The Set Up By Dan Bilzerian Book Summary

I have been tearing through nonfiction books like usual on various topics like social engineering, improving your career, living a more playful life, human nature, and the laws of power. These books, while informative, can sometimes feel like a chore to write a book summary on. Instead, I chose to talk about a book that will be fun to write about! Enter “The Set Up” by none other than the notorious Dan Bilzerian, a book that is as bold and unapologetic as its author.

For those uninitiated, Dan Bilzerian is a larger-than-life figure who gained fame and notoriety through his extravagant lifestyle showcased on social media. He’s been dubbed “The King of Instagram” for a reason, with a lifestyle that seemingly revolves around parties, poker, women, and a plethora of firearms.

Before diving into the details, it’s essential to clarify that this article won’t provide a comprehensive summary of the book. Many articles have already accomplished that task. Instead, we’ll focus on the highlights and valuable lessons we can glean from Bilzerian’s memoir, along with a general review.

First things first, it’s important to admit that I haven’t yet finished reading the entire book. The lack of an audiobook initially slowed down my progress. However, I’ve already grasped the essence of Bilzerian’s wild journey through life, which is what we’ll explore here.

The Book’s Structure

“The Set Up” is a memoir that takes readers on a rollercoaster ride through Dan Bilzerian’s life, starting from his childhood and progressing chronologically to the present day. Each chapter presents a short story, forming a comprehensive historical account of the highlights and lowlights of his life.

  1. Childhood and Struggles: The book begins by delving into Dan Bilzerian’s childhood, painting a picture of a young boy who faced challenges such as bullying and difficulties making friends. This early vulnerability contrasts sharply with his later image.
  2. College Years: Bilzerian’s college years mark a turning point in his life. He starts to figure things out and gain confidence. His experiences during this time lay the foundation for his future endeavors.
  3. Extravagant Lifestyle: As the narrative progresses, readers are introduced to the extravagant and often over-the-top lifestyle that Bilzerian becomes known for. The book provides vivid descriptions of his lavish parties, high-stakes poker games, and extravagant purchases.
  4. Honest Self-Reflection: Throughout the book, Bilzerian doesn’t shy away from self-reflection. He candidly discusses his shortcomings, mistakes, and even regrets. This honesty adds depth to his character and the narrative.
  5. Challenges of Fame: “The Set Up” sheds light on the challenges and pitfalls of fame. Bilzerian’s meteoric rise to social media stardom comes with its own set of problems, from controversies to personal struggles.
  6. Extreme Adventures: The memoir is peppered with adrenaline-pumping adventures, from his experiences as a Navy SEAL trainee to his daring stunts and high-stakes gambling. These stories provide an insight into Bilzerian’s thirst for excitement.
  7. Friendships and Relationships: Bilzerian’s relationships, both with friends and romantic partners, are explored throughout the book. He opens up about the complexities of maintaining connections amidst his chaotic lifestyle.
  8. Business Ventures: While primarily known for his social media persona, Bilzerian also delves into his business ventures and investments, providing glimpses into his entrepreneurial side.
  9. Reflections on Success: Despite the lack of a step-by-step success guide, the book offers readers the chance to reflect on what success means to them. Bilzerian’s journey raises questions about the trade-offs and sacrifices one may make in pursuit of fame and fortune.
  10. Entertainment and Controversy: “The Set Up” is, at its core, an entertaining read. It’s filled with stories that are sure to evoke strong reactions from readers, whether they admire or criticize Bilzerian.

While this summary provides a snapshot of the book’s content, there’s undoubtedly much more to explore within its pages. “The Set Up” by Dan Bilzerian offers a rollercoaster ride through a life that’s both fascinating and controversial, and readers are sure to find various takeaways and points of interest within its pages.

My Review

Bilzerian’s Honesty:

While his writing wasn’t amazing, it was good enough to get through it. And one of the standout features of this memoir is Bilzerian’s unflinching honesty. He doesn’t shy away from revealing the good, the bad, and the downright outrageous aspects of his life, even when his behavior and actions paint him in a less-than-favorable light. This honesty lends a remarkable degree of credibility to his narrative.

The “Fratire” Connection:

Readers familiar with the “fratire” genre, which is known for its outrageous and often debaucherous storytelling, will find echoes of it in Bilzerian’s book. His storytelling style is reminiscent of Tucker Max, who also bared his soul in a similar fashion. Much like Max, Bilzerian doesn’t hesitate to cast himself as the clown or fool in his stories, making them all the more engaging and authentic.

Relatability Amidst Extravagance:

Despite the extravagant lifestyle and jaw-dropping tales, there are pockets of relatability in Bilzerian’s narrative. He opens up about his struggles with friends, bullying, and relationships during his early years. These relatable experiences offer a glimpse into a time when Bilzerian wasn’t the multimillionaire playboy we see today. It’s a reminder that even the most seemingly invincible figures had their fair share of hurdles to overcome.

A Memoir’s Limitations:

However, it’s worth noting that “The Set Up” shares a common limitation with many memoirs. The focus is primarily on storytelling rather than providing clear lessons or actionable insights for the reader. While you can certainly draw your own conclusions from Bilzerian’s life experiences, you won’t find a step-by-step guide to success here. It’s more about entertainment and intrigue than offering concrete advice.

A Lesson on Happiness vs. Pleasure

I found it interesting how Dan pursued a very hedonistic life partially to counter his dad’s more boring life. His dad had plenty of money, but chose to live simply. Dan never understood why someone wouldn’t indulge in the pleasures of life with all that money. He never really touches on if he ever asked his dad or whatnot. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was because of the amazing lesson he found at the end of the book that all those indulgences may lead to temporary pleasure but not happiness. I wish he touched more on this or at least tried more to understand his dad. It may be a lesson that tells us that “leading by example” can get misinterpreted. Perhaps, his dad already knew this lesson or wanted to demonstrate how it’s best to live a humble life. Yet that backfired with his son.

Difficulties in Gleaning Lessons:

“The Set Up” doesn’t hand out wisdom on a silver platter. This book is less about step-by-step guidance and more about his life. Like most memoirs, it’s hard to glean any real insights beyond just feeling like large passages were entertaining or interesting. I wish he added a section or wrote a sequel with more actionable steps for the every day man.

Lessons Learned From the Book

Nevertheless, the lessons that can be gleaned from Bilzerian’s adventures are somewhat useful, particularly if you’re willing to think outside the box.

  1. The Art of Inviting: Bilzerian suggests that it’s more effective to invite someone to partake in something enjoyable rather than attempting to hit on them and secure a date. Drawing from his college days in Minnesota when he had access to houses and a boat, he found that inviting girls to have fun in a pressure-free environment often led to better outcomes.
  2. Incentives and Manipulation: Bilzerian’s early adult life taught him a valuable lesson about incentives. He observed how the dynamics in nightclubs were stacked against single, wealthy men, with promoters and bottle girls incentivized not to form romantic connections with guests. Bilzerian flipped the script by paying girls for dares and challenges, altering the incentives in his favor. This creative approach not only made interactions more enjoyable but also shifted the balance of power.
  3. Unfazed and Replaceable: Demonstrating that a potential romantic interest is replaceable can be a surprisingly effective strategy. When faced with disinterest, Bilzerian’s willingness to move on and engage with another woman often led to the initial prospect returning, now intrigued by his apparent indifference.
  4. Pleasure vs. Happiness: Perhaps the most profound insight from Bilzerian’s memoir is his realization that while money can bring pleasure, it doesn’t necessarily equate to happiness. Pleasure, he explains, is like a drug that requires ever-increasing doses for the same fleeting high, while happiness stems from simpler things like purpose, family, and friends. This insight challenges the notion that wealth alone guarantees contentment. It’s worth noting that Bilzerian’s credibility in discussing the pursuit of happiness, despite indulging in excesses, adds weight to the age-old adage that money doesn’t buy lasting contentment. While many rich or famous people say this, people clearly don’t believe them. You can see it in the YouTube comments (“well, give me the money then. I’m sure I’ll be happier.”) Dan hasn’t held back in anything in life and lived it the most utmost levels of hedonism, which is something other rich and famous people may not have done. So, perhaps, when he’s telling you he learned this lesson the hard way, you’re more likely to believe it this time.
  5. Leveraging Wealth Creatively: One of the book’s recurring themes is Dan Bilzerian’s observation that even many affluent men struggle when it comes to dating. However, he has managed to turn his wealth into an advantage, using unconventional methods to enhance his dating life, a feat that eludes many wealthy individuals. Bilzerian’s unconventional approach involved securing an attractive lease on mansions that no one would buy. He then transformed these properties into venues for extravagant parties, complete with indulgent services like massages, manicures, pedicures, and live performances by famous musicians. This ingenious set up created an environment where women were naturally drawn in, creating a desirable gender ratio and an aura of exclusivity. The women, unaccustomed to competing for attention, found themselves vying for his affections while he could be himself.
  6. The Power of Fame and Instagram: In Bilzerian’s life, fame and a powerful Instagram presence acted as accelerants, amplifying his reach. Posting his crazy life on Instagram turned out to be a successful experiment. These factors contributed significantly to his dating success, fostering trust, credibility, and desire among his audience before they even met him. However, excessive fame also had its drawbacks, making it difficult for him to enjoy a normal life without constant interruptions from admirers and paparazzi.
  7. The Importance of Looks and Physique: While Bilzerian briefly touched upon handling this area in his college years, it’s evident that one’s appearance and physical condition matter. Many men often overlook the importance of grooming, fashion, and maintaining a good physique. These factors can significantly impact one’s dating life and overall success.
  8. The Universality of the Set Up: Bilzerian’s experiences highlight that the concept of “the set up” is not solely dependent on wealth. He observed its effectiveness during his college years in Tampa, Florida. In this case, a fraternity employed a creative set up that involved hosting themed parties with an ideal gender ratio and strategic logistics. Each fraternity had a night where they invited all the sororities, so there was no conflicts of schedule. Then, their parties had lots of bedrooms and showers right near by. Then, the themed parties like Day Glo gave reasons to not be judged when they saw everyone else having fun and excuses for the men and women to rub each other with paint. This approach allowed everyone to let loose, fostering connections and social interactions. This may be more entertaining and informative for most though since many readers are out of college now. Thinking of creative ways to use this lesson in setting things up in the adult world is easier said than done.

While “The Set Up” may not offer a comprehensive playbook for success, it does provide unique insights into the mind of a man who has lived life to the fullest, often to the extreme. Bilzerian’s unconventional wisdom is difficult to apply in everyday scenarios for many readers, as it often involves a lifestyle far removed from the norm. However, his candid narrative can serve as a source of inspiration and entertainment.

In the end, while “The Set Up” may not offer a roadmap to success, it provides a glimpse into the mind of a maverick who excels at recognizing and capitalizing on unique opportunities. The lessons may not be easily applicable for everyone, but they offer a fresh perspective on life’s possibilities. For those seeking unconventional insights and a dose of unfiltered reality, Dan Bilzerian’s memoir is a captivating read.


“The Set Up” by Dan Bilzerian is a wild journey through the life of one of social media’s most notorious figures. Bilzerian’s unapologetic honesty and storytelling prowess make it an engaging read, reminiscent of the “fratire” genre. While I wish it had a lot more actionable insights for the every day man, it offers a voyeuristic look into a life most can only dream of. Whether you love him or loathe him, Bilzerian’s memoir is captivating and worth a read for those seeking a break from the usual nonfiction fare. The stories are interesting and entertaining, though I wish there were more lessons we could actually take to use in our every day life.

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By Will Chou

I am the the founder of this site and I am grateful you are here to be part of this awesome community. I help hard-working Asian American Millennials get rich doing work they love.

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