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, instead of sitting around an playing video games, 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 friends and family members in awe.
So, to aid you in your self-improvement, The Graying Area put together this list of the top 30 Badass Skills to Learn.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase anything through these affiliates, The Graying Area will make a commission.
Table of Contents
- Badass Skills to Learn #1: Shuffling Cards Like a Boss
- Badass Skills to Learn #2: Photography
- Badass Skills to Learn #3: Knife and Hatchet Throwing
- Badass Skills to Learn #4: Make a Signature Cocktail
- Badass Skills to Learn #5: Learn a New Language
- Badass Skills to Learn #6: Learn to Play an Instrument
- Badass Skills to Learn #7: The Art of Storytelling
- Badass Skills to Learn #8: Auto Mechanics
- Badass Skills to Learn #9: Lockpicking
- Badass Skills to Learn #10: Rescue an Animal in Distress
- Badass Skills to Learn #11: Make a Killer Pizza
- Badass Skills to Learn #12: Archery
- Badass Skills to Learn #13: Welding
- Badass Skills to Learn #14: First Aid
- Badass Skills to Learn #15: Negotiation
- Badass Skills to Learn #16: Building a Fire
- Badass Skills to Learn #17: Sharpen a Knife
- #18: Public Speaking
- #19: Tailoring
- #20: Self Defense
- #21: Carpentry
- #22: Mastering the Handshake
- #23: Freediving
- #24: Horsemanship
- #25: Car Racing Skills
- #26: Be Able to Make Basic Home Repairs
- #27: Speed Reading
- #28: Solve a Rubik’s Cube (FAST!)
- #29: Video Editing
- #30: Graphic Design
- Final Thoughts
- Badass Skills FAQs
- Latest Posts
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 (think about the extra money!). 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, and it’s one of the best resources I found for beginners.
I love this video from David Manning’s YouTube channel. 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 by taking better photos.
Badass Skills to Learn #3: Knife and Hatchet Throwing
I don’t know about you, but knife and hatchet throwing has captivated me my entire life, 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 own it, and I’ve been throwing it for a few weeks.
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 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 is an app, program, or online course designed to teach anyone how to play guitar or another musical instrument from the comfort of their 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.
Basically learning to tell a good 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. And it’s one of the most fun things you can do, for yourself and the folks listening.
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 start learning today by checking out Unleash the Power of Storytelling: Win Hearts, Change Minds, Get Results by Rob Biesenbach (available on Amazon). You’ll definitely be able to keep someone’s attention.
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. Or when there’s someone on the side of the road with a flat tire, and he turns out to be a multimillionaire on vacation. The guy who changes that flat tire is set for life.
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, whether changing sparking plugs, swapping an engine, or fixing a flat tire.
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 without a pick? A few basics like the ones in a starter 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, and while this is a specific skill, that calm-mindedness will translate to other areas of your whole life.
Conversely, sometimes it’s good to learn how to get rid of a problem altogether. For example, knowing how to get rid of bugs and pests yourself rather than rescuing them is pretty badass in our book.
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, you don’t have to be a five star chef, 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 this excellent skill, people will be begging to come over for pizza night.
And, if there are 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 and these new skills.
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 cool 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 and one of many cool skills in the trades. 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 cool 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 chest compressions, the Heimlich maneuver, 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 was my most important skill. 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 in 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 online course 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.
If you’re looking to cheat, I don’t blame you. I bought the Work Sharp Precision Adjust (available on Amazon) months ago, and I love it. Check out my review here.
#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 great 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):
Sure, tailoring doesn’t seem as cool as throwing knives or playing an instrument. But, among life skills to help maintain your badass appearance, tailoring your own clothes is one impressive skill.
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 making you feel good and that will translate to improving your other skills like public speaking, story telling, and negotiation, as well.
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 and hone this new skill.
#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 physically protect yourself or your family when push comes to shove (literally), and it’s one valuable skill.
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, Krav Maga, boxing, or Muay Thai. They’ll all teach you basic self defense skills, so it’s just a matter of choosing the self defense classes that appeal the most.
As an aside, training self defense skills is a great way to get into shape, make new friends, reduce stress, and improve mental health. And most people in the community are incredibly kind and giving. Just start slow so they don’t kick your ass.
We’re not talking about pandemic-woodworking here. We’re talking about real carpentry; a new skill involving 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 will come in handy. Sadly, it’s a skill society is starting to lack. But, if you’re good at it, it can be a very rewarding career and a skill you’ll have your entire life.
Larry Haun was the best, and his book The Very Efficient Carpenter (available on Amazon) changed the way I worked. Check him out:
#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.
For a simple skill, 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 improved social skills and 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!
The only problem, though: If you’re looking to bring the handshake back post-pandemic, don’t forget the hand sanitizer (available on Amazon).
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 awesome skill to learn.
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.
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, the mental health benefits that come along with this new skill are nothing to scoff at.
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).
#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? It’s a valuable skill, and with a little practice, 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.
#26: Be Able to Make Basic Home Repairs
The amount of money that people spend getting things around their home fixed is mindd-blowing. With a little practice and some basic tools, (and some YouTube searches), a guy can figure out how to fix almost anything around his own home, and it’s a valuable skill to have.
The ability to make basic home repairs not only is a wasted art form that today’s world is lacking, it’s also a great way to save money. Instead of paying a contractor to come to the home, pay for a service call, and the mark-up on their materials, homeowners can do it themselves and keep that money in their pocket.
#27: Speed Reading
Imagine being able to consume as much information as you want in your spare time. You could read a book, retain that information, and move on to another all within a day. Speed reading can do that for you, and it’s a seriously impressive skill.
Learning to speed read isn’t easy, but this step by step guide from Speed Reading Lounge will help. You’ll be able to learn new things about personal finances, art, history, sports, and any other popular topics all within hours.
#28: Solve a Rubik’s Cube (FAST!)
I don’t know about you, but when I see these kids solving Rubik’s cubes in under a minute, it blows my mind. I don’t understand how they do it, and personally, I’m more likely to pull the stickers off and move them. Even if you get one side, the rest of them are usually a mess, and learning how to solve a Rubik’s cube is an incredibly impressive skill for that reason.
#29: Video Editing
Video editing is one of the coolest skills one can have in today’s world. The ability to take raw footage, tie it together, add drama, run a background track, and adjust lighting? It’s amazing. And, it’s actually a great way to make extra money.
I’ve dabbled in video editing, and it’s incredibly time consuming. Many folks are willing to pay well for the service, allowing highly-skilled video editors to make a pretty penny while also creating amazing content.
#30: Graphic Design
Over the past few years, I’ve had to hire graphic designers a few times. These artistic badasses are simply able to do things that the average person can’t dream of.
There are plenty of online courses for budding graphic designers to learn this new skill. Programs like Udemy’s master class will explain all the basics and get these creatives running with their new valuable skill. You may even be able to start your own website or website consulting business because of it.
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.
7 thoughts on “30 Badass Skills To Learn and Train To Become Awesome in 2023”
Thats a lot of skills, Id say I am half way there. However, looking forward to the expansion on this and adding a few more skills perhaps?
Love the list. Just what I was looking for. Have already started learning a new language, and have boxed and done Muay Thai for years, so another one or two skills to learn will be enough for the time being.
Free diving and car racing are very appealing but think I’ll go for learning how to start a fire, and would love to be good at telling stories.
Hey, David! Thanks for the feedback. Free diving and car racing really appeal to me as well. Let me know how it goes. Also, I just started a YouTube channel so it’d be awesome if you’d check it out. Thanks again -Tom
Sure Tom, I’ll keep you updated on my progress, if any ha.
Gonna check your channel out right now.
Language learning is a big waste of time.
It will take decades to learn it to a descent level and it will fade away in months after you stop using it.
Hey! Thanks for the comment. I can see your point. Every time I stop practicing, I take huge steps back. Gotta keep at it for sure.