Mastering 10 Basic Life Skills Every Guy Needs to Know

By Frank Szivos 

Let’s face it, these days, a guy has to be able to fix things, fend for himself, and be a jack of all trades. After all, you can’t afford to pay a plumber, electrician, or handyman for every little thing that needs repair around the house. At least, that’s the plan. 

Even though I’m handy-guy challenged, I’ve made a New Year resolution to become handier than a high school janitor. I’ve compiled a list of 10 basic things you should be able to do. Of course, I talked with handy guys who I admire and have an official ring of keys jingling on their hips. I also consulted books, such as Fix It for Dummies (the list is far from exhaustive, but I have to start somewhere):


1. Fix a flat tire. No argument here. If you have a blow out studying the tire that looks like a rubbery pancake isn’t doing you any good. Wait a tick, that’s why I pay for emergency road service. Let’s skip this one.

2. Know how to drive in the snow. Even though this past winter was mild, you never know when you have to negotiate icy roads and highways. Here’s a hint: if you have 4-wheel drive this doesn’t make you exempt from knowing this. The rule of thumb is drive as slowly as your Aunt Tilly who can barely see over the top of the dashboard. Never slam on your brakes. Steer clear of SUV cowboys who view driving in snow as a challenge. On second thought, why not stay home until the streets are plowed or move to Florida.

3. Grow food. If you like to dig in the dirt, spread seeds and watch them germinate – more power to you, Farmer Jones. But pizza and take-out Chinese were invented for a reason and they don’t get under your nails and someone will even deliver it to your home.

4. Carve a turkey. It tends to become a right of passage in many American households that the guy of the house has to carve the holiday bird. I recall my right of passage when my dad decided that it was my turn to carve the Thanksgiving turkey. I wasn’t exactly Eddie Scissorhands as I hacked and jabbed at the poor bird. When it was done, it looked as if I had taken a hammer to the carcass. I’m still working on this one.

5. Learn to move furniture. Finally, I’ve found a basic skill I have. During summers when I was in college, I worked for a moving company and learned how to lift heavy stuff. There is a knack to it – sort of. But really, you pick things up, and then put them down. Over the years, I’ve moved myself a dozen times and helped friends. However, once the word is out that you know how to move a refrigerator from a second floor, you will be in big demand. Your wife/girlfriend will also be more apt to want to rearrange furniture every other day.

6. Learn to fix a toilet flapper – the rubbery tongue thing that opens and shuts in the tank behind the bowl. Occasionally, it gets stuck open and water keeps leaking, costing you money and depleting the world’s water supply. I’m refusing to try this one for medical reasons. A friend, who prides himself on being handy, dug around back there and wound up with a staph infection. He was on antibiotics for weeks. No, sir, not for me.

7. Iron a shirt – No problem, I’m down with this one. I’ve done my share in my life. My problem is never can I get the creases straight on the sleeves. By the time, I’m done, it looks as if I slept in the shirt for a week and caught it in a wood chipper. I’ve learned to compensate for my shortcomings – wear a sweater, even if it’s 98 degrees out. They’ll never know.

8. Take down a tree. Hmmm, don’t know if I want to go through a learning process on this skill. What if I yell, “Timber” and it falls toward my house or me? However, I fell a tree once in my backyard that was so rotted, I was able to push it over. I felt quite manly as that baby teetered downward harder than the value of my mutual fund. Of course, I don’t recommend this method, but it seems safer than wielding a chain saw around.

9. Sew a button. I’ve tried, believe me. I have the needle scars in my fingertips to prove it. I’ve even tried buying one of those magic button securer advertised in infomercials. Nada. I’m now experimenting with putting a dab of high-test glue on the button and slapping it on the shirt or pants. One problem has been the glue oozes through the button holes and sticks to my fingers.

 10. Throw a spiral with a football – Don’t know why I included this one other than this is one skill I do have. However, I haven’t had the need to throw a football since I was in college. But I’m ready for any backyard pickup game. Bring it on.


Frank Szivos is a free-lance writer who is working on mastering his list of skills everyone should know. He can be reached at this site or on Facebook.


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