Should Beginners Start With Advanced Material (Like Power University)?

advanced learning approach starting with advanced courses

The common advice to maximize learning is this:

Start from the basics.

And while that’s sometimes true, it’s often not the most effective.

In this article, we show that it’s often better to start from the more advanced material.

This concept applies to any learning.
But in this article we focus on social and life competence.

Let’s see:

a brain connecte straight to a university for advanced learning

An adult brain learns best from university-level classes, than from primary school

INTRO

A question about Power University sparked this article:

Question On YouTube

I received many different variations of this question.

And albeit my answer may have cost TPM some sales, my usual reply was:

No, skip Power University for now, and start from the basics.

Old me

Why did I say that?

Because I saw many men mis-read and mis-applying The 48 Laws of Power.
And assumed it would be the same for Power Univeristy.

But the more I reflected on it, the more I saw it it did not apply to Power University nearly as much.

After I asked the community, I realized that many more felt the same -and I will quote some here-.
Hence this article.

Let’s start:

1. Only some of the beginner-ABC is important

Effective learning is high ROI learning.

And if you start from the basics, you’ll have to wade through a lot of, well… Basic stuff.

Issue is:

That takes time and has limited ROI because only some of the basics are important.

What matters most aren’t the basics of social skills.
But the foundations of social and life effectiveness.

To give you an idea, some of the foundations that matter are:

These are the “real” foundations.
However, once you get these foundations, the lines between “foundational” and “advanced” start to blur.
They start to blur because these foundations are effective at achieving life-relevant goals.

As Bel says:

But then, they are not “basics” anymore. They are “practical, real-life tested and approved high-level advanced basics”.

Bel

Yep, 100% right.

To avoid confusion from now on, we’ll call them “foundations”.

And the problem with “starting from the basics” then is that most basic social skills resources do NOT teach the foundations.

Let’s see…

1.2. Beginner-ABC does NOT give you any edge

Nobody ever went far in life with primary school level of knowledge and skills

All these are helpful and important:

  • Starting a conversation (ie.: “just say hi”)
  • Exiting conversations
  • Transitioning between topics

But not as helpful as the foundations above.

And greatness in the basics doesn’t make you “great in life”.
It means you come across as “gala-society polished”, make people feel good, and… Seem “nice”.
But we know about the “nice guy” trap here.

And… These basics do not heolp you achieve most life-relevant goals.

Call these “limited-use basics”.

And if you spend too much time on them, you waste a lot of time on ancillary skills that are yes helpful, but that won’t give you the biggest bang for the buck.

2. Problem: Most social skills courses & books do NOT provide the useful foundations

Basic social skills books and courses actively avoid the foundations.

Heck, some of the social skill courses we reviewed even pride themselves on NOT teaching manipulation.

They say that if you’re interested in manipulation, you better not join their course :S. (Except then using blatant lies in their marketing efforts. Paradox of practice, anyone?).

An example from the otherwise solid People School by Vanessa van Edwards:

People School salespage: we teach you to be the best, most authentic version of yourself (…) not how to play mind games

People School salespage

This sounds nice to some.
But it’s harmful.
You should NOT be your most authentic with anyone.

Not teaching how manipulation works robs you of a foundational life skill such as how to spot and defend against manipulators.
In brief, this type of idealistic and basic self-help sets you up for pain and failure.

And we have plenty of customer experience to prove that.

2.2. Most basic self-help is too naive to help

Says Bel:

Another fundamental issue is that the “basics” are mostly misrepresented – by almost everyone.
Most people, most teachers and most books misrepresent the basics as Dale Carnegie does in his book.
Or as “go and introduce yourself”. Or “always be polite”. Or “compliment a woman to make her like you”.
But those are not the basics. Those are twisted, useless, counteproductive simplifications of politically-correct visions of reality that do not exist.
Nobody – with few exceptions – is going to tell you the pure, unadulterated truth of what works. Mostly because they themselves don’t consciously want to realize that what they do works for reasons other than what they are prepared to accept.

Bel

BOOM to that.
We couldn’t have said better.
Albeit we tried, in our “naive self-help” article:

Naive Self-Help: 10 Popular But False Self-Help Myths

3. “Good enough” level is all you need before you can jump to advanced, high-ROI learning

you are good enough for advanced learning

Going back to my own example:

I never was “great” at many of the basics.
I’m still not.

But guess what?

That hasn’t stopped me from reaching most of the more advanced and “juicier” goals I wanted to reach.

Including:

  • Career advancement -including sales
  • Dating more and better
  • Winning negotiations
  • Making new friends
  • Being the “natural leader” in relationships, etc., etc.

3.2. I did NOT start from the basics (and still did well)

… I did NOT start with the basics.

And, guess what:

It hasn’t held me back from achieving what I wanted to achieve.

For example:

  • I don’t enter groups super smoothly, BUT…
    • I enter them with the attitude that says “I’m not the type of guy you ignore”, and guess what… Most of the time I get the attention I wanted
  • I don’t always have a perfectly smooth conversation during dates, BUT…
    • I have the social confidence that during a lull I can just look at her and smile until she cracks. And that gives me points instead of subtracting points
  • I rarely even use the perfect “assertive format” to enforce boundaries, BUT…
    • I know how to get my message across convincingly and respectfully. And if they were not respectful…
    • I speak with enough power and conviction that people understand I’m not the punching bag type of guy

My starting level of basic social skills wasn’t “total inept level”.
But what was true for me is true for many many other guys.

P.S.
Check out for yourself:

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4. Chances are you’re already “good enough”

The real question is:

How much basics do you need before you can go advanced?

If you’re TRULY at zero, then OK, you may want to work on the ABC first.

HOWEVER…

Most people are not at zero.
Instead, most people know enough of the basics.
And if you’re at the level of “basic social competency” to get by, you’re more effective starting with the foundations of more advanced material.

Says again Mats:

Most people who see themselves as socially incompetent (including me in the past) fail to realize just how much they already know.
If you think about socializing like a game, all you need in order to play and get better is to understand the rules. You could play and improve at chess as long as you know the rules, even if you don’t know even the most basic strategies.
While socializing is a very difficult thing, the basic rules are quite simple: if you treat people poorly they generally won’t like you, and if you treat them well they generally will like you. As long as you understand this you know more than enough to improve in whatever area you prefer, whether it’s the basics or straight into the advanced stuff.

Mats

Well said, and agree.
The basics you need are probably less than you think.

5. Time to results matter: life is shorter than you think

Learning is a time investment.

And the time you spend on the less useful basics is time you waste not getting the more useful foundations.

For example:

Learning how and when to ask a question is time you waste not learning how to ask questions in a way that people listen.
And the time you spend learning how to ask a question back is time you waste not learning frame control. Or how to spot and avoid trap questions and disempowering questions.

Sure, many people think too short-term.
But many more learn as if they lived forever.
Unluckily, we’re all here for a limited time. So it makes sense to look for the quickest way to achieve your goals.

And yes, you can get faster results focusing on more advanced materials.
Says for example DGX37 talking about his supposed lack of basic social skills:

Situation is seemingly and yet by walking confidently, going before them, moving without a doubt when they stop (…) rejecting bad frames and responding slowly and (…) quickly changed to “seems we don’t need to look after you after all” and one person even came to me saying “I’m shocked at how confident you are.”
So that convinces me that you may have low confidence and social skills but if you act powerfully people will see you as socially skilled and confident.
One may still disagree by saying acting powerful is a social skill by itself which is fair and the point becomes mutt.

DGX37

Yep, agree.
Acting high power IS social skills in itself.
And, probably, far more important than what people often associate with “basic social skills”.

Also, see:

10 Frame Control Techniques to Out-Frame Anyone

6. High ROI learning achieves GOALS – and for goal achievement you need advanced skills

Guess what:

Most of what you want to achieve, others also want to achieve.
That means that achieving anything worthwhile in life requires beating some competition.

And to win in competitive environments, you need advanced skills.
Basic material barely gets your foot in the door… Before that foot gets quickly crushed :).

For example, how likely are you to:

  • Find a mate by learning how to entertain groups (an old PUA approach)
  • Advance in your career by learning the “feedback sandwich technique”
  • Gain your peers’ respect by learning how to be vulnerable

Those help you very little.
Some of it may even be counterproductive.

The basic ABC provides little competitive advantage. The fruits are all at the top

Says indeed Bel:

I used to focus on the “basics” (ie making friends, being sociable, etc.) at the very start of my path, mostly in order to meet a woman, and in order to have a career that would give me financial and economical independence – but it didn’t work.
(…)
If one wants to learn how to meet women, yes – becoming more social is going to help but (…) Learning to approach is infinitely more useful – and probably more difficult as well.
(…)
One can have a “good” relationship with a woman while having no friends, being unable to handle groups of people, and liking to be alone. Conversely, one can be full of friends and the “life of the party“, and be seen as totally unattractive by the opposite sex.

Bel

Yep, he’s absolutely right.

Effective learning is based on real-life goal achievement.

And real-life goal achievement is a competition that requires advanced skills.
Most of the basics instead focus on ancillary skills that give you more reaction, but not results.

6.2. Example: From Autistic Kid To Millionaire PUA Teacher

Take Owen Cook (RSD Tyler).

Neil Strauss says that Owen started learning pick-up as an autistic kid who couldn’t look people straight in the eyes.

He still comes across as “off”, but he got good enough that he (I guess and hope) did pick up many women.
And good enough to become a millionaire selling pick-up products such as The Blueprint.

Imagine if he had started from the basics.
It would have taken him years and years to come across as more “normal”. And chances are that he would have never excelled at those basics anyway.

P.S.:
Still best to learn social skills from teachers who are not on the spectrum.
It’s important to emulate more “natural” role models.

6.3. Example 2: Charlie from Charisma on Command

Guess who’s another guy who comes across like missing a bunch of basics.

Charlie Houpert:

Charlie: (laughs at the most inopportune times)

And he runs a successful business on teaching advanced social skills.
He did well in his life.
And he STILL lacks a bunch of basic stuff.

7. You best learn the basics from with advanced material

Foundations and “more advanced” aren’t silos.

And as you learn power dynamics, chances are that you will also improve the basics.

For example:

  • If you learn how to influence people and sell (🎓advanced)
    • chances are that you can also learn how to maintain a “good enough” conversation (🚸basic)
  • If you can find a mate who will like you (🎓advanced)
    • chances are that you can also talk to a woman without being weird (🚸basic)

I’ve seen many examples to know it is possible to learn the basics with the advanced material.

As a matter of fact…

7.2. It’s the advanced material that truly empowers you to “unlock” the most foundational levels

Says Bel:

 I was able to get some of the “basics” (eg thanking back, responding to emotional bids) only after learning some “power self-defense” and “reading people”.

Bel

And says Mats:

Now that I’m starting to go back to the basics it’s a lot more fun because I have a deeper understanding and appreciation for why it’s important.

Mats

8. Beginner teachers are semi-blinds leading the blind

Would you wanna learn from a beginner?

Probably not, right?

Well, when you learn the basics first you’re bound to learn from beginners.

Says Ali in our thread on this topic:

(…) As a beginner with no advanced knowledge, some of the people one would be interacting with would also be beginners with no advanced knowledge. And that makes it difficult to know if you’re doing something right because their feedback can often be inaccurate. (It’s a case of the blind leading the blind.)

Ali

He’s perfectly right.

When you learn the basics you’re almost only going to interact with other beginners.
Starting from the teachers themselves.

It’s simply in the nature of things and basic power dynamics.

More advanced teachers teach advanced stuff because it adds more value because they can ask for more value back… And because they can.

Beginners instead focus on teaching beginner stuff because that’s all they can teach.

8.2. Learn From Advanced Folks, Using Them As Role Models

Yes, you can learn from anyone who’s ahead of you.

But if they’re not much ahead, they become your development ceilings.

Instead, the only true great teachers are advanced folks.

The great advantage of advanced teachers is that you don’t just learn from what they say.
You also, and maybe even mostly, learn from how they say it, how they move, and how they think.

As Transitioned says:

For me people learn by imitation.  So for me it wasn’t about basics and advanced but more about gaps and calibration.  And applying the basics consistently.

Transitioned

10.2. Example: the failure of social skills without power

Charlie is no beginner.

I respect his knowledge and I’m sure he did well in his life.

Still, you can see that he should really learn power dynamics as well:

Graham: (disempowering and disrespectful)
Charlie: (answers very personal questions that give power away)
Charlie: (asks questions that place Graham as an authority above him, losing even more power, status, and respect)

9. You learn faster with challenging material

Ever heard the saying:

Jumping in at the deep end?

The concept behind this is that you learn a lot faster in challenging situations.

Well, OK, I actually don’t think that it’s a good approach to learning swimming :).
But it’s a great approach in most disciplines whenever:

  1. You’re relatively safe and not risking your life (or other people’s lives)
  2. You know just enough to get by
  3. You can learn along the way

And that’s… A lot of situations.

Including social skills.

9.2. Advanced material helps you stick through it

Says Mats:

It is generally more fun (to start from the advanced level).
When I started playing guitar I was taught the “proper way” by doing scales and exercises, but it was so boring that I nearly quit.
It was only when I started playing on my own, picking songs that were too advanced for me and learning advanced techniques that I started enjoying it and having fun.
That led to me playing every day for years, sometimes for hours on end. I would never have done this if I tried to force myself to stick to the boring basic exercises that I was “supposed to” do. And also, now that I’m starting to go back to the basics it’s a lot more fun because I have a deeper understanding and appreciation for why it’s important.
I really don’t see why it would be any different with social skills and power dynamics.

Mats

That makes sense.

10. Power dynamics IS foundational

Finally, a change of approach.

Many of the skills for gaining status, respect, attraction, influence, etc. ARE part of the “true” basics.

Or, at least, should be.
Which is why I started this website in the first place. It was obvious to me that power-related skills were foundational. And it was shocking to me that nobody taught it, and nobody seemed to have realized this simple, glaring lack.

So, I started TPM to fix that.

Says Transitioned in the thread that started this article:

And yes power dynamics over social skills, unfortunately.  You only have to look at Trump – after the soap opera he made of America he’s still the front-runner. 

Transitioned

And he’s absolutely right.

Even outside of politics and in people’s normal lives, power dynamics are part of the “true” basics.

It’s simply that the self-help industry missed out on them.

8.3. Example: Teacher Without Power Awareness

A good example of “social skills” without power awareness:

Charlie: Jack, you’re a naturally charismatic man, congratulations!
Jack: (can’t get a girl to save his life)

That’s useless charisma, bro.

Maybe he was endearing to you.
But those social skills got him no status, no respect, and no punani.

Don’t sign me up for that type of social skills LOL.

Bonus: you need a framework

Dubin says a theory serves two goals:

  1. Understand
  2. Predict

To us who are interested in practical results, a theory serves to develop competence and results.
Prediction is more important for results. But understanding supports the ability to predict.
So both are needed.

The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology says that a theory is a framework for organizing knowledge.

We prefer the word “framework” for our practical goals.

With a framework you empower yourself to be an effective, independent operator.
Once you understand your goal, you also naturally know how to get there. You can use almost any technique.
You understand the exceptions, instead of being confused by them.
You grasp the nuances to give you the last 20%.

Of course, nothing that good comes easy.
Developing a valid framework requires advanced knowledge and expertise in a given discipline.

After years of development, Power University developed that framework.

Says Trantisioned:

(…) PU is amazing for the quality of the framework and the community.  Most frameworks are rubbish – they can’t explain a high proportion of observed behavior aka facts.
I had a lot of tricks and some social skills to start with. 
The problem was without a framework it was hard to put the techniques in context and improve.  You’d read some book that disagreed with another book.  And you don’t have time to experiment on your own (…)

Transitioned

Exactly.
The framework we develop with Power University provides you with a guiding star.

The key difference: basic VS foundational

The basics just let you enter the game. The foundations already get you results in those games.

Let’s wrap it up with this crucial distinction:

There is a major difference between “basics” and “foundational”:

  • Foundational is knowledge and skills you need for life effectiveness and that is necessary to understand the most advanced material.
  • Basic instead has a more limited relation to life effectiveness and goal achievement. And it’s not a precondition to more advanced learning.

Advanced training covers the foundations, then adds all the more advanced applications and techniques.

How to find out if you’re ready for advanced material

man jumps through the basics

So here are quick litmus tests for you:

1. Are you “good enough” to lead a normal life and accomplish basic tasks?

Basic tasks such as talking to someone without weirding them out, or finding a job.

Then chances are you already have the basics.

2. Speaking of social skills, did you have some friends?

If you had some friends, then you also probably have basics.

Please note that it doesn’t matter whether you were bullied or not.
Bullism is linked to foundational skills, not basic ones.

3. Can you understand the logic and rationale beyond some of the more foundational and/or advanced material?

You don’t need to understand it ALL.
But if you understand part of it, chances are you’ll be able to connect the dots and, little by little, put the pieces of the puzzle together.

In the case of social skills, if you understand and enjoy this website’s articles, you’re good to go.

And once you have all the pieces of the puzzle together… Then you’ll be a champion. (Instead of being “good at the basics”, which what you’d be if you started and stuck with the basics)

4. Can you start using some of the foundational and advanced material?

If so, then you’re most certainly good to jump straight to focus and zero in to the highest ROI material.

SUMMARY

In sum…

We can’t 100% say what’s best for any single individual.
You’ll have to decide.

What we do say though, is that you should always start with what’s most effective to achieve the goals you want to achieve.

And for 95% of folks, that means starting out with foundational material rather than basics. Then moving to advanced material, and learning from more advanced teachers.

I felt so upon reflection.
And many members of our community felt the same with their own experience.

So, at least when it comes to social skills, it seems to apply to many different people.

To sum it up with Bel’s words:

PU is probably more useful for those who don’t have the basics down, than for those who have basic social skills – or, in any case, useful as well.
(…)
It also ties with my personal experience: I was able to get some of the “basics” (eg thanking back, responding to emotional bids) only after learning some “power self-defense” and “reading people”.

Bel

Even here, I agree.

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