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3 Traditional Skills Young Men Should Learn

3 Traditional Skills Young Men Should Learn

It seems that no matter where we turn in modern life we can see how modern conveniences have chipped away at the skills so many used to pride themselves on. Of course, in and of themselves, modern conveniences aren’t bad—I’m grateful for many of them—but when so many of us young people today don’t know the skills of our forefathers, I can’t help but think that we are losing that hardy, independent mindset that early Americans often embodied.

In a previous article for Intellectual Takeout, I wrote on several traditional skills young women should learn. In that article, I said:

I greatly admire the men and women, particularly those among the younger generations, who have taken the time to learn the skills of their forefathers. Certainly, the pioneers didn’t have sewing machines to use or cars to repair, but the hardy attitude of these individuals lives on in those who take up traditional skills that can improve their lives. Not to mention a potential new hobby, a way to help out those around us, and even monetary savings.

Now, as a companion to that piece, here are three skills for young gentlemen.

1. Basic Mechanical Repair

When calling a tow truck can cost hundreds of dollars, there’s no doubt that knowing how to change a tire can be a money saver. But beyond just knowing how to put on the car’s spare tire, having some basic knowledge of how an engine works can be an enormous help when you or a loved one is having vehicle troubles.

When I was growing up, in more than one situation, my father’s knowledge of vehicle mechanics was invaluable when a family vehicle broke down hours from home. In less disastrous situations, I’ve seen him change a car’s oil, and when his lawn mower broke, he was able to take it apart and determine what the problem was. Many of these skills were built on a foundation that began when he was a child watching his own father work on various vehicles.

But beyond looking to a vehicle-savvy peer or relative, there are countless books on engines and mechanics that can teach the basics. And your own car may have come with a manual on all the specifics of how to repair and care for it, or you may be able to find that information for your car’s make and model online.

2. Home Repair

With a basic set of tools and some knowledge of carpentry, the possibilities can become endless. Whether it’s knowing how to tighten down the squeaky floorboard or finally fixing that leaky faucet, the ability to do home repair yourself can be a source of great independence.

Anytime there’s a project at home that needs attention, rather than ignoring it or outsourcing the job, take it as an opportunity to learn something new. Getting some advice from a handy gentleman you know or doing your own research online can teach you how to do the job. Over time, these tasks will build on each other until you’re able to handle most of your home’s repair needs.

Plus, beyond just keeping up with maintenance, you can use many of these skills to add to your home. Having a bookshelf or coffee table you made yourself can add so much character to a room, not to mention its potential as a conversation starter.

3. Grilling

Certainly, it’s a valuable skill for everyone to know how to cook, but at the last barbeque you were at, it was probably a man, not a woman, who was in charge of the grill. Just as the kitchen is the heart of the home, the grill is in many ways the heart of the outdoor gathering.

Is there any gathering more quintessentially American than a summer grill out? We gather with those we care about, catch up with their lives, and let the kids run through the yard. It’s one way we show our appreciation for our family, friends, and perhaps even—on July 4th—our country.

Whether it’s learning how to stack charcoal briquettes and use lighter fluid or modulating the settings on a gas grill, knowing how to use a grill opens a world of culinary possibilities. From steak to veggies, learning a few recipes can be the start of a future life at the heart of the party.

Asking the grill master in your life—father, grandfather, or friend—is one way to learn the basics, and the internet has a host of informative articles and videos to get started on how to operate the grill. The local library’s cookbook section is another place to look when it comes to building an arsenal of recipes.

Onward and Upward

Attempting to learn each of these new skills at once is likely overwhelming, but choosing one as a starting point is much more doable. Changing the oil in the car, finally fixing the leaky faucet, or hosting a cookout this summer are a few places to begin. Each successive step we take toward learning more of these useful skills helps us reclaim the can-do, hardy American spirit of the generations that came before us.

Image credit: PickPik



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  • Avatar
    Kalikiano Kalei
    May 4, 2023, 1:22 am

    I am relieved to find out, Jordan, that even though my father passed from my life at age 4, I somehow managed to pick up those three basic skills you reference that should be requisite for all young men! Frankly, I am of the opinion that the Boy Scouts of America helped me along that path considerably, but one way or another, I seem to fit your profile quite adequately! I was particularly tickled to see the image of the young man under his VW Bug's engine compartment, since that could have been me! I've had VW Bugs all my life and my first one (a 1962 convertible) I picked up in North Dakota while serving in the US Air Force. Its name was 'Heinie' and it taught me the basics of VW air-cooled engine repair. It also faithfully served me for my entire assignment to ADC/SAC during that period without a single hiccup, despite frequent 30-below temps and Arctic-type winters!

    I still have a 1973 Standard Beetle (named 'Brumel', which in German translates loosely to "Cranky and grouchy but still sweet!") that is my pride and joy. Thanks largely to the first of the three skills you cite for young men to master! I am of the opinion that all men should have three critical assets: 1) A faithful VW Bug (Germany's secret-weapon during WW2), 2) a loyal dog, and 3) a supportive and intelligent wife (not necessarily in that order, LoL). I have all three and consider myself blessed, for all that!

    As for the other two skills (carpentry and grilling), I also mastered them to perfection. They do indeed constitute an important part of confidence-building and reinforcing belief in one's assets and merit, as a young man! Thanks for shining a much needed spotlight on these 'traditional' American masculine skill-sets!

  • Avatar
    Chris Hughes
    May 4, 2023, 1:30 am

    Nice to know there are still men concerned about boys!

  • Avatar
    May 4, 2023, 7:41 am

    As a father of two daughters and a son I showed all three how to change a wheel safely. We saw this and other basic car maintenance competencies as a essential parts of driver training.

    BTW, we do not change tires by the side of the road.

    • Avatar
      May 4, 2023, 4:30 pm

      Cars these days are too complicated and expensive to play around with as amateur mechanics. Join Auto Club to fix your flats, dead batteries, and "it won't starts." Men who grill are doing it to be macho, and often miscook the meat. Unless a young person (either sex) likes to fiddle around with motors and cook, leave it to those with proven knowledge and skills. My son happens to be good at both, and I rely on him.

  • Avatar
    May 5, 2023, 12:11 pm

    1. Dad is the ORIGINAL driver for NASCAR in the #32 Studebaker Avanti in 1964, for the Philips 66 team. One of THE FIRST multi car teams-had a dragster in NHRA as well. True story. (I know how to build 800hp/9000 rpm into a short stroke Chevy 327….)
    2. My day job in 1984 was to be hired by GE Industrial Services as they had >3000 service contracts here in Florida(rental units are GE constructed, down to the wiring in the walls)….
    3. I'm FROM Florida….(HELLO!)

    Only managed to retire in a NEW home, ten minutes from the beach…

  • Avatar
    James Smith
    May 11, 2023, 7:30 pm

    Great article. I am in my 40s and all the way through school we were encouraged to master computer skills. Which was correct advice given the way we interact with technology today on daily basis. However there are some things computers and the internet will not be able to take away from us, such as the skills mentioned in your article (Basic Home Repair – Carpentry, Mechanical, & Cooking). My teenage children literally have no interest in acquiring these skills. I have to force these skills on them, almost like a punishment. Needless to say it is a thankless job – for now. I KNOW they will benefit from these skills in their future. That is why I persist.


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