Professional wingmen, the need to be independently awesome and the region’s lack of passion around pastimes all came up when I interviewed James Norton (“Brother James). The dating coach and face of the Awesome Institution is out in the field himself as a single guy and as a professional helping clients improve their dating prowess. Here’s Part 2 of our chat.
At this point, with coaching, you get to travel around a good deal for conferences and events. Compare what the D.C. region is like for dating against other places around the country.
There’s good and bad here. I think good because there are people from everywhere. It’s a transient city. Every three years you go through a whole new set of friends. It’s not like some small Midwestern town where you just don’t have anybody or even a town in Northern Virginia where it might be a more close-knit community. In D.C. there’s a nice flow and it’s a nice area. I’m into my mid-30s and there’s just a whole bunch of single people in their 30s who don’t have children and like to date. So it’s beneficial, just numbers-wise.
But there’s also bad. I was just talking to a friend from Seattle. And people work to live there. And in D.C we live to work. A bunch of Type As. They don’t spend time putting energy into their relationships or enjoying life. You go around the city and one of the first questions you get is, “Where do you work?”
Yeah, dates can feel like meetings or interviews.
It becomes a status thing. Who do you know? It’s networking.
I think there’s not enough passion for pastimes here. There’s passions for jobs. Another thing is we have people who are brilliantly smart here. Top of their class. Went to Yale. And they went to grad school at Penn. And their life was done in school but it wasn’t socializing. So now that they’re making all of this money they don’t know how to socialize and relate to people because they’re busy getting to whatever degree they want to get.
How do we get past that as an area?
I don’t know that we do. It’s like Wall Street (to New York).
Do you think it’s harder for women or for men here?
That’s a good question. You know I’ve had the conversation before and I haven’t thought about that in a while. … I think it’s equally hard. I’ve definitely seen the quality of guys out here. I’ve seen the quality of women. And I’d say there’s a higher quality on the side of the women.
At the same time, guys have a pretty rough time approaching and getting things going. So maybe it’s equal. I know that there are a lot of single women here, and I just can’t figure out why. … I was out at a bar last night with two friends and there were 10 guys and two girls in the place. I don’t know. Maybe that’s not a place you’d want to go (laughs). But there are guys out there looking.
Where do you think is the best place for single people to go in this area?
I think it’s really about your passions. Follow that. If your passion’s running, join a running club. Or yoga. But do that. Most people don’t do a lot of these events and groups. But if you can find them there are people who go and want to socialize and meet other people there. And it’s not a bar or a pub.
I really believe in that. If you like soccer, go play soccer. There’s an amazing soccer league here.
Do you think speed dating and other events that are designed to put single people together are too forced or a positive approach to try? Is it better to go work on yourself and avoid them?
I think they’re good, especially early in the night because it forces you to talk. You’re talking for an hour or so about yourself.
I don’t know what the end result is. I’ve gone and I’ve taken clients to [speed dating]. They can express themselves and figure out what to say. At the same time, though, I’ve only gone on a couple of dates [as a result of going to those types of events], and one was really awful.
But awful funny hopefully? Nothing worse than a boring dud of a date. At least if something happens that stands out, it’s a story.
Yeah, like, “Hold on let me write this down (laughs).”
I do think that, to a degree, if you’re engaging and putting yourself out there it’s better than not. It’s like when you try to find a new job—you really need to go and make that a job. If you really want to meet someone you have to make that a priority. At lot of people just put it to the wayside and everything else in their life takes on a higher priority.
If you were to branch out and work with women, what would you want to help them with? What do you think the biggest mistake women make is?
I think—and this, to a degree, is something both men and women do. What’s the worst cologne in the world? Desperation. You can smell it. And it’s being needy. I want someone who has their own life, and they get it done. I don’t want someone who … how do you say this … their life revolves around my life. So, for example, if someone says. “Oh, how about Tuesday?” If you have plans already for Tuesday, don’t cancel your plans to hang out with this guy. Say, “I can’t. When can we do it?” If he’s really interested, he’ll make sure that he gets in touch with you and reaches out to you.
There’s also the concept of value exchange. You want the highest value guy you can have, right? And I want the most highly valuable woman I can have to be in my life, right? I don’t want someone who’s low value and doesn’t take care of themselves and has no life. So we have to extend that to guys. That’s why I call my business the Awesome Institution. If you’re an awesome, badass person, people want to date you, they want to take you to things, to invite you everywhere. Why not just address that stuff instead of coming up with the tricks and the “Pickup Artist” stuff that don’t work long term anyway. A girl will find out about you eventually. They have this thing called the Internet. She can read about you.
So, in terms of your clients, how many will you take on at once?
Right now I have about five guys I’m working with. I’ll take on more if I need to. It’s one of those things, let’s have coffee and discuss some things, give you some homework and get you to your goal.
I’m guessing you work with someone for a set period of time, you don’t see them for a while and sometimes they come back on as clients. Does that happen much?
One of my first clients I’ve seen again. But more, the majority of it, I don’t see most of them again [after working with them]. Maybe we’ll have a talk or a discussion but nothing much.
More so on Facebook I’ll see they got married, and it’s pretty cool. And sometimes knowing where they came from, how much they’ve progressed. It’s especially awesome to see that.
We talked about pickup artists, but what do you make of professional wingmen and women?
I was mentioning the approach and how difficult that is for some guys, and [with a wingman] it’s one less thing that gets in their way. I even have guy friends who are awful about talking about me. They’ll come over and the girls scatter. So I can understand having someone help you with that, especially if you’re new to the city. And if you have a female wingman they can especially vouch for you. I get it. I think it goes back to the approach anxiety. You don’t know how to approach, how to get in there.
What other tips do you offer up to your clients?
Well I have a couple rules. First is no lies. You have to be yourself, and it also means taking an inventory of yourself –what is good. What is bad. Start looking at yourself. If your finances are completely out of whack, you don’t have a job, you’re out of shape, you’re unhealthy, all these factors weigh down on you. You want to feel like a million bucks when you go to talk to someone. So why not just starting working on that stuff?
Another rule is no negativity. Nobody wants to be around Debbie Downer or Donnie Downer—or whatever the male equivalent is. Again, it goes into the wingman thing. You don’t want that girl or that guy next to you telling you, “Oh, you can’t do that. You can’t approach that guy.” No one wants that friend or that person at all.
I’m a big believer in the idea that all of the people that give you energy—keep them in your life. All of the people that suck out energy, get rid of them. They’re not worth your time.
And the other rule is be courageous. And you have to think of it in a very black and white way. Say I’m sitting there and I want to go talk to a girl. I can either a) be brave and go talk to her or b) be a coward and do nothing. Start calling yourself out on your stuff, and take full responsibility. Be the change that you want to be. I can open up the doors, but it’s up to them.