Five Skills That Will Make You a Human Swiss Army Knife
The difference between the Swiss Guard and the Swiss Army? The knife, which is actually useful. Tweet
You have one, right? The original multi-tool? Don't stop at owning one...
...become one! Cut that twine! Open that beer! If only you could fit in your own pocket.
There are many ways a man can be considered good and honorable, but one of the finest is also the simplest: Whenever possible, be of use.
You could add to that: Be of use without bitching about it or bragging about it.
In other words, be a multi-tool without being a fool. Be your own Swiss Army Knife — the weapon that made the Swiss Army a killing machine of armed MacGyvers. (Joke.)
Here are five basic skills that are easy to master and will make you more useful in almost any situation:
The desire to do. Look, not everyone is an electrician, plumber, auto mechanic, or appliance repairman. But a quick Google search will take you to a video that shows you how to change a light bulb (or even a wall switch), install a garbage disposal, change the oil in your car, or swap out a bad oven igniter. But before you go there, you first have to be the kind of man who wants to just get to work and take on the job at hand, versus the kind of man who thinks getting everything done means hiring (or even marrying) others to take care of everything for you. That means our first Swiss Army Knife skill is not the specific knowledge of how to fix shit, but the confidence and the will to get shit done even if you’ve never done it before — just because it needs to be done.
The ability to shut one’s mouth and make eye contact. There’s a word for this: Listening. There’s a reason schoolteachers speak and students don’t. That’s how learning happens. But there’s more to it than that. When you listen, you give the other person something important: Respect. The “hero” in the Coen brothers’ Barton Fink wound up in his personal hell because as John Goodman screamed at him: “You! Don’t! Listen!”
The motivation to build and stock an arsenal. No, not that kind of arsenal. An arsenal of mastery. It’s de rigueur to say a man should master making just one go-to drink or the perfect omelet. But the true student of life doesn’t have one trick – he has an arsenal. So after you master that one drink and that one omelet, it’s time to master one ballroom dance, and then how to sharpen a knife, and then how to clean a trout, and then how to jump out of a plane, and then how to siphon gas without taking a mouthful. Mastering the right skills is not the point; but rather, the point is to never stop mastering skills.
The recognition of fitness as a life skill. Yeah, yeah, being fit is healthier and you want to look good, of course. But we’re talking about being useful here, not pretty. Without devolving into body shaming, simple physics dictates that when things get dicey, a fit man fits where a fat man can’t.
The knowledge of and respect for the fine line. To be useful in a group, particularly one with humans, and especially particularly when alcoholic beverages are on hand, you need to know where the fine lines are between confident and cocky, sarcasm and wit, restraint and mansplaining, debate and argument, passion and rage.
Hey, maybe it all boils down to this: In the acquisition, honing, and mastery of skills, the real lesson is our skills aren’t just skills. They’re the tools we use to live life well.
And if that doesn’t work out? You can at least be useful in death: