JOHNNY CASSELL is one confident young man. According to him, he can walk up to any girl in the street and, within minutes, get her number, or even set up a date. What’s more, he can help you do the same. That’s why he bills himself as London’s leading dating coach. A what? Yes, a dating coach – it is a thing, and a very 21st century one at that.
It seems that men have become so useless at wooing women that they now need help. They may be able to chat someone up on the internet, but in real life, they’re clueless. “Everyone goes on about online dating, which is fine,” says Johnny, in his faintly Australian accent (though he’s from Reading). “But you’ve got to be good at off-line dating too, because it all comes off-line at some point.”
We are sitting in the grand surroundings of a members-only club off Berkeley Square, where Johnny meets his clients. He is tall, good-looking, and mature for his 27 years. Which no doubt comes from all the success he has enjoyed with women over the last 10 years.
But what makes him think he can turn any old chump into an accomplished operator? “I take a holistic approach,” he says. “I’m not here to help men get laid. If they want that, they can go to a knocking shop. What I do is help men become a better version of themselves, which then makes them attractive to women. For me, success is about having a break-through in their ability to talk to women.”
Enter the Dating Coach
His clients are of all ages and walks of life; though he sees certain patterns emerge. For example, a lot of his clients are highly successful businessmen who have sacrificed their romantic lives for the sake of their work. “These sorts of guys are really strong in the boardroom,” says Johnny. “Take them out of that environment, into a social environment, and they just fall apart.” Another set he sees a lot of are the rich young spoilt kids who have it all, except the one thing they really crave – love. Just don’t use the word ‘love’ – Johnny thinks it’s far too romantic.
“What it’s really about is your compatibility,” he says. “What does the other person have that I can add to me? What do I have that I can add to them? For me, love is about identifying the values you both have and aligning them.”
If it all sounds a bit pragmatic and clinical, perhaps it is. But Johnny’s main belief is that men need to rely less on chance and random drunken encounters and more on working out what they want, and then getting it. After all, that’s what women do. “I know women who have great long lists of qualities they are looking for in a man,” he says. “Ask a man, and he usually just says ‘fit’.”
Ten years ago, Johnny was in the same position as his clients – single, awkward, and desperate to have some luck with the girls. He had grown up in Reading, 30 miles west of London, where his family run a construction business. He would go out every weekend with his mates, and find that the lad mentality of his friends was holding him back. “They wanted to go to the same old place every week, get absolutely pissed, and maybe drunkenly have a chat with some girl that wouldn’t lead to anything.”
If Johnny ever dared splinter off to speak to a girl, they would throw ice cubes at his head to humiliate him. “That’s the whole lad culture, and it’s not a fruitful environment. I felt these people were holding me back.”
At about that time, he read a couple of books that changed his life. One of them was Neil Strauss’s The Game, a well-known and controversial dating psychology book that became the bible for modern pick-up artists. Another, more subtly, was The Science of Acting, by Sam Cogan, which was written to help actors understand the deeper levels of psychology. Both books taught Johnny about behaviour and motivation, and that his shyness around women had its roots in childhood experiences.
Over time, he had built up negative associations with women, based on childhood experiences like being kicked by a group of girls, or being made to sit on a girls’ table at school as a punishment. “It compounded a belief that girls don’t like me,” he says. Once he had learned to erase those negative associations, and to learn simply to be interested in women on an individual level, he instantly started seeing results. “It was a pivotal moment in my life,” he recalls.
“I immediately started noticing success. There was no denying it. I was instantly seeing these benefits, simply by being social, and of giving a shit about other people.” Johnny’s whole life changed from then on – he would go out in London, sometimes five nights a week, building up contacts with hundreds of women he would never previously have thought he could talk to. “At one point I just had too many, it was out of control.”
One of the pieces of advice he gives his clients is not to pick up women in bars or pubs, but to try neutral spaces like the park. “The park is a great place to chat up a woman, because it’s already quite romantic. And if she’s walking her dog, you can start off by being interested in the dog, then switch your focus onto her. You can suggest going to grab a coffee, or an ice cream if it’s hot – there’s always a little café somewhere nearby.”
It may sound too simple to be true, but he shows me videos of this simple technique working for his clients. One of them got talking to a Chinese celebrity in Hyde Park, and within weeks was on a plane to see her. “Women compare notes with each other. And when the woman who got chatted up in the park tells her friends that’s how she met her boyfriend, they’re all going to wish they had that story.”
Has his technique ever failed? “I can honestly say I’ve never had a failure,” he says. “Because as soon as someone comes in, they’re learning something new.” He admits there was one client he had to let go – a multi-millionaire CEO of his own company – because “his ego got in the way.” Johnny offers several packages, starting with an initial 5-hour consultation of £750, going up to a 7-day intensive programme, costing £5,000.
What if the client is simply hideous, or badly overweight? “I look at the whole package. I make the client sort themselves out and get a handle on things. Everyone can improve their image somehow – there is no excuse in this day and age to have black teeth, or stray hairs hanging out of your neck.”
In extreme cases, he’ll send a client to a boot camp, but it’s as much about the person’s attitude as their physical condition. “Women aren’t looking for Brad Pitt, they’re looking for value. It’s not about being an Adonis, you just have to be well turned out. That says a whole lot more about you.”
And what of his own romantic life? After years of playing the game, Johnny has been going steady with the same beautiful girlfriend for some time. Someone he would never have dreamed of even talking to just ten years ago. No wonder he’s so damn confident. ML