The Social Climber’s Bible: Summary & Review

the social climber's bible book cover

The Social Climber’s Bible teaches readers, in a fun and entertaining satire, how to engage in social climbing. In other words, how to shamelessly advance one’s life by making the right connections with the rich and famous.

Summary

About the Authors: Dirk Wittenborn and Jazz Johnson collaborated to write “The Social Climber’s Bible”. They are careful not to share too much information about their own lives and experienced, but they sound like they know a thing or two about jet-setting.  

Social Climbing is Good

The authors say that as long as you keep thinking that social climbing is something “bad”, you’re never going to improve your life.

You need to reprogram yourself.
Social climbing means “pursuing friendships with those of higher social status”.
But the concept that others are somewhat “superior” to you is offensive. Instead, the authors say, you are at least the same. Or even better. 

Plus, everyone does.
“Networking” is nothing but a more civil and polite way of defining what, in practice, is social climbing. 

  • Empowering thought: you’re a special person who could be more special if you just had more special friends

The Famous Ones Are All Social Climbers

Say the authors:

Who are those boldfaced names chiseled on the walls of art museums, opera houses, hospitals, and Ivy League universities?
They’re social climbers.

They imply that philanthropy is social climbing, and it’s how the best social climber “cleaned” their reputation:

If you pay for the new wing to a cultural institution, you are no longer a crass, pushy vampire squid who beat the rap on insider trading, you are the new best friend to the cultural elite of the world. 

But, at the end of the day, they were social climbers.

How to Start Climbing From Scratch

Here are a few tips to start making your first good connections:

  • Attend Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, and Narcotics Anonymous in the richest and trendiest part of town: the best American families have at least one heir with a substance abuse problem
  • Take notice of those with really expensive items, or those mentioning of their backsliding at some exclusive golf club
  • Attend open public memorial services
  • Attend upscale gallery openings
  • Go to art auctions, and raise your paddle a few times
  • Go to churches and cathedrals in upscale neighborhoods 

Make People Feel Good: You Only Got Your Personality to Offer

When you’re starting out, you only got yourself to sell, no money and no connections.
So you must be affable, make people feel good, and also be service-oriented.

Never try to be the star of the show: let your host be that. You’re there to support him (and be invited back).
Help cover up other people’s faux pas, smoothen out the interactions, and entertain the “wild boars”, such as the powerful but terrible individuals.

When you’re invited for the first few times, be the first to volunteer serving food, drinks, or clean up stuff -especially if there’s a maid, so you won’t have to actually do it-.

Even reading a bedtime story to their children is fair game.
Remember: it’s easier to take full advantage of the Big Fish if you make the Big Fish believe they are using you and in debt with you.

And never forget to always bring a present (the authors have a technique to bring great-looking presents while actually spending little on them).

Turtles and Swans: Your Best Social Climbing Friends

Turtles and swans are not Big Fishes or Whales, by they have all the right connections which can help you.

  • Turtles have all the social resources, but are too shy, insecure, demure or awkward to take advantage of them (ie.: they’re not climbers like you)

Your relationship with the turtle is a sort of fair exchange: they take you to the good party, and you show them how to have a good time there.
They help you get inside, and you help them improve their social skills and make them feel special.

P.S.: never have sex with your turtle(s). They might want, but you must avoid.

  • Swans are very beautiful and attractive men and women. Often, but not always, they’re actors or models

They are invited everywhere simply because they’re beautiful. 
Big Fishes want to have sex with them, but sometimes invite them just so they can make people they had sex with them.

Sometimes you can become friends with a swan and they’ll be happy to bring along average people such as yourself.
Sometimes they’re insecure they got nothing beyond their beauty, and some other times they’ll appreciate pretending they got a date as an excuse to deny people’s sexual advances without offending them.

Never fall for a swan.
They might grind with you, tell you that they love you, etc., but swans know they know you’re a social climber, and not a real date.

Swans are attractive and you might want to have sex with them.
And they are mercurial, and when depressed or high might even suggest the possibility of sex. 
But you must resist and deny.
If you do, they will think that you want to use them just like everyone else. And they’ll not take you anymore with them.

Unicorns

Unicorns’ special traits come in multiples.

They are either super famous and super-rich, or super-rich and super attractive, or all the three of them combined.

Examples of certified unicorns are the Clintons, George Clooney, Angelina Jolie, Jay Z, Beyoncé, Prince William, Anna Wintour, etc.
All ex-presidents are unicorns (except Jimmy Carter).

You’re not a unicorn for life, though.
Madonna still thinks she’s a unicorn, but she’s not.

You should never approach a unicorn directly, because they get approached all the times.
And directly flatter won’t work because they get that all the times by fawning fans. And you don’t want to be a fan.

The way into a unicorn’s inner circle if you’re still a nobody is exactly that: help them make feel like normal people.
And say no to their freebies from time to time, because they get paranoid about being used by social climbers.

How to Spot A Big Fish

These are the signs of a potential Big Fish

  • People clustered around them
  • People hanging on every word they say
  • People laughing at their not-so-funny jokes
  • All the above signs x10 if the target is not attractive

My Note: Those are also all signs of attraction
The author makes a great point that those signs are especially valuable if the person is not attractive, since social power and attraction sometimes have the same signs -and overlap-.

If you want to know who the person is, ask the silly question to someone who is totally uncool, so you will not look clueless to important people
Then go Google them.

How to Gather Intel From Potential Target

You never want to be too direct.
Questions like “where do you live” and “what’s your job” translate into “how much do you make”.

Instead, make a statement.
For example: “don’t you live in tribeca?” or “aren’t you in finance?”.

How to Gain a Big Fish Appreciation

Find a moment when Big Fish is relaxed, happy, and surrounded by friends.
Then say something like this:

You: You know, Frank, the last time we talked you said the most brilliant thing about (whatever the topic is)

Then say something smart, no matter whether they truly said it or not.
And they will want to invite you back again for reminding them how smart they are and for showing it to the people around.

Making Up Stories is OK, If You Don’t Get Caught

The only question the social climber will ask is: will I get caught?

Social Climbers all make up stories. 
Hillary Clinton said she landed in Bosnia under danger of enemy fire when in fact she was just strolling around in total safety.

Lies that work well include a past that shows good upbringing: a privileged past is invaluable to social climbing. 
An example? Like that time your grandmother took you to a safari. If prodded for details, say you were only seven when you took the trip and can’t remember.

Other easy lies include people who are now dead and cannot deny your allegations.
To make your lie more believable, get a big glossy canvass of the dead person, hang in your home, and write a personal inscription to yourself.

Avoid Sex for Social Climbing

The authors advise to not have sex with the big fishes and whales you’ll be social climbing with.

If the sex is bad, they’ll be disappointed.
If it’s good, they’ll want more and they will get possessive and want to limit your freedom to climb higher and better.

However, there are a few exceptions.
See Porfirio “Rubi” Rubirosa and Pamela Harriman, aka the “whale hunter”.

But don’t worry too much if you’re not into sex: some of the best social climbers are asexuals, who plan their moves without being slaves of their hormones.

Marriages and Prenups

If you’re the one who wants to sign a prenup, you shouldn’t ask yourself whether your spouse is a gold digger, but you should be asking why are you marrying someone with so little to offer.

And if you are sub-handsome and rich and the penniless spouse says it’s unromantic to sign a prenup, then know that you are not only dealing with a gold digger, but a gold digger who thinks you are sub-handsome and stupid.

If on the other hand you got the money and they got the connections and the “class”, know that their family will be asking you for money -and never paying it back-.

Say the authors:

Stop being so superficial and look in the mirror. Find yourself a life partner who’s as less than gorgeous as yourself but has more of the important things in life than you do, i.e., someone who’s in a position to ask you to sign a prenup.

If they ask you to sign a prenup, tell them that you will do “anything that makes them happy”.
When they produce the prenup, say you promised to your mom that you will always have your lawyer check all contracts. 
If the prenup is bad, don’t get angry. Let your lawyer get angry for you.

If you can’t afford a good lawyer, sign a promissory note with a good firm based on a percentage of the future divorce settlement.

If you can’t change the prenup, sign it anyway to avoid looking as greedy as you actually are.
It can be renegotiated later on anyway, if you make the marriage bad enough.

Entering Whale Families

If a social climber like you has met someone from a whale family, chances are that they are the “rebellious kid”.

So be prepared not to be the most liked guest when you get invited into the family and be ready to do your best work with them.
You must ingratiate all of them.

And if you are pursuing a “sleep to the top” strategy, never sleep with the first member of a whale family you meet. 
Wait until you get to know the family, and then have your pick: not all trust-funds are created equal.

If something bad happens with some of the whale sons, never ever take the blame for them.
They will drop you and deny all your allegations.
But you can make an agreement for your cover-ups.

Social Climbing Wisdom & Techniques

  • A great social climber never looks line one
  • Dress in a way that you stand out, but don’t stand out too much or you’ll look try hard
  • No matter how hard you’re trying to be someone you’re not, you must look natural 
  • Always look and act like you belong
  • When you arrive to a party, don’t knock or ring: it makes you look unwanted
  • To get out of unwanted small talk, point to someone and say “that’s my friend and he doesn’t know anyone, you don’t mind if I look after him, do you?”
  • If you only know the host, wait until they’re talking to at least two good targets before saying hello (and always start by saying how wonderful they look)
  • Give people the illusion and you know them by saying “so good to see you again” instead of “nice to meet you” (great habits for when you’ll have so many friends that you can’t remember) 
  • The ignored wives of big shots can be a great, often overlooked opportunity for social advancement and party invitations (but watch out not to make the husband jealous if you’re a straight man)
  • Learn to master your emotions and facial expressions: so you can look happy when you’re trapped talking to your host’s parents
the social climber's bible book cover

Quotes

The book is hilarious and there is an abundance of great and funny quotes.
Here is just a few of them.

The social climber knows that the truth is sometimes hurtful and cruel. And, most importantly, it doesn’t make you popular:

Telling people they look gorgeous when in fact they’re an eyesore or praising them for being wise when they have the intelligence of a cocker spaniel doesn’t make you a phony, it makes you a kind person.

On very attractive swans and borderline personality disorder:

Though Swans are not listed in the DSM, many psychiatrists categorize them as borderline personality types. Whether that is fact or vengeful thinking on the part of the members of the medical profession who do not get to ride Swans is open to debate.

On buttering people up:

Never underestimate the value of kissing your hosts on all four of their cheeks.

On networking at funerals:

Funerals and Wakes Funerals other than your own are a great place to social climb.
Wakes are basically cocktail parties with tears.

On making people feel good:

Play it safe and get off on a good foot by deliberately mistaking the bride’s or groom’s mother for her or his older sister.

CONS

Some advice was solid, but some others I really didn’t agree with.
It could come across as tacky.

For example, adding to a letter “your secret is totally safe with me”, is too direct.
It feels like you’re forcing a connection and overselling your trustworthiness.
And there were a few more examples I didn’t agree with.

Review

“The Social Climber’s” is at the crossroad of a book on tips and advices to social climb, and an exercise in comedy and humor.

In that regard, it’s somewhat similar to “What Would Machiavelli Do“.

Sometimes you’re not sure whether the authors were joking or serious, but if you can read through the lines, you will get both some good tips.
And you will learn the true mindsets of the most Machiavellian, calculative social climbers.

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