The Mystery Method: Style Learns From the Best

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "The Game" by Neil Strauss. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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What is the PUA mystery method? How did Neil Strauss learn about the Mystery Method in his book The Game?

The Mystery ethod is one PUA strategy that Neil Strauss learned within the pickup artist community. The Mystery Method was developed by top PUA guru, Mystery, who became Neil’s mentor and friend.

Learning The Mystery Method

From an early age, Mystery had wanted to be a famous magician. He spent his teenage years honing his craft, but, when he turned 21 and was still a virgin, he realized that his obsessive focus on magic had kept him from meeting women.

Mystery didn’t know that the seduction community existed, so he conducted his own research. He studied women and their reactions when he tried to hit on them. Over 10 years, Mystery pieced together the principles of social interaction and the patterns of male-female dynamics.

Mystery developed techniques that incorporated magic with the lessons he’d learned. His strategy—which he dubbed the Mystery Method—broke down into these steps: 

  1. Walk into the club with a smile. A smile indicates that you’re confident, fun, and, above all, an alpha male. 
  2. Select a target (a woman you want to seduce) in a group. Don’t pick up women who are standing alone. 
  3. Follow the three-second rule: When you see a woman you’re interested in, approach her within three seconds. If you wait longer, you risk either overthinking it or staring at her too long and looking like a creep. 
  4. Approach the group confidently and start conversation with a scripted pickup line, such as, “It looks like the party’s over here” or “Did you see those two girls fighting outside?” The lines are simple; they’re just meant to get people talking. 
  5. Ignore your target. Instead, make her friends like you—especially anyone who would be likely to try to interfere with your pickup attempt (such as male friends). Winning over the group makes you seem like the life of the party, while ignoring your target makes her more eager for your attention. 
  6. Further provoke your target with a neg, which is a backhanded compliment or vague insult—for example, offer her gum after she talks, or tell her that her hair would look better if it were up/down. The neg reinforces your lack of interest and further injures the woman’s self-esteem.
  7. Isolate your target. Use an excuse to get her away from the group, such as saying that you want to show her something. 
  8. Look for indicators of interest (IOIs). For example, if she asks you a question about yourself, or if you squeeze her hands and she squeezes back. 
  9. Demonstrate an interesting skill, like a magic trick or an ESP test, to impress and intrigue her. 
  10. Once you get three IOIs, try to get her to kiss you by saying, “Would you like to kiss me?” This question is fool-proof: If she says, “yes,” you get a kiss (PUAs call this a kiss-close). If she says, “maybe,” you can say, “let’s find out,” and go in for a kiss. If she says, “no,” then you can deflect and say that you weren’t asking for one. 
  11. Keep her wanting more. Create a false time constraint and say that you have to leave, but that you’d like to continue this another time. At this point, she should give you her number (PUAs call this a number-close). 

Mystery’s whole strategy was designed to pick up women subtly. Rather than coming on directly and forcefully, Mystery instructed men to take their time and build the anticipation so that the woman would want to be hit on.

Mystery’s Theories, Tricks, and Principles

Mystery had developed countless theories and principles that dictated his tactics while sarging in the field (while hitting on women). The strategies were all meant to make the PUA seem like the most interesting person in the room, while simultaneously appearing disinterested in the woman he was hitting on, so that she would essentially pursue him. 

The primary rule of the game was that PUAs don’t do what everyone else does. For example, if every man in the club was gawking at a particularly beautiful woman, the PUA practically ignored her. When the PUA did approach the woman, he never acknowledged her beauty—he may have even subtly downplayed it. The effect was that the PUA stood out among the crowd. 

Two dominant theories balanced the goals of standing out and laying back: 

  1. Peacock theory stated that men should take a cue from peacocks and make themselves eye-catching in order to attract desirable women. This involved wearing loud, colorful clothes and accessories, such as bright or shiny shirts, outlandish hats, and light-up jewelry. 
  2. Cat string theory proposed that women act the same way with men as cats did with string: A cat would chase a string feverishly when it was just out of reach, but if the string dropped right in front of the cat, the cat instantly lost interest. This was why PUAs had to avoid appearing too eager or available. 

Per cat string theory, Mystery advocated an indirect approach. He advised students to: 

  • Approach women from an angle. Avoid walking directly toward her, which appears confrontational, and avoid approaching her from behind, which may startle her. 
  • Speak over your shoulder when speaking to a woman, as if you’re about to walk away. Don’t face her directly.

Mystery taught these concepts, as well as scripted pickup lines and routines, to his workshop students, and then he set them loose to practice. 

Mystery’s Seduction Workshop

On the first night of Mystery’s workshop, Neil met Mystery and his wing (aka wingman), Sin, in a hotel lobby. 

As they waited for the other trainees to arrive, the men compared the number of women they’d each slept with. Neil had been with six women, Sin with sixty-something women, and Mystery with hundreds. As proof of his credentials, Mystery gave Neil a manila folder containing photos of several of the women he’d had sex with. 

When the rest of the trainees had arrived, Mystery gave the men a few instructions for picking up women in the clubs: 

  • Approach pickup like a video game: Pretend it’s not real, and just go for it. 
  • Don’t let emotions and overthinking trip you up. If you feel uncomfortable, just ignore it and don’t let it affect your actions.
  • The key to seduction is simply performing a series of steps. The mentees would just need to learn and practice the steps. 

On the first night out, Neil clumsily tried the PUA Mystery Method. As Neil approached and spoke to a woman, Sin whispered tips and instructions into Neil’s ear. For example, Sin told Neil to use kino (short for kinesthesia, which meant to incorporate physical touch) and put a hand on the woman’s shoulder. Neil’s execution was awkward and flawed, but he still got a kiss on the cheek, which gave him a boost of confidence in himself and in Mystery’s tactics. 

By the final night of the workshop, Neil had made progress. He approached a group using one of Mystery’s pickup lines: “If I wasn’t gay, you’d be so mine.” Although he felt ridiculous delivering the line and using Mystery’s other strategies—such as wearing an over-the-top hat, per peacock theory—it seemed to be working. 

Neil managed to charm the woman, and the two of them walked out of the club together. Neil suddenly remembered Sin’s advice to use kino, so he put his arm around her—but she pulled away. 

As Neil debriefed with Mystery and Sin, the PUAs explained that Neil had violated cat string theory and come on too strong. When Neil put his arm around the woman, he’d taken away the thrill of the chase. It was the same logic behind ignoring a woman when first approaching her group of friends, talking to her over your shoulder, and consistently acting somewhat disinterested. Successful PUAs behaved as if they were the prize, not predators. 

Although Neil felt a bit discouraged about his misstep, Mystery and Sin told him he had great potential. 

The PUA Mystery Method was one of the main methods in the book The Game. Neil Strauss learned The Mystery Method as a part of his PUA strategy.

The Mystery Method: Style Learns From the Best

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of Neil Strauss's "The Game" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full The Game summary :

  • The secrets of the Pickup Artist community in seducing women
  • How key Pickup Artist leaders fought with each other and split the group apart
  • What author Neil Strauss took away about women from his years of training

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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