I am only 56 years old (yes, I know, just a child). However, people of my generation and way before took for granted many skills that we see quickly vanishing. I interviewed one young man today who is of the “millennial” generation (he is 21) and he surprised me because he knew so well most of these skills that I will discuss in this article! Much has been written lately on the forgotten skills of millennials (and probably others who come after my generation) and the need to address this growing problem.
In this article, I will address only the physical skills that we are rapidly losing as a culture. In a future article I will deal with the social skills we seriously need to bring back. Everyone needs to know the following skills ASAP in order to be a tough, functioning, self-reliant adult:
1. Home economics skills.
Back in the ancient world we called this “home ec” in high school. (One of the best courses I took in high school was a home ec class called “Maternal and Infant Care.” Lots of guys took it. We learned a bunch about what it takes to run a household, to change diapers, and to basically prepare for being a husband and father. I can tell you that class certainly made me think twice about the seriousness of raising a family. Wish we had more classes like that one that taught me real-life skills.
Do you know how to cook? (My wife and I LOVE to cook! And our four adult kids do too!) Instead of simply ordering a pizza, can you actually plan a nutritious meal for a whole family, buy all the ingredients (on sale or with coupons, hopefully), and then cook it? Eating out all the time will eat up your bank account. Preparing your own food can be fun and it is certainly better for your health and pocketbook.
My wife regularly cans lots of fruits and vegetables (she even makes maple syrup from our maple trees in our yard) and so all year long we have row after row of delicious canned food straight from her garden — ready for our meals! (I think it is important to know how to grow your own food as well.)
Here’s chef Gordon Ramsay with tips to make cooking simpler!
Rachel Cruze tells us how cooking can be fun!
The world of business and finance begins in the home. If you do not know how to balance your checkbook, or keep money in the bank, or save for the future, how can you ever become financially independent? Do you have a budget? I know, if the federal government doesn’t operate on one, why should I? Well, the crooks in our government can just print more money. You and I don’t have that advantage. So, do you create a monthly or weekly budget and plan what you must spend, and how much you can save? If you don’t, there will be little chance of you ever getting out of debt.
Can you make change (without looking at the computer on the cash register)? I am constantly shocked at how many Americans cannot perform this simple function.
Can you calculate a 15 percent tip without using your smartphone? Quick, what is 15 percent of a $37.43 bill? Take ten percent of $37 (so that’s $3.70), then half of that ($1.85), then add $3.70 and $1.85 in your head. You don’t half to be absolutely perfect; I usually round it off. But now we’re at $5.55. So a $6 tip would be just fine. Or if you’re feeling generous, give them more of course. We must be able to think without being dependent on machines all the time.
Can you sew? My son was a Marine for six years (infantry) and he was very glad he knew how to sew on a button and do some other basic sewing skills. (Because of his sewing, he became popular with other Marines who needed someone to sew on a chevron or a patch.) My father was a drycleaner and knew basic sewing. My mother was an expert seamstress and could sew anything. Sadly, this is a skill that is hard to find among many young people (but for those who know this skill they can definitely turn it into a money-making business!).
Do you keep your house clean? Admiral William McRaven (former head of the U.S. Navy SEALs) told a group of college graduates that one of the most important things we can do all day is make our bed. Here’s why:
I love to vacuum the house! And fold clothes and put them away! And wash windows! And do the dishes! Why? Because I don’t want to live in dirt and stench and disease and clutter. When things are neat and clean and put away, we can find things easier, the house smells nice and looks good, and it’s a joy to invite people over. I think that you just have a more positive outlook on life when your house is clean and presentable!
2. Home and car repair.
Do you know how to change a blown fuse or reset a circuit breaker? How about changing a door knob or a furnace filter? Can you replace the broken belt in the dryer? Can you put on a new roof (did that many years ago and proud of it!)?
YouTube is a wonderful help in situations like this. I am certainly no “Mr. Fixit,” but when it comes to simple things like this, I either remember what my father taught me or I go to YouTube.
How good are you at plumbing? Here are some simple plumbing tips:
Think of all the money you can save if you can just do a few of these things yourself!
I am no car mechanic, but long ago I learned how to change the oil in the car (and in the lawn mower, the riding mower, and the rotor tiller) and how to put in a new battery from my father. I learned how to jump start a car and how to replace a flat tire without killing myself.
I can’t tell you how many times just these few simple skills have helped out. I was never really interested in auto mechanics, and you may not be either, but it really is essential to know a few of these skills to help yourself and others in need.
I know that driving a stick shift is not part of “car repair,” but a friend reminded me that this too is a vanishing skill (I did not know that). So … for everyone out there who STILL does not know how to drive a standard … get to it now! (It’s fun anyway!) Here’s how to do it:
3. Wilderness training.
This is sort of my “catchall” phrase for all those things I wanted to learn from scouting. However, because I was never in scouting, I had to teach myself these skills in my adult years.
Can you build a fire without using any modern equipment? Can you build a simple shelter in the woods? Do you know how to fish, clean the fish, and cook the fish out in the wild? In the same manner, can you catch small game (like a rabbit or a squirrel), kill it, clean it, and cook it? How good are you at archery? (It’s very useful and fun!) Have you ever split firewood? I heat my house with wood in the winter time, so I spend a lot of time in the summer and fall using my axe and my wedge and sledgehammer to split lots and lots of firewood. (It’s a great workout too.)
How about a chainsaw? My chainsaw is my buddy. We spend plenty of time together sawing up large trees and turning them into nice little logs ready to split. Better know how to replace the chain and tighten it too.
Can you find your way by just using a paper map? Sadly, many are lost without their GPS telling them where to go. You need to know how to give and follow directions without the use of a computer.
Do you know orienteering? That is, can you — just by using the sun, moon, and stars — navigate yourself from point A to point B? Orienteering is absolutely fascinating, and I have spent some time trying to learn it. Want to know how to find true north? Here’s how just by looking at the stars!
Here is “Survival Lilly,” a real YouTube “star” who is teaching thousands of people the joy of wilderness training:
Of course, since I am a firearms instructor, and I think self-defense is essential to wilderness training (and just a good all-around life skill), I think it is important to know as much about firearms as possible. Apparently there are millions of Americans who profess to be experts on firearms but could not tell the difference between a semi-automatic rifle and a bolt-action rifle. It is important to educate ourselves on these important tools, whether we choose to use them or not.
Learn gun safety, learn how guns operate, learn how to clean and care for them, and learn how to shoot safely. Warning: Learning all this about firearms is highly addictive, and once you start you may just pick up another very enjoyable hobby! Here is Gunny Lee Ermey (RIP) teaching us the four rules of gun safety:
This is just a smattering of life skills we all should have learned, or should be learning right now. If most of these things are completely unfamiliar to you, you’re really missing out! These skills teach us patience, logic and common sense, a deep appreciation of nature and other people, and they just help us become a little bit more resilient, confident, and independent.