I love the series we are in – the Art of Manliness!
In honor of our series, I am making a list of 10 manly skills that I think every young man can and should develop.
When I was a teenager, old enough to have a drivers license, to have my own jobs, and buy my own cars, I learned many practical skills from my dad and my older brother.
Other practical skills I learned in a scouts type program.
Although, as I grow older, I am learning that most of the manliest skills are more complex and less tangible.
So, here is my list, and if you have some of your own to add, feel free to list them in the comment section.
10: Drive a Manual Transmission.
Now most of you who live outside of the United States are wondering why this is even on the list, 95% of drivers outside of the U.S. of A. are driving a stick shift car on a regular basis, and another 4.9% learn this skill as a natural part of a normal modern life.
This is a practical life skill that is almost a right of passage. It’s listed at number ten because it’s a sort of base line – if you don’t learn to drive a manual transmission, you probably won’t be found building a log house from trees that you chopped down and prepared with your bare hands either. So grab your friends BMW (his clutch will already be ruined!) and learn how to ease that thing into first gear.
9: Tie a Proper Knot in Your Tie.
So many people are doing away with classic attire. When I was growing up, my father wore a tie nearly every day of his life. He wore black wing tip shoes shined to perfection, and a suit or a sport coat with dress slacks.
Those days may never fully return, but the occasion will inevitably arise when you must don either a classic tie or a bow tie. It’s not as difficult to attain this skill as it was before Youtube tutorial videos abounded for everything under the sun. So fire up your web browser, and practice until you can get that double windsor to dimple and the length to hit the top of your belt on the first try!
8: Change a Tire. Change the Oil. Jump Start a Battery.
7: Master the Big 5 Lifts
You may not be an athlete, but these 5 lifts are the key to shaping up your body. Every man (every person for that matter), benefits from a fit physique. Your overall health will definitely benefit, giving you more lean muscle mass and increasing your resting metabolism. You’ll also have balanced muscle tone, with back and core muscles giving full support to help avoid injuries, back and knee pain, and giving you the ability to perform those random household chores that require some grit and sweat.
What ar the 5? The Back Squat, the Bench Press, the Overhead Press, the Barbell Row, and the Deadlift.
These are compound movements that work multiple muscle groups all at once. If you are a beginner, you should start with very low weight (comically low actually!), and slowly build up over the months until you start to hit your peaks. I use a method called Strong Lifts 5×5. These movements will strengthen large and small muscle groups, and will give you a rock solid core as well.
6: Write A Proper Thank You Note
There are few things as powerful as a thank you note. Gratitude not only helps build up others and strengthen your relationships, but it changes you as well. In case you didn’t know, there is an art to the thank you note. Olivia’s grandmother Grace was a great thank you note writer, and she thought me a few things.
First, be prompt. Don’t let a lot of time go by, otherwise you may forget to do it, and you may miss the window of time in which people are still thinking about the thing that they did or the gift they gave. A well timed thank you note really hits home.
Second, be specific. Name the gift they gave or the act that they performed, and describe for them what it meant to you. Don’t send out generic notes, they come across as an attempt to look good yourself rather than a genuine expression of grattitude for what the other person has done.
5: The Discipline of Reading
Real men take responsibility for the sharpness of their intellect. Some of the most manly men in the world, Delta Force operators, are voracious readers, and are tested in their knowledge of the latest political developments, strategic thinking, and historical reference, all things that require a habit of reading. Before being selected in the most elite fighting force on the planet, they must exhibit an understanding of varied and complex subjects.
Leaders are readers, there is no way to get around this.
4: Control Your Anger
Better yet, find the source of your anger and cut out the roots.
Anger comes from fear. The late Dallas Willard, long time chair of the Philosopy Department at UCLA, and a spiritual powerhouse, once said, “Show me an angry young man, and I will show you someone who is afraid.”
What are you afraid of? That’s right, you don’t know. So, do your best to identify it.
Men are taught to not be emotional. The only emotion that we are allowed to show is anger. So this one comes out with a vengeance.
Sometimes it doesn’t really get explosive, but passive aggressive anger is just as destructive.
Real men don’t explode in anger. They don’t scream at other drivers, they don’t yell at their kids for not acting like a 40 year old, and they don’t ever, ever use physical force to control other people.
The people that we respect the most are people that are calm in every situation. In order to be the calm, non-anxious presence in the room, we first have to learn ourselves inside and out. What makes us emotional, what sends us off in a rage?
It’s not easy, but if it were easy, I wouldn’t be asking real men to attempt it. It takes a real man, and a real woman, to humble themselves, saying, “I take full responsiblity for my emotions in every situation and in every interaction with others. I refuse to blame anyone for how I conduct myself.”
3: Give Good Directions
This may not seem important, but practicing giving directions to people can trickle down to great communication and training skills in other areas of your life and leadership.
In order to help someone understand directions from one place to another, you have to understand how different people think. Some people are spatial thinkers. It’s as if they have a three dimensional map in their head. Others understand step-by-step instructions.
Then there is the language barrier. People don’t have the same picture in their head that you do when they hear the words that you are using. Words trigger meaning, and for each individual on the planet, there are slightly, or drastically, different images for each nuanced word.
All of these barriers have to be accounted for when you are helping people find the nearest coffee shop in your city.
If you master the skill of giving good directions, you will be among the few, the elite individuals that no-one ever gets the chance actually meet on the streets of a real life city. You will be noticed and recruited to great things!
2: How to Apologize
Politicians have mastered the art of the non-apology. Trying to make themselves look contrite and humble without accepting blame.
True apologies have enormous power to heal relationships, and to strengthen other people.
One of the hardest situations you will ever face, is when the right thing to do is to apologize, when you know that you are not the one at fault. It requires some big-boy pants to humble yourself and give up your right to win the arguement.
But I’ve never seen someone lose respect for apologizing. In fact, it’s just the opposite. When someone apologizes, elevated emotions subside. The person who truly apologizes always appears to be a more wise, confident, and trustworthy person.
Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer defuses anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”
1: Ask Good Questions
Imagine you are at a dinner with three other people in a similar profession as you, and you know very little about one or two, or all three of your dinner guests. You will know who is the most important person in the group based on who is the last person to talk about who they are, what they do, and their life experience. With consideration for personality and introversion, the least important people will likely be the first to talk about themselves, and will talk the most about themselves.
Another test is to notice who is asking the most questions. The best leaders ask lots of really good questions and are often taking notes about things they learn. They learn from anyone, no matter how inexperienced the person may be.
Be prepared with good questions. If you have a chance to spend time with someone that you know you can learn a lot from, take time before your meeting to write down 4 or 5 questions that will help you make the most of your time. And then, be quite. Don’t try to show people how much you know, and don’t try to impress them.
If the person is someone truly worth learning from, you will have a hard time getting your question out there. He or she will most likely turn the spot-light on you and get as much information out of you as possible. Great leaders are constantly learning, observant, and are simply humble. They don’t feel the need to show off what they know because they are too busy working on making themselves better.
Do you have some life-skills to add? Let’s keep the conversation going, leave your comments below!