Routines, scripts, lines, things to say. Some love ’em, some hate ’em, nearly everyone misunderstands them. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a routine is simply something that you tend to say more than once. In other words, a memorized script of varying length. So in essence, both our kneejerk “fine” response to the question, “how are you?” and a rehearsed, pre-scripted story are routines. One is simply longer and more complex than the other. Obviously, all of us use routines in one way or another.
Routines (whether yours or someone else’s) can also take the form of being canned, meaning that you’ve practiced them over and over again until you can deliver them well, or Stock, which means they’re generic, off-the-shelf scripts, usually created by others. Both can be useful tools, especially if you’re just starting out or if you don’t have a lot of natural talent.
The main purpose for routines is to teach you a skill.
Ironically, it’s not to hook sets, or to open a set, or to get attraction, or even to get you laid.
A routine is simply a training wheel designed to teach you a specific skill–in the same way that training wheels on a bike are designed to teach you to RIDE. In the same way that “floaties” are designed to teach you to become comfortable in the water and to swim. Like training wheels, routines are NOT primarily designed to keep you upright or afloat. The word for that is crutch.
I didn’t understand this concept for a long time. No one ever explained it to me. I was a hard-core Mystery Method guy in 2005-2006 and I thought canned routines were the best thing since sliced bread. I thought routines were there to get you laid. Even Mystery still used routines. They had to be the holy grail of pickup, right?
As I found out later, the problem was that I was trying to use the WHAT without understanding the WHY. I was trying to use them for short term gain instead of long term development.
Routines are MOST useful when used for skill development. Stories, for example, are not primarily designed to create comfort, or attraction, or even to get a result in a set. They are designed to teach you storytelling. Any result you get from their use is secondary. Likewise, banter is designed to teach you humor and playfulness. Push-pull is designed to teach you to be a challenge and to not be predictable and boring. Openers are designed to teach you to engage people and hold court in groups. Oftentimes these routines can get us better results infield, but sometimes they do not. Sometimes they can intentionally blow us out (like the infamous “Shocker” routines from BradP).
And that’s ok.
Because we aren’t using them directly to get better results. We’re using them to teach us the skills that will make us more attractive, and ultimately, more successful. The main problem a lot of guys have using routines is that they use them for the wrong reasons. Don’t use routines as crutches so you don’t have to learn to think on your feet. Use them as training wheels to teach you the fundamentals.
Pros and Cons of Using Routines
And conversely, if you’re not naturally talented socially, don’t shy away from routines because you think they’re inauthentic or disingenuous. They’re no more inauthentic than when you tell a story that you’ve told before, or when someone says hello and you response with, “hi.” Not using routines when you lack natural talent is like not practicing free throws when you lack natural basketball ability – namely, stupid. Even Shaq finally started practicing free throws.
Stand up comedians, politicians, public speakers, and basically anyone on a stage all learn to speak using routines (unless you’re a former president who just tries to improvise). Only they call them speeches. Sometimes they write their own speeches, and other times they have someone else write them. But the end result is the same – they learn to speak by practicing their speeches. If you want to become good at pick up, you must do the same.
Eventually, you’ll lose the need to use routines. If you’ve been using routines correctly for more than a year and they’re starting to get you diminishing returns, you’re probably at that point. You probably need to start dropping them and teaching yourself how to improvise. That doesn’t mean you’ll always improvise everything 100%, but you want to progress to where you no longer need routines. You’ll no longer have to rely on them. You’ll be able to tell stories on the fly. You’ll be able to banter because you understand the concepts and underlying mechanisms. You’ll be able toopen with whatever’s on your mind.
Eventually, you will become a natural.
And that, gents, is really the goal of all of this. Unconscious competence. To internalize your skillset so much that you no longer think about it. To have such social mastery that at times, you take your own skills for granted because they are executed so effortlessly. That’s what you should be working towards.
Don’t gaze at the trees so long that you lose sight of the forest.