I recently read Eric Ries’ bestselling book The Lean Startup. First published in 2011, it has become something of a classic among entrepreneurs and the denizens of Silicon Valley. It’s easy to see why. Its pared back, simple approach to efficient innovation in business provides a template that many people forming companies could learn a lot from. As I was reading, it struck me that the lessons it teaches could equally be applied to game.

Comparisons between game and business (and in particular sales) have been made frequently before, but just as Ries’ book genuinely brings something new to the table in commerce, so its application could be far-reaching for those looking to improve their dating lives.

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What The Lean Startup Teaches

The Lean Startup is a detailed, well-written account of Ries’ innovations as as business owner, of the early successes and innovations of his tech company IMVU, which he steered from near failure to stellar, multi-million dollar success. The method that he outlines feels revolutionary simply as it is so counter-intuitive and opposed to standard business practice.

In short, Ries counsels that the fledgling company should work in the most efficient manner possible, ignoring the more lumbering processes of the larger firms they might be tempted to copy. In practice this means rather than spending ages in development, you should instead release a minimum viable product to market. In the book, Ries describes releasing an early version of his interconnectivity avatar product with bugs in it. This is against the grain – the normal practice would be to spend a long time making the product the best it can be.

Ries argues that startups operate under conditions of extreme uncertainty, especially in terms of what the customer actually wants. After all, at the beginning there are no customers. So waste time and resource on tweaks when it could be that the entire product is not popular with the market?

What you should do instead is continually test the product and refine as you go along. This saves time as it allows you to launch quicker, it saves money as you’re not testing beforehand, and means that you are being responsive to the market rather than to your preconceived notions of what should be successful.

Accelerate The Feedback Loop

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As in the diagram above, the company should continually accelerate the feedback loop that flows through building a new product, measuring customer responses and then pivoting, or changing direction in response.

What Does This Have to Do With Game?

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At first sight this may not seem to have much to do with game, but bear with me.

In a sense, every man who steps out onto the street to talk to girls, or who hits the club, is an entrepreneur. He’s taking his product – himself – out to market and testing the response that it gets. Pick-up, like entrepreneurship, also operates within circumstances of extreme uncertainty.

The problem is that many guys want to perfect everything before they go out and actually talk to girls. This leads to the problem of what we call “mental masturbation.” Mental masturbation is a buffer that stops guys getting results that hides beneath the garb of virtue. Men think that by watching infield videos or reading articles about game (this one included) that they are actually “doing” game. The truth is, of course, that they’re not. Game only exists when a man approaches a girl he likes and indicates that he likes her. Everything else is foreplay — and solo foreplay isn’t very much fun.

Think about your dating life as it is now. Are you getting out there into the field, or are you simply making excuses for yourself and watching endless videos, feeling like you could never do what those guys on YouTube are doing?

If so, you should remember the lessons of Eric Ries.

Face it – you’re never going to be perfect, so there is no point in waiting until some imaginary point in the future when your inner game is all fixed, your money is sorted and you have a Lambo in the driveway before you ask a girl on a date. What you should do instead is get out there, start approaching girls and take direct feedback from the marketplace.

The Field Is King

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An old game expression states that “the field is king.” What that means is that the only valuable feedback comes from the people you are seeking to seduce – girls. So you can sit at home thinking you’re the world’s greatest stud or it’s biggest loser, but until you test that hypothesis you don’t know for sure.

What you should do is go out – whether you think you’re ready or not – and approach ten girls. Ten girls will give you a pretty good indicator of where you are. If you collect six numbers then all good. If all ten laugh in your face then you know you have a way to go.

Before You Go Out And Talk To Girls, Both The Problem And the Solution Are Unknown

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Through careful, honest analysis of each set – try keeping a journal or a spreadsheet to help with this, or even recording yourself on a smartphone or Dictaphone – you’ll soon get a pretty good idea of what needs to be done. At this point you are measuring.

Next you pivot — that is, change the product or your approach according to the feedback. Are you talking to fast or wearing bad clothes? Or approaching in a city where the ratios are particularly bad? Switch up, go elsewhere and try again. Then, when you find strategies that do work build on them and make them fundamentals in your repertoire.

Remember, game is not about being perfect the first time you speak to a girl, or even the thousandth time. It’s about having the courage to step up to the plate, take negative feedback like a man and go back into the fray stronger. Although it is a book aimed at business-owners, The Lean Startup reminds us of this simple principle in a clear, considered way.

Read More: Should You Live With Her?