4 Things I Learned From Don Draper

The concepts of “alpha” and “beta” often inspire significant debate, but it’s clear that Mad Men’s main character Don Draper is one of the great alpha television characters of today, and perhaps of all time. It is telling that the show’s producers have to set a drama in the 1960s to depict male characters whose unabashed interests include making money, laying women, and competing for status. Among these, Don is the King Alpha. Here are a few things I have learned from watching this character develop throughout five seasons of the show:

Silence works

Don barely talks about anything outside of business. Nobody knows about his past, his personal life, his love affairs, his likes and dislikes, nothing. Don understands that the more someone knows about you, the more they can use the information against you. Sometimes you are valuable enough that it doesn’t matter (as Pete Campbell found out in season one), but it’s best to give your competitors as little ammunition as possible. The idea of opening up and allowing people to know you as a means of building trust is largely Sensitive New Age Guy psychobabble designed to identify and subjugate lesser males.

Never show outward emotion besides anger

Don is human — he’s prone to the occasional depressive episode of laying in bed for hours and contemplating what it all means, but nobody is privy to this save for his wife and the TV audience. At the office he is always composed, an unshakeable paragon of efficiency with perfectly slicked back hair and a well-tailored suit. Don doesn’t talk about his “feelings” because he knows that, ultimately, men are alone in the world and nobody cares about his problems. The only thing besides his dry sarcasm is the occasional well-timed rebuke when someone royally screws up. Don uses anger surgically, providing a counterpoint to his normally aloof nature. A man who is always sad, angry, or jealous cheapens these emotions and makes them essentially meaningless.

Hide the effort of your successes

This is a crossover from Law 30 of the 48 Laws of Power, which Don exemplifies. Don is regarded as a genius whose often-spontaneous brilliance has kept his company afloat on multiple occasions. At the office, he is the top player who is sought after by other firms and envied by his coworkers. Few will cross him because of the value he brings and the mystique of being able to come up with the perfect idea in the nick of time. Only the viewer is treated to scenes of him in his undershirt, getting drunk as he struggles to brainstorm another revolutionary idea. Don is a genius to be sure, but he also works tirelessly (and secretly) at his craft.

Happiness is transient

Don is a millionaire with a high-powered successful career in a big city, a gorgeous wife, and two kids he doesn’t have to see very often. Yet he is never happy for more than an episode or two at a time. He is overcome with a sense of emptiness, often trying to escape his feelings with spontaneous trips, alcohol, or sex outside of his marriage. Don understands at a basic level that all happiness is impermanent.

The employees at the ad firm know that their work is not selling products, but rather selling the feeling of happiness that people associate with their products. Like someone with autism who has to learn facial expressions by rote memorization, Don excels at this manipulation because he operates outside of a normal consumerist mindset and can understand it objectively. However, he is just as prone to the fleeting nature of contentment as the people he manipulates.

I normally advise against watching TV, but Mad Men is one of the two shows on television I make time for each week. In a whitewashed, PC entertainment world with few male role models, Mad Men subtly gives men a blueprint of how to act in the workplace, at home, and in the bedroom.

Read More: 4 Things One Man Learned About Relationships

79 thoughts on “4 Things I Learned From Don Draper”

    1. Let me guess: Breaking Bad. Mad Men is the same concept but the exact opposite setting from Mad Men. Mad Men in five words: stylish, sharp, society, relationships, sexy. Breaking Bad: gritty, crime, drugs, family, death. Both shows are successful because human beings are fascinated by the fall of the alpha male. Depending on how each series turns out, both shows could also be interpreted as beta male/female fantasies about alpha males rising but finally getting their comeuppance, as they so rarely do in real life (two words: golden parachute).

      1. What a sorry definition of an Alpha male: a man who produces nothing and leads other men to no definable goal.
        A simple acid test for Alphaness (in the real world): if a man were to do it would he: a) end up with praise or loyalty, or b) a knife in his back. If b) he ain’t an Alpha.

        1. Allow me to play Devil/Alpha’s advocate: they produce nothing? In Mad Men, the alpha males create millions of dollars in wealth through a business, employing dozens of people. Their goal is to get to the top of their business, getting the biggest clients and the most money. Seems pretty clear.
          In Breaking Bad, the alpha male consistently cheats death and creates a criminal empire dealing meth. Arguably a less noble goal, but he does produce wealth, and provide for an (ungrateful) family. His goal was to save enough money to provide for his wife and children; after reaching this goal he continues creating wealth because deep down he enjoys power and respect. Who could blame him? Except for the meth of course.
          An alpha doesn’t act out of fear of people’s reactions. He acts, and others are manipulated into accepting the consequences. Which is why we love them. They do things few can get away with. JFK was an infamous adulterer, but the world cried when he was shot.

        2. b) violates the only meaningful definition of alpha. Having a knife in your back is *literally* alpha since chicks dig scars. Anyone who has a friend who has dealt coke knows A. how much pussy they scoop and B. how dangerous it is.

        3. Caesar was part of the Populares party. He was assassinated as part of the political intrigues of Rome. Of course Rome didn’t spread only by the sword but by offering significant benefits to joining their empire and accepting the Emperor’s patronage (a system whose echoes could be seen in La Costa Nostra.)
          And yes, both Caesar and his nephew Octavian weren’t noted for being physical presences.

        4. Yeah, we see how that really works in serious power struggles. I guess chicks did rivers of blood too? I am talking about actual history, not fiction.

        5. A bit of jump from the man who conquered Gaul and was a member of the First Triumvirate to a couple of cartel sub-lieutenants. The two are not equivalent, even though I am sure in school most of your scholarly works consisted of comparative essays: Caesar and the Roman Civil Wars to the Mexican Cartels and Drug War, is rather ad invidiam.

        6. This isn’t Vox Day. This isn’t Neo-reactionary HQ or IMF or Steve Sailer’s. Nor is it OnWar.com or the military. This isn’t even Chateau Roissy.
          This is Return of Kings.
          Alpha, here, and in PUAsphere is about max’ing fit pooosy for the purposes of lifestyle and literally nothing else. It’s not about manufacturing “leaders of men” or new, better! racists or seeing the world through different eyes except insofar as those attributes get you what you desire.
          So basically, yeah ‘muh dik’.
          Has America (mankind?) descended from once great heights of freedom, religiosity and economic success to a nadir of constant surveillance, imposed atheism and permanently high levels of unemployment? Probably! Is that relevant to the goal? Nope.

        7. What did Earp do? Take his brother and some drunkard dentist over to kill the Clanton Brothers in some vendetta?

        8. He was killed because he had married Cleopatra while he was already married and was going to form his own Empire in Egypt.Italy can survive without the breadbasket of Egypt but they had a large empire to feed and didn’t want him controlling the food supplies.Marc Anthony tried the same thing later with the middle aged Cleopatra.And even later the Hebrews were going to do the same thing in Egypt which was why the Romans had to really completely destroy all 3 of them.

        9. Sure, because the cokehead Hos want free coke. Isn’t that like paying them?

        10. Since we are talking tv shows, here’s a relevant comparison:
          Vic Mackey> Don Draper

      2. Breaking Bad is close to perfection. Foreshadowing, character development, plot, acting, suspense, photography, music. It is an elegantly paced narrative about “Mr. Chips becoming Scarface,” as the showrunner Vince Gilligan puts it. It is an exploration of weakness and power, criminality and science — a true portrait of temptation that rivals The Sopranos.
        Mad Men is a good singular character study with impeccable writing and suffers from moral anachronism. They are true to the authenticity of the period almost to the point of OCD! And yet they behave like millennials who are play-acting what they think 1960s people really did behind the scenes, which is ideologically driven bullshit. The “Now We Know Better” syndrome.
        Both are good, but Bad is better.

        1. It’s a fairly accurate show but of course it includes some modern PC and then the writers weren’t even alive during this period so they will misinterpret some things and exaggerate.

      3. Actually, I lied. I watch both Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad. I forgot because BB is not in season.

      4. But they don’t get their comeuppance and always prevail at the end.I don’t watch TV but occidentally watched Madmen on the Net and then kept watching because the Draper character is based on a prep school friend’s father. I became interested to see how much was accurate and how much Hollywood and made for today’s sensibilities. It’s fairly accurate right down to what Don and his wife looked like, kids, and the exact street where he lived in the suburbs. In real life though he wasn’t divorced and if he was shagging other females no one knew about it. Then I began watching Breaking Bad and became interested in that. Walt is a school teacher who apparently was a top scientist who somehow missed out on a chance to make some real money in science(you learn more of this as the story progresses). He needs to work at a car wash as a cashier after school for the money but it’s very degrading when the owner asks him to dry cars when they’re busy especially when some of his students go their to have their cars washed. One day he collapses on the job and finds out he has brain cancer and really doesn’t have the money or insurance to get the top treatment and believes he’ll be dead soon.
        Well, I don’t want to write a whole review of the show but both men, Walter and Don in Madmen did not become betas and had prevailed in the end. Don was born to some whore in a small town who died in childbirth and who he his father had knocked up and the midwife delivered to his father’s wife to bring up.At 18 when he’s in the army due to some mix up in identity he takes the identity of another dead soldier and starts a new life.
        Walter becomes a success in the meth business and gets his treatment (he’s allegedly cured) and makes the money he wanted to care for his wife and kids when he thought he’d be dead in a few months.
        Watch both shows from the beginning.

        1. I think that is the appeal of both shows, people watch first because it’s fascinating to see how alphas act and how others respond, but also because there is a macabre sense that feminist thought leads to the overarching need to see that The Alpha Male Must Fail. Feminists hate alpha males because they get what they want by earning it (whether right or wrong), while alpha females get what they want by winning the genetic lottery. Makeup washes off, but true alpha is forever. Feminists love both shows because they assume that if everyone else’s life around the alpha male is destroyed, eventually the alpha male himself will also be destroyed. Why should the alpha male get away with murder (literally or figuratively)? Either life is fair or it isn’t–if you don’t believe in Hell, all you have left is moral plays on TV shows. If both shows end with the alpha male coming away unscathed, I predict massive criticism of both shows, completely ignoring the massive praise so far.
          I just thought of another interesting point: in both Mad Men and Breaking Bad, there are men pretending to be other men, alpha males. In Mad Men, the main character basically becomes Don Draper, and is loved. At this point in the series, it is unclear but I doubt Don’s eventual fall will be related to his hidden identity, because people don’t care if you are lying about your name, as long as you are not lying about being an alpha male. In Breaking Bad, our (anti-)hero Walt pretends to be a big time drug dealer, and eventually becomes him, destroying the old beta male he used to be. Both men understand: confidence is everything. If you don’t believe your own shit, no one else will. Perception outweighs reality.

    1. One would think, but that’s not always the case. Game will always be a factor in getting any woman you want, as well as whether the woman is looking for the rich guy at that moment.

    2. depends on the country right? like in the states, girls don’t give a shit about money but in latin america or china you could easily build a harem

        1. girls don’t give a shit about *your* money.
          of course, YMMV, obv. it’ll make a difference in parts of the US that resemble third-world/single-mom game

  1. There was an SNL sketch not too long ago with Don Draper giving lessons on how to seduce women. It was hilarious but spot on at the same time. Silence is probably one of the most powerful, and under-utilized tools in seduction.

    1. The problem is that for most guys, guys who don’t look like Don Draper, silence only brings them more silence, not social success.

      1. Something I’ve found is that if you’re only a little familiar with everyone and make *one* smart-ass remark you can afford to say nothing for the rest of the night and have a 50/50 shot of bang.

  2. Agreed on all points.
    Not all that long ago, I went out with a woman well past her prime (39) and we got to talking about TV shows. “Mad Men” came up and, though, I had seen only part of one episode, when I mentioned this to her, the first thing that came out of her mouth was, “Oh! Don Draper is such a sleazeball!” I figured this was a typical knee-jerk reaction and let it slide, manly because I didn’t have anything substantial to say in rebuttal because I hadn’t watched the show.
    Later, when I got into it, I started to develop admiration for the Draper character more and more. Strong and silent type, but gets shit done, while hiding the secret of his success. I also could see the above harpie’s visceral dislike of Draper — along with her papering over Betty Draper’s behavior towards her kids, and her hypergamy in divorcing Don and going for Henry. Typical.
    Oh, and the harpie had bad things to say about “Pan Am” as well. If nothing else, the fact that stewardesses back then were young, attractive, and wore short skirts. Also typical.

    1. Your harpie is just menopausal and jealous because Don wouldn’t give her a 2nd look lol

  3. He’s actually a sad, depressive, overcompensating, self-loathing man.
    He’s very admirable in many respects, but in terms of his psychological and emotional stability, I would not know of many men who’d wish to be like him. Mad Men is genius for a slew of reasons, but it’s thematic insights are particularly rich in its depictions of how superficial achievements do little if anything to appease the hollow, empty inner lives of people.
    The Rawness has a brilliant breakdown of Mad Men season 5 finale last year which shows those of you who completely miss the point of the show how these themes are explored.

    1. The formulation is backwards. The manosphere via Roissy patterns its understanding of “alpha” on Don Draper. Mad Men didn’t fit a preexisting template. Mad Men was instrumental in the creation and solidification of the alpha template as you know it.
      In terms of Draper’s “psychological and emotional [in]stability,” those are just products of Hollywood guilt complex. A man who kicks so much ass professionally and personally must have a compensating dark side. Utter leftist fantasy.
      The whole idea of Dick Whitman stealing another person’s identity is such risible fiction; a clumsy metaphor in lieu of the truth and subtlety of artistry. He’s a whoreson, growing up in a brothel, enduring abusive stepdads, watching his mom fuck. The “backstory” to Draper sounds like the final project of a bad freshman “creative writing” seminar written by an abused latch-key kid of the 70s, which Matthew Weiner is. Not every colossus standing bestride the narrow world is compensating for his Oedipus Complex, or whatever pseudological theory the staff writers happened across in the NY Times Magazine that week.
      Don Draper is a fiction within a fiction — an identity thief on a made-up TV show. But at the bottom of all good art like Mad Men is a kernel of truth, which happens to be an unspeakable truth in this culture of militant feminism. He is the best counter-myth we’ve got. But because the authors who conjured him are pussy-whipped and guilt-stricken, he leaves much to be desired.

      1. Such bullshit. You know nothing about good script writing. A character must not be perfect or else he is boring. Strengths have to be countered by flaws.

    2. Well I guess that if you’re going to be hollow and empty it’s better to be this way rich :o)

  4. anyone watch californication? it was pretty badass for the first 4 seasons, but it lost its edge after that. the main character hank moody is pretty alpha.
    on the other hand, how i met your mother is probably the most beta show ever.

    1. Actually, it’s probably the single most anti-white people show on TV. I think its creator specifically said it was about the fall of whites.

    2. Mad Men is Roots for white people.

      That, my friend, is brilliant. Is that an original observation or did you lift it from somewhere else? Either way, thanks for passing it along.

    3. Well then Shaft must be black people’s Roots. It’s an old film for you young’ens.

  5. More a fan of Harvey Specter from Suits, but Don Draper definitely has this enigmatic thing about him that’s intriguing.

    1. That’s because you’re a 20 something and can’t tell the real thing from some fake lawyer show.

  6. Great post.
    Yeah, Emmanuel is right – Mad Men is written by androgynous sluts and, I would add, neurotic betas. Which means that, in all likelihood, Don will be end up with nothing in the end. We can already see that coming.
    But in the meantime the creators of the show have painted the *archetypal alpha* on American television.
    Don teaches the lessons you run through. For example, don’t be overly verbose for the sake of filling silences. In the last episode, Don’s new partner and rival Ted say something to the effect of – Don is silent and mysterious most of the time and then suddenly speaks the most eloquent words.
    In the same episode Don demonstrates the power of 50 Shades of Grey style sexual control and dominance. Again, he gets his comeuppance, but that’s a choice of the writers to genuflect to feminist sensibilities. In the end, we’re still left with an alpha character.

    1. I love how most of you instantly think there’s some Hollywood feminist conspiracy to bring down “alpha” characters. I mean seriously, the reason these “alpha” characters fall from grace is because they’re self-sabotaging, shame-based, self-loathing people who can will never be satisfied, no matter what they accomplish or achieve.
      Some will see the last episode and think he’s super hot in his impressive dominant interactions with his lover, but what you dismiss as him getting his “comeuppance” is really just the inevitable development of a romance including a person with such severe emotional issues, abandonment issues and toxic shame. Notice how easily he goes from being all Sexy, Dominant, Bossy guy to pussy begging, powerless wimp in less than 30 seconds. This isn’t some Hollywood feminist slap on the wrist for being a successful, rich, and chauvinistic man; it’s what happens when a man who is deeply damaged has his false self shattered and has to face his own demons and the true self that he cannot accept.

      1. “I mean seriously, the reason these “alpha” characters fall from grace is
        because they’re self-sabotaging, shame-based, self-loathing people who
        can will never be satisfied, no matter what they accomplish or achieve”
        And who wrote them that way you fucking retard?

        1. The fact that you choose to respond to my argument in this way is exactly why one can’t express themselves with people like you. What’s so threatening about what I said that your only defense is to insult me? Are you 12 years old?

        2. Retards without basic reading comprehension don’t deserve civil responses.

      2. Let’s keep in mind that these are fictional characters. What happens to them and how others react to them is entirely made up and often quite different from what would really happen.

        1. It also works both ways. Your images and ideals of what “alpha” is also manufactured and created to some extent by others. Not necessarily what would “really happen”. The idea that a TV writing team with two decades of experience who have won countless awards for their excellence just decide to write character arcs based on feminist revenge against male power is ridiculous. How many powerful people self-sabotage and lose everything that matters to them, personally and professionally? Happens all the time

  7. Hi! My name is Luzzie. I was wondering, who do I contact to submit a guest post? My e-mail is luzzie.n(at)neptunecigar(dot)com. If someone could please get in contact with me, that would be great.

    1. LOL, as if Rooshv is supposed to email a random commenter who couldn’t even figure out RoK for a guest post.

  8. To find the reason for Don Draper’s transient happiness one must merely look at Don Draper. He is the architect of his own misery.

  9. To find the reason for Don Draper’s transient happiness one must merely look at Don Draper. He is the architect of his own misery.

  10. You forgot one other thing…
    5. Manipulate Your Minions with Deft Precision
    One last thing you forgot to mention is that Don is also somewhat Machiavellian and a bully. Don hides the efforts of his success, but he also hides the bullying he exerts over his minions, Ginsburg and Peggy. On several occasions, those brilliant ideas of his that come from nowhere have come from Peggy working in her office at night. When Don can’t take credit for the idea, he’ll squash it. This happened in “Dark Shadows” when Ginsburg pitched his idea for the Snoball account during a meeting. Don knew it was better, but he couldn’t take credit, so intentionally left the presentation behind in a cab. Ginsburg later confronted Don and he got the death stare from Don.
    Though bullying nowadays is treated as an epidemic of great concern by the Mainstream Media, it has been with us well before the nations, kingdoms, towns and villages existed. It’s a natural tool used by social mammals to maintain order and establish hierarchy in tight knit groups. Lindsay LoLhan learned this. Rather than stay a precocious nerd, she became a Mean Girl. Beyond high school, bullying is found in places like the office. This difference is that instead of being beat down by a pug nose hooligan, or ostracized by a blond ice princess, you are forced to write TPS reports on weekends; lest you lose that paycheck Lumbergh is dangling above your head.

    1. Well let’s remember that Don gave Peggy her chance. She was just a girl out of secretarial school working in the office when she got knocked up by Pete after his bachelor party. Don mentored her and got her over having the baby and when she was in a sort of mental ward.
      There are some scenes that are not believable though. Like when they wanted to get the Jaguar account and the dealer wanted to shag Joan.They gave her a small partnership to do it to get the business. In real life this wouldn’t happen because any real businessman would be thinking just about the money a firm could make him and not some piece of ass.
      The earlier scene where Joan’s doctor fiance pushes her down in her office and shags her is not believable either.
      A lot of these female writers like all females have sex on the brain and fantasise about these things but in real life no one is going to do this in an office during the day when anyone may walk in.

  11. You can add Harvey Specter from suits to that short list. Alpha males on tv are so rare or usually they are depicted as bad…

  12. But please please please don’t use him as a role model.
    The Don Draper character is a narcissistic sociopathic cheater, that would be dead from syphilis in the real world by now.
    Any self-respecting woman in the real world would run from a min like him no matter how much charm or money he had…
    The only women that wouldn’t would be the “damaged goods” — the chicks with so many rings in their carousel that they don’t feel worthy of a decent man. So they feel that they deserve to be used by one more scoundrel like Don…
    Just the same as you’d warn the men about a carousel-resident, I’ll warn the women about the Don Drapers, “run, ladies, run!”

      1. Typical female. She’s just too fugly to be in the running and it’s just bitter grapes, but if she was good looking she’d be the first one to jump on his cock lol

    1. “Any self-respecting woman in the real world would run from a min like him no matter how much charm or money he had…
      only women that wouldn’t would be the “damaged goods” — the chicks
      with so many rings in their carousel that they don’t feel worthy of a
      decent man. So they feel that they deserve to be used by one more
      scoundrel like Don..”
      I love how every girl on the internet is into pop-psychology.

  13. I always get a bit confused when the masculinism writers define what is an alpha male and how he behaves, as the propositions are many times extreme opposites.
    Anyway, I have always taken John Slattery’s character, Roger Sterling, as a representation of an alpha male: sarcastic, aloof, lacking any feelings (you can see this during his therapy sessions), but I somehow understand why the author Black Knight took Don Draper as an über-Alpha.
    Not only because of his avatar (but a little because of it, of course), I see that Black Knight tried to relate DD to a randian hero like a self-made man like Hank Rearden. But I disagree that “Don ´understands´ at a basic level that all happiness is impermanent.”. When it comes to this, DD is more of a schopenhaurian anti-hero.
    He indeed often tried to “escape” with alcohol, extra-marital sex. He marries the perfect housewife and then cheats on her with a beatnik artist and a flower power school teacher; the he marries a young, light-hearted wannabe actress and cheats on her… with a housewife. And he keeps drinking harder and harder (it is mentioned many times in the last seasons) and you can clearly see he is more and more depressed. He affirms his Will (Schopehauer’s Wille) to achieve pleasure (mainly throught sex and the achievments of his work) and then falls down (as what’s is shown in the opening credits) due to the pain of this inevitable unfulfillment that life is.
    I wouldn’t completely take his as a role model, but is certainly one of the deepest and complex characters ever show on TV.

  14. Don Draper is a model of what every man should aspire to be: ruthless, despised by his children, the type of man who gets drunk in his office and wakes up the next morning covered in his own vomit. Oh, if only more men were like Don. YUCK!
    Go read “Little Women” and learn a little more about the fairer sex, and perchance you shall see the errors of your way. There is still time, young padawan, to reverse the teachings and temptations of the dark side.

  15. one thing that has stood out watching mad men is how important demeanour is over content, you can pretty well take any line that another male character says and switch it with one of don’s, and by and large, all things would be equal. the communication is all in the delivery, or non-delivery, as when nothing needs to be said, there’s no reason to say it.

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