Commentary: Three Traditional Skills Young Men Should Learn

by Jordan Alexander


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.

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Jordan Alexander is a contributor to Intellectual Takeout.
Photo “Man Changing Light Bulb” by Anete Lusina.




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