Marcus is a 26-year-old dating and life coach – he’s what I would describe as the human version of a self-help book at Kinokuniya. Since it’s the beginning of a new year, it seems apt that I interviewed someone who boasts the ability to bring drastic (of course) changes in people—new year new me, right?
I headed over to his office on Tannery Lane while trying to pin a personality to the person I was about to meet. Aren’t stereotypical pick-up artists known to be sleazy, gimmicky with their charm, or at least full of themselves?
Marcus tells me to take the lift right to the third floor of the building, and I’m greeted by a quiet show space. He comes out of his office, smiles and asks me to make myself comfortable as he gets me a cup of water.
I’m surprised by how normal he is, to be honest. I was expecting some sort of ‘character’ or at least someone with an over-the-top personality.
Instead, Marcus had a quiet, calm and collected air about him.
We make small talk before we sit down on his office’s black leather couches to get to down to the nitty-gritty.
Getting Over Heartbreak
I ask Marcus about how he began his now 6-year-long journey in coaching people on their dating and social skills. Of course, his story’s origins have an element of heartbreak.
“So basically I broke up with an ex-girlfriend before I entered the army. That was when I was 18 years old and it was 2 months before I had to go for National Service (NS)” he recalls.
I ask the uncomfortable questions of who was the dumper and who was the dumpee to which he “err”s uncomfortably before admitting he wasn’t the dumper, but I assure it’s alright.
After all, everyone appreciates a good comeback story.
“You know guys being guys – we deny our emotions. But when I went in (to NS), reality hits you lah,” he continues, “and when you’re bald and surrounded by guys, it’s confidence crushing.”
“For two years I had a 9 to 5 vocation, so I was thinking – since I’m 9 to 5 I should be able to find another girl—but it didn’t happen. So that was a rude shock for me,” he laments while I nod, admittedly inexperienced with the woes of an NS lifestyle.
Marcus struggled with a really low self-esteem during this year and a half; he became quite depressed with the state of his dating life.
His turning point, however, came in the form of a book called “The Game”, a book on becoming a pick-up artist by Neil Strauss.
“I read it within 24 hours and I remember thinking, ‘so I can do something to change this aspect of my life’, but intuitively I knew that it was written in a Western context. So they had some parts that couldn’t be applied to Singapore.”
“And I wasn’t an absolute weirdo” he clarifies with a laugh. “I still had friends so I didn’t apply that in my social circle.”
“I didn’t want to come across as that guy, but it gave me hope that if I do something about it I can change.”
Marcus then delved into the study of evolutionary psychology, which helped him balance out the more Westernised approach of a pick-up artist with our Asian mentalities.
“Eventually I figured it’s all about behavioural change – and from that point, things started to get much better for me.”
Perceptions Of A Pick-Up Artist
I diverge from the academic talk to ask about his initial experiences after discovering the world of pick-up artistry.
Truth be told, I’ve scoffed at a handful of friends who have gone for pick-up courses back in the day, and I was curious if there’s a larger stigma that lies with identifying with this group.
“At first yeah…” he pauses as he nods at the thought. “I made the mistake of telling all my friends.”
He laughs though, as he recalls his friends’ reactions. “They’d be like ‘what the hell is this guy doing man? Reading books on how to talk to girls?’”
“You’d be surprised at the degree to which beliefs that love is something that is up to ‘fate’ and ‘good luck’ are taken seriously in our culture.”
He explains, “the saying ‘good things come to those who wait’ – 99 percent of people, even my friends who are single, take this approach not just to their dating lives, but to all areas of their life.”
“I believe good things come to people who work for it. Of course, a lot of people have disagreed and still disagree.”
But still, I can’t seem to wrap my mind around it. Is it the proactive nature of pick-up which clashes with their beliefs that love and relationships are something that’s written in the stars? Or is it something more personal that we don’t fully understand?
“It’s one thing for a guy to admit to himself that he needs to change himself because it’s something that most guys assume they’re either born good at or not,” he responds.
“I think 90 percent of people including girls as well won’t actually look inwards and acknowledge that maybe there’s something that can be tweaked there.”
His Clients And Courses
I’m sure you’re curious, as was I, about the sort of clients Marcus gets usually.
He mentioned that he specifically takes on male clients for now because, well, he’s teaching from a man-to-man perspective, but is definitely keen to take on females clients in the future.
“I get a lot of engineers!” He laughs. “I don’t know why but I think partly it’s ‘cause of how I write my articles. I’m very specific and I like to think of frameworks and principles, so engineers like my approach I suppose.”
“Mostly I get people who are 30 to 50,” he elaborates, “and I mean props to them – they’re willing to trust a 26-year-old with this part of their lives.”
I ask him to run me through a typical course timeline – what should I expect, and how long would it take me to start seeing changes in myself?
“Right now I do more 1-on-1 sessions because the market is small, with Asians being more reserved,” he reveals.
“I’ll present theories and frameworks, but there’s also a practical part where they do drills, like conversational drills, with me or another assistant.”
After his clients have done their due diligence, Marcus takes them to clubs or to the streets for a trial run of interacting with people.
“One of the most important things is that I try to keep my clients accountable,” he remarks. “For instance, my last client came in with horrible dressing – outfit and hair all messy.”
“Since my program lasts for 2 to 3 days, on the second day I told him to get groomed before he got to class.”
“That really helps out with being accountable because it’s something that they also have to take on for themselves.”
“If you have someone to keep you accountable, you are more likely to stick with the change.”
As self-assured and positive as Marcus is, I’m sure there have been some “difficult” clients along the way. I probe him for juicy details but he remains objective about the whole thing.
“I think for a lot of them it’s hard to trust a younger guy. Some of them have also questioned my background in psychology. Currently, I’m not certified in psychology but I’m studying psychology. I’ve taken psychology modules when I was schooling,” he notes.
But for long-lasting behaviour changes, how much can be done through a 2-to-3-day course? If habits take approximately 28 days to cultivate, how does Marcus manage to get these guys on the fast-track to self-improvement?
“In my course, as much as I want my clients to have a 180 change in 3 days, it’s not possible. So what I can focus on is quick wins where they get positive feedback immediately.”
He illustrates, “normally when these guys talk to a stranger, people give them weird looks.”
“By changing body language, fashion and vocal tonality, the fact that they could go up to a stranger and not get rejected or weird stares is a huge immediate win for them.”
Marcus uses these huge ‘wins’ within this short span of time to show his clients that these efforts work, and how they’re perceived socially is within their control. This keeps his clients motivated and committed to their change in the long run.
“As much as I like to give free advice, as I do on my website,” he says, suddenly shifting to a more serious tone.
“The guys that are serious and take action are the ones that make some financial investment – even I did back then. I emptied half my bank account so I could hire a coach.”
Personal and Professional Life
As something of a dating guru, I wondered if he’d ever offered or had been asked for romantic or social advice from his friends. I mean, I ask my friends for advice all the time and they’re not exactly qualified experts on the topic either.
“I never sell to my friends.”
He goes on to justify, “first of all, this is really a controversial topic. If I went up to my friends and said ‘hey you look like you need help’ or ‘you’re not behaving the right way’ my friends will totally y’know…and I’ve tried giving relationship advice to my friends – it often gets ignored.”
That aside, his friends must have noticed some sort of change in him. I can’t help but wonder if that stirred up any sort of reactions amongst his social circle.
Marcus shares that there’s a saying in the pick-up community, that pick-up is like self-help on steroids. After all, you’re dealing with the possibility of straight-up rejection from someone you’ve expressed interest in.
“With this 180-degree change it was really hard for many of those close to me to accept, so it caused friction along the way as well.”
Tips, Quick Tricks And Sceptics
For all the doubters and naysayers out there, I asked Marcus for some quick tips that we could try on our own time, just to get a feel for how effective minor changes can be.
“I think the easiest things to fix are how you dress, how you speak and body language — quick fixes that can be done overnight,” he advises.
“What I always tell my clients is: ‘If you need to try to stand out, if you need to try to be confident, you are not confident.’ The fact that you need to say you’re rich means you know you’re not rich right?”
“Try not to be scripted – use your own stories, your own embarrassing moments, your own successes even.”
“That’s what I’ve seen work, and they’re my own personal beliefs I have for my clients and even myself.”
I laugh, quite surprised at the simplicity of his approach, and how warped my stereotypical image of a pick-up artist/dating coach was.
I implore him to give me an example of how he’d handle a typical icebreaker moment, and he responds unfazed.
“I just go up and say: ‘Hi I’m Marcus, nice to meet you.’ Very simple stuff – you’d be surprised that a lot of people are actually open to a normal, toned-down and conservative approach.”
I ask Marcus about the sceptics who have already written off this self-help motivated approach to dating. Essentially, what would he have to say to the ‘haters’?
“I’d ask them, ‘ultimately what are your other alternatives?’ I don’t know if this is politically correct to say – but are you gonna end up paying for prostitutes? Are you going to end up in a matchmaking service where you don’t have direct control over who you meet where you’re basing your potential of a date from a resume?” He retorts.
“Maybe you’re going to end up saying love is decided by the heavens, and you lead a life of quiet desperation.”
“You know what the alternative is? It’s getting this area of your life handled, and take control of it.”
Words Of Wisdom
Aside from getting yourself some fancy new clothes and a haircut, Marcus is a firm believer in having the right attitude.
“The underlying principle to this is – are you somebody that believes that everything is left up to fate and circumstances? Or are you someone that knows that things can improve if you take responsibility for it?”
“This applies to whatever you pursue” he urges, “You can’t be a victim and say ‘oh I was born short; I was born without charisma; I was born not to make money or not born smart.’”
My last question to Marcus goes out to all the hopefuls who are ready to up their romance game – so for anyone looking to make improvements in any aspect of their lives, what advice does this coach have for us?
“The fact that you are doing something about your life shines a light on other people – that they might be not doing something.”
He goes on to warn about the dangers and inevitably of toxic people.
“You’re going to run into nasty comments or people who will project their insecurities on you like who are you to be doing this or to be dating that girl? That to me is the hardest part of the process because these people may be your friends and you don’t want to lose them.”
“But the hard decision to make is not to cut them off but to accept that you have different values and different goals in life.”
He closes on a positive note that isn’t unfamiliar to us but can be forgotten in times of hardship.
“If these people are really your friends, they’d support you in your goals. That’s a metric of unconditional love in a relationship and friendship. For the people that criticize you or shit on your goals, they’re not real friends.”
To find out more about Marcus and his services, you can check out his website.