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.
Tie a necktie: 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.
Hang a picture: 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 the charm that will knock the socks off visiting dates and parents, and greatly please your main squeeze.
Shine your shoes: 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.
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.
Parallel park: 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.
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.
Negotiate or haggle: 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.
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.
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.
Predict the weather: 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 in a long way, 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.