Someone once told me that "should" is a word to avoid. The reason is that "should" reflects the expectations of the person or persons doing the should-ing.
"I should read more", "I should drink less", "I should dress better"
All of the above are things I've said to myself, and also things that I don't really believe. Those statements are all me, trying to cram myself into a box shaped by social norms. So when you hear "should", or when you catch yourself applying external values to yourself as I have done, maybe ask yourself instead, "Who says?"
That said, here's a list of things that all men really should do.
- Be curious. Learn new things, ask questions, and keep looking for answers. Question everything, even your own convictions (especially your own convictions). Learn about confirmation bias, and be aware of how it can reinforce false beliefs. Be open to ideas that deviate from your world view.
- Carry a pocket knife. Always. It's a sad societal state when a pocket knife is considered a weapon rather than an indispensable tool. And no, you can't draw a parallel to guns. A gun has a single purpose, and a knife has many.
- Fix things. Time and opportunity are limiting factors on our ability to repair our own belongings. However, where possible, a man needs to be able to look at a thing, whatever it is, understand its function, and then repair it. No excuses are sufficient to explain a failure to do so.
"But, I'm not mechanically inclined."
Bullshit. You're either too lazy to bother, or you're afraid you'll fail. You have access to all the information you need to do just about anything, right at your fingertips.
Here's a small sublist of things a man must be able to fix:
- Copper pipe. A person much smarter than you figured out all the hard parts. All you need to do it get the fittings, solder, flux, and a blowtorch. The way it works is almost magical in its simplicity.
- The brakes on your car. Again, incredibly simple systems made so by very smart people. You can replace the brakes on that stupid SUV you likely have in an afternoon, and probably save yourself about $500 in the process.
- Household wiring. I don't mean running new circuits from your breaker panel. I mean replacing an outlet or light fixture. The pieces really have been designed to simplify the tasks. Besides, household current can give you an unpleasant shock, but it's not enough to actually hurt most of us, so just go for it.
- Tie a tie. There are three basic knots you should be able to tie: Full Windsor, Half Windsor, and Four-in-hand. Learn to tie all three proficiently, then only ever use the Four-in-hand because the Windsors are far too stuffy. Next, throw away all of your ties because they're a stupid, pointless accoutrement.
- Be courteous. Hold the door for people. It doesn't matter if they're men or women, hold the door. Be helpful and polite. It takes nothing from you, and it makes the world a little nicer.
- Tip well. When you're at a casual place and your lunch costs $20, don't be pedantic about it and calculate 15%. Just leave a five and go. Consider 20% the minimum, no matter what.
- Take (and give) a joke. People are much too easily offended, don't be one of them. Learn to recognize good natured joking, and accept it without taking offense. Also learn to give back. There's no harm in exchanging a bit of persiflage. Keep in mind that you don't have to be a door mat if you don't like the direction, but don't be overly delicate either.