Category: Life Skills

Every Man Should Know How To Landscape

Every man should know how to landscape – and I don’t just mean mowing grass. Doesn’t the idea of a square, expressionless suburban lawn bore you to tears? Half of what makes the homes of the wealthy (and tastefully wealthy) so attractive is the shape and quality of their grounds. The trees, shrubs, stones, dirt, […]

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Your Skills Can Make a Great Gift

Today I had the great honor of being the event photographer for someone’s gender reveal party. They counted on me to document one of the most important events of their pregnancy, and I think I delivered. I’m still young, so it’s still relatively strange to find myself in experiences where I’m the expert. But there […]

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Be a Useful 21-Year Old

Today I met a 21 year-old who was spending his day working and building alongside two experienced carpenters. We sat down together for lunch, and I got to know his story a bit. His background? Working for a landscaping company. No fancy degrees or fancy pedigree as far as I would guess. When I asked […]

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Make Friends With a Machine

After dogs, man’s best friends are working machines. They’re a lot more useful than most dogs, too. Machines from backhoes and excavators to tractors and lawnmowers enhance human productivity and save human labor every day. If you can drive one of these things, you can accomplish things well beyond the skill of any human alone […]

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How To Know When To Leave

There’s no simple rule for knowing when it’s time to leave a job/project/gig (or any other endeavor, for that matter). But if you are working a job or pursuing a project mainly in order to learn, the decision can become a little bit clearer. There are learning curves with every job. For some highly-demanding jobs, […]

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The Best Way To Learn a New Language? Find a Job

For all of my Duolingo lessons and high school Spanish coursework, I’ve always felt self-conscious about using Spanish. Why embarrass myself and maybe even offend a native speaker with my poor attempts? So Spanish as a skill has remained firmly in my back pocket: until recently. I’ve spent the last month working with an (until […]

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Be the Confident Beginner

Be a beginner. Be humble and admit that you do not know. But do not be so ashamed of your ignorance that you don’t show up at all. Be the confident beginner. The confident beginner does not shrink from things he does not know. But he is not too proud to bring along a guide. […]

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Give Yourself Time to Tinker

It was going to be epic. My friend and I were going for a run in the hills by a beautiful river on a fine (and warm) winter Saturday morning. I tramped on out to my vehicle to head his way. Dead battery. I’m an impatient man in many ways, and this sort of thing […]

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How Your Parties Should Make People Feel

I’m one of those few people who think pleasure (real pleasure) can make human beings better rather than worse. So every party I host or attend is a kind of philosophical test. I want my guests (and fellow guests, when I visit another host) to always walk away from my parties with pride in themselves […]

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Finding Out What Things Cost: A Core Part of a Real World Education

I started out my adult life not knowing the cost of most things. Rent? Nope. Utilities? Didn’t know that. Taxes? Not so much. I didn’t know the cost of education, the cost of even the cost of airline tickets. I lived a pretty sheltered life financially-speaking, and I managed to glide through most of my […]

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Use Fear As a Trigger for Your Learning

“If you don’t know, the thing to do is not to get scared, but to learn . . .” Cheryl, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand I’m not an especially anxious person, but I still experience fear like anyone else. I face new challenges at work, with dating, with finances, with relationships, withe etiquette. I don’t […]

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Everyone You Meet Is a Craftsman: A Clue to Good Conversations with Strangers

Today I had fascinating conversations with strangers across several spectrums of life. I spoke with runners about their favorite races, and I asked a race organizer about what it takes to organize a running event (lots of relationship-building). I spoke with an airport security guard about the celebrities he has seen in the course of […]

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Questions and Answers on the Habit of Daily Blogging

A new acquaintance recently started to get into the habit of daily blogging, and she sent over some excellent questions to get my thoughts. Here are my answers (in case there are more writers out there considering the habit): 1. What is the greatest challenge you face when producing a blog everyday? The challenge is […]

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Look for Accidental Learning Opportunities

Sometimes learning new knowledge and new skills can come to you by accident. Recently I set my Google search to send me results in Portueguese. Now I’m seeing all of my key Google search functionality (the menu bar, etc) in Portuguese. I’ve been too lazy to turn it back to English, but I’m not too […]

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Find a Job at the Party

I’m far more outgoing than I was when I was younger. But even I still get a bit of nerves going into a party . What’s more, I don’t often find plain conversation interesting enough. I want to be engaged, active, and using my creative faculties. Maybe you’re like me: at your festive best only […]

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Want an Interesting Life? Practice Self-Reinvention Early

I would like to do many things in the short life ahead of me (and particularly in my 20s): work in nature, perhaps work on a ranch, start a business (or businesses), travel, etc. Some of my ambitions are closer to my current inclinations, like starting another podcast (been there, done that, to some extent). […]

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Leave No Trace: A Good Rule for Hikers and Houseguests

“Leave no trace.” If you’ve spent any time hiking (or in the Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts), you know this cardinal rule of wilderness time. You want to leave no trace of your campfires, your campsites, your camp trash. You pack trash out. You leave nature better than you found it. This is an excellent rule for […]

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The Real Magic of Intimidating Skills

When you need to build an app but don’t know computer science, programming can seem like a magical skill. The same is true of most skills we don’t understand or know. We elevate the practitioners to the level of magicians practicing strange and powerful crafts. For me, doing interviews, using audio-visual equipment, attending tradeshows, writing, doing […]

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Never Stop Leaving Home

“Someday I’m finally gonna let go  ‘Cause I know there’s a better way  I wanna know what’s over that rainbow  I’m gonna get out of here someday” – Steve Earle, “Someday”  Most of us think of “leaving home” as a rite of passage. When we turn 18, we kick off the dust of our hometowns and […]

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Use Charity To Become More Practical

If you look closely, you’ll find that even in (especially in) your kind acts to others, you are probably doing an important kindness to yourself. When I think back to the (occasional) times I’ve helped a stranger jump-start a dead car battery, or the time I stopped to assist a stranger with a flat tire, or the times I’ve tried […]

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How To Love the Things Your Father Loved

I have the great blessing of having a father who has shared the things he loves with me. When I was a boy, we went fishing, hunting, and boating more times than I can remember. From a very early age I joined my father on his deer hunts, struggling to stay still (OK, I probably didn’t […]

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The Pleasure of Disproving the Experts

Want to run? Experts say you need nice running shoes, controlled diets, and fancy nutrition gels. Want to start a podcast? Experts might tell you that you need the latest microphones, a sound mixer, a perfectly soundproof room, and high-cost conferencing software. Want to get into photography? Experts might say you need to get a fancy camera […]

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Google, Information Abundance, and Why You Haven’t Learned Those Skills Yet

“Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” – G.K. Chesterton  My generation has access to more information than any generation before it. The Internet gives people like me astonishing access to everything from ice dancing results and fast food […]

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Use the Tools You Have: Professional Skills You Can Learn On a Macbook

Want to learn more skills in the new year? Good. But before you range far or spend much to get new tools, books, or other equipment for learning, consider what you have right in front of you. If you’re an Apple computer user (Macbook, Mac, iPhone, or iPad), you probably have free, open access to […]

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The 5 Characteristics of Excellent Gifts

Have you ever been wowed by a Christmas (or birthday or wedding) gift you’ve received? If you’re in touch with your gratitude, you probably realize that you’re lucky to get gifts at all. But there have probably been one or two times in your life when you’ve been in love with a gift you’ve received. What […]

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Don’t Let Everyone Else Have All the Fun: The Power of Positive Envy

Envy sucks as an emotion. It typically makes us miserable, and it can also make us want to make others miserable. But envy can also be used for good, particularly if we struggle to make changes, to face fears, or to take up new things. Not athletic? Just spend 5 or 6 years watching everyone […]

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The Annual Family “Skillsgiving”: A Case for a Holiday of Sharing Know-How

This year at the Walpole farm Thanksgiving was full of educational moments. We taught our cousin’s new fiancee how to shoot skeet. I showed jiu jitsu to my cousin and learned some wrestling moves in return. And my physical therapist uncle shared some stretching tips with me after we ran a 5K together. This isn’t to […]

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How People Become Experts

I have a friend who is a computer science expert of sorts. But he wasn’t always that way. When he was young, the people around him threw up their hands when they encountered computer problems. They looked for someone to fix them. At 11 years old, my friend was not a computer expert. He was just […]

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Hospitality Is the Ultimate Networking Skill

When most people think of hospitality, they think of hosting and cooking meals for guests. If they’re southern, they think about serving sweet tea. In any case, you probably think of “hospitality” as something you just do at home. But making people feel welcome, honored, and “at home” can happen anywhere. And that’s why you should start thinking […]

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Keep Some Self-Sufficiency In Your Life

I used to dream about becoming “self-sufficient” – growing and making most everything myself. And I put in a good amount of daydreaming time and real work toward that, raising all kinds of poultry, growing a garden, reading books on farm skills. Then I learned economics.* I learned that specialization and division of labor have […]

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