How to Perform 14 Basic Skills, Part 3

by Michael on July 13, 2009 · 0 comments

In Part 1 of our series we taught you to drive a stick, fix a toilet and (watch someone else) change your oil. Then in Part 2, we learned that primitive man used something called a “checkbook.” This week brings our final chapter in our series, in which we help out the authors of’s 14 Basic Skills All Men Should Possess by providing a manual of sorts to their prescribed abilities.

Didn't start the fire...or couldn't start the fire?

Didn't start the fire...or couldn't start the fire?

11. Sew a Button

This is a money- and time- saving skill. It’s also dead simple: so simple it’s the one skill they included instructions for in the original article (even if it’s just “loop it around, then go seek professional help”).

But it’s easy to do it right, including making a “shank” (so there’s a space to actually use the button to fasten the shirt or pants) and tying it off at the end. And the best way to see the technique is a video:

Resources: Written instructions can actually be more confusing than watching the video or even doing it yourself, but if you want some words, go to or

12. Do Laundry Properly

You know, I think the author was running out of ideas by number 12. Beyond putting colors in their own load and whites in theirs, everything else should be common sense – I can’t believe they think it’s that hard. Then again, it’s funny how so many things I’ve learned about laundry have been reinforced by trial and error:

  1. Use laundry soap, not dish soap or any other kind. If you don’t believe me, one time having to clean suds off the laundry room floor will prove it.
  2. Clothes all have tags with care instructions. Read them and do them. (Exception: sweaters, which you can hand-wash to save money. Use Woolite and follow the instructions.)
  3. Zip up all zippers. Unbuttoning all buttons is a good idea too.
  4. There should actually be three types of laundry loads: whites, dark colors and light colors.
  5. Use warm (not hot) water for whites, cold for the rest.
  6. If a new article of clothing is new and brightly/deeply colored, wash it all by itself the first time. (If you want to be surprised by how much color runs, wash a new colored shirt by hand.)
  7. Shake out each article before putting it into the dryer, to help prevent wrinkles.
  8. Remove the lint from the dryer’s lint trap before every load. This is important.
  9. Fabric softener is awful: a batch of chemicals that makes your clothes smell like Grandma and weakens the fibers. However, when it’s necessary to reduce static, I will use one-quarter of a dryer sheet, thrown in about halfway through the drying cycle.
  10. Anything made of wool should not go into a dryer. You have been warned.
  11. Keep an eye on your dryer and remove the dry clothes ASAP. Do otherwise at your own peril.
  12. Get a good iron. But if like me you realize you hate ironing with a passion, get a good laundry service. Wrinkly shirts are no longer “in.”

Resources: There’s a ton of laundry information on, from preventing fading to saving clothes that you may have damaged through inattention to the instructions.

13. Handle Roadside Emergencies

This is a broad category, covering anything from the standard flat tire to finding a motorcycle wrecked on the side of the road with a badly injured driver 20 feet further along.

Instead of what to do, it’s better to give you a list of items to have in your car:

  • Owner’s manual. This comes with your car, and normally includes instructions for changing a tire, jumping the battery, and other minor things.
  • Tire-changing apparatus: jack, tire iron. Again, this normally comes with your car. Just make sure it’s there.
  • Jumper cables.
  • Flares or a reflector.
  • First-aid kit.
  • In winter, tire chains.
  • AAA membership. I haven’t used them often, but when I’ve had to I was damn glad I was a member. Many automakers and even credit cards include roadside assistance these days – if you can use them instead of AAA, please do, as AAA uses its members’ money to lobby against emissions standards.

Really, being able to handle an emergency depends on how well equipped you are. Unless you’re MacGyver, you can’t patch a tire with an iPod cable and a Dunkin’ Donuts bag.

Resources: Since the most important part of this is being prepared, head over to for the most complete road emergency kit you’ll ever want. Or Buy one at

14. Build a Fire

Fire is indeed good. Starting a fire is easy, if you’ve remembered to carry matches in your car or backpack or kitchen drawer. If not you’ll need to learn how to do it through other means, whether with a magnifying glass, a firebow, or a Coke can and a chocolate bar, but usually you’ll be doing it the easy way.

The difficult part is building that initial energy into a full-blown fire. For this you’ll need to start with loose, thin, dry tinder of some sort. Newspaper is the city slicker’s tinder, and most types of paper will work if your wood is dry enough. Then you should ideally use a layer of kindling – small, dry sticks of wood that will burn quickly but not as fast as the tinder – to ensure enough time for the logs to begin burning.

Of course, dry, clean wood is the basis of a fire. Gathering this may be easy or difficult depending on where you are. You’re kind of on your own there.

Once you have the elements of a fire, make sure they aren’t densely packed. You want plenty of air space, because fire needs oxygen. stack the logs with plenty of space. Place the dryer logs lower, closer to the kindling.

If you’re working with a fireplace, you’re all set. If you’re caught in the great outdoors, however, you’ll want to be prepared for your environment and the available materials. You can find a more extensive tutorial here.

Resources: Field & Stream demonstrates seven ways to start a fire without matches, while an extensive guide to building a survival fire is here at Survival Topics (or rather, was there—but thanks to the Internet Wayback Machine, it goes on forever!).


We’ve now helped you to accomplish all of the fourteen “man skills” on the list, but as I’ve mentioned already, the list is far from perfect. In fact, what I do here at the Tao of Bachelorhood is to help you with several essential skills, including meeting and dating women, taking care of your body through exercise and nutrition and carrying yourself intelligently and with confidence.

The greatest, most basic skill a man can have is the ability to learn new things and improve on the quality of life he already has. Your bonus is this: if you’ve put into practice any of the 14 skills we’ve learned in this series, you’re already on the road to bigger, better successes. Your capacity to learn and grow is immense, and taking small steps such as any of these skills, you’re exercising your brain and building your confidence.

Now, what skills can you teach us?

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