So if you are in college and having the time of your life, one of the things you might actually ponder from time to time is what skills do I really need to learn to become a successful, independent adult. That can be a pretty loaded question. Each adult you ask would probably give you a different list. So how do you know what life skills you really do need?
100 years ago we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Granted, we’d be having other conversations about how not to die from cholera and smallpox, but we’d have the bases covered when came to life skills for ladies and gentlemen.
Until the late 1800’s, guys and girls had a built-in system for learning life skills for daily success. For the rich living in Colonial America, a son’s practical education included instruction in celestial navigation, fencing, social decorum. For daughter’s, music, etiquette, nursing, and spinning (that is with thread, not a stationary bike) was the typical education. The less wealthy families sought apprenticeships for their children to pass on the practical trades.
Today, we have a slight less need for celestial navigation and spinning, but there’s still a main body of skills you should learn so that you can face the real world as ladies and gentlemen. I’m not saying this list is complete but here is my list of core skills I feel that guys and gals should learn before they leave college. I thought that 4 skills for each gender was enough of a good start. Consider this your outline for Life Skills 101, which is a class I think every college should offer.
For the Guys
Protect and Defend
At a moment’s notice you could be called on to protect a sweet old lady or a little child. One day you will likely have a family of your own and it will be your responsibility to protect and defend them. Take the time to pick up some verbal skills for defusing an argument. It is also a good idea to learn some physical skills as well for disarming a bad guy. See spending time in a gym lifting weights is not a total waste.
Writing a Letter
Textspeak will only get you so far in the grown-up world. Few bosses like receiving emails or cover letters filled with “gr8, cu then.” While you have the time in college, work on phasing out the lol’s and perfect the art of writing an actual letter. Maybe even consider taking an extra elective English class. If writing letters was good enough for the apostle Paul, it should be good enough for us.
Just for fun, here is a checklist of what you will need for writing a letter:
- a good, inky pen
- paper you like
- a non-cheesy greeting
- some insightful questions to ask
- interesting information to offer
- an appropriate farewell
- strong signature
Assuming that Mom didn’t move to college with you, you’re learning some basic housekeeping skills in your dorm, apartment, or fraternity. No one is expecting potpourri and accent pillows, but disciplining yourself to using a laundry basket and changing your sheets will serve you (and your future wife) well.
Talking to a Woman
If your strategy for engaging the ladys involves mumbling awkwardly, it is time to work on that. Start with learning to look a woman in the eyes. Squelch the temptation to talk only about yourself and ask her about things she is interested in. If her hands are full of textbooks, offer to carry her stuff. Chivalry still goes a long way. Plus, if you ever have any hopes of having a family of your own, you will need to find a wife and that will require talking to her.
For the Girls
Pay a Compliment
If your typical compliment focuses on hair, clothes, or cute accessories, it is time to dig deeper. Challenge yourself to admire the internal over the external. Vocalize your appreciation for a roommate who listens, an astute question in class, or a random act of kindness you observe. Paying compliments is crucial, but it is also important to learn to take a compliment with sincerity is just as important. Be gracious and humble.
Assertiveness will come in handy when facing rude comments or unwanted advances. Learn to express your perspective with clarity and boldness rather than with sarcasm, passivity, or aggression. If the creeper in class won’t leave you alone, be firm and strong. If a boss insists on making inappropriate jokes, speak up. Being a lady and being a doormat are two totally different things.
Walking Through a Door
It’s not a bad idea to learn how to walk through a door by yourself. If a guy does hold a door open for you, it isn’t because he is trying to make a negative statement about your gender or your abilities. He’s just being nice. By accepting these chivalrous offers, you’re encouraging the guys in your life to treat women with respect, service, and sacrifice.
Learning Side Skills
Pick up some practical side skills that you would like to develop. Car repair, changing your oil, fixing a flat tire, cooking, plumbing, sewing, gardening, and so forth. You don’t have to become an expert in the area, just advance your grasp of a skill for use in your daily life. If you plan on having a family someday, these skills will come in very handy.
One of the side skills I learned while in college was how to cook. It is a skill that has come in very handy in my adult years. I love cooking and it is one of my favorite ways to relax. So glad that I took the time to learn that skill. If cooking is something you would like to learn too, I would recommend the following sources for help:
- friends and family
- a good cookbook with written instructions.
- subscription to Food Network Magazine and Everyday Magazine
- blogs like smittenkitchen.com and doriegreenspn.com
- websites like epicurious.com and foodnetwork.com
With a few strategic life skills, you will be prepared to succeed as ladies and gentlemen in this thing we call life. Just remember to make your own path and be memorable!