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The world isn’t a place for wimps. By the time a young man reaches 22 years of age, he will have been in a street fight, attended a funeral, gotten stitches, had a hangover, and will have likely been turned down by a beautiful woman—on multiple occasions. By the time he reaches 30, he may experience bankruptcy, fatherhood, and divorce. And when a man hits 50, he could find himself being challenged with some serious health issues.
But here’s the good news. With the help of strong role models, mentors, and tribes, a young man can learn a wide-range of skills that will serve him well on his journey to manhood. Some of these skills are basic but essential. Others are vital to a man’s success. And while this list could have easily gone into the 100’s, I’ve decided to narrow it down to 15.
You might be well versed in some (or most) of these skills. Unfortunately, I’m not. I only write about topics that I can learn from. I hope you continue reading regardless because some of these skills need to be sharpened throughout life. And who knows, my insight could bring a new perspective.
Let’s get started. Every man should master …
1. The Art of a Confident Handshake
I thought I would begin with a simple (but highly-underrated) skill. A man’s handshake says a lot about the kind of man he is.
A handshake is intimate. Not in the romantic sense of course, but it’s memorable. Truth be told, a man can command the attention of an entire room with well-placed handshakes. It’s no doubt, an art. The way you move toward the waiting hand, the considered grip strength, motion of the shake, eye contact, and even the release all matter. Grip too loosely, and you’ll come across as timid and unconfident. Too tightly and you’ll be perceived as alpha and, well, lacking confidence.
You will need to master the art of the handshake if you ever want to be a man that people follow. It could be the deciding factor of whether or not you get that first date with your future wife or a job with the prestigious entrepreneur you’ve been inspiring to partner with.
2. The Art of Drinking
Real men maintain control at all times. Period.
I can’t count how many times I’ve witnessed high-ranking, respected men embarrassing themselves at a work function or corporate event as the result of having one, (or three) too many. I’ve seen dads throwing punches at NFL games, and I’ve observed grandpas trying to kiss random strangers at the local dive bar. I, myself have gotten into my fair share of trouble with booze in the past. It get’s the best of many men sooner or later. The goal is to learn from the mistakes.
Don’t get me wrong. There is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying a delicious glass of Crown & Coke with your buddies. Heck, even two or three if that’s within your safe zone. But here’s the thing; if you want to be the kind of man that inspires others, you’ll need to maintain composure at all times. Yes, even Guys Night Out requires some discipline.
The wise move would be to surround yourself with other responsible and disciplined men.
3. The Art of Weightlifting
When I was young, I pumped iron for the sole purpose of getting attention from the ladies. Every young buck recognized that building up his biceps would earn him some baller status. But as a man matures, he realizes that there is a lot more to bodybuilding than bench pressing and beautiful ladies.
It comes down to discipline, endurance, and confidence.
Strength training makes us feel good. It challenges our bodies and promotes longevity, health, and wellness. But most of all, (for me), strength training challenges the mind. Lifting 4-5 days a week for the past 25+ years has infused a level of discipline that has served me well.
Strength training is also one of the most meditative activities a man can do. Throw in your earbuds, crank your favorite Spotify playlist, and proceed to achieve something. No matter how your day has gone, you can end on a high note.
4. The Art of Listening
I bet this one threw you off a little. LISTEN? How did this make the list, you may be asking yourself. I’ll tell you how; it’s probably one of the most neglected and underappreciated qualities a man can possess.
When a man can master his ability to listen, people will be drawn to him. Moreover, being a great listener will dissolve almost any dispute. Legendary author, Dale Carnegie said it best; “Listen first. Give your opponents a chance to talk. Let them finish. Do not resist, defend or debate. This only raises barriers. Try to build bridges of understanding.”
The art of listening can be challenging for men. We want to fix things. We want to sound smart and be right. We tend to interrupt people because our thoughts run rampant. But I can say this with sincerity; every time I’ve listened more than spoke, something good came out of it as a result.
5. The Art of Dating
It doesn’t matter if your sixteen or sixty, asking a beautiful, intelligent, and sophisticated woman out on a date can be intimidating. Even if you’re fortunate enough to possess an enormous amount of self-confidence, that confidence won’t mean anything if your approach is insincere and clumsy.
The truth is, women are approached every day by bold (and creative) men. Guys that are relentless in their endeavor to “hook up.” Now, don’t get me wrong. Not all guys are douche buckets. Nevertheless, you have to find a way to earn a little trust, and the best way to do this is by showing some genuine interest in her. So how do you do this? Simple. You ask the right questions.
The truth is, most women are waiting for the guy that’s different and unpredictable, and you just might be that guy if you play your cards right. The basic rules of thumb are;
- Don’t start a conversation off with how beautiful she is. It’s typical and objectifies her.
- Don’t touch her. Other than a firm handshake, there is no reason to touch her on the first pass. It’s just creepy.
- Don’t ask close-ended questions—unless you have backup questions prepared. It’s the quickest way to cause a conversation to go stale and lose her interest.
6. The Art of Negotiating
For many of us, negotiation is either a part of everyday life or an uncomfortable practice that’s avoided whenever possible. What people don’t know, is that on some level, nearly every transaction can be negotiated. The art of negotiating is an indispensable skill that can be passed down to sons and daughters. But negotiating goes beyond monetary transactions. It’s also a method by which people settle differences. It’s a process in which compromise or agreement is reached while avoiding quarrel and conflict.
The primary goal of any negotiation is to reach a win-win outcome. A good attitude, friendly demeanor, and confident approach will fair well in any negotiation.
7. The Art of Fighting
In John Eldredges’ book: Wild At Heart, he says a boy needs to feel dangerous. Men of all ages need to know how to fight. There are two ways to approach this. You can go at it the roughian way. Like most of the guys my age, street fighting was a rite of passage as a boy, but it’s not always the best answer. Jiu-Jitsu, Taekwondo, and even traditional boxing are excellent disciplines for any man to learn.
It comes down to confidence and believing in yourself. If you know you’re a bad mofo, then you won’t even waste your time with the drunken idiot that’s hitting on your wife. And in the rare case that you are forced to throw down, having some strong Jiu-Jitsu skills will come in handy.
8. The Art of Making Money
This will age me a bit, but it wasn’t long ago that Blu-ray, Walkman, and Nintendo were all the rage. Now we have Netflix, Beats, and VR (virtual reality). The explosion of technological advancements has not only created countless new job opportunities, but the shift has also, unfortunately, caused many jobs to become obsolete.
We are living in an age where EVERYONE needs to be cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset. It’s becoming more commonplace to now see school teachers, doctors, and even stay at home moms and dads pursuing side hustles and creative endeavors. No one’s job is safe anymore. Even if it is, the internet has opened up a myriad of new economic opportunities.
If you don’t continuously learn and adapt, you might find yourself lost. Or worse; you’ll continue with mediocrity, while others thrive.
In Robert T. Kiyosaki’s book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, he says: “Money, without financial intelligence, is money soon gone.”
Read. Listen. Learn. Apply.
9. The Art of Cooking
Most of the guys I know come from an era that excused a man’s unwillingness to cook. Watch any 80s TV sitcom, and you’ll almost always see the husband and kids being served a hot meal by Mom.
The psychology behind a man’s fear of cooking is pretty clear to me. Men typically don’t like to fail. We have little tolerance for “not knowing” something, so we find ourselves avoiding anything that draws out our incompetence. And while most of the world’s top chefs are male, cooking is still associated with the likes of Paula Deen and Martha Stewart in the minds of many gents.
Cooking is an art, but it’s one that every man needs to learn. It’s not only a life skill, but it’s also one of the most important skills a man can possess to take his family’s health (and his own) to the next level. Whipping up some pastured eggs, sausage, and fruit for dinner is a much better option than reheated KFC.
10. The Art of Handling a Firearm
From 2005-2010, nearly 3,800 people in the U.S. died from unintentional shootings, and most of these shootings involved men under the age of 25.
There are numerous reasons a man should learn his way around a gun, but the most important reason is to keep himself, and the people around him safe from accidental discharges. You might be thinking to yourself that you’ll never own a gun, but it doesn’t mean you’ll never hold one. A gun in the hands of an inexperienced user can be deadly.
Here are a few basic rules when handling a gun:
- Treat every gun as if it’s loaded.
- Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire the weapon.
- Never point the gun at anything that you’re not willing to destroy.
- ALways confirm your target; as well as what’s behind and to all sides of it.
11. The Art of Changing a Diaper
You might sneer at this one, but it’s a life skill. Not only is there a good chance that you’ll be changing diapers in your future, but there really is a right and wrong way to do it. You might be one of those men that takes pride in never have changed a diaper, but the reality is that it’s only making you appear to be selfish and macho. Time to grow up!
Don’t be a wimp. Changing a diaper is a bonding experience for a father and his child. And your wife will also appreciate the help. Win, win.
12. The Art of Making Friends
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” —Dale Carnegie
Research shows that Americans are getting lonelier. People in their 20s and 30s are struggling to make new friends, and this may be a repercussion of too much social media usage. We seem to be losing our ability to engage (and hold) a decent conversation with a real human being—one that’s not on the other side of a computer screen.
Get off the mobile phone and go be a human! Engage people. Dare to move beyond the small talk. Listen, learn, and share.
Making friends isn’t as much art as it is an effort. A few rules to follow when making new (or maintaining old) friendships are:
- Be yourself.
- Be personable.
- Be empathetic.
- Be persistent.
- Be open-minded.
- Be a good listener.
- Be creative.
13. The Art of Loving a Woman
We briefly talked about how to approach a woman. Now, let’s discuss how to love a woman.
“The most powerful support a man can give a woman to stimulate oxytocin, lower her testosterone, and increase her estrogen is good communication, which primarily involves him listening more and saying less.” — John Gray / Beyond Mars and Venus
At the time of writing this bit, I’ve been married for nine years, and if there were a single piece of advice I’d give a man; it would be to talk less and listen more. Mr. Eldredge, author of Wild at Heart, confirms that a man’s greatest fear is to be discovered as an imposter. Not really a “man.” From a young age, we’ve been trained to think that we have to have all the answers. In reality, women aren’t always looking for answers or feedback. They just want support. They want you to be present; in the moment and engaged.
Here are some basic (but unconditional) needs that most women want. These can be difficult for men to provide, but regardless, you MUST provide these …
- She needs freedom. Don’t smother or control her.
- She needs to think for herself. Don’t force your perspectives.
- She needs a good *listener, not a coach. She’ll ask for help (if she needs it).
- She needs you to understand her. Learn her ways.
- She needs a man that can show vulnerability. Don’t put up walls.
- She needs a man with emotional intelligence. Show stability.
- She needs unconditional love. Love her charisma, love her chaos, love her brilliance.
14. The Art of Fathering
“It takes a man to raise a man.” – Meg Meeker / Boys Should Be Boys
Fathers are suppressing many of their masculine responsibilities—unintentionally leading sons and daughters down a path of obscurity and toxic reasoning. Men have more duties than ever before, and sometimes these obligations get in the way of their fathering commitments. Kids want to play, wrestle, run, and create, but most of all, they want daddy’s attention. Children are egocentric, and they need affirmation that they are worthy.
Our sons and daughters are watching closely, and we need to be an exemplary model for them to imitate. While it’s true that both the mother and father play equally-vital roles in raising children, research shows that it’s the father that ultimately has the biggest influence.
Like children, we need to continuously learn and grow in order to be the best fathers that we can be.
15. The Art of Reading
“He that loves reading has everything within his reach.” —William Godwin
If there was one thing I regret, it’s that I didn’t take up reading much earlier in life. I didn’t read my first book until the age of 35. I remember it vividly. It was called The Kite Runner. Every night, I would read until I fell asleep. Today, I’m more drawn to non-fiction, and I’ve read well over 100 books in just the past five years.
If we aren’t being inspired on a consistent basis, we’ll wither away without even realizing it. Our brains NEED nourishment just like our bodies. The mind needs to be challenged with new perspectives and empowered with wisdom. The most successful men who ever lived, read—A LOT.
I have fallen in love with audiobooks. If you don’t have time to read, create an Audible account and begin devouring books during your daily commutes to work and other activities throughout the day.
There are so many more skills that could serve a man well throughout his life. Learning an instrument, investing, tying a knot, public speaking; the list is long. I think the trick is to maintain an open mind. Never become complacent or satisfied with what you know. You can strip a man of everything, but you can never take away his intellect. Learning new skills keeps the mind young, and we’re only as old as we feel, right!? :-)
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