instead of stepping back and really objectively analyzing it and not being afraid to admit you’re wrong and what you need to do right to get in that situation next time.
To use a seduction world example, if I was in a . . . but that’s true about anything, let’s just say that whether I achieved the goal I wanted to achieve or didn’t, afterward, I would go back. I would just look over every move, figure out where I made mistakes and where I got stuck. I tried to figure it out on my own. If I couldn’t, I hopped into whatever forum was the most useful forum, or talk to whatever friend was the most useful to discuss it with them until I could figure out what I’ve should have done. Then I would replay that role, replay that scenario in my head. I’d visualize it, like the way an athlete visualizes that Olympic Dash. I’d visualize it in my head, till I visualized how it should have gone, and then I would go do it right next time and get to the next level of it. Then you let go. Once you figured out how it’s done and once you visualized it, then you let go. You not going to beat yourself up over it because you’re going to do it right next time, and it’s a cliche but it’s truth. So if you actually apply it, it’s more than a cliché, but every failure brings you closer to perfection, if you are learning from it.
Andrew: So then, do you end up with a formula for dealing with any situation, and the formulas just embed themselves in your head knowing that this situation will come up again and repeat itself in a different way with different person?
Neil: Yeah. And the great thing is every situation is a little bit different. You have your formula, you have your experience of what’s wrong, you have your rules, you have your fall back things, you have your calibrations finely tuned, and yet you walk into it and someone throws you a curve ball, and that’s kind of the fun of it. And you improvise to work within there. And I think there’s nobody who’s great and who’s excellent who feels like it’s perfect. If they do, then they’re wrong. My favorite sushi restaurant in Los Angeles, the sushi chef there goes — and for those of you guys in Los Angeles, it’s Sushi Nozawa — he goes, “I’ve been making sushi for 35 years and it’s still not good enough.” He has been making sushi in the same restaurant for 35 years, and he’s still not good enough. He’s an artist and that’s what makes his sushi the best in Los Angeles. I think that’s true of all these social interactions.
Andrew: So you seem like someone who’s done that your whole life. How did it feel when you were applying what you learned towards writing books for other people? I remember when I read Motley Crew’s book, which you co-authored, and I thought, wow Motley Crew is so insightful., They are so deep. People who read the book that you co-wrote with Marilyn Manson said the same thing about him. How did it feel at that time to not get the credit? To have all that showered on others?
Neil: Oh, it was an awesome feeling.
Neil: It was great because literally you wrote all these things and then you sat in the green room at Howard Stern and they’re on there like taking shit for what you wrote, and you’re like I’m here in the safe zone. So it was fine, like, believe me I’m sure a lot of people here either have written books or want to write books and you write your book and it’s very anticlimactic. But to have that built-in audience of Motley Crew or Marilyn Manson or Jenna Jameson or these other people have already to read your book and your writing, it’s such a great edge I remember . . .
Andrew: No, go ahead. What were you going to say?
Neil: I don’t think it’s helpful or useful. It’s just a nice memory of Marilyn Manson wit the first book about watching kids line up around the block for it, and the police closing down the streets and helicopters going overhead and kids sitting there in the street reading this book. It’s something, even as a business book writer, which some of your listeners are, you’re not going to get that exciting feeling. So again, I really believe if we go back on the long road or the slow road, I don’t think “The Game” would have been possible if I hadn’t first cut my teeth on those celebrity books so I could learn how to write a book, what’s interesting, how to go through the publishing process, so I could then write my own books. Curtis Mayfield said, the great and late kind of soul inspirational. He wrote “Superfly” and was later paralyzed in an accident, and I talked to him about all of the attention he was getting for his music now that he was, sadly after he had been paralyzed in this accident. And he said, “I’m a great believer of it may not come when you want it to come, but it always right on time.”
Andrew: So now you’re the guy who is in the green room who is watching others on the show, and you went from being that to being on the show yourself. How did your life change at that point? When so many people wanted to talk to you about “The Game,” when people were idolizing you, when kids are passing your book back and forth, when they’re taking notes, when their studying you, how did your life change after that?
Neil: Yeah, I think that’s a good thing to discuss. I think it’s an interesting thing, which is again first of all obviously it definitely wasn’t expected with “The Game.” I just was sure there was no way it would do as well as those books with the big celebrities had done. There’s a great book by Milan Kundera called “Life Is Elsewhere,” and it’s about a guy who is born to be, this is an analogy which is going to get around to answering the question. But it’s a guy who was born to be a great artist. He was born to be a great poet. And what happens is he kind of gets sucked up into the politics of his time. He gets sucked up into his mother issues, his woman issues, and all these things, and he ends up not following his path but following the path that everyone has cut out for him. So I think with “The Game” it was less than . . . personally I like to be a little bit more anonymous. You’ll notice that I don’t put my photos in my books or photos of myself, like I like the writing to stand for itself and allow people to use their imagination. I always like the books to be in the front, and I don’t like to be in front of the books. So I think the biggest challenge with “The Game” was the idea of it, and again I think because you have a business crowd I think this really pertains to people. Because I know a lot of marketers and a lot of people who really say strongly, passion doesn’t matter, the product doesn’t matter. What matters is how you market it. That’s 90% of it, and, you know, that may be true. But I’ve watched those people who have given that advice since then, and I really am a firm believer that you have to live the life that you’re supposed to be living. In other words, when “The Game” came out, I clearly probably could have never written another book and probably exploited “The Game,” done seminars all the time and worked some of the time and probably made a lot, a lot, a lot of money and for a long time, possibly the rest of my life and lived very comfortably and had awesome houses and all those kinds of things. But I know that since second grade, my passion is writing. It will always be writing and life. So I think the thing about the success with “The Game” is there was a fork in the path, and it was a question of which are you going to choose. Are you going to choose the easy path of least resistance, where the money is, or are you going to choose what your passion is and what you feel strongly about And I think that, more than anything, it was that easy pull and to do what you think is right. And I think I love doing the seminars and I do one once a year and that’s it. And it’s helpful and I love teaching the guys. It’s a cool, awesome thing to do. But I know what I’m supposed to be. There’s an analogy that I’ll tell you and the listeners, which I love. Joseph Campbell, do you know who that is?
Andrew: Yep. Absolutely.
Neil: Yes. He was the great and late professor of mythology, who, you listen to his lectures and he just understood life.
Andrew: He taught everybody about the story, about how there’s just one story with . . . what was the book called? “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.”
Neil: “The Hero With a Thousand Faces.” And Star Wars was based on his general myth. Again, I would actually recommend for guys who are maybe writing marketing copy and story telling, he is the architect of how to tell a story that connects with people — Joseph Campbell. So his great advice, and I think this is true for our lives as we are making these decisions between balancing business and personal and what’s passionate, where the money is. And what were supposed to be doing is he tells about the Grail Knights, who decided to go on a question to find the Holy Grail. They went into the forest to try to find the Holy Grail. The thing was (a) they had to split up, (b) they couldn’t take a path because where a path exists it’s already somebody else’s, so you had to go to the forest where it’s darkest, where the creatures which are obviously just your own subconscious, where you have to hack away the undergrowth and you have to cut your own path. I think that’s important to know especially for guys who are listening to the calls and hearing including myself and all the other amazing people you’ve had in the series talk. It’s just great advice, but you have to cut your own path and figure out what that is for yourself, because where a path is already, someone has taken it and it’s done and it’s not your path.
Andrew: You know it seems like that should be a lot easier, like we should just know who we are and we’re supposed to just go out on that path. And in fact, when I see in your life it seems that it was that easy. You knew when you were a kid you wanted to be a writer. You knew you loved music and you knew you loved people who made music, naturally. The life that you have now seems like a natural extension of that. Does it come naturally like that to you? And if it didn’t, how do you figure it out? How do you figure out what your path is?
Neil: I think it’s like an economic model. With no outside variables, that economic model is very clear. But you introduce outside variables into any our lives, whether it’s family, whether it’s women, whether it’s bosses, whether it’s money and survival, and you introduce all of those outside variables, and suddenly that model’s no longer clear. So it’s really being able to cut away that noise and seeing that model in a situation without any other variables to know. And most people, some people, they live and die and they never got onto their path, and it’s sad. Especially, the reason that the new book is called “Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead,” because the super super famous people who I’ve talked to, like Chuck Berry who invented rock ‘n roll, they’re still hung up on or anybody, they’re hung up on a bad review that happened ten years ago. They’re hung up on a scandal that happened 20 years ago. They got hung up on the wrong thing and they forget to appreciate their accomplishments. They forget to appreciate what they gave to the world and what they gave to people. They get hung up on the small stuff and forget about it. I think its good to imagine, and I know you relate to me because you were saying earlier about your motivations for things. Sometimes we’re worst case scenario thinkers, but to think at any moment how would I feel if I suddenly got a life threatening disease. What would be important to me now, and to start making those things important before you get that life threatening disease. Not to bum everybody out listening. I think the big takeaway from this conversation is live your life as if you have a life threatening disease. But on some level, man, and again I just wrote this book, so it’s really fresh in my head. I hate to keep name dropping so I’m just going to say another person said to me really wisely and again I’m just using all these names.
Andrew: By the way I think you should name drop because it only helps my program.
Neil: Exactly. It’s good for those search terms. But this person said, “How sad would it be to get to the end of your life and realize you were off by one degree?” So I realize we’re kind of bordering on philosophy, but obviously everyone is here because we’re really committed to work, and we’re committed to what were doing, we’re committed to success. But it’s important that everybody I interviewed also had the perspective that the happiest people are the ones who had balance. Like if you talk about the meaning of life or the secret to life, I really feel like it’s having that balance and devoting a certain amount of time to work and a certain amount of time to family, a certain amount of time to contemplation, a certain amount of time to physical kind of healthy exercises. As soon as you’re devoting everything to one thing, even if it’s a good thing, that’s when you tend to lose perspective and you don’t see, let’s just say again that XY model.
Andrew: Really? It all goes back to what the self-help hippie gurus tell us, that we need to have good balance? It’s not about rocking one thing?
Neil: You know what? The truth is always the same, it just comes in a different wrapping all the time. I’m sure that there really is one truth that’s gone through things, and it keeps getting rewrapped and re-presented to us, because it’s so hard for us to see with everything else going on.
Andrew: Hey, let me ask you something, Neil. Between you and me and whoever happens to be listening at this point later in the interview.
Neil: You mean between us few people, yes.
Andrew: Anyone who has stuck with the interview till this point, can hear that my voice has been shaky at times because I’m a little nervous for some reason in this interview. I think part of it is that you’re such an experienced interviewer. The other part is that you’re so good at connecting with people. So let’s go back to what we started this conversation off with – connecting with people.
Neil: Yeah, we went way off the subject.
Andrew: To bring it back, the shakiness in my voice, if you had that in your voice in a conversation with someone, whether it’s one of these celebrities you have every reason to be nervous around or it’s just a one on one conversation with someone at a cocktail party, what do you do to stop it and to snap yourself back to effectiveness?
Neil: Right. Well, first of all, I will relate, because I will say it helps. I go back and listen to my earliest interviews, and I just sound like a blathering idiot and because of that, they’re inclined to help and people want to help you. They’re like, “Okay, he wants to do a good job. He’s a little bit nervous. I want to help him.”
Andrew: You’re saying the nervousness helps?
Neil: Nervousness in the situation can help because it’s the idea of being non-threatening. Nervousness to the point of social debilitation can hurt. A slight little nervousness does help, and what I’ve found is good and exactly is what you did, is to acknowledge it. That’s the easiest way to get rid of it. I would know for example if I was breaking a rule whether it was nervousness or whatever. Let’s go back to “The Game.” The worst thing you can ever do in a conversation whether it’s “The Game” or anything else is to lean in too closely to someone and make them uncomfortable and want to back away, right? The worst thing you can do is just in a general first approach is you approach a stranger or you’re talking to somebody you just met and you’re talking too close and you’re leaning over them and you’re making them uncomfortable. If I caught myself doing it, I would actually acknowledge it and say, “You know what? I’m actually standing too close. Let me take a step back.” That actually just got rid of all that tension because it showed that you socially knew what you were doing, socially knew what was going on. You were smart enough, and now you’re thinking what they’re thinking. So the rule that I will add to that, the rule that I’ll create out of that is to always beat someone to their objections. If you want to take a general rule, and that could be, whether it’s socially or even in a business thing, if you raise the objection they’ve raised it and then you get rid of it, then they have no objection.
Andrew: So I probably should have done that earlier on in the conversation, been open with you about this, been open with the audience, and then the audience would have been rooting for me to do well and you would have been more helpful, and I also would have felt comfortable releasing it. I don’t know if you can tell in my voice, but now I feel more comfortable now that I’ve actually put that out there.
Neil: Yeah. It’s acknowledging it. It’s acknowledging the truth that’s everybody is understanding and seeing anyway. Exactly. And by the way, first of all, I think you may have noticed it more than I did and the other people did. The reason that this book isn’t a collection of interview tapes is sometimes I really do feel like I sound like so incoherent and stumbling over words, saying um a lot. It’s hard. I think were big critics of our own voice, and I think it helps to be a critic of one’s self if one afterward remedies those things.
Andrew: Here’s the last question that I’ve got. Everything seems perfect for Neil Strauss. He’s got hero worship. Guys want to be him. Women want to sleep with him. Rock stars want to talk to him. It’s a little hard at this point to relate to you because people consider you a demagogue online. Maybe that’s why you don’t want to do a video interview with me and why you don’t want to overexpose yourself in the Internet. But is life that perfect? What is the big challenge for you now?
Neil: It’s funny, because I’m really good . . . first of all, I think it is easy to think that and feel that. As someone who, again, has interviewed people who are real superstars and realizing that my challenges are the same as everyone else’s challenges. All of our challenges are the freaking same. I mean were all worried about the same stuff. We know from interviewing, I think one of the lessons that I drew from celebrity, and I’m answering this in a round about way All getting more attention does is magnify the problems you already have. It doesn’t solve them. And we can see this playing out in the tabloids every day. Whatever problems you have, the higher the level, whether it’s economically or fame wise or attention wise, the higher the level you get to, the more those problems become magnified. The people who really become pariahs in our culture are the ones who think that either money or fame is going to solve their problems and don’t solve them first before getting to that place.
Andrew: So what’s been magnified for you?
Neil: What’s been magnified for me? I got to say as a guy, my dragon to slay, as we like we like to say, my challenge now or the thing that I’m trying to figure out is relationships. I really think that as a male who’s not married, who wants to be married, and who wants to be completely honest, and who wants to have a family . . . we talk again about what’s the simplest thing in the world. Why can’t two people get along together and be faithful to one another for a lifetime and be healthy partners and healthy spouses and healthy parents? I know that’s a problem. That’s what I think about now. That’s what led me on to the exploration that was “The Game.” That was solving a different problem. The exploration that was emergency, which we haven’t discussed which was about learning to survive the economy and natural disasters and political disasters and all the other horrible things going on in the world. I think that admitting those problems and insecurities and trying to solve them has been like the crux of my work.
Andrew: So the economy and women.
Neil: The economy was the last book. I think I solved it in the last book.
Andrew: Oh, I see, Okay. Actually the book is called . . .
Neil I got rid of my fears which . . . again, this interview has gone on too long, but I’ll tell you really quickly, if you want to know. Or should I leave it open for next time?
Andrew: No, no, no, go for it.
Neil: That the previous book, “Emergency,” was really based on just seeing what was going on in the world and so I went out and learned all of these survival skills. Once I learned to go off in the woods, with nothing but a knife and the clothes on my back, it sounds insane, but live off the land. I thought, you know what, even if I lose everything, I know I can still survive. So now the economy can go up and down. One hopes it is on the upswing, but I think it was about getting rid of my fears and anxieties about that was realizing that I didn’t have to be dependent on a system that I had no power or control over. Feel free to cut that part out because it is a wild tangent out off context.
Andrew: No. I think that makes a lot of sense. The worst case, you’re still going to be okay.
Neil: Right. Exactly.
Andrew: All right. I can’t top that. I’m going to tell everyone to check out the book, “Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead.” It hasn’t come out now, the day that you and I are doing our interview. I’m going to get a copy of it. I will read it. I will tell my audience more about it. Hopefully you will come back here and do another interview.
Neil: It was really fun. I enjoyed the conversation.
Andrew: Thanks for coming on here.
Andrew: All right. Bye.
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