What does it mean to be a man? Well it means a lot of different things to a lot of different individuals, individuality is in and of itself a strong masculine trait after all, but there are some common aspects of masculinity that bring us all together as men, some milestones we need to hit, skills we need to have, and here are the 15 essential skills every man needs to learn at some point in his life.
Being a successful man in today’s society requires a set of solid, immutable skills that not only play to our strengths as men, but address some of our weaknesses and allow us to play our part in society as a real man. These skills sets will give us the tools we need to survive, thrive, and fulfil our role in society.
Now these are far more than those sets of manly skills like how to pop the hood and fix a broken down car with nothing more that a piece of hosepipe and an oily rag, these fundamental life skill sets for modern men involve the ability to harness our natural masculine traits and be the best man we can be.
Do you have what it takes to be a real man? Check out this list of essential skills every modern man should master.Tweet
This skill set involves a wide array of other, smaller skills, but every man needs to be able to fix things. This may mean having some basic DIY skills, knowing how to change the oil on your car or tinker with the basic components of an engine, whatever it is. Every man should have at least a basic tool box and an understanding of how to use the stuff in it. Every man should be able to put up a piece of flat pack furniture. And yes, don’t worry, swearing profusely every five minutes is an absolutely normal part of the process, that doesn’t mean you are bad at it! Of course you should know your limits too, for example I have taught myself largely how to fix most things around the house and I can hang a door and change a light socket if I need to, but my personal limit is electricity, I don’t mess with that and I will call an expert electrician in, the same with the more complicated aspects of an engine where I will need a mechanic, but I can at least change a tyre and have a basic grounding in most DIY skills. You may not be able to build a car from scratch, no one will expect you to, but you should be able to at least maintain the basic functions of one! Even apes have developed the ability to pick up a tool and use it to solve a problem, so you have no excuse! This all comes down to how resourceful you are as a man, how you deal with situations and fix all the little problems that come up in life, so if something is broken, pick up that tool and fix it!
Learning how to take control of your health may not seem like a skill set but it absolutely is. This skill involves both a basic understanding of your health and a routine that keeps your health and your body in the best condition as possible. As a man you will need to have a fundamental knowledge of your body and your overall health, you will need to know how to maintain your health, a basic grounding in nutrition and in cardio, strength and flexibility training, and then you will need the self control and discipline to put all that knowledge into action.
Learning to fight.
Learning to fight is an essential skill every man needs to learn. A fundamental aspect of masculinity is protection, that is the reason we were built to be physically stronger, have more natural aggression and testosterone, that instinct to fight. You need to learn how to harness and channel those natural traits. You need to be able to defend yourself if necessary and more importantly be able to defend your family or loved ones too. There are a wide array of specific ways in which you can do this, you can take up boxing, karate, Judo or any other form of martial art, the art itself is only a different style of the same thing, the art of combat. Different paths all leading to the same goal.
I have been learning martial arts my entire life, ever since my dad put me into my first Karate class when I was almost too young to remember it properly, and I have gone on to study a variety of arts around the world, it is a huge part of my life and identity. Not every man needs to go to this extreme of course, this is one of my many passions and I don’t expect everyone to share that obviously, but all men should have at least a basic ability to stand up for themselves, to take both defensive and offensive physical action when necessary.
But this skill goes far beyond the physical aspects of knowing how to throw or block a punch, it also speaks to a man’s character when he is willing to stand and fight, either to defend a loved one, a community or even an ideal. Standing up for your principles, arguing your beliefs robustly against unfair criticism, these take fighting spirit too, and there is nothing as manly as that.
Mastering a weapon.
I’ll take a lot of flack for this one because it is a bit controversial and quite divisive, but every man should learn to use a weapon, in fact every man should be proficient in a range of weaponry. I myself have grown up with them, I learned various weapons styles including the Sai and the Katana when I was very young and have trained with numerous weapons and firearms since. Having a personal weapon is a time honoured tradition for a man, even beyond the need to carry one for self defence and this is one of the many reasons I love and respect the US’ second amendment and the states that allow open and concealed carry. Obviously here in the UK carrying a weapon is illegal which I personally disagree with, but that does not mean you cannot own and train with them, and there are plenty of legitimate sports from archery to Kendo where you can fulfil your masculine responsibility to master a weapon skill or two. Weapons are a tool, nothing more nothing less, and when they are used correctly in the hands of an expert they can be a positive force for good, and the discipline it requires to look after and train with a weapon is about as masculine as it gets.
Every man should know some basic first aid. At some point in your life you, or one of your loved ones, will fall over, bang a head, twist a knee, whatever. It happens, it is just part of life. At that point you should be able to step up and fix it, and knowing how to clean and dress a basic wound is just a fundamental life skill. More than that however, it is part of your duty as a man to be useful in a crisis, so this is one skill that is worth learning to a slightly higher than basic level, obviously sticking to your limits as a non medical professional, and keeping those skills up to date too. You’ll never know when you may be needed.
Being a leader is a core aspect of masculinity, a fundamental part of being an alpha male, and it is something that is innate within us, something that has been a part of our masculine make up since the very first hunter gatherers led their tribes to sources of food, water and shelter. Men are born to lead and this is a skill you should nurture from an early age. Now this can mean many different things when you apply it to your life, you can be a leader at work, at home, in your community, whatever it might be, but it involves a complex set of smaller skills that you need to develop, from how you deal with interpersonal relationships, building your self confidence, how you deal with problems, setbacks and tasks, but learning the art of leadership means that you will be the man that people come to in times of crisis, you will rise to the top of your chosen field of work and you will be able to fulfil your role as a man.
Learning is a fundamental skill set for any man and one that should not be dropped after you leave school. You don’t know it all, no man ever does, but you should always be trying to find it out. Now I get it, this doesn’t sound like a skill set, but trust me it is. Having the discipline to keep learning, to keep evolving, is not easy. It is something you have to keep working on, you have to keep finding the motivation for and not allow yourself to become complacent. That is a skill set in and of itself. Whether it is for fun, a specific qualification or field of study, or whether it is learning a new skill, a man should always be striving to learn new things, to widen his perspective, to expose himself to new ideas and ways of thinking. Ignorance is absolute poison to real masculinity and a lack of development in this skill leads to mediocre, average men. Don’t be an average man, pick up a book and learn something new.
Learning how to be alone.
A man should learn to live alone before he can live with anyone else. That is just a fundamental part of manhood that has largely been lost in today’s society. Now this is far more than learning the skills you need to survive on your own in any circumstance – a man should be able to stand on his own two feet, support himself and survive on his own – it is about learning to love yourself, being comfortable in your own company and learning the difference between being alone and being lonely. This is why I spent the majority of my twenties travelling the world solo and still do so now. I have spent extended periods of time surviving solo adventures, trekking and camping in jungles and deserts, spending periods of isolation in Shaolin temples and relaxing on tropical islands. If a man can learn to enjoy his own company he will find that having some time alone to recharge and reset from time to time is actually an essential part of his wellbeing.
Building strong relationships.
There are two separate parts to this skill set, and both are equally important . The first part is learning to identify the people you choose to surround yourself with as good or bad for you. Trust me, this is a vitally underdeveloped and underestimated skill to have. You need to make sure that first of all the people you keep in your life are good, honest, honourable people, but also the people who will add value to your life, make you strive to better yourself and the community around you. No man needs people who will bring him down, stifle him or be a toxic element in his life. Once you have carefully chosen those relationships, be it with friends, lovers, business partners, whoever, then you need to develop them and work on them constantly so that they are always a source of strength and support for both parties. A man is most definitely an island, but we need to live in an archipelago to survive.
Building a savings account, paying your bills, not getting into debt, earning enough to survive and lead the lifestyle you want, this skill set falls very firmly into the sort your shit out category. Now for some insane reason no one will teach you this skill set, it is not taught in schools and is something you are just expected to somehow know, but it is worth taking a little bit of time as early as possible to just make sure that you have your financial situation figured out. However much you have, however much you earn, you should be able to organise that in such a way that you can survive and slowly build yourself up, be independent, build the lifestyle you want, take control of your life and do the things you want to do with it and then later on having enough to support your family too. This is part of what being a man really is.
Buying a suit.
This seems like a weird one, right? You just go to the shop, pick one you like and pay for it. Simple. That isn’t a skill, it’s shopping! Well you are right, but not quite. Buying a suit is a very subtle skill that shows you have mastered first of all your own personal style, even if you are buying off the rack every man should know what his own style is, and equally as important it shows you have mastered that social skill of knowing what is appropriate in different social situations. It may be comfortable to wear a pair of shorts and T Shirt all the time but it isn’t appropriate at a funeral. Buying your first suit yourself is a very important milestone in a young mans life, and everything from the type of suit you buy to the colour and material says a lot about you and how you want to present yourself to the world.
Nothing is more manly than having the ability to be dropped into any situation and being able to survive on nothing more than your own wits and cunning. Can you start a basic campfire? Build a shelter? Source and purify some drinking water? If you can you’ll probably be able to survive a few days if you are stuck on a desert island. But can you also navigate yourself out of an emergency situation like a sudden terrorist attack or natural disaster? All of these are vital skills for any man to have, and you will probably – and hopefully – never need them, but you will be glad you have them if you do.
Just like the other survival skills, this skill is firmly in the probably never need it but can save your life if you do category, but every man should be able to navigate with a solid, old fashioned map or compass and not just Google Maps. On a practical level you will probably only use this if you go on an off the beaten path hiking trip, but skills such as reading your environment, using a topographical map and navigating by the sun or stars are age old masculine traditions.
Cook, Iron and Sew.
Yes, seriously. These are traditionally seen as feminine skills I know but frankly that is a load of bollocks. There is a reason the first thing the British Army teaches new recruits in phase one of basic training is how to wash, how to cook and how to look after their kit. This is so each soldier can learn to be independent and look after themselves in the trenches for long periods of time, and although you may not be facing down Germans from across the kitchen table, knowing how to repair and maintain your own clothes and cook your own food means that you will always have the basic life skills to look after yourself.
Knowing how to Negotiate.
From buying a car or bartering at a local street market in an exotic location to demanding a pay raise or asking for a sabbatical, the ability to negotiate and barter is an important skill for every man to know. It means that not only will you get a better price for the things that you want, but it will assert your alpha status and show that you can be fair minded and reasonable, but are in no way a pushover.
Now you don’t need to have each and every one of these skill sets completely mastered. No one expects you to be absolutely perfect in every way and have a doctorate or a grand master title in each skill set, but you should be striving toward that and have at least a basic grounding in each one. Everyone will always have different strengths and will of course be better at some things than others, but if you have at least a basic grounding in all of these, then you can call yourself a real man.