Neil Strauss' Evolution: From Pick-Up Artist to Relationship Expert

By Randi Newton 06/04/18

"Your relationship success has nothing to do with your partner, it’s really all about you and working on yourself...Until you do that you’ll always fall in love with the same kind of person.”

Neil Strauss with microphone.
Today Neil Strauss is showing people how to have extraordinary relationships. Image Credit: Justin Hoch, via Wikimedia Commons

Neil Strauss has an enviable list of accomplishments. A nine time best-selling author, he got his start as a music critic writing for The New York Times and Rolling Stone; he has toured with and written about heavy metal bands, and penned books with some of the greatest rock stars. He’s written about how to survive in a post-apocalyptic world from a survivalist’s point of few, harboring skills such as flying a plane, delivering a baby, and fashioning a knife out of a credit card.

Strauss’ The Game: Penetrating The Secret Society of Pick Up Artists, is one of the top two most shoplifted pieces of literature from Barnes and Noble. The other one? The Bible. Both are similar in appearance and in length: hardcover leather with gold embossed titles on the cover.

Even though it’s been over a decade since its debut, The Game, which many view as the holy grail on how to seduce and lure women into the bedroom, was recently released in its 11th hardcover edition. To Game fans, Strauss is somewhat of a Messiah. He delves into the elusive PUA (Pick Up Artist) scene and morphs from geek to the ultimate ladies’ man. He goes undercover, adopting the name “Style,” and by making adjustments and using certain puzzling techniques that verge on reverse psychology, he discovers that suddenly he can have any woman he wants. He explains lingo including terms such as peacocking: to wear something flashy and unusual in a crowded venue to get a romantic prospect’s attention; sarging: to go out to look for willing participants to try PUA moves on; kino: touching your object of desire sporadically during a conversation to establish a connection and build trust; and closing: sealing the deal and ending things with a kiss and/or a trip to the bedroom.

Eventually Strauss left the PUA community, but not empty-handed. He began teaching others how to wine and dine women by starting “StyleLife Academy,” which made him an unexpected celebrity and hero to many men. His admirers also included an unlikely group: the FBI. The Game was required reading for agents. Few details are known other than Strauss was personally invited to train them in an undisclosed location. He applied the same techniques he honed for picking up women to teach FBI agents how to open a conversation and gain the trust of suspects, with the ultimate goal of closing: luring confessions out of the bad guys.

One cannot play the game forever, so where does the hero go next? When it came time for the sequel, Strauss went in a radically different direction.

The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships is the exact opposite of a dating guide; it’s about Strauss’ journey from to player to monogamous man. His painfully honest candor is refreshing and as the title states, it’s an uncomfortable book. Some of the most brilliant work comes from pushing the limits of our comfort zones, and Strauss shares all, revealing details of his adventures into the world of polyamory, orgies and open relationships. On the occasion of The Truth’s re-release in paperback several weeks ago—with a new subtitle: An Eye-Opening Odyssey Through Love Addiction, Sex Addiction, and Extraordinary Relationships—we had the opportunity to talk to Strauss about emotional health, healthy relationships, and who he hopes his book will appeal to.

“You write a book and you never know who the audience is, men who are struggling with intimacy and relationship issues in general, and women too.” Strauss tells The Fix.

The Truth details how life has changed for the author post Game. After years of playing the field, he’s met the right girl at the wrong time. When she discovers that he’s had a fling with one of her friends, he checks into treatment for sex addiction in hopes to better understand himself and to save their relationship. He quickly comes to realize that what he experienced during his childhood has a lot more to do with the way he’s wired than he had thought. He accepts that he will have to make peace with his past, a realization that resonates with many individuals, whether they’re in recovery or not.

“Whatever issue someone is experiencing, whether it’s sex addiction or something else, you have to get to the core of it. We all have core wounds that take place in our first 17 years. Those imperfections get passed on and whatever label you want to put on it doesn’t matter, you just have to fix it.”

Few authors are recognized beyond their words on a page, but whether or not he intended on it, Strauss has become a guru in the topics of life, seduction and love. It’s no longer about how to get the girl; with the massive success he’s had, there are now men and women enrolled in Stylelife Academy. He’s gone beyond instructing others how to be the ultimate PUA. It’s about guiding others to live their lives to the fullest.

“I think I’m fortunate. I love learning about people and new things. I found something that changes my life and solves my problems [and] I want to share that,” he says of the journey that has led him to where he is today: a settled down family man with a beautiful wife and son.

So what comes after The Truth? Stauss has no plans to stop sharing what he’s learned with others. He’s preparing to lead a workshop called The H.A.V.E.: The Human Anti-Virus Experience, a three day intensive workshop where he’ll meet and teach those who want to do some serious work on themselves.

“If everyone took a course between high school and college, the world would be a much more comfortable place. Emotional health needs to be taken as seriously as physical health. There needs to be something for people to take to de-program everything they were taught growing up and all of their false beliefs. I couldn’t find one out there that didn’t seem dark or culty so I created one.” He’ll share what’s he learned over the years, and bring in the very instructors who guided him on his path to self-realization.

It’s easy to get distracted when speaking with an author who has such an array of experiences, and has the kind of life that so many only dream of. After a conversation with Strauss, it’s clear why he was awarded “The greatest pick up artist who ever lived.” The charisma is there and he’s filled with sincerity. Of course there are so many questions I want to ask him, but before my time with him is up, he leads me back to The Truth, and leaves me with valuable advice:

“There are a lot of bad single-sided myths about relationships in our culture. Your relationship success has nothing to do with your partner, it’s really all about you and working on yourself. You can’t accept your partner as they are unless you work on yourself. Until you do that you’ll always fall in love with the same kind of person.”

When asked what the future holds, Strauss told us he’s far from finished: “I have so many books I want to write. I want to keep telling amazing and better stories.”

The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships is now available in paperback. For more information on what Neil Strauss is up to, how you can attend The H.A.V.E. and learn other survival skills, go to

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Randi is a writer, sober companion, and recovery specialist. Find her on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.