Start With Advanced Material For Most Effective Learning

brain connected to power university

The common advice to maximize learning is this:

Always start from the basics.

And while that’s sometimes true, often the opposite is true.

In this article, we show you often learn faster and better by doing the opposite.
Such as: it’s often better for you to start from the more advanced material.

Call it a cascading, “top-down approach”.

This concept applies to any learning.
But in this article we focus on social skills because we have the most experience there.
And our real-life experience also provides good evidence to prove our point.

Let’s see:


A question about Power University sparked this article.

The “prospect buyer” was not sure whether Power University may have been too advanced for his level.

This was the question:

I understand that Power University is marketed as an advanced social skills course…. And out of all the courses, yours is the only one I trust to provide value.

But would it be wise for someone like me, who is extremely socially inept. To invest in a course like this?

Would it be too overwhelming for a beginner like me? If it is, where would you recommend I start?

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 first.

But I’m not 100% sure of that anymore.
And the more I reflected on it, the more I convinced myself that many beginners are better off starting off with Power University.

Why the change of mind?

It’s a nice side benefit that it could help sales :D.
But despite what most cynics may think, it’s not the main reason (one of our main values is to add value).

So here is why:

1. I did NOT start from the basics (and still did OK)

Some people advise others on one thing but do another.

For some, it’s a conscious or unconscious manipulative effort.

But even those who have the best intention can fall for the trap of doing one thing, and advising another.

We talked about this with Bel before.
Call this phenomenon the “(potentially) hypocritical advice”.

And when I looked at what I did, well… I was being hypocritical.
Because while I was advising others to “start from the basics”, well…

… I did NOT start with the basics.

As a matter of fact, while many would think that as a teacher of more advanced social skills, I mastered the basics, I don’t even think I’m so good at the basics.

And, guess what:

That hasn’t held me back all that much in achieving what I wanted to achieve.

And, it makes perfect sense.

Keep on reading…

2. Only some of the basics are 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 it 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.

We’ll go through the difference later.

But 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 the focus has shifted to effectiveness.

As Bel says:

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

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…

2.2. Many of the basics are not crucial to advance in life

Nobody ever went far in life if they spent all their at primary school level of knowledge and skills

You’re not going to learn the crucial foundations from most resources.

Instead, you’ll learn basics such as:

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

And yes, those are very helpful, but…

Most people know them, or can learn fast, or can learn via the more advanced material.

AND they’re not nearly as helpful as the foundations above.

If you get really good at those basics they’re great to come across as “polished”, make people feel good, and… Seem “nice”.
But we know about the “nice guy” trap here.
And… They’re not SO crucial to achieving 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.

3. Most social skills courses & books do NOT provide the useful foundations

Now the crazies thing:

Not only do basic social skills books and courses miss the truly necessary foundations, but some even actively avoid them.

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 really solid People School by Vanessa von Edwards:

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

This sounds nice to some.
But the truth is that you can’t be “your most authentic” with everyone.
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.

3.2. 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.

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

4. “Good enough” is all you need before you can switch to higher-ROI learning

You don’t need to be great at many of the “limited use” basics.

Going back to my own example:

I never was “great” at many of the basics.
I’m still not.
And I’m not even planning to focus on them because I know there is higher ROI stuff I can work on.

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, dating more and better, getting what I wanted in negotiations, making new friends, naturally becoming the “good leader” in romantic relationships, etc., etc).

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 still know how to get my message across in a convincing and respectful manner. 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

Sure, one may say that my starting level of basic social skills wasn’t “inept level”.
But what was true for me is true for many many other guys. Including those who start a bit lower down.

5. Chances are you already know the basics

The real question is:

How much of the basics do you truly need?

Because if you’re TRULY at zero, then OK, you may want to work on it first thing.


The vast majority of people are not at zero.
Instead, the vast majority of people know enough of the basics to perfectly function in society. And if you’re at the level of “basic social competency” to get by, you can get a bigger bang for the buck 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.

Well said, and agree.
The basics you need to start with more advanced stuff is probably much less than you think right now.

6. 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.

Yep, we agree with DGX37.
Acting high power IS social skills in itself. And, probably, far more important than what people often associate with “basic social skills”.

Also, see:

7. 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 grassroots level provides little benefit. If you can start at the top it’s better because that’s where all the fruits are

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.

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.

Example: From Autistic Kid To Millionaire Teacher

For example, take Owen Cook (RSD Tyler).

Owen started learning pick-up as an autistic kid who couldn’t look people straight in the eyes (says Neil Strauss, at least. But I can see how that can be true).

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 instead.
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.

I still believe you’re a lot better to learn from teachers without major learning impairments. In social skills, it means you’re a lot better off learning from teachers who are not on the autistic spectrum.

7.2. 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.

That makes sense.

We long made that “the entertainment doesn’t matter” mistake here at TPM.
For example, we didn’t care much about the packaging of our information, about the typos, or how long our lessons were. Our mindset was that “truly driven people stick through the great stuff no matter how hard you make it for them”.

Well, guess what… That’s nonsense.

People have competing demands in their lives and they can’t spend endless time working around your mistakes.
Willpower is also (probably) not infinite. And you’re competing with modern technology is built to be as addictive as possible, taking time and willpower away from everything else.

So smart people make it easier on themselves -and smart businesses make it easier for their customers. We’re working on that… :)-.

8. You best learn the basics from (and through) 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)

And yes, I’ve seen it happen enough that I know you can learn the basic stuff while learning the more advanced stuff

As a matter of fact…

8.2. 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”.

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.

9. 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.)

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.

9.2. Learning from impostors is more common than ever

We may as well be living in an era of beginner teachers.

Part of it comes from the self-help industry.
Self-help pushes “inspirational” but misguided solutions to what aren’t problems, but legit human feelings.

One of them is the war on “impostor syndrome“.

Of course, sometimes great people with lots of value to offer do suffer from uncalled-for impostor syndrome.

However, that’s not always the case.

And many wanna-be teachers don’t have to overcome the impostor syndrome but shouldn’t be teaching at all.

The many coaches who work on “overcoming their impostor syndrome” only end up as crappy teachers you should avoid.

And yes, OK, I’ll concede this.
There is some truth that as long as the teacher knows more than the students he can still add value some value.


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

However, it’s also true that the only true great teachers are advanced folks.

And yes, that includes teaching the basics, to beginners.

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.

10. 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.

11. 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. 

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.

Bonus: you need a framework

Finally, the most effective learning comes with a framework.

What’s a framework, you may ask?

From a theoretical point of view, a framework is a high-level view that helps you make sense of the world (or of a portion of the world).
And from a practical point of view, a good framework helps you select relevant information and actions to achieve relevant goals in that world.

It’s a bit of a mouthful, I know.
But in simple terms: a good framework gives you the theoretical understanding and practical skills to get what you want.

Once you have that high-level framework what was previous “lower-level chaos” finally makes sense -Or, at least, you have the tools to figure it out-.
You become able to pick any of the endlessly different techniques because you understand the final goal, and the effective strategy to get there.
And you can better understand the exceptions, instead of being confused by them.

And guess what:

Developing a strong framework requires advanced knowledge and deep expertise in a given discipline.
A great framework is a huge shortcut to learning and you can only get that from more advanced teachers, teaching more advanced stuff.

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 (…)

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 by going over again this crucial distinction:

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

Foundational refers to 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.

If there was a resource that could truly tackle the foundations, then I’d say: definitely start from the foundations.

But as far as I -and this whole community- could see, there is no such resource.

We started preparing one here that would tackle the foundations of social skills.
Things like getting the foundational “feel” for power dynamics, getting the feel for who’s giving and taking in each exchange, and getting a sense of people’s character.
But it’s not my main focus, so I’m still looking for someone to lead that project.

If you’re interested, get in touch.
You may do a great favor to the world -and find yourself a profitable niche-.

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.

In sum: start with what’s most effective

In sum…

We can’t 100% say what’s best for any single individual.
So you’ll have to make a call yourself.

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 99% of folks, that means starting out with foundational material rather than basics, then moving to advanced material, and learning from more advanced teachers.

Albeit this started as my own personal reflection, it’s been confirmed by several members of our community.

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”.

Scroll to Top