Mighty Life List
Dec 30 2009

100 Skills Everyone Should Master

In 2008, Esquire published 75 Skills Every Man Should Master and Popular Mechanics published a list of 100 Skills Every Man Should Know. My list was inspired by those, but it was Jason who mentioned that someone should do a list of gender neutral skills; I’ve been working on this on and off since then.


A few of the items could read as attributes, but I think they’re all acquirable skill sets. Some have links to tips and articles attached — eventually all the items will link out, but I’d like all the links to be valuable. I figured you guys would be a better resource than a search engine. If you’ve read anything recently that you think could be helpful in acquiring one of these skills, please leave the link in comments. I’ll update with links as we go, and suggestions for skills are also welcome.

Without further ado, here are my 100 Skills Everyone Should Master:

1. Set goals
2. Keep a plant alive
3. Care for a baby:
How to Hold a Newborn Baby
The Five Ss from The Happiest Baby on the Block will soothe most fussy babies
4. CPR
5. Feel confident naked
6. Interview for a job
7. Bake a birthday cake
8. Use a fire extinguisher
9. Use a compass
10. Express condolences
11. Tell a joke
12. Remember names
13. Sharpen a knife
14. Dump a poisonous friend
15. Check your oil and tires
16. Relax/Meditate
17. Apologize
18. Be polite
19. Get a good night’s sleep
20. Dress appropriately for the situation
21. Type
22. Fight fair
23. Read
24. Ask for exactly what you want
25. Trap a rat or mouse
26. Basic stretches and/or yoga poses
Yoga Sequence for the Novice (Thanks, Kelli)
27. Heimlich
28. Please a partner sexually
29. Tell your partner what you want in bed
30. Shine your shoes
31. Make your case in writing
32. Tie a scarf or tie (bowtie too):
Scarf Tying Guide (Thanks, Louise)
33. Jump a car
34. Mix a signature drink
35. Delegate
36. Make a simple meal for company
37. Give a neckrub
38. Drive a stick
39. Ride a bike
40. Swim
41. Use chopsticks
Chopstick Etiquette (Thanks, Mindy)
42. Make a new friend
43. Build something simple (ie: shelf, desk, treehouse)
44. Change a tire and put on snow chains (thanks, Toni)
45. Give a toast
46. Make a perfect egg
The Great Fried Egg Tutorial (Thanks, Tara)
47. Speak in public:
Public Speaking Made Easy
48. Improve your mood
49. Simple mending (Thanks, Maureen)
50. Travel light:
Rick Steve’s Packing Light Tips (Thanks, Sandy)
51. Steam vegetables
52. Negotiate
53. Be a good listener
54. Be alone comfortably
55. Select good produce:
List of seasonal produce generated by state and month
Locavore App for iPhone (Thanks, Samantha)
56. Maintain your weight:
The Steve Ward Diet
57. Build savings:
The Wealthy Barber isan accessible book that teaches the basics of personal finance
58. Say no/disappoint someone
59. Use a drill
60. Flexibility/equanimity in the face of the unexpected
61. Make small talk
The Rich Resonance of Small Talk by Roxanne Roberts (Thanks, Pamela)
62. Skip a rock
63. Set personal boundaries:
The Relationship Two-Step by Martha Beck
64. Organize your home
65. Deliver a eulogy:
How to Give a Eulogy
by Tom Chiarella
66. Shuffle a deck of cards
67. Dance socially
68. Know a second language
69. Win the affection of a dog or cat
70. Write a quality love letter
71. Play one card game well
72. Eat healthfully
73. Create a budget
74. Take a decent photo
75. Order the wine
76. Know what makes you happy
77. Flirt
78. Make a good first impression
79. Write a thank you note:
How to Write a Thank You Note by Leslie Harpold
80. Find a perfect gift
81. Assertiveness
82. Arriving on time
83. Make a little kid laugh
84. Kiss well
85. Make a good mix tape
86. Tie basic knots:
87. Dress to flatter your shape
88. Build a campfire
89. Change the subject
90. Acquire or shed a habit
91. Treat a hangover:
Hangover Cures by The Morning News
92. Be a good judge of character
93. Season a cast-iron skillet
94. Give a compliment
95. Accept a compliment
96. Contribute in group situations
97. Judge yourself by your own yardstick
98. Calculate the tip:
Michelle said this in comments, and it’s what I do too: Simple trick to calculating a tip. Move the decimal over one place and double that total. So, if your bill is $100.00, it would be $10.00 x2 = $20. Or if your bill is $5.23, your tip should be .52 x2= $1.04
99. Ask for a raise (Thanks, Amber.)
100. Build a shelter

Good reader suggestions:

-Do a load of laundry
-Keep your living space clean (Thanks, Megan)
-Write legibly (Thanks, Robin)
-Choose a good mate (Thanks, Pamela)
-Ask for help (Thanks, Mavis)

77 Responses to “100 Skills Everyone Should Master”

  • brittney Says:

    Nicely done.

  • LM Says:

    This is really great! But “play a card game well” is listed twice.

  • Toni Says:

    I think that 20, 50, and 80 should have links to Mighty Girl/Goods articles!

  • abbersnail Says:

    I might print this out and put it near my desk! Awesome list!

  • Maggeh Says:

    Oops, thanks LM. Maybe I’ll correct it when someone suggests a good alternative.

  • greyfavorite Says:

    If someone can offer a link to #5 that isn’t just a note to “invest in years of therapy,” I would be surprised and delighted.

  • Maura Says:

    Great list! How about swapping out one of the card games for know how to dance with a partner without doing the junior high rock back and forth thing? Knowing how to partner dance a bit = super sexy.

  • Maureen Says:

    These are great. I’m adding 15, 33, 38, & 59 to my list for 2010 (there’s a theme there.) (Also, #60 and #99 are the same.)

  • Toni Says:

    Change a Tire/Put on Snow chains

    I just learned how to put on chains and it makes me feel safer when I go on a long trip.

  • amber (theAmbershow) Says:

    thinking of alternatives. how about, “stand up for yourself”, “laugh off a friendly ribbing”, “ask for a deserved raise”, “read a map”, “build a campfire”, “travel alone”?

    I love this list!

  • Maureen Says:

    How about “simple mending (hems & seams)”

  • Maggeh Says:

    OK, updated to correct for duplicates, thanks you guys. I also changed “Sew on a button” to “simple mending,” because I think the umbrella skill is smarter.

  • Rebecca at Alice Says:

    So fun. I like that so many of these are the simple things in life that provide pleasure or practicality.

  • Sandy Says:

    This Rick Steve’s article got me started packing light. http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/packlight.htm There are links to suggested packing lists there as well.

  • Ann Says:

    How about “Carry a tune” or “play a musical instrument”?

  • Ami Says:
  • Mindy Says:

    Here’s a really great blog about chopstick etiquette. I know it might be overkill for #41, but interesting nonetheless.


  • Mindy Says:

    p.s. Great list. Thank you!

  • Michelle Says:

    Simple trick to calculating a tip. Move the decimal over one place and double that total. So, if your bill is $100.00, it would be $10.00 x2 = $20. Or if your bill is $5.23, your tip should be .52 x2= $1.04

  • Louise Says:

    I like this site for #32. Tie a scarf or tie


    Oh, and @greyfavorite? The best way to become confident naked is to spend time at nudist camps/resorts. Honest. Being around other naked people is amazingly confidence-building.

  • mina Says:

    I love this, thank you!

  • Mocha Says:

    Would you believe I have been waiting for this list and was just thinking about your previous list that was meant for the feminine persuasion?

    You would? Good job, Maggie! I knew you could guess that one.

    Super list, just as I suspected.

  • Boy Crazy (@claritychaos) Says:

    I read #22 as “Fight *flair*” which was really very funny to me.

  • Rebekah Says:

    I’m too lazy to check for duplicates, but I agree with Ann (comment #15): what about “whistle/carry a basic tune”?

  • amy Says:

    Beside learning a second language I am apparently doing very well!

    Survived grade 8-9 French but really, coma sa va? Tre bein merci! Avec vous?

    Bonjourno! (Or is the the Italian I learned? ;)

    Thanks for the boost, apparently I have lived a full life thus far!

  • cee Says:

    Why the heck did you link to the Steve Ward diet? That sounds ridiculous, not to mention unhealthy.

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  • Megan Says:

    I love this list but I think you assume to much credit for your average person (read man) I think there should be some basic things on there like launder a load of washing, and make a bed with beautiful fresh crisp sheets, and clean the house top to bottom.

  • Lisa Says:

    I think your posts should be the how-to on packing light! I am always impressed with your travel packing.

  • Robin Says:

    How about writing legibly (cursive or print)? Since the advent of the internet my penmanship has become absolutely atrocious, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to improve it …

  • Cindy Says:

    This list is so awesome. I’m glad that these skills do not have to be learned in this particular order, since I’d probably never make it past #2. I am the black thumb of death.

  • Nicole Says:

    For #25. Trap a rat or mouse
    … not a link, but some useful advice from my dad. Use a snap trap, and smear just a little bit of peanut butter on the “bait” part. It works everytime – we always used this in our barn and granery with much success. Thankfully, it also worked when a mouse moved into our house via some hand-me down furniture.

  • Nicole Says:
  • Megan Says:

    Maggie, I think you’re the best resource for goal setting. Throw us some tips, then link back to your own site. Yes! Yes?

  • Krista Says:

    I think that knowing how and when to admit when you are wrong is one of those things that everyone should be able to do but so very few actually do.

  • Megan Says:

    Also, I would add knowing when to call it quits/move on/change direction – not just in relationships, but with jobs, projects. Mastering personal momentum.

  • Megan Says:

    Also – knowing how to laugh at yourself.

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  • Leah Says:

    all these years, I’ve thought YOU wrote the thank you how-to. I use that formula all the time! I’m so glad that made it to your list.

  • samantha Says:

    For #55, people with iPhones should get the Locavore app. Ok, it was made by my friend, but it’s also supposedly really good: http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1945379_1944345_1944367,00.html

  • Nicole Says:

    Why does this list make me envision Bradley Cooper?

  • Angela Says:

    I would add “Tie a bow tie” to #32. Not many people know how to do that anymore and real bow ties are so much more debonaire than the clip on ones.

  • Pamela Says:

    Great list. I would only add “Learn how to pick a good mate”. Here’s a link for #61, how to make small talk. It’s from the Washington Post 100 years ago, or maybe it was 2004. But I still refer to it before heading out to a party. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A43632-2004Oct18.html

  • Bachelor Girl Says:

    A fantastic list! Sounds like New Year’s resolutions to me!

  • Piper Says:

    This is a great list, Maggie!! I so wish that you had posted a link on how to flirt – it’s the one thing on the list I feel like I truly suck at! :)

  • Chainsaw Says:

    I can’t in all seriousness consider more than about a quarter to a third of them “skills” in the sense that most could be expected to learn them to a satisfactory degree. Some are more like music, in that if you don’t have the neurological gift of perceiving it in detail, acquiring skill at producing it will not get you far. Or they are merely the social conventions of the circles you personally run in. Or meaningless figures of speech, like “judge yourself by your own yardstick”. Doing this is why the rest of us object to sociopaths, and about one out of ten items on the list seem to be about your ability to judge yourself by others’ yardsticks.

    One simple test – if it’s a skill, nearly anyone who can do it can teach it, and nearly everyone can learn it. Literacy (reading) is considred a skill partly because countries achieve 98+ percent literacy rates. Skills, unlike arts, don’t need good teachers, just good practitioners. It’s how the construction industry, for example, survives without education.

    And what use is it to a modern, conservative but not orthodox, Muslim businesswoman to “dress to flatter your shape”? Or “order the wine”? Are these really UNIVERSAL skills?

    And I’d add to the list “function on a team of equals without needing to be managed, or to manage”. But there’s so little place in America to practice this…

  • Renee Says:

    Great list Maggie.

  • Sugared Harpy Says:

    I secondly question the Steve Ward Diet link. The heck? It is dangerous and places no value on health or strength (or how bodies, you know, WORK), but only on dubious numbers of what clearly everyone “should” be losing by a chart. This kind of dieting kills more people by far, and in every study, than being moderately overweight.

    Better links are:
    Health at Every Size:

    Shapely Prose FAQ:

  • Rebekah Says:

    I have to agree with Chainsaw (#47). “Reading” is a skill everyone can master, “feeling confident naked” is not a skill to be taught or mastered, but an expression of self-esteem. I completely agree that it is important to love your body enough to be comfortable in just your skin. Personally, I would put it on a separate list. Since your list is titled “100 Skills Everyone Should Master”, I would remove #’s 5, and 97 as they are natural extensions of being happy with who you are, and not skills to be taught. I would also remove 34, 75, and 91. While these are great skills to learn and have, they are not applicable to everyone – there are plenty of people who don’t drink, and plenty of skills not listed that are more valuable to the entirety of humanity, like “Forgiveness” or “Balance your checkbook/bank account” or “Correctly read body language/facial cues”. I know that this is your own personal opinion, so maybe you could just re-think it being a list of “skills” for “everyone”, and perhaps find a way to re-title it. Or since it is your own list, you can just read this and delete it – who am I to tell you what to do? :) Keep up the good work – your blog is one of my favorites.

  • Karen Says:

    I need help with small talk. I haven’t had a professional haircut in years. This is in part because I like cutting my own hair and I don’t like having someone standing over my shoulder or touching my head. But I *really* balk when I think about making small talk with the stylist.

  • Rebekah Says:

    This seemed appropriate for either #48 or #76:

  • Tara Says:

    For #46, there is a great egg tutorial on Home-Ec101.com: http://www.home-ec101.com/the-great-fried-egg-tutorial/

  • Desiree @ Writing to Sanity Says:

    Great list! Oh, I’ve been away far too long…… ;)

  • The Lumberjack's Wife Says:

    #5, #25, and #44 all invoke fear in me!

  • The Mom's Cheat Sheet Says:

    Great list! Definitely agree with #61 – The ability to make small talk can be a very under-appreciated skill!

  • Alyce Says:

    Say “thank you” and mean it. Say “thank you” when you don’t mean it.

    I’d call it being gracious, but it’s more than that.

    I think the cooking ones (an egg? season a cast iron skillet) are interesting, but not qualities I care about in myself or in others. I can do both, but I wonder if there is a less specific way of defining what it is about those things/skills that we find important.

  • mavis Says:

    My #101 is “ask for help.” If #1 is “set goals,” then I have a New Year’s resolution.

  • teensleuth Says:

    #26: The book “Stretching,” by Bob and Jean Anderson, is a classic that won’t intimidate even those who have to have someone else tie their shoes.

  • Kyra Says:

    Love this! And it inspired me to create my own Mighty Life List. I better get started! Here I go: http://www.whykyra.com/crouching/2010/01/03/mighty-life-list/

  • Up Mama's Wall Says:

    I’ve got 74 of them down. Not too bad for pushing 40 (and it leaves me some stuff to work on, like knots and conquering my fear of tire pressure). Great list.

  • denise Says:

    I’d still like to see how you set goals and your process for reaching them.

    also, i saw a book called “75 things your grandmother knows” (something like that) that has lots of little tips and common sense ideas that have fallen by the wayside. i thought of you when i saw it.

  • Cynthia Says:

    Great list! I think “care for an animal” should be added.

  • Alison Says:

    Open a bottle of Champagne.
    Especially important for Women, as who wants to wait for a Man to do it for them ?
    Always impresses my friends !

    Also , I’d like to know how to carve a turkey.

  • Peter Says:

    Understand our constitution in order that you can vote intelligently. Ounce our country is gone, most of the rest won’t matter, will it?

  • Tambryn Says:

    For #14 on Poisonous Friends (a skill I acquired in 2009) http://www.onsimplicity.net/2009/06/toxic-friends-and-how-to-dump-them/

  • Michelle Says:

    LOVE that you had the Wealthy Barber on your list. I always recommend this book to anyone who is newish to personal finance.

    Fantastic list!

  • Lis Says:

    Here’s a good one for making a birthday cake http://smittenkitchen.com/2009/07/best-birthday-cake/

  • Jody Says:

    Great list, will check back to see what “sources” people provide. Here’s one for #22 Fight Fair – http://www.drwendywalsh.com/blog/2010/01/do-you-know-how-to-fight-fair-2/

  • Sal's Girl Says:

    Change a diaper!

  • Angelica Says:

    Fantastic list! I feel like I’ll keep coming back to this one.

    Here’s my favourite source for number 17: http://www.zimbio.com/Randy+Pausch/articles/46/Bad+Apology+Worse+No+Apology

    And I’m wondering if anyone has a great source for number 31?

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  • Amy Walker Says:

    You might want to bump something to make room for this one:

    Give yourself an orgasm.

    yes it is a skill ; )

  • Lessie Says:

    Carve a fowl well (esp. w/ an audience).

  • Jessica Says:

    gotta add
    “say grace”