I wrote this article a couple of years ago in response to an article posted on Ask Men entitled Obsolete Man Skills You Should Ditch. This is my attempted rebuttal and humble argument as to why these skills should not only be practiced, but celebrated.
Skills That Every Man Should Practice
7 manly skills that are needed now more than ever and how to cultivate them
As a child the first time your dad takes you hunting is surreal. Sitting silently in a deer blind in the early morning darkness with no modern-day distractions, no cell phone in hand, no YouTube playing, no Spotify. Just you and nature. You can get a lot sorted out in your head in those moments. You can think and ponder the important stuff, like who’d win in a fight between a taco and a grilled cheese sandwich. Then, at daybreak, a white tail appears from the tree line. Your heart is beating out of your chest as your dad hands you his rifle. It’s time.
Back at deer camp your dad or grandpa will help you hang the deer up — and then the work starts. You get out your knives and start learning how to skin and quarter the animal. Something men (and women) have been doing for millennium. You get your hands dirty and you learn that the food at the grocery store doesn’t automatically just appear on the shelves. And this deer you just got is allllll organic, baby.
Factory farmed meat may be cheap and readily available, but it’s not exactly the healthiest or more ethical choice. The deer you harvested lived a free and wild life — not relegated to a pen or tiny enclosure. It wasn’t shot up with hormones and God knows what else. And it died a quick death.
Later that night at deer camp you’ll sit around a warm fire and talk and tell stories and learn how to lie and maybe learn how to cuss a little. You’re learning to engage with other men. And you learn not to drink as much as your Dad’s friend Dave, because Dave fell off his chair and into the fire.
Hunting builds resiliency, discipline, and character, along with a love and appreciation for the animal you’re harvesting that goes well beyond buying chicken thighs at Whole Foods.
What may also be surprising to some, is the fact that hunting promotes conservation. All totaled, hunters contribute more than $1.6 billion per year for conservation. The Elk Network does a pretty good job of showing just how all this money is generated.
Learn How To Cook Your Wild Game For Yourself
Your mama isn’t always going to be around to make you grilled cheese sammiches, so it’s important to know how to cook. And when it comes to wild game, it’s never been easier. In this modern era there are tons of resources on how to store, prepare and cook all varieties of game. Vacuum sealers are cheap and available, and ANYONE can learn how to use a crock pot. Or you could get fancy and get you one of those sous vides. Black bear chili? Check. Fried deer heart? There’s a recipe for that, too. I’d suggest cook books by Hank Shaw and Steven Rinella. Also, the crew over at MeatEater has plenty of free recipes.
As the great Kenny Rogers once sang, “Sometimes you have to fight when you’re a man.” He was partially right. Sometimes you must fight when you’re a woman, as well. Or a parent. Or a spouse. I consider it my DUTY to be able to protect my loved ones from the evil people in this world.
A couple of years ago I sat in on a Jiu-Jitsu class. When I first arrived, this young lady came up and introduced herself to me. She was no taller than 5’4’’ and couldn’t have weighed more than a buck ten, but I then watched as she effortlessly tapped out grown men for the next hour. At 15 years of age, she was already acquiring a skill set that allowed her to protect herself, as well as a self confidence that bellied her age. When we spoke, she didn’t look at the ground and mumble hello, as many young people do. She looked me in the eyes and shook my hand and smiled. Jiu-Jitsu wasn’t just teaching her how to fight, but it was teaching her confidence and just how much she was capable of. She was disciplined and empowered, even more than some grown men you know.
A real fight is a scary situation and the outcome could be deadly. It should be avoided if at all possible. Walk away. Deescalate. Call the authorities. But when you’re backed into a corner and someone is about to perform acts of violence against you or a loved one, you need to be able to defend yourself. As a matter of fact, it is YOUR DUTY to do so. When your door is being beaten down at 3am, you won’t have time to wait for the cops to show up. The only thing protecting your family from evil is you. And you don’t have to be John Wick to do so. Train Jiu-Jitsu, join a boxing gym. Sign up for some Krav Maga classes. Go to a shooting range and learn how to safely and effectively handle a firearm.
Not only is fighting an essential skill for men and women alike, but the benefits are immeasurable. You’re being physically active and getting in shape. You’re building confidence in yourself. You’re problem solving at the most extreme level.
Hopefully you’ll never have to use these skills in a real-world situation, but when evil comes knocking at least you’ll have a fighting chance.
Become Situationally Aware
Learning how to avoid dangerous situations is almost as important as knowing how to fight. Be aware of your surroundings. Stand up straight and walk with a purpose, so as not to appear like an easy target. Don’t walk down the street staring at your phone. This article from Art Of Manliness is a great resource on building situational awareness.
3. Fixing Your Vehicle
For anyone like myself who is a diehard fan of The Office, you may remember the episode where they got a flat tire when heading back from the Mall. You may also remember that Michael Scott couldn’t change it, and opted to ‘direct traffic’ instead. Yeah, don’t be like Michael Scott.
And remember how happy Pam was when she was able to do it herself? She felt accomplished. Independent. Empowered.
A few years ago, the sensor in my seatbelt receiver went out and I drove everywhere with that annoying chime going off constantly — like an alarm clock with no snooze button. I went to the dealership to see how much it’d cost to be replaced and they said they’d order me a new one. Ok, great, how much for ya’ll to install it? The guy just kind of looked at me for a few seconds and then patiently explained how easy it was to install and how having him do it would be a waste of my money. And he was right. With just a few tools I was able to completely remove the driver’s seat, uninstall the old receiver and install the new one. Took me about an hour and saved me a lot of money.
You don’t have to be a damn mechanic, but it sure does help knowing how to do basic repairs and maintenance yourself. Learn how to change your own oil. Learn about the fluid levels and what those mysterious warning lights mean. You’ll not only save money, but you’ll develop a sense of independence. You’ll become more confident. And who knows, you might even enjoy it.
And speaking of Pam from The Office, this ‘Manly Skill’ doesn’t just apply to men. Do you really want your daughter having to wait on the side of a dark road until help arrives when she could change that tire herself with just a little bit of practice? A skilled woman is an independent woman who doesn’t have to rely on a man. That’s empowerment.
YouTube, YouTube, YouTube!
There are instructional videos on how to do LITERALLY EVERYTHING on YouTube. I’ve personally saved hundreds of dollars by replacing my own break pads and changing out my own spark plugs. And I learned how to do it all from YouTube.
4. Fixing Things At Home
There’s a tiny button on the bottom of your garbage disposal. Next time it stops working, just hit that reset button and watch it come back to life. Or you could call a plumber and pay her $100 to do it.
For a guy that’s worked blue collar jobs my whole life, I’m the least mechanically inclined person you’ll ever meet. Fixing things just doesn’t come naturally to me. Assembling an office desk? Don’t even get me started. Swinging a hammer? My thumb is in extreme danger. Hard hats and safety glasses were invented for morons like me. But being able to do simple home repairs builds independence and saves you a ton of money. Heavy lifting aside, do you know how ridiculously easy it to replace a water heater? I didn’t either, until I learned how. Now I’ll never have to pay someone else hundreds of dollars to do something that I can easily do myself.
Obviously, if you’re renting an apartment, you’ll never have to replace a water heater or install a toilet, but your landlord isn’t going to mount that tv up on the wall for you. And that coffee table you just bought at Ikea ain’t going to assemble itself. Learn the difference between a flat head screw driver and a phillips head. Buy yourself a basic cheap tool kit at Walmart. Learning the basics of home repairs also means learning what NOT to do to keep your home running smoothly, so learn some preventive maintenance and troubleshooting. Your wallet, and the apartment maintenance man, will thank you.
It Feels Good To Help People
I have an elderly aunt and uncle who are on a fixed income and not in good health at all. They recently had an issue with a toilet that wouldn’t stop running and another toilet with a cracked seat. They didn’t have a landlord to call, and they damn sure can’t afford a plumber. With a few hand tools I was able to replace the toilet seat and replace the fill valve in the other toilet in half an hour. I didn’t get paid to do this, but when you help people it makes you feel good. And I like to feel good.
5. Being A Leader
Leadership, true leadership, means discipline. It means leading from the front. It means sacrifice. It means keeping your ego in check and setting up your team for success. True leadership inspires. True leadership is everything.
Whether you’re a CEO of a Fortune 500 company, a Staff Sergeant in an infantry unit, or a kid learning how to flip burgers. The fundamentals of what it means to be a good leader can and should be applied daily. It has nothing to do with your sex or race but has everything to do with discipline and sacrifice. Are you willing to do everything you’re asking your team to do? Are you willing to take the blame when things go wrong? Are you willing to share the glory of victory with your employees when things are going well?
A leader inspires.
And it’s no longer a boy’s club. Recently, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, at the age of 29, became the youngest woman ever to serve in the United States Congress. 27-year-old Lina Hidalgo, an immigrant, just became Judge of Harris County, Texas, where Houston (the fourth largest city in the US) is located. These young ladies are now in positions of great influence and have an opportunity to lead in behalf of their constituents. They didn’t let their ethnicity or age or sex stop them. They took action. And now they’re in positions of leadership.
The best part about being a leader is, you don’t have to be in charge to lead! Lead yourself. Cultivate integrity. Become a self-starter. Become disciplined in the little things. Eventually, at some point in your life, you will be put into a leadership position of some sort. Study and develop these skills now. I highly recommend reading Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babbin. You simply cannot go wrong applying these principals to your life, regardless of your current status.
6. Being A Disciplinarian
This is, perhaps, the most important ‘Manly Skill’ on this list. This is the skill that, if not practiced properly, will cause all the other skills to fail. As a man, as a father, as a mother, as a mentor, as a supervisor, as a big sister. Your chief target of discipline should always be YOURSELF.
How can you expect your son to show respect his teachers when you aren’t respecting his mother at home? Remember the “OHHHHH FUDGE!” scene in The Christmas Story? Remember how he learned that word? Do as I say, not as I do, is a worn-out expression that only leads to the same bad habits and life choices hoping from one generation to the next. A man should be firm with his children. He should, at times, even be a hard ass. But he should be harder on himself.
You want to raise healthy, well adjusted, disciplined children? Start disciplining yourself, because daddy, you are most definitely being watched. And your bad habits will eventually become their bad habits. The proverbial bar of soap should spend a significant amount of time in your mouth before you decide to clean your kids mouth.
Discipline Can And Should Be Loving
My dad is a tough man. He grew up without electricity and was picking cotton as soon as he could walk. Ended up being sent to Vietnam where he was forced to become a killer of men. As a kid I saw him work from dawn to dusk. He can dig ditches and fix things and chop wood and butcher a hog. He was also beaten unmercifully by his old man. I’m talking fist to the face type beatings when he took a sip of water without permission.
When it came time for me to be disciplined as a child, though, he did things differently. He hugged me afterwards. Told me he loved me, and calmly explained why I just received a spanking. As a disciplinarian, he was first able to discipline himself and not carry on the bad habits of abuse that he received from his own father. Due to his discipline, that generational curse was broken.
Discipline equals freedom.
7. Holding Your Emotions In
Ah, the strong silent type. Stoically staring life in the face and shutting out any semblance of emotion. This is how a man should be, right?
Remember when the dog died in the movie I Am Legend? I balled my fucking eyes out. Those videos where Service Members return from deployment and they surprise their dogs? My eyes become mini water falls. That video that went viral a while back where the baby received the ear implants and was finally able to hear his mother’s voice? Whew, just hand me the whole box of tissues. Obviously, we all have moments of emotion and I don’t think anyone actually still holds the antiquated notion that “real men don’t cry”.
But sometimes there are situations where you DO need to hold your emotions in. Situations where others around you are falling apart and it’s your duty as a man to become a rock for them to lean on. When the darkness comes, and it is coming for all of us, you can be a sense of calm in the midst of the chaos.
Dr. Jordan Peterson succinctly describes this as “being the reliable person at a funeral”. When my grandmother died, we all gathered in the hospice room and saw her one last time. One family member of mine took it extremely hard and had to leave. In tears. I don’t hold this against him in any way, but imagine if everyone were to fall apart in a similar fashion? There needs to be someone who can stand up, be strong, make decisions, and comfort those who are less strong. That someone can be you.
And then, later, when you’re alone, let go. Let the toxic pain flow from your eyes. Mourn and wail and cry and curse and question God. And then, in the morning, dry your eyes, set your jaw, and become that rock once again. The man your family needs you to be.
A man should also know when and where he’s lacking and always strive to be better. I, myself, am sorely lacking in all the above-mentioned skills. But maybe, MAYBE, one day I’ll be able to consider myself to be this type of man. In the meantime, I’ve got a lot of work to do.