It’s been fodder for many a heated debate among men for centuries.
What skills should every man know?
A vast amount of ink and e-ink has been spilled on the subject. But why?
Part of being a man is being competent and effective in the world. To do that, you’ve got to have skills. A man wants to know (or at least feel like he knows) that no matter what situation he’s placed in, he’ll be able to handle himself — to act rather than be acted upon. Hence our incessant drive to figure out what skills we’ll need to know in order to demonstrate confidence and capability in our manly roles as procreators, protectors, and providers.
For primitive man, this needed skill-set was clear and relatively narrow, largely revolving around the jobs of fighting and hunting.
The breadth of skills needed today, however, is much wider. The modern man must be both a warrior and a diplomat, a woodsman and a scholar. We need both hard skills and soft skills; skills we use every day and skills we keep in the back pocket, just in case.
We’ve covered many of these skills over the years on the Art of Manliness, and so figured it was time to add our contribution to the collective cultural enterprise of figuring out which skills a well-rounded, grown man should have. Below you’ll find the AoM list of 100 skills every man should know.
Even in our casual culture where hoodies are appropriate attire for billionaire CEOs, every man should know how to tie a tie. Funerals, weddings, and job interviews are just a few occasions when a sharp necktie is appropriate, and you’ll be attending plenty of those during your adult life. You don’t want to be the 30-something who needs to ask his mom to tie his tie for him.
There’s a primordial link between men and fire. While it’s no longer necessary for our survival, man’s connection to fire still exists. It’s both exhilarating and calming, dangerous and assuring. There’s nothing like sitting around a crackling fire under a starry sky while poking the embers with a stick and meditating on the big questions in life. Just for those reasons alone a man should know how to build a fire. But it’s also vital to know so you can build a fire while camping in order to cook a solid meal for yourself and those with you. Using Duraflame logs is a cardinal sin that will automatically send you to outer darkness, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Being asked to hang a picture on the wall may be perhaps the world’s most common “honey-do.” While not necessarily an exact science, knowing some basics about wall hangings, and where to place prints on the wall, will ensure that your home has charm that will knock the socks off visiting dates and parents, and greatly please your main squeeze.
A pair of shoes with a mirror shine can add the finishing touch to a sharp get-up. And besides keeping your shoes in tip-top shape, the act of shoe shining is a satisfying, manly ritual that calms the mind. The repetitive strokes of the shine brush coupled with the warm smell of shoe shine polish is enough to put you into a meditative state. To go the extra mile, build your own shoe shine box.
Since the very dawn of man, snakes have been one of our greatest enemies. They slither and sneak and hiss, and just are no good for anyone. Should you encounter a poisonous variety of snake (learn how to identify them here!), it’s in your best interest to know how to treat being bitten. Hint: most of the old wives’ tales are just that, so don’t go trying to suck the poison out.
6. Read a Book
1) Open book. 2) Read words. 3) Close book. 4) Move on to next book. Reading a book seems like a pretty straightforward task, doesn’t it? And in some cases, it is. If you’re reading purely for entertainment or leisure, it certainly can be that easy. There’s another kind of reading, though, in which we at least attempt to glean something of value from the book in our hands (whether in paper or tablet form). In such cases, there are certain techniques you must master to be able to dive deeper into the text and suck out all the marrow.
While bear attacks are rare, a man should always be prepared. Whether you’re camping for a weekend, or simply out for a morning hike, you never know when you’ll need this information. Believe it or not, just weeks after I compiled the research for our AoM guide on the topic, I encountered not one, but two black bears on a popular trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. It does happen. I was surprisingly calm with this useful knowledge at hand, and I felt confident I could have taken down those black bears should necessity have called. Alas, it didn’t, and I mourned the loss of the new rug I was looking forward to for my living room.
8. Wet Shave
Electric shaving is fast and easy and the multi-bladed razors can give you a pretty close shave. But nothing beats the manly ritual of shaving with a safety razor or straight razor. Traditional wet shaving adds an element of skill back into what has become a mindless grooming activity. It makes you mindful and present. Plus, old school wet shaving is much cheaper than using the fancy multi-blade cartridges. A blade will only set you back about 25 cents. Feel manly and save money? It’s a win-win proposition.
In the suburbs you enjoy endless drive-in parking in the giant lots in front of big box stores. Make a trip downtown and it’s a different story. Yeah, there are parking garages, but most of the parking is on the street next to the curb (not to mention it’s also the cheapest), meaning you need to know how to parallel park. You don’t want to be the guy who holds up traffic because he’s constantly backing up and moving forward after multiple failed attempts.
10. Paddle a Canoe
Paddling lazily across the water is one of man’s great joys. Whether with your gal on a date, or just enjoying nature on a solo outing, there are few better recreational activities. While paddling might seem as natural as riding a bike, it takes a certain level of skill to deftly captain a canoe. Don’t be that guy/couple who can’t make headway because they paddle inefficiently or even tip over and end up in the water.
Depending on where you are in the world, negotiation is either a part of everyday life or an uncomfortable practice that’s consciously avoided whenever possible. But here’s a truth that many of us, especially those of us living in the Western world, don’t always consider: whether or not you realize it, many of your commercial transactions can be negotiated. From hotel rooms, to rental cars, to complex business deals, knowing how to haggle can save you (or your business) a boatload of money. It’s awkward, sure, but with practice, you’ll get more confident and capable in the deft art of negotiating.
12. Fix a Leaky Faucet
Drip. Drip. Drip. It can drive a man crazy in the middle of the night when he’s trying to sleep. It can also cost you money in the long run, in both water and handyman bills. While plumbing is not always a DIY project, fixing a leaky faucet is generally a pretty simple task. With a couple tools, a trip to your local hardware store, and this guide from This Old House, you’ll restore your sanity in no time.
13. Treat a Burn
Burns can happen just about any time and any place. Spilled coffee, mischievous campfire, over-heated car engine — our world is rife with potential for harm through heat. Should you find yourself with a first or even second-degree burn (learn how to differentiate), you can almost always treat it yourself. A couple tips: You want to slowly cool the affected area with cool, not icy, water. Make sure to clean the burn and apply an antibiotic ointment, and don’t pop the blisters, as that increases the infection risk. More info about treating burns can be found here.
14. Tell a Joke
In the age of dank memes and viral videos, the art of the well-told joke is a dying skill. Knowing how to make people laugh without resorting to showing a guy kicked in the nuts on your smartphone will set you apart from the pack. Plus, when you’re out in the middle of the woods and cell phone reception is non-existent, knowing how to tell a well-timed joke will be some of the only entertainment you have.
If you regularly watch your local news for the weather forecast, or check your smartphone for it, you know how often they are flat out wrong. While forecasting has come a long ways, some of the most accurate tools are the oldest. Barometers, for instance, can tell you what the weather will be like in the next 24-48 hours as well as any professional forecast. Beyond scientific instruments, even old proverbs — like “Red sky at night, sailors delight; red skies in morning, sailors take warning” — have many kernels of truth contained within. Soon enough your own predictions will be beating that of your local weatherman.
The deadlift trains the muscles that allow you to perform one of the most basic of human movements — lifting stuff off the ground. Besides the squat, no other exercise provides as much practicality as the deadlift. And it just feels plain awesome to hoist 400+ lbs off the ground with a barbell.
There’s something about reciting a poem from memory that’s different from just reading it over and over again. The words become a part of you. They may not be your original words, but when you say them from memory, it feels like they’re coming from the heart. Reciting a poem from memory can provide you and others inspiration and consolation in trying times. Plus, knowing how to effortlessly sprinkle in a few lines from a poem in a conversation can make you appear a bit like the Most Interesting Man in the World.
While the propane barbecue grill has only been around since the 1950s, men have been grilling with charcoal for thousands of years. Rather than just pushing a button for your fire, charcoal requires a little more skill and care, and according to most folks, makes for a better-tasting product as well. Bone up on lighting a charcoal grill.
19. Perform CPR
Some emergency situations are so urgent that calling 911 and waiting for paramedics will be too late. One of those is in the case of heart attack or other scenario where someone becomes unresponsive and is having trouble breathing. Believe it or not, one-quarter of Americans say they’ve been in such a situation. Don’t be caught unprepared. While you should know conventional CPR, you should also be aware of the new hands-only method which can be used on teenagers and adults.
20. Throw a Spiral
Whether you’re playing catch with your kiddos on a Saturday or playing all-time QB at this year’s Thanksgiving Turkey Bowl, you’ll need to know how to throw a nice, tight football spiral.
21. Sew a Button
You’re hastily getting ready for work, and as you button up your nice oxford shirt, one pops off. You’ve known it was loose, and that this reckoning would come. What is a man to do? Sew it back on, of course! While sewing may seem like a skill purely in the ladies’ realm, knowing this simple clothing fix can come in mighty handy when you’re in a pinch.
22. Split Firewood
Yes, most of us have central heating to keep our houses warm during the winter, but there’s nothing like the warm glow of a fireplace fire during the winter months to keep you toasty. But to get the big logs to fit into your fireplace, you’ll need to make them smaller by splitting them. And let’s be honest, splitting wood isn’t so much about lowering your heating bill, but rather about the satisfaction a man gets when his maul goes cleanly through a log and splits it in one stroke. It makes for great exercise, too.
23. Find Potable Water
When you’re lost in the woods, your most immediate needs are food, shelter, and water — the last of which is the most pressing. One method of finding safe drinking water is to collect rainwater. If you’re going to use lake or river water, it should be purified, which can be done with filtration, iodine tablets, and other methods.
There’s no sound as disheartening to a driver than the “flop flop” of a flat tire. Instead of cursing about it, look at a flat tire as a chance to display your manly sufficiency by changing it yourself. Knowing how to change a flat will save your own butt when you’re out on some lonely stretch of highway, and will come in handy when helping a damsel in distress or a hapless traveler on the side of the road.
You’re in a burning house and you need to escape, but the door is on fire. Or your loved ones are in a burning house and you’re locked out. You can’t stand there fiddling with the lock — you’ve got to break it down! Or perhaps a loved one is stricken with a medical emergency and is locked inside a room or in their house. What to do? Be a man, dammit! Break down that door! You know you’ve always wanted to.
26. Take the Perfect Photo
The advent of the smartphone means that most everyone is carrying a high-quality HD camera in their pocket at all times. Unfortunately, this fact alone doesn’t mean you’re taking good pictures with it. Don’t let life’s memorable moments be hampered by a poor photo. Play around with your camera, get to know the various settings, and understand some basics about what makes a great photo.
27. Sharpen a Knife
From pocket knives to kitchen knives to survival knives, blades are one of man’s most important tools. But a dull blade renders your knives useless and dangerous. Know how to sharpen a blade, do it regularly, and you’ll always be ready to slice off a piece of apple, or even slay a killer raccoon.
28. Change a Diaper
Even if you don’t have plans of being a dad, you’ll end up changing a poop-filled diaper at some point in your life, perhaps for a nephew or godson. Many men are intimidated by the task, but there’s really not much to it, and there are a few tricks that can make it a quick and tidy affair.
29. Give a Speech
We all are faced with speaking opportunities throughout our lives. Whether it’s running for student council president, making a presentation at work, having your voice heard at a city council meeting, or offering a eulogy, a knack for public speaking makes you a more persuasive and powerful man.
30. Navigate With Map and Compass
Sure, we’ve got phones with Google Maps that can give us turn-by-turn directions. But what happens when you don’t have the phone because you’re in the middle of the wilderness and you can’t get a signal? How are you going to get back to your fancy ski lodge now? With a map and compass of course. Out of all the skills I’ve learned over the years, this has been one of the most empowering. It just feels awesome knowing that by simply getting my bearings with a compass and looking at a topographic map I can traverse miles and get to where I need to be.
31. Unclog a Toilet
Some clogs will take care of themselves with a few flushes, but sometimes you drop a monster so big that it takes a bit of work and know-how to get the toilet unclogged. For added skill points, know how to unclog a toilet without a plunger. That’ll save you when you clog the toilet at your girlfriend’s parents’ house and you don’t want to shamefully ask for a plunger.
32. Buy a Suit
You’ll likely buy two or three suits in your lifetime. If you buy the right one, it will be years, maybe even a decade, before you’ll have to buy another, so know what to look for in a quality suit — how it should fit, how it should be constructed, the details you should care about, and the alterations that can make it nigh near perfect. Not only will knowing how to buy a suit help you, you’ll also be able to help friends and family navigate the haberdashery so they don’t waste money on a crappy-looking outfit.
Swimming is not only a fun recreational activity, but a survival skill as well. Knowing how to swim the front stroke could not only win you a gold medal (even if it’s just in your backyard olympics), but could very well save your life someday too. It’s the fastest of the primary swimming strokes, and is among the first that any swimmer learns in the pool. If you don’t yet know it, take it upon yourself to find an instructor, and dive in!
34. Shake Hands
A firm handshake is an important part of a good first impression. A full-grip handshake, given with just the right pressure, and accompanied with your looking in the person’s eyes, conveys warmth and confidence. Conversely, a limp, dead-fish shake or a crushing death grip will get your meeting off on the decidedly wrong foot. Or hand, I guess.
35. Treat Frostbite
It only takes 30 minutes to get frostbite when it’s 0 degrees outside with a 15mph wind. Decrease the temp or up the wind speed, and that number quickly goes to 10 and even 5 minutes. If you experience loss of color or feeling at your extremities (frostbite hits your body at its furthest points from your core), you’re possibly experiencing an onset of frostbite. The first step is to slowly rewarm the affected areas with warm, not hot, water. See here for more tips on treating frostbite.
36. Iron Your Clothes
You’ve got a pair of trousers and a custom shirt, but the whole get-up looks terrible because you couldn’t take the time or didn’t have the know-how to iron your clothes. Many men don’t know how to iron their pants or their shirt because dear old mom did it for them and once they got married, the Mrs. took over the chore. But every man is going to have a period in his life when he’s on his own and he’ll have to do his own ironing. It’s not that hard and takes just five minutes, but it can make all the difference between an outfit looking put-together or sloppy.
Every day there’s a chance we’ll encounter a threat that can put our safety in danger — an active shooter, a deranged co-worker, or even an inattentive driver. Often times we don’t notice the threat until it’s too late because we’re so engrossed in our own headspace. In the tactical world, it’s often said that the best way to win a fight is to avoid a fight in the first place. To do that, you need to develop your situational awareness. Situational awareness isn’t just knowing what’s going on around you, it also means having a plan for what to do when you notice something go awry.
The pull-up is one of the best upper-body exercises out there, but most people don’t even know how to do one properly. Grab the bar with an overhand grip and start from a dead hang. Pull yourself up until your chin clears the bar. Lower yourself down in a controlled manner and repeat. None of that kipping garbage.
39. Build a Shelter
In any kind of survival scenario, proper shelter will provide much-needed protection from the elements. With some basic materials (wood, reflective blankets, fire), and just a little bit of know-how, you can ensure that you’ll not only survive a night (or more), but even sleep warmly.
40. Grow Your Own Food
Growing your own food is not only a pleasurable, recreational activity, but goes towards building your self-reliance and antifragility as well. Today’s foodstuffs are loaded with unpronounceable chemicals and additives, and whole, natural foods remain expensive. Why not grow your own fruits and vegetables for a fraction of the cost, and twice the flavor? Need even more reasons to start a garden? Here are seven.
41. Cook Eggs
Eggs are a breakfast staple if for no other reason than their sheer versatility. They can be enjoyed on sandwiches, in scrambles, as omelets, or eaten right out of the shell (raw or cooked!). If you can master a few ways to cook eggs, you’ll be a breakfast aficionado who will wow your significant other, or your kids, depending on your station in life. Your primary varieties — scrambled, fried, poached, and hard-boiled — are all easily learned in just a few minutes.
42. Make Small Talk
When you spot an acquaintance in a store, do you hope they don’t see you? Does the idea of walking into a party where you only know one person fill you with dread? Do you keep trying to summon up the courage to talk to the cute girl who makes your lattes at the local coffee shop, but whenever you get up to the counter, all you can muster is your order? All of us can relate in some way or another to the conundrum of small talk. It’s sometimes uncomfortable, but can be truly life-changing; you never know if the person you’re standing across from could end up being a good friend, a coworker, or even a wife.
A stroll in the woods is nearly always an enjoyable endeavor; what’s not so enjoyable is discovering a red, itchy rash the next day. Each year, millions of Americans come in contact with poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac. These may be the most common irritants, but are far from the only ones. Besides being able to identify plants that can harm you, it’s also beneficial to know the plants that could save your life in a dire situation. Knowing your foliage — both good and bad — is truly a skill every man should have!
44. Do a Front Dive
Much like swimming, knowing how to properly dive is not only just a fun skill to have, but could help save your life. In a scenario where you need to skedaddle into the water quickly, such as a sinking boat, the dive is the way to go. It propels you with a jump start of momentum rather than having to get going from the standstill of treading water.
45. Shuffle Cards
It’s always surprising when you’re playing a card game, rotating the shuffling of course, and one of the players has to sheepishly pass the deck because they don’t know this simple, manly skill. If you’re playing cards — be it poker, euchre, gin rummy — you should be able to do your part and shuffle the deck, and do it with some flair too!
In the book, The Hunting Hypothesis, author Robert Ardrey highlights the research and theories that suggest that what made humans human was the ability to hunt. Since our hunter-gatherer times, hunting has always fallen on men. Ardrey suggests that hunting is how men have displayed nurturing and caring behavior since time immemorial. Besides allowing you to connect with our primal history, knowing how to hunt will allow you to provide for yourself and your family even if you don’t have access to a grocery store. In fact, you could provide a full year of meat for your family during a single hunting season. Kiss your meat expenses goodbye.
Does it really matter how you pour your beer? Isn’t beer, beer, no matter how it’s poured? Well, that may be the case if you’re drinking low-quality beer (I won’t name names), but when drinking a fine brew, it can mean a world of difference. When properly poured, the beer produces aromas and flavors that can only be present at the right conditions, and with the agitation of a proper pour.
Even if you have the physical strength to save someone’s life by carrying them to safety, do you know the right way to do it? Every man should know how to perform what is called the “fireman’s carry.” It’s an effective way to distribute someone’s weight, allowing you to haul them over long distances with minimal strain. Next time you have to carry an injured victim from a burning building, down a hiking trail, or off the battlefield, employ the fireman’s carry.
You’ve arrived at the campsite with your friends and some cold beer in the cooler, only to realize you left the bottle opener at home. Lucky for you, that’s no problem — you’re a master of improvisation. We put together 9 MacGyver-esque tricks to open a bottle whenever you find yourself without an opener. You’ll never be left high and dry again.
50. Cast a Fishing Line
Fishing has been a skill that fathers have passed down to sons since time immemorial. It’s not only a fun and relaxing way to spend a morning or afternoon, but hearkens back to our caveman and caveson days, when fishing was more than just a pastime, but a survival skill. And one of the first steps to learning fishing? Knowing how to cast a line.
Traveling the world can be quite an adventure, but you can never truly immerse yourself in the places you visit unless you speak the people’s native tongue. Speaking a second (or third) language allows you to connect with locals and experience more of what lies below the surface available only to the passing tourist. Speaking another language may also help you in your business, sharpen your brain, and even aid you in a tactical situation; James Bond was fluent in 4 different languages, and handy in 4 others, after all.
52. Drive in Snow
Even if you grew up doing it, driving in the snow is a bit of a harrowing task. The sun is glaring off the pure-white landscape, black ice threatens at every curve and underpass, and you aren’t quite sure you have the skills to handle a wipe out. When driving in the winter, just remember that slow and steady wins the race (although you really shouldn’t be racing on a snowy road!).
Even though you’ve probably heard of the Heimlich maneuver countless times, and seen it dramatized just as many, a lot of folks really don’t know exactly what to do beyond putting their arms around the person and squeezing somehow. Because the abdominal thrusts necessitated by the Heimlich maneuver can cause injury, it should be employed only as a last resort, after other techniques, like encouraging the vicim to cough and slapping them on the back, have been tried. But should you need to reach for this technique, you ought to be able to perform it effectively.
Manliness is too often ranked by how many random women a dude can bed. But one of the things that separates man from the beasts is the ability and desire to focus his romantic energies on one woman at a time. Being a lover and romancer is something that makes us human, rather than just another mammal on the Discovery Channel. And there is no better tool in the romantic man’s arsenal than the date. The date’s structure allows a man to show off his ability to woo a lady. Unfortunately, few men have been taking on the challenge of being artful pursuers these days, as our dating abilities have become infected with the plague of hanging out. Don’t be that man. Gird up your loins, and ask a woman out!
55. Always Know North
A man always knows his direction, be it philosophically in life or physically on the road. He can find North without a digital aid. A compass is the easiest and surest way to do this, of course, but there are other methods as well, including using an analog watch, sticks and shadows, the constellations in the night sky, and the moss growing on trees and rocks. But each of these methods of finding North involve a good deal of know-how and nuance, so it’s definitely a skill you’ll need to master before you really need it.
So you know how to split wood, but how do you get those logs in the first place? You could buy them, but that’s lame. No, you need to go out to the woods and fell your own tree. It’s a dangerous task if you don’t know what you’re doing, but boy is it a great feeling to hear a tree fall on the forest floor with an echoing “THUMP!” End your day felling trees with a large plate of pancakes smothered with Vermont maple syrup.
57. Hitch/Back-Up a Trailer
So you’ve decided to borrow a boat for a weekend of fishing or maybe you’re going to rent an Airstream for that dream road trip across America. Awesome. Do you know how to hitch the boat trailer and the Airstream to your vehicle? Once you get it hitched to your car, do you know how to back-up a trailer without destroying the property around you? Knowing how to hitch and back-up a trailer will open a whole world of outdoor recreation opportunities for you, so get out there and start learning.
58. Play Poker
If you’ve never played poker before, going to a casino for a bachelor party or a friend’s house for a casual poker night can be an intimidating affair. The rules of the game itself are hard enough to master (Does my two pair beat your three of a kind? Answer: no it does not.), but you also have to know betting rules and game etiquette. Thankfully, with just a few strategies up your sleeve, it won’t take long to not feel like a newb anymore.
59. Write in Cursive
In our age of texts, tweets, and emails, one thing that can set you apart from the crowd is sending a nice, handwritten letter every now and then. To set yourself apart from the pack even more, write your letter in cursive. It just looks classy and adds a bit of personality to your notes. And don’t just save it for letters. The continuous strokes of cursive make journaling a more meditative experience.
Avoid a fight if you can, but if there’s no other option, end it as quickly as possible by throwing a knockout blow. Open your opponent up with high jabs and a few fakes; once he drops his guard, send a powerful straight punch right to his kisser. Lights out.
61. Make Pancakes From Scratch
While eggs are a breakfast staple because of their ease and versatility, pancakes are a fan favorite because of their simply delightful nature. They’re fluffy, warm, and covered in any number of tasty toppings: butter, syrup, peanut butter, fruit, whipped cream. It doesn’t get much better than a tall stack of pancakes to start a lazy weekend with your family. Knowing how make pancakes from scratch will make you a Saturday morning hero.
62. Skipper a Boat
One of man’s great powers is that he is an amphibious creature, able to both traverse the land and navigate the water. Not only should you be able to move through water by your own manpower, you should be able to skim its surface by knowing how to pilot a boat — and not just those that involve a motor and steering wheel. From tying nautical knots, keeping the boat balanced, and trimming the sails, every man should know how to skipper traditional sea craft.
Black-tie. Semi-formal. Business casual. Do you find yourself asking what the heck these terms mean anytime you see them on an event invitation? With just a little bit of study and practice, you’ll come to automatically know the differences — for instance, that business casual means a sports coat and khakis (or even jeans, depending on where you live). You never want to be the guy who wore slacks and a button-up to a semi-formal event.
64. Shoot a Bow and Arrow
From our survival guru Creek Stewart: “I am a big fan of the bow and arrow for a variety of reasons, and I personally think that anyone who has an interest in primitive survival skills or modern urban survival should seriously consider purchasing a good bow and arrow and become proficient in using it.” The weapon’s portability, versatility, and affordability (you can even craft your own) make it a top choice for hunters and survivalists.
Driving an automatic vehicle is so pedestrian. With a stick shift, you actually feel like you’re part of your car. The synchronicity of man and machine makes driving a manual transmission car not just a chore, but a joy. Plus, owning a manual makes your vehicle pretty much theft-proof — it’s such a lost skill that most would-be thieves wouldn’t know how to drive away with your car even if they managed to break in.
When you don’t have access to a gym, there’s always push-ups. They work your chest, shoulders, triceps, and biceps. Even if you do have access to a gym, make push-ups part of your routine throughout the day. An 85-year-old attorney I knew credited his random push-up workouts in his office as the key to his longevity and health.
67. Pick a Lock
Kicking down a door is a great skill to have, but sometimes you need to be a bit more discreet when opening a door that’s locked. Who wants to replace their door every time they lock themselves out of their house? That’s where lock-picking comes in. Besides making you handy, and saving you money on replacement doors or calling a locksmith, this skill also makes you feel a bit like Jason Bourne.
68. Mix Two Classic Cocktails
If you’re out on the town with your main squeeze, you can look to spend anywhere from $8 to $20 on a nice cocktail. That’s a lot of scratch for a beverage, especially when you can be making ones at home that taste just as good (if not better!) for a fraction of the cost. And rather than being a one-trick pony, knowing how to make at least two different drinks will make you feel like a real mixologist, and impress your guests too. Learn how to make classics like the martini and the Manhattan; bonus points if you can mix up some interesting drinks for your teetotaling friends too.
69. Field Dress Game
Whether you hunt regularly to stock your freezer with meat or you’re stuck in the wild and need to eat a squirrel to survive, you’ll need to know how to dress your kill so that it’s ready for butchering and eating. If you don’t know anything about dressing game, start with a small animal like a squirrel or a rabbit. It’s less messy, and the same general principles that you use with those animals apply to larger game like deer.
The guitar has a way of showing up at parties and campfires, and it often gets passed around so people who know how to play can strum out some tunes while everyone sings along. Instead of passing it on to the next dude, why not hold on to it and bust out a song of your own? Getting a group of people to sing a song while you provide the accompaniment is an easy way to command a room like a man. Also, chicks dig a dude who can play the guitar.
The aftermath of a heavy thunderstorm or ice storm often leaves broken and fallen branches in your yard. To clean them up, you’ll need to cut them with a chainsaw. Learn how to operate one safely so you don’t accidentally cut off one of your limbs in the process.
You don’t need a bunch of leg machines to get a good lower-body workout; just a barbell with some plates will do. Squats are one of the best exercises you can do for overall strength. Not only do they work your quads and hamstrings, but also your hips, butt, back, and core. There are two variations of the barbell squat: high bar (pictured above) and low bar. Learn them both. They emphasize different muscles and can be used in different strength training routines.
73. Cook a Steak
The beauty of a well-cooked steak is in its simplicity. No fancy seasonings, just a bit of salt and pepper and fire. Know how to cook a steak and you can eat like a king the rest of your life.
74. Entertain Yourself (Without a Smartphone)
You see it everywhere: people on their smartphones while standing in line, while getting gas, when conversation lulls at dinner…anytime people aren’t stimulated for 10 seconds or longer, out comes the phone. Not only is it rude in many instances, it means you’re tethered to your little electronic device for entertainment. Learn how to pass the time without your phone — play board games, do push-ups during commercial breaks, make a paper airplane, work out a philosophical problem in your head, or turn a boring conversation into a stimulating one by actually listening intently, showing some curiosity, and asking good questions. Heck, learn to enjoy the old pastime of people watching. Being able to entertain yourself is surely one of the 3 characteristics of an educated man.
Knowing how to change your own oil can save you time and money. Instead of driving 10 minutes to the Kwik Lube, waiting another 30 minutes before your car can get worked on, waiting another 15 minutes while the oil change actually takes place, and then driving another 10 minutes back home, just get the job done in half an hour by doing it in your garage. Besides saving you time and money, changing your own oil just feels self-sufficient and darn manly.
With a loud, commanding whistle you can call your dog, your kids, a taxi, or the peanuts guy at the ballpark. Using your fingers makes it easy to get that ear-piercing whistle sound whenever you want it. This is a small skill, but a weirdly satisfying one to master.
77. Shovel Snow
Snow shoveling is often a back-breaking, tiresome process. You could be moving hundreds of cubic feet of the fluffy (or not-so-fluffy) white stuff. It’s generally not a particularly fun activity, although it is an excellent workout and a fine opportunity to fill your lungs with crisp, clean air. While those in colder environs are practically born knowing this skill, others may need a couple quick pointers to ensure the best and most efficient job possible.
78. Carve a Turkey
Primitive hunters often dressed and butchered their game in the field, in order to divide up the carcass among the hunting party and make it easier for carrying back home. Maybe the echoes of this task is why carving the Thanksgiving turkey typically falls upon the man in a household in our modern day. When you get called up to carve the bird, you want to be ready with skill and know-how that will allow you to get as much meat as possible from the turkey without mutilating it. Take pride in the artfully sliced platter of juicy turkey you assemble for your guests.
79. Tie a Bowline
The bowline is a loop knot that is incredibly secure. Consequently, it’s often used in rescue situations in which you need to pull someone out of a ditch or ravine. You can also use it to tie off the boat to your dock. Once you master tying the bowline with both hands, earn bonus man points by learning how to tie it with one hand.
80. Ride a Horse
Sure, in this motorized world, knowing how to ride a horse may be the most “archaic” skill on this list. But I’ll be darned if it’s not also one of the most satisfying. Many a great man from history used horseback riding as a way to decompress — Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, Jack London. It simply feels wonderful to mount up and head towards the horizon. Also, if American cinema is correct about the apocalypse, horses will once again be the primary mode of transportation one day. So don’t scoff — know how to saddle up!
81. Give a Good Massage
While the date is the ultimate tool in the gentleman’s romantic arsenal, you need other skills as well to impress your gal (including many on this list!). Among them, knowing how to give a good massage — and just for her sake rather than in hopes of sex — is an important one. She’ll feel loved and cared for, which is the ultimate way to affair-proof your relationship.
There are a lot of things your car can get stuck in: mud, snow, even a ditch. While every situation is different, there are some principles you can follow that may help you become unstuck without needing to call for a tow. Knowing them could save you thousands of dollars in towing fees, and may be a necessity in rural areas that don’t have cell phone reception.
83. Break a Rack of Pool Balls
So you’ve watched The Hustler — one of the best movies of all-time — and you’re inspired to head down to your local pool hall for some billiards action. You grab a cue, line it up to break the rack, and instead of hitting it perfectly like you did in your daydreams, you shank the cue ball for the ultimate whiff, and the rack is still intact. Breaking the rack is your billiards first impression — it has the potential to intimidate foes and impress buddies. Don’t blow it.
84. Make a Logical Argument
In the age of the internet, it seems that logical arguments have gone the way of the dodo. Debates, whether in online comment sections or on TV, are not much more than name-calling matches in which whoever shouts the loudest wins. Debates and arguments should be civil affairs, though, that avoid logical fallacies and employ sound reasoning. Learning this skill builds your powers of persuasion, puts you a leg up in our modern world, and allows you to stand out as a real gentleman. For it’s not the volume of your voice that signifies a masterful debater and skilled rhetorician, but the content of your words.
85. Cook Bacon
Nothing tastes better on a cold winter morning than some pork bacon (turkey bacon is not bacon) fried in a cast iron skillet. You don’t want bacon too soft or too crispy. Getting that just-right texture takes patience and skill (and maybe even ditching that skillet for the oven). Add man points for frying bacon shirtless and braving those hot kisses of grease.
86. Write a Letter
At AoM we’re great champions of the lost art of letter writing. Emails, texting, and the wide variety of other digital mediums available to us in the modern age are convenient and efficient, but they can’t hold a candle to the warm, tangible, classy nature of handwritten correspondence. Letters are the next best thing to showing up personally at someone’s door. And their permanence is unrivaled; long after we’ve forgotten the password to our hotmail account, our shoebox of letters will remain. Write to a pen pal; write regular thank you notes; write letters of “emotional insurance” to your children; and be sure to write all 7 of these letters before you turn 70.
87. Shoot a Gun
A gun can provide food, protection, and even an afternoon of fun. It’s an extremely useful tool, but a dangerous one. You need to know how to safely operate different types of firearms (pistols, shotguns, rifles) without unintentionally injuring those around you or yourself. Even if you don’t have plans on becoming a “Gun Guy,” at least have a basic understanding of how firearms work in case you ever come across one in the wild, or need to use one to save your life.
88. Make a Toast
You don’t want to be the Best Man that’s remembered for giving an utterly cringe-worthy toast at your buddy’s wedding. And besides weddings, you’ll likely have several opportunities to provide toasts throughout your life. With a bit of forethought and practice in front of the mirror, your toasts can sound natural, inspiring, and memorable (in a good way).
89. Jump Start a Car
It happens to every one. Somehow the dome light in your car got left on while you were in the office and now your car’s battery is dead. Instead of calling AAA to get the car going for you, jump start it yourself. It will save you time and money. Plus it’s a skill that will make you incredibly useful to others. You’d be surprised by how many people don’t know how to jump start a car.
90. Know How to Dance
Nothing impresses a woman more than a man who knows how to dance. And by dance I mean ballroom dancing where you lead a gal across the dance floor. None of that “nae nae” nonsense. Basic ballroom dancing isn’t that hard. Start off with the waltz and foxtrot and you’ll be good for most weddings and cruises.
Sure, you can plop some Folgers into a filter and hit the “Brew” button on your coffee machine. But that’s like going to Walmart to buy a suit. You just aren’t getting the best product. Grinding your beans, boiling your water, and brewing them in a French press truly creates the perfect cup of coffee, and also adds an element of craftsmanship to your morning routine. You can try roasting your own beans, as well as some other tactics to level up your morning coffee game.
92. Tie a Tourniquet
For a long time, tying tourniquets was a frowned-upon method for controlling major bleeding — something to be employed as an absolute last resort. That’s because during the wars of the 20th century, when it often took a long time for a wounded solider to get medical attention, the tourniquet would end up cutting off the blood supply for too long, necessitating amputations. But the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan showed that tourniquets, coupled with speedy medical attention, could be absolute life savers, and thus their use has been revived in combat and civilian medicine alike. You still need to know when and how to properly tie a tourniquet though, so study up and then do ample hands-on practice.
93. Know Two Cool Uncle Tricks
An essential part of being an awesome uncle is having a repertoire of tricks and jokes that will amaze your nieces and nephews, and crack them up. From juggling and pulling coins from ears, to levitating and “bouncing” dinner rolls on the floor, every uncle should have at least two giggle-inducing tricks up his sleeve.
94. Fillet a Fish
What makes fishing even more satisfying is being able to fillet and cook your catch for a real water-to-table experience. Throw it in a skillet with some garlic, lemon, and butter, fry it over the campfire you’ve built, and enjoy a wild dinner under the stars.
Whether your baby has colic or just intermittent fussiness, their cries can really do a number on your equilibrium. Since babies can’t do anything for themselves, their cries are designed by nature to get your attention, burrowing into your brain and refusing to let go until you alleviate their distress. Their wails elicit a real physiological response — you start to sweat, your heart rate goes up, and your body releases cortisol (the stress hormone). So it’s no surprise that knowing how to calm a crying baby is one of the most important new-dad tools you can have in your arsenal!
Motorcycles are one of the pinnacles of manliness. They’re up there with Islay single malt, grass-fed sirloin, and Creed’s Green Irish Tweed aftershave. Why? Because unlike automobiles, they offer a visceral experience: one that requires skill, mental engagement, and risk management. On a motorcycle, you can’t sip coffee, fiddle with your phone, or daydream the minutes away. Your senses are on red alert, and your life depends on two tiny patches of rubber connecting you to the road. Riding a motorcycle is an experience every man should have in his life.
To the unskilled, hammering just means pounding the hell out of something until you get the job done. Sure, you could do that, but you’ll end up with crummy results and a tired arm to boot. A wise handyman knows how to use a hammer safely, effectively, and efficiently.
Cooking cultivates a variety of manly qualities, from self-reliance to chivalry. So while you need not become a 5-star chef, at a certain point every man needs to move on from the Easy Mac, ramen, and frozen pizza he subsisted on in college. Knowing your way around the kitchen can be intimidating at first, but even with just a single pot you can make some tasty meals that will impress friends, family, and ladies alike. Once you’ve mastered some basics, you can work on creating a signature dish that you perfect and whip up on special occasions.
It’s easy to start a fire when you have a pack of matches at your disposal. But could you forge a flame if you didn’t have that crutch? Or would you starve and freeze? There are many ways to make fire sans matches, from using a battery or magnifying glass to going totally primal and using only a board and a stick. Learn as many methods as you can, so that if you ever find yourself alone on a desert island, you can declare to your volleyball friend: “I have made fire!”
100. Tell a Story
Every man needs to be able to tell a great story. It might be for a presentation you give at work. Or for a paper you need to write. Maybe you’re just hanging out with your buddies swapping stories. Or you’re tucking your kids into bed, and a nighttime tale is demanded. No matter the scenario, it takes a certain amount of skill to tell a story in a way that captivates an audience.
The most important part of storytelling though, is simply having the experiences that make for good tales. What stories of your life will you have to tell your grandkids? Start making those memories now by learning as many of these skills as you can. The more know-how you gain, the more places you can go, things you can do, and people you can converse with; in short, the more skills you master, the more adventures you can have!
Last updated: September 6, 2016