“25 Skills Every Man Should Know,” was the title of a recent article found in Popular Mechanics. I don’t usually read this magazine, but in this instance I could not help but wonder: “hmmm…what is it that men should know?” So, soon enough I found myself reading the article online. Apparently these are the skills men should possess.
So are these 25 skills really the skills that men should know? Are these the skills that make men “men?” I am not sure, but it got me to thinking: “What else would I add to this list were I leaving it for my sons?” What follows is my initial effort that is a combination of various sources I’ve found online or culled from my own mind. I decided to stop at 100 after I had initially reached over 170. I have kept around 14 of the original 25 from Popular Mechanics. I see this list as never being finalized so much as a work in constant progress. Of course, as a Catholic, mine will include an item or two that a non-Catholic would omit.
This is my list of 100 Things Every Man Should Know and Be Able to Do.
1. Remember that your character is who you are when no one is looking.
2. Do all that you can to protect your good name.
3. Be accountable.
4. Be open to investigating a religious vocation, even if you don’t ultimately join.
5. Attend Mass at least once a week and participate in the Sacraments.
6. Know how to pray a Rosary and actually pray/meditate on it.
7. Change a diaper so that the baby is cleaner and you are no dirtier than when you started.
8. Use a soldering iron to fix a loose connection.
9. Be able to cook one signature dish.
10. Write three coherent, connected, and grammatically correct paragraphs. If it’s really necessary, you should be able to repeat the process well enough to add three more. Unless you have a job that requires extensive writing, that’s probably all you’ll ever need to get by.
11. Differentiate between various types of mortgages and insurances and know which one is best for your situation.
12. Make and follow a budget so that you can get out of, and stay out of, debt.
13. Tell a spellbinding (though not necessarily true) story.
14. Survive in water for at least a few minutes without drowning. 71 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water. You’re bound to fall into it sometime.
15. Know basic first aid and the four lifesaving steps: stop the bleeding, start the breathing, protect the wound, treat for shock.
16. Be able to give, and receive, a great compliment.
17. Tell a joke that is (a) clean, and (b) funny.
18. Make a brief, informative speech in public without having an anxiety attack and/or using PowerPoint.
19. Recite the Ten Commandments from memory. If you remember them, it’s easier to follow them; if you follow them you’ll avoid about 90 percent of the self-inflicted damage that will screw up your life.
20. Carry on a conversation with someone who bores you to tears.
21. Recognize when you are boring someone to tears; listen more than you speak.
22. Make a plan for the first 24 hours after a zombie apocalypse. Sounds silly but you’d be surprised how much you can learn about yourself by thinking through unlikely scenarios.
23. Drive (and push-start) a car with a manual transmission.
24. Grow food; even if you never owned a vegetable garden, you need to understand the basic theory of how to grow food. When the zombie apocalypse happens, you’re going to be hungry.
25. Load, shoot, and clean a firearm.
26. Physically protect your loved ones and be willing to risk life and limb if necessary to keep them safe.
27. Lead your family in prayer.
28. Cogently explain and defend your most fundamental beliefs, preferably without raising your voice.
29. Take harsh criticism without being defensive, and endure an insult with grace.
30. Differentiate between love and lust, and avoid the latter.
31. Recognize wisdom and always pursue it.
32. Write a love letter. Not a love text. Or a love e-mail. A love letter.
33. Avoid the Three A’s That Ruin Your Life: Anger, Abuse and Apathy.
34. Physically build something in your life – a deck, a birdhouse, a bookcase, a Pinewood Derby car, whatever. Just build something.
35. Service your car, including: Changing the oil, jump-starting a car when necessary, changing a tire.
36. Tie a necktie.
37. Knots. Know them, and be able to at least tie the basics: square knot, bowline, cleat knot, and the sheep shank.
38. Protect your computer and back up data.
39. Rescue a boater who has capsized.
40. Frame a wall.
41. Back up a trailer.
42. Build a campfire.
43. Fix a dead outlet.
44. Navigate with a map and compass.
45. Sharpen a knife.
46. Fillet a fish.
47. Maneuver a car out of a skid.
48. Get a car unstuck.
49. Mix concrete.
50. Paddle a canoe.
51. Fix a bike flat.
52. Read a book with more words than pictures, and develop/grow your own “library” of books, even if only a dozen.
53. Haggle/barter with a salesmen.
54. Be able to converse with, and comfort, a child. Real men can converse at length without condescension.
55. Men should be able to quote extensively, and in the proper situation, from a manly movies: The Godfather I, II; Patton; Casablanca; most Clint Eastwood or John Wayne movies, etc. Not necessarily all manly movies, but their own personal repertoire.
56. Men generally do not cry at movies. There are exceptions of course.
57. Be able to give an honest but generous eulogy on the death of a friend or loved one, that acknowledges the Imago Dei in all of us.
58. Produce more than you consume.
59. Teach your children to love and serve God.
60. Instill in your children a sense of right, wrong, honor, duty, loyalty, and faithfulness.
61. Make your wife and children feel safe; and make them laugh.
62. Teach your children that success is earned, not given.
63. Know the basics of how to throw, catch and hit a baseball.
64. Chop wood efficiently.
65. Be familiar with and able to quote Scripture and know how to apply it to your life. See especially Psalm 118:8 and Luke 12:48.
66. Love the mother of your children and tell your children that you love them.
67. Resist temptation.
68. Teach a boy that there’s a difference between looking and leering.
69. Teach a girl to not give boys a reason to leer.
70. Be able to go deep into the woods, not get lost, and survive at least 24 hours.
71. Be unafraid to correct other people’s children (especially relatives) when they act badly.
72. Use and service a lawn mower and/or snowblower.
73. Know how to score a baseball game on a proper scorecard. Then teach a young boy/girl how to do so.
74. Be able to practice self-discipline and self-control even in difficult circumstances.
75. Be able to be right without arrogance; strong without violence, successful without dishonesty.
76. Be able to admit when you’ve made a mistake.
77. Be able to both lead and follow with grace and humility.
78. Have the wit to solve problems and the grit to right a wrong.
79. Find the breaker box and reset the breaker or replace the fuse.
80. Turn off the water main.
81. Fix a leaky toilet.
82. Find candles and flashlights when the power goes out.
83. Remain calm and act effectively in an emergency.
84. Sew a button and iron a shirt.
85. Know how to use the basic power and hand tools. Chainsaw, circular saw, hand saw, screwdriver, wrenches, pliers, hammer, etc.
86. Be able to stop after one beer.
87. Wear a baseball cap in the proper orientation.
88. Be able to tell his children ‘no’ when they need it.
89. Sing the national anthem from memory, and be familiar with the important documents in our nation’s history, For example: The Constitution, The Declaration of Independence, The Federalist Papers, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
90. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you should be able, using the two pointer stars in the Big Dipper, to spot the North Star, and know how to identify directions using it for reference.
91. When walking with a woman or your children on a sidewalk, you walk on the outer side, i.e. nearer the street.
92. Be able to ask a woman to dance.
93. Keep your word.
94. Shake hands firmly while looking that person in the eye.
95. Fend off a physical attack on your person, as well as a full-scale invasion of Colorado by Soviet and Cuban troops.
96. Stand up for what’s right even if you’re the only one to do so.
97. Parallel park.
98. Be willing and able to teach all of the above.
99. Tell your dad you love him.
100. Be willing to do the “little things”.
And a few things you should NEVER do: Tug on Superman’s cape. Spit into the wind. Pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger. Mess around with Jim. And never shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die.
Men need to learn more than just a list of mechanical skills. There is an element of sacrifice – of chivalry – involved in true manhood that is greatly overlooked today, and needs to be re-cultivated. Men may be learning how to rescue a boater who is capsized, but I think they should get back to learning how to rescue girls in towers.
And if this list is too long, a man can simplify things down to what Robert Heinlein said:
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”