Most self-improvement stuff sucks. But, as men, we should focus on bettering ourselves, especially as we age (that’s what we’re all about here at The Graying Area). While we’re all awesome in our own way, there’s always room for new badass skills to learn to help broaden our horizons.
Or, level-up our badassery.
But let’s be honest; learning to do your own taxes or knit a sweater might be useful, but they’re kind of boring. Sure, you might impress your mom, but you’re not blowing anyone else away with your zig-zag stitch. You want a badass, jaw-dropping skill that you can bust out at a moment’s notice, leaving everyone in awe.
So, to aid you in your self-improvement, The Graying Area put together this list of the Top 25 Badass Skills to Learn.
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Badass Skills to Learn #1: Shuffling Cards Like a Boss
Let’s start the list off with a cool party trick that’s easy to learn and practice on your own. Shuffling cards like a boss impresses everyone. And, since you’re holding the cards they’re so eagerly waiting for, you have everyone’s undivided attention.
There are quite a few ways to shuffle a deck of cards, so you’ll have to do a little research. Once you learn three or four techniques, you can design your own routine to repeat seamlessly in front of your friends, blowing everyone’s minds.
There’s no better person to learn from than a card-dealing magician:
And don’t try passing off those old, bent-ass cards as cool. Get yourself a crisp new set of Bicycles (available on Amazon).
Badass Skills to Learn #2: Photography
Ever notice how some people just know how to take a cool shot? Even if it’s just an ordinary, everyday object like a guitar pick or a lemon, they can capture the light and shadows in a way that makes it look really cool. That’s a badass skill worth having.
While mastering photography takes a lifetime, learning just the basics will have you feeling pretty high on yourself for a while. You’ll be able to get creative, capture awesome moments, incredible scenery, once-in-a-lifetime travel trips, and more.
Plus, you’ll never have to wonder about paying tons of money for wall art. Just go out and shoot it. This article from Toil and Recoil explains all the gear he uses to create some of the sickest EDC photography out there.
I love this video from David Manning. It was one of the first videos I watched when I got back into photography a few months ago.
And, if you get pretty handy with the camera, it won’t take long until you’re making a bit of extra cash.
Badass Skills to Learn #3: Knife and Hatchet Throwing
I don’t know about you, but knife and hatchet throwing captivates me every time I see it. Watching someone rear back a deadly weapon and throw it with enough accuracy to stick a playing card? C’mon, that’s badass.
One of the awesome things about knife and hatchet throwing is you can learn the basics pretty quickly and relatively affordably. With a basic set of throwing knives and a few minutes of practice, you’ll be able to stick a knife in a log. No promises on your accuracy, though.
Don’t have a hatchet to throw? Consider this model from BareBones (available on Amazon). I personally
Badass Skills to Learn #4: Make a Signature Cocktail
Crafting an awesome drink is definitely an impressive feat. You don’t have to go full Tom Cruise, but learning how to make one great cocktail is a badass skill. No vodka tonics or rum and cokes here, pal. You need to put in some effort.
Whether it’s a slamming mojito, a delicious old-fashioned, an edgy sazerac, or an old-school Tom Collins, knowing how to liven up the party with an awesome drink will impress everyone.
Learn how to make an old fashioned:
And, as Capt. Ellerby said, “The world needs plenty of bartendahs,” so learning to make perfect drinks means you’ll always have a job.
But listen, don’t serve up those cocktails with some shit barware. Go the extra mile and impress with a nice bartender kit (available on Amazon).
Also, take a deep dive into the most classic cocktails with The Art of Mixology: Classic Cocktails and Curious Concoctions (available on Amazon).
Badass Skills to Learn #5: Learn a New Language
If you’re like most of us, you don’t remember much from high school French class. And, unless you went to a private school, you probably didn’t have many choices. Now that you’re focusing on self-improvement as an adult, you can learn any language you’d like.
With so many language-learning apps and programs available, it’s never been easier to bone up on your Mandarin. If you don’t think learning a new language is badass, keep in mind that James Bond could speak French, Italian, German, and Russian fluently, and he could bounce his way around a Greek, Spanish, Chinese, or Japanese conversation pretty well.
I’ve been using Babbel (available on Amazon) to learn Italian for months now, and I really enjoy it. I switched from DuoLingo, so it’s gotta be pretty good.
Badass Skills to Learn #6: Learn to Play an Instrument
Is there anything much more badass than picking up a guitar and shredding some Chuck Berry or EVH out of nowhere? If people aren’t expecting it, you’re sure to blow them away.
There’s never been a better time to learn to play an instrument. There are tons of apps and programs designed to teach you to play an instrument from the comfort of your home. Plus, I’m told that once you learn to play one instrument, it’s easier to learn more.
I’ll let you know if that’s true when I get past Wonderwall. In the meantime, I started out with a Fender CD-60 (available on Amazon), and it’s an absolute blast to play.
Andy’s one of the best to learn from:
Badass Skills to Learn #7: The Art of Storytelling
The Art of Storytelling is by far one of the most useful skills on this list. The ability to captivate your audience with a thrilling rollercoaster of a story is sure to make you the life of the party.
Learning to tell a story with gusto, with the proper build-up and a riveting climax, takes some practice. You’ve probably told the same story hundreds of times, but learning how to tell it properly will give it a fresh, new, captivating spin.
Here’s an awesome Tedx Talk on how it’s done:
If you’re like me, you’re probably not very confident in your story telling abilities. Kick that bad attitude to the curb and check out Unleash the Power of Storytelling: Win Hearts, Change Minds, Get Results by Rob Biesenbach (available on Amazon).
Badass Skills to Learn #8: Auto Mechanics
We’ve all seen that movie where a damsel in distress can’t start her car, and some dude with great hair in a white t-shirt leans under the hood, jiggles a battery cable, and saves the day.
Yeah, that’s not reality, but learning how to work on a car is badass. Since it’s so practical, learning to work on your car will save you some money, but it’ll also impress people. Imagine how cool you’ll look when you can diagnose a car’s issue from a noise or a behavior. That’s badass.
If you need a basic toolset to get started, I’ve owned a Craftsman set similar to this one on Amazon for nearly 20 years, and it’s never let me down.
Car and Driver filmed a pretty decent series to get you started (the audio’s a bit rough):
Badass Skills to Learn #9: Lockpicking
Lockpicking is awesome, and though it’s rarely necessary (or legal), you’ll look like an absolute boss when you get the opportunity to bust this skill out.
With a simple lockpick kit and some lessons, you’ll be popping locks (different that pop-and-locking) in no time. The kits themselves are pretty affordable, and there are tons of tutorials online to show you how to do it.
What good’s a lock picker with out a pick? A basic set should get you started (available on Amazon).
If you want to level-up the degree of badassery, learn how to pick locks with a paperclip from Brett McKay at The Art of Manliness.
Badass Skills to Learn #10: Rescue an Animal in Distress
Alright, this one’s pretty obscure, and it can be dangerous. But, I can tell you that if you have the opportunity to rescue an animal, wild or domestic, without either of you getting hurt, it’s super badass.
When I was a cop, I always got the calls for animals in distress. Whether it was a bat or bird in a house, a raccoon under a porch, or a deer stuck in a crevice between two boulders (a co-worker handled that one), there’s a technique and approach for anything. The most important thing to do is keep your cool and think creatively.
Badass Skills to Learn #11: Make a Killer Pizza
No, throwing a DiGiorno in the oven does not count as making a killer pizza (though they are pretty tasty). Making your own pizza from scratch isn’t that hard, and the results can be outstanding.
In my opinion, making a great pizza requires top-notch ingredients. Make your dough and sauce from scratch for the best flavor, and use buffalo mozzarella (get that shredded junk out of here!). There is a bit of a technique for stretching the dough, but once you learn how, people will be begging to come over for pizza night.
And, if there is two tools I find the most essential for making delicious pizzas, it’s a good pizza peel (available on Amazon) and a pizza stone (available on Amazon). You’ll be able to make pizza after pizza with these two tools.
There’s no one better to learn from than Maestro Vito Iacopelli, my friends!
Badass Skills to Learn #12: Archery
As a hunter and the former editor of an archery website, I know firsthand how awesome archery can be. Whether you’re looking to hunt, compete, or simply shoot for fun, archery is a badass skill.
Archery is one of those skills which can bring you some zen, improve your eye-hand coordination, and impress your friends. And, if you’re careful, you can reuse your arrows, so it’s easy and cheap to practice (after you buy your gear, of course).
Nock-On Archery put together a whole series to help you get started:
If you want a good bow to start with that won’t break the bank, the Bear Cruzer (available on Amazon) is a great first setup. Keep in mind that you might need a few things, like a rest, a site, and a release, so don’t forget to pick them up as well.
Badass Skills to Learn #13: Welding
It might not seem difficult, but welding is truly an art form. Having the ability to pick up a welder, drop your mask, and stick two pieces of metal together with electricity is definitely badass. You’ll be able to build custom projects, repair vehicle frames and bodies, or create works of art.
Whether you learn to weld on a basic arc welder or you’re more interested in mig and tig welding, there are affordable welders available for learning this new skill. Just be sure not to cheap out on safety gear, as the flash from an arc can permanently damage your eyesight, and that’s not badass at all.
YesWelder sent me a welder a few months ago, and I absolutely fell in love with it. If you’re looking for a beginner-friendly welder, you can’t beat YesWelder (available on Amazon). You’ll also need a helmet, and YesWelder’s automatic helmet (available on Amazon) is the best I’ve ever used.
Badass Skills to Learn #14: First Aid
A few of these skills could be life-saving, but first aid is all about saving lives. Learning how to prepare and respond to a situation where someone is hurt or in peril could be the difference between someone going home to their family or not making it at all.
The Red Cross does some fantastic hands-on first aid training. You’ll learn how to respond to an unconscious person, perform CPR, and elevate a sprain. But, if you really want to immerse yourself in emergency situation response, seek training with your local fire department.
I keep a first aid kit (available on Amazon) in both of my vehicles at all times, and they’ve come in handy more than once.
Badass Skills to Learn #15: Negotiation
As a former police negotiator, this is one of my favorite skills. With my negotiation skills, I’ve been able to help people in distress, save lives, save a few bucks on a car or two, and even get a passing grade to a class I never attended.
I was a born negotiator, so I used to think that when you either had it or you didn’t. While the FBI class I graduated from focused on the mechanics and not actual negotiation, there are ways to hone this skill.
Right now, I’m not sure there’s a better source for the basics of negotiation training than Chris Voss’s MasterClass, except for maybe his book (available on Amazon):
Badass Skills to Learn #16: Building a Fire
Whether it’s for roasting marshmallows with your kids or a bonfire with friends, who doesn’t want to be the guy who builds a great fire that blazes quickly and burns evenly? People notice that guy, and they think he’s a badass.
There are a lot of ways to build a fire. The trick is to find the technique you like the most and perfecting it in your own way. You might go through a bit of firewood to get there but think about the relaxing nights by the firepit in the meantime.
REI covers three awesome techniques. My favorite is the log-cabin, but I often build a log-cabin/teepee hybrid.
Badass Skills to Learn #17: Sharpen a Knife
We’ve all seen it: Some guy quickly pulls a knife from his pocket, yelling, “I have a knife!” But his knife is so dull, it’s almost embarrassing to watch him struggle. No one thinks that guy is badass.
If you’re going to carry a pocket knife — which you should — you need to keep it sharp and well maintained. A sharp knife is easier to use, making it safer and minimizing the chance of an accident. Plus, slicing through something really quickly makes you look like a badass.
For some excellent advice on how to get an absolutely terrifyingly sharp edge on your favorite knife, check out this article from Toil and Recoil.
Badass Skills to Learn #18: Public Speaking
It doesn’t matter what message you’re trying to deliver; if you can speak confidently, people will listen. Public speaking is a skill people respect, and it can help upgrade our badassery level.
We all know that public speaking ranks pretty high on most people’s lists of top fears. Personally, I enjoyed it. I kind of like forcing a room full of people to listen to me. But, speaking clearly, engaging your audience, and delivering your message with some swagger doesn’t come easily to everyone.
Here’s an excellent video with TED’s curator, Chris Anderson, but you can also purchase his book in hardcover, paperback, audio, or Kindle (available on Amazon):
Badass Skill to Learn #19: Tailoring
Sure, tailoring doesn’t seem as cool as throwing knives or playing an instrument. But, if there’s one way to help maintain your badass appearance, it’s by learning to tailor your own clothes.
Learning to make adjustments, or tailor, your clothing to your body type can help you look your best, which in turn makes you feel more confident. And confidence is badass. You don’t have to buy expensive clothes or be in the best shape, either. Adjusting the clothes you already have to fit your frame will go a long way toward badassdom.
I friggin’ love Stylish D’s tailoring videos:
No sewing machine? I didn’t have one either. I bought this badass machine (available on Amazon) a few months ago and it’s been absolutely awesome to work with.
Badass Skill to Learn #20: Self Defense
Let’s not go all Rex Kwan Do here. This isn’t about being a super macho douche. It’s about being able to defend yourself or your family when push comes to shove (literally).
Successfully defending yourself has a lot more to do with learning how to move in a fight than landing the perfect left hook on the button. Almost all martial arts will teach you how to move; whether it’s BJJ, Judo (my personal favorite), Kali, boxing, or Muay Thai, they’ll all teach you how to defend yourself.
Badass Skill to Learn #21: Carpentry
We’re not talking about pandemic-woodworking here. We’re talking about real carpentry; framing, roofing, finish work — the real stuff. (No disrespect, woodworkers, but you can’t build a home out of cutting boards!)
Having the skills to look at a set of plans, determine what you need, and build a structure that will hold up to harsh weather while keeping your family safe is the epitome of badass. Sadly, it’s a skill society is starting to lack. But, if you’re good at it, it can be a very rewarding career.
Larry Haun was the best, and his book The Very Efficient Carpenter (available on Amazon) changed the way I worked. Check him out:
Badass Skill to Learn #22: Mastering the Handshake
Here’s the thing: I don’t love shaking hands. I never have. I’m a little bit of a germaphobe, and even before the pandemic, I always had hand sanitizer on hand. But, when it came time to shake a hand, I always gave it my damnedest.
Mastering the handshake is challenging, as there are a lot of variables. But, when you get it right, it makes a real impression. Firm, but not too firm. Shake, but don’t linger. Eye contact. The whole nine. It’s a process. If you practice now, you could be one of the only people to come out of the pandemic with a better shake than before (though I’d prefer if you didn’t shake my hand).
Gentleman’s Gazette published this video right before the pandemic. Great video, bad timing. Sorry, guys!
Here’s the thing, though: If you’re looking to bring the handshake back post-pandemic, don’t forget the hand sanitizer (available on Amazon).
Badass Skill to Learn #23: Freediving
If you don’t know what freediving is, it’s the sport of holding your breath and diving deeply, free from SCUBA gear. It’s one of the most badass skills a human can develop.
You don’t have to break any world records, and you should only train with other people. But, imagine how much more fun you can have confidently swimming at deeper depths safely. You’ll be able to see the world from an entirely different point of view, free from cumbersome gear.
Listen, freediving can be pretty sketchy. Don’t go into it blindly. Freediving – The Guide for the First 10 Meters: A Complete Manual for the 1st Level of Freediving (available on Amazon) can serve as a good primer.
Badass Skill to Learn #24: Horsemanship
Having the guts and ability to strap yourself to a 1,000-pound animal and boss it around confidently is a super badass skill. I grew up riding horses, so I’m comfortable around them, but I have a great appreciation for anyone mastering horsemanship.
Whether you want to ride western-style like a salty cowboy or English like a pro jumper, you can look like a total badass and connect with a beautiful animal at the same time.
And guess what? There’s a YouTube video for learning how to ride a horse, too. And for more information about how to truly connect with a horse, check out Mark Rashid’s Horses Never Lie (available on Amazon).
Badass Skills to Learn #25: Car Racing Skills
Most of us can operate a vehicle (some better than others), but very few of us expand our skills with any training or courses. But, what if you could take a course that teaches you how to operate a vehicle in extreme conditions or at high speeds? You’d probably be a better driver while you’re putting down Main Street.
There are lots of academies you can go to that will teach you the basics of operating a racecar. From courses on actual raceways to dirt roads in the woods, there are plenty of choices. I’ve been dying to try to the DirtFish Rally School, myself.
Self-improvement is great, and how far you want to take your self-improvement is really up to you. But, learning any of the skills we just discussed will definitely help elevate your badass qualifications.
What did I forget? Any badass skills you can think of? Let me know in the comments below. I’d also really appreciate a share (link below)! If you can think of anyone who might enjoy this piece, or any of my others, share it with them with the link below! I’ll be covering a lot of these skills in-depth, so if there’s something you’d like to see, let me know!
Badass Skills FAQs
What are some cool talents to learn?
There are lots of cool talents to learn. Among the best are learning to play an instrument, photography, marksmanship, and car racing.
What skills should I learn?
One of the most useful skills anyone can learn is negotiation. Learning to make a deal so everyone feels like they won is an art form.
What skills should I learn for the future?
There are some timeless skills that everyone should consider learning. They include learning a new language, negotiation, first aid, negotiation, public speaking, and self-defense.