Celebrities

Steven Bartletts secret pick-up artist past before Dragon’s Den role: It was addictive

Mark Manson reveals how he became a 'pick up artist'

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Dragon’s Den returns to our screens tonight for series 19. Familiar faces Peter Jones, Deborah Meaden, Touker Suleyman and Sara Davies all make their returns, but Tej Lalvani does not. Taking his place in the lair is Steven Bartlett. Mr Bartlett, 29, will be the youngest dragon in the show’s history.

Having dropped out of Manchester Metropolitan University after one lecture at the age of 18, he made his fortune through social media marketing company The Social Chain from his bedroom in Manchester.

He built the group’s two main companies, Social Chain and Media Chain, aged 22. By the time he had turned 27, the company had gone public and merged with German retailer Lumaland.

He left the business in 2020, and The Social Chain now has an estimated market value of more than £300million.

Mr Bartlett also hosts The Diary of a CEO podcast, Europe’s most downloaded business podcast.

He has hosted a number of high profile guests including Liam Payne and Monzo founder Tom Blomfield.

On a recent episode of the podcast, Mr Bartlett opened up about his secret past as a pick-up artist.

He welcomed blogger and author Mark Manson in a December episode entitled ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***’.

The pair bonded over their shared experience, each admitting to have fallen into pick-up artistry due to insecurity.

Mr Bartlett began: “Before we started recording, I shared a secret that I’ve never shared before, which is that I also found myself falling into the pickup artistry world when I was in my early twenties because of Neil Strauss and then Mystery [a pick-up artist] and every other book that I read, and every other video on YouTube that I consumed, every forum that I scraped.”

Neil Strauss’ bestselling book ‘The Game’ follows his attempts to become a pick-up artist, and details his experiences in the seduction subculture.

A number of forums and groups allow men to get together and discuss new tactics to court women.

Mr Manson’s book, ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***’, is a self-help guide — but argues that life’s struggles are what gives it meaning, and that the mindless positivity of a typical self-help book is neither helpful nor practical.

Mr Manson took up pick-up artistry in 2005 after reading ‘The Game’, and left the community five years later.

Mr Bartlett said he found Mr Manson’s book fascinating because “I suspected the incentives and the appeal of that world were probably quite similar to me in the sense of me being quite insecure and seeking validation from women, maybe”.

Mr Manson added: “I think it was just a lot of guys like you and me who were damaged, essentially, and were trying to heal ourselves but there was no other outlet available.”

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Mr Bartlett continued: “Specifically at that age, for a guy, I’m speaking for myself here, you’re trying to figure out how to get laid.

“It feels like this quest in which no one has ever provided you with the blueprint or the roadmap.

“And then someone whispers in your ear at some point that there’s a code, a simple solution to this complex problem.

“And then you read into it and it appears to work, and you see men like you having success in that, and it feels like you’ve solved this tremendous problem.”

Mr Bartlett said pickup artistry helped him “resolve a ton of things from the playground about self-esteem”.

He recalled feelings of worthlessness and not being good enough after an early relationship ended badly.

He explained: “Things like ‘Why did that guy get the girls and I didn’t?’… Things just started to make sense and that made it really sticky and addictive for me.”

Pick-up artists have received increased media attention since the publication of Mr Strauss’ book.

‘Game’, as it has become known, has often been described as sexist and misogynistic.Techniques such as ‘negging’ and ‘pawning’ have received widespread criticism, with feminist author Germaine Greer likening pick-up artistry to “f***ing for sport”.

Negging is when someone insults you and undermines your confidence in an effort to make you more open to their romantic advances.

Pawning is to use a woman you are not genuinely interested in as ‘social proof’, a popular psychology term relating to humans desiring that is which is desired by others,

Feminist writer Beatrix Campbell told The Independent in 2005 that it “sexually objectified women”.

She said: “Nowhere from its description do you get a sense of men being helped to be human in an easy and agreeable way.”

Mr Bartlett and Mr Manson went on to address that they have learned the characteristics of a healthy relationship since — notably that a “healthy relationship with someone else starts with a healthy relationship with yourself”, respect and a host of other attributes.

Dragon’s Den airs at 8pm tonight on BBC One. It will also be available on BBC iPlayer.

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