That right there is BADASS.
May 24, 2010 12:28 PM   Subscribe

What are some things I can learn to do in order to become more of a badass?

I've decided that I want to become more of a badass. BADASS. I'm not talking about the "buy this $500 watch" flavor of badass that Men's Health and Men's Journal are always pimping, I'm talking about the kind of badass that can go out and do things ... like chopping wood and getting a good fire going, or cleaning fish, or that kind of thing.

I've started fishing a lot more, going so far as to keep my tackle box and rod/reel in my car. I'm camping. But what are some other activities that are ... well, badass? Welding? Woodworking? Looking for things that hit the sweet spot of (1) relatively easy to get started on, (2) inexpensive/free, (3) really rewarding.

I'm very tall and reasonably clumsy, so things like extreme sports, snowboarding, skiing, etc. don't appeal to me. And I'm aware of this question, but I'm looking for real-world (badass) skills that are truly useful, not just tricks to impress people. (Or, to put it another way, I'm wanting to feel like a badass, not necessarily look like one.)
posted by jbickers to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (72 answers total) 76 users marked this as a favorite
I'm talking about the kind of badass that can go out and do things ... like chopping wood and getting a good fire going, or cleaning fish, or that kind of thing.

Those things aren't badass, they're kinda ordinary.

It sounds like you don't feel in control of your environment. Picking up basic skills so you can manipulate that environment and feel in control would probably work.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:30 PM on May 24, 2010 [6 favorites]

Open a beer bottle with a lighter (or any object you can use as a lever).

This trick is simple, but it impresses the hell out of people who don't know it, and is definitely badass in my book.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 12:32 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

You could try some of the suggestions in these two (almost identical) questions.
posted by Nothing... and like it at 12:36 PM on May 24, 2010

Start CrossFitting! It'll make a badass out of anybody.
posted by wrok at 12:37 PM on May 24, 2010

Lift weights, get strong.
posted by BobbyDigital at 12:38 PM on May 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Word of advice: As someone who has led a lot of folks, newbies and experienced alike, into the woods, unless you're venturing in with nothing but a bowie knife and surviving for a month, please get it out of your head that camping makes you a badass. The guys (and they were always guys) who thought they were badass were universally, how should I put this, idiots and assholes. Not being That Guy is the first step towards true badassery.

(disclaimer: I am not a badass at anything, unless social awkwardness is considered badass these days)
posted by bondcliff at 12:40 PM on May 24, 2010 [7 favorites]

Learn to sail.

There is a moment after you have been sailing for a bit where it suddenly clicks. You can feel the power of nature thrumming through the hull and know how to tap it. You realize that most of the planet is water; That you know how to tap nature to move on water without external power. That moment made me feel more badass than pretty much anything I can recall. In spite of all the real world constraints on me I felt in that moment that I belonged to the Earth, not to a state or country.
posted by Babblesort at 12:41 PM on May 24, 2010 [9 favorites]

Also, have a kid and fix his/her toys or swingset when they break.
posted by bondcliff at 12:44 PM on May 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

The trouble with this sort of thing is that the people who grew up in environments where these things are "ordinary" (generally the more rural places) are just going to look at you blankly when you say you want to learn, or that you think these things are "badass". To them it is so basic that you must be some kind of wierdo to be even asking, so you need to get advice from people who, like you, have learnt as an adult, or just watch those who can do it, without specifically saying you are trying to learn.

Now I'm no badass (but I can open a beer bottle with a lighter) but last summer I perfected the art of lighting a proper fire (also works for a barbecue) and the trick lies in starting small and building up. Scrunch up some newspaper (the free one you get as you enter some National Parks in the US is perfect) into 5 or so balls. Place them at the bottom of the firepit and lay some small, dry twigs on top - have some larger ones nearby. Light each one of the paper balls and when the twigs are burning lay some of the larger sticks on. When each larger level of wood is burning well, you can put larger pieces on, until things are burning away merrily.
posted by jontyjago at 12:44 PM on May 24, 2010

I think you're badass when you do things that are uniquely you - things only you could pull off and/or repeatedly do (and combinations of those). So like for instance take that fish you caught, clean and filet it, and cook it up in a ridiculously tasty recipe that is all your own. Make your own tools then use those tools to fix some piece of nonworking machinery you found at a down low sale. Badassery to me is a combination of knowledge and skills of start-to-finish activities. Procure some raw elements, fashion that into something that you use to create something only you can create, or that is uniquely yours.
posted by cashman at 12:46 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Decide to not let others define the meaning of manhood for you. Learn to be OK with being who you are. Instant badass.
posted by 4ster at 12:50 PM on May 24, 2010 [7 favorites]

A man who can successfully walk in heels is a badass.
posted by millipede at 12:51 PM on May 24, 2010 [6 favorites]

Might as well ask what you should do to be "cool". You need to become confident, and you need to be curious. Confident people who feel in control of their environment tend to assert that control more readily, both in interpersonal relationships and in manipulating the physical world. The skills and such that you're seeking come naturally if you're a confident, curious person.
posted by davejay at 12:55 PM on May 24, 2010

Pick up a copy of the SAS Survival Guide, and peruse the FM 21-76 US ARMY SURVIVAL MANUAL (a 3MB PDF). A lot of useful info in those.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 12:57 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Those things aren't badass, they're kinda ordinary.

The trouble with this sort of thing is that the people who grew up in environments where these things are "ordinary" (generally the more rural places) are just going to look at you blankly when you say you want to learn, or that you think these things are "badass".

Decide to not let others define the meaning of manhood for you. Learn to be OK with being who you are. Instant badass.

OK, I clearly didn't do a good job framing the question. Lemme try honing it just a bit.

I am OK with who I am, and I don't let others define the meaning of manhood (hence my swipe at Men's Health, for instance). But I'm wanting to add a new hobby or two and am looking to make the best possible choices with my limited leisure time and resources, taking aim at that feeling you get when you push yourself and do something you didn't know how to do before.

So, then, what I'm looking for is maximum badass satisfaction vs. lowest cost. For instance, I love woodworking, and dream of someday having a workshop with a lathe where I turn my own pens. But that costs a lot of money.

I am in front of a keyboard and a microphone for 10-12 hours per day, so yes, chopping wood and camping and fishing are out-of-the-ordinary for me (and for a lot of people, I have to believe).

One other data point, if it helps with suggestions: I am an avid cook, and am quite good at it. So hobbies that branch off of this might be interesting (already have a vegetable garden, but have never gone hunting/killed my own meat, for instance).
posted by jbickers at 12:58 PM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Knife skills for cooking, also, cooking skills! That is badass.
posted by cestmoi15 at 12:58 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, and remember that confident people don't feel the need to overcompensate. Fulfill your curiosities in ways that don't scream "I am 40 and I want to LIVE!" Like, you want to ride a motorcycle? Don't buy a brand-new Harley, just get a twenty-year-old honda. Gets you around just as well, and you don't look like a douchebag. Hell, get a moped. Don't have the confidence to do it? Then you're not badass.
posted by davejay at 12:58 PM on May 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

Welding's pretty badass, for sure. I picked up a $100 set up at Walmart and made a bunch of garden structures. There are a lot of upgrades that are worth the money, but that $100 and some rebar go a very long way.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:00 PM on May 24, 2010

I'd say start with things you are already doing and mold them into more badass versions.

Like camping; are you camping right next to where you parked your car? With your gas/charcoal grill? And your radio? And a cooler of beer? It could be fun, but it doesn't sound bad ass. Are you backpacking for three days, surviving off of food/water you strategically packed or killed/gathered and then turning around and hiking 3 days back to your car? That's pretty bad ass, and doable with the proper knowledge and practice.

Got a gym membership? Do they have a rock-climbing wall? DO IT! Not only does it look bad ass, its a lot of fun.
posted by goalie_dave at 1:00 PM on May 24, 2010

Go feed people. Find a church with a food pantry or a mosque with a free lunch program and go volunteer. You will get the shotHotBot badass of the week award.

Failing that,I have done some trail work which has made me feel badass. Nothing like wrestling 1000 pound rocks around with hand tools to forget about yourself for a few hours. The local trail club is probably looking for help on its work crews.
posted by shothotbot at 1:00 PM on May 24, 2010

One attribute that I think applies to general badass-ness is understatement, or at least a general sense of... non-showoff-iness.

What do I mean by this? Well, your badass skill (or even relatively normal skill) comes off as a lot cooler if you don't shove it in people's faces. Example:

Person: "So how was your weekend?"
You: "Yeah, it was cool. I welded the shit out of a bunch of metal. Did I mention I weld? Totally a fuck-ass awesome welder. Wanna see my welding scars?"

Person: "So how was your weekend?"
You: "It was alright. I blew out the muffler on my car and spent most of Sunday afternoon putting a patch on it."
Person: "I've never done that before! How do you put a patch on a muffler?"
You: "Well, I belong to a community auto shop, so I took it down there and welded some scrap metal on to it. It was a good learning experience."

It may take people a little longer to realize your badass-ness, but you won't come off as a self-centered jerk.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:00 PM on May 24, 2010 [14 favorites]

Badass cooking? Make your own sausage.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:01 PM on May 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

So, now that I have read your follow-up, I would suggest building things is badass. Especially because so little is handmade/homemade nowadays. "Things" could be anything around the home you need or anything you've thought of buying in the past year. Need a new knife? Take a blacksmithing class and forge one. New cabinets? Don't pay someone; buy some fucking wood and put that shit together yourself! Furniture, computers, toys for the kids, bikes/bike trailers... It may be hard to make your own toilet, but I bet you could pick anything in your house that's made out of wood, metal, or fabric and make it yourself.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:05 PM on May 24, 2010

Beer brewing might be up your alley and appropriately badass.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:06 PM on May 24, 2010

Because I skimmed your question, those links might be more boastful than you'd like, but there are gems in them all. For example, the U.S Army Survival Field Manual is mentioned a couple times.

More links of potential interest: How to start a fire (if you have paper and matches), How Stuff Works: how to start a fire without a match (with more survival links inside).

Learn to tie knots (online overview and animated guide).
posted by filthy light thief at 1:08 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do you clean the fish you catch? Because fishing itself isn't badass, but I watched a guy fillet a couple of bass and he never even flinched when crawfish and worms fell out of the fish's stomach, nor did he even wait for the fish to die completely. I don't know if that's badass or not, but it made me wish I could do it that well. When I fillet a bass I do it by the sink and if I see anything squirm I'm making chicken for dinner that night.

And I agree that understatement goes a long way. There's a guy at work who is a rock climber (real rock, not gym) and the second you ask about what he did this weekend he always, without fail, will have to tell you that whatever it was he climbed is the highest / most dangerous / toughest whatever in the country and since we live in New England and I know he's full of shit I just nod my head, say "that's cool", and then go mock him behind his back. He's not a badass. Real badasses don't need to tell everyone how badass they are.
posted by bondcliff at 1:10 PM on May 24, 2010

OK, this is super simple, but some people seem inordinately impressed by lattice-top pie crust. Easy to do, low investment, and pies are a nice thing to be able to present to people.
posted by amtho at 1:11 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think woodworking is a very empowering skill. Being able to make many of the things in your house, rather than purchasing them, is a big deal. Learning how to manipulate your space is awesome. Also, basic plumbing, electrical work, etc. fit in this category. I love the idea of welding. Also, I disagree with anyone suggesting that this is about gender and manhood (I happen to be a woman). Also, if you have any time off, I recommend WWOOFing (volunteering on organic farms in majestic locations throughout the world in exchange for food and board). I've learned endless amounts of useful and badass things doing that. Learning how to grow food and take care of various animals is pretty badass and empowering. Good luck!!!
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 1:11 PM on May 24, 2010

What BobbyDigital said. Physical strength comes into play in a very large number of endeavors, including many sports and outdoor/camping type activities. Physical strength is badass in and of itself, but it is also the foundation which allows for the development of more specialized badassery. A weak man will always be limited in badassness.

It's also a lifelong pursuit. Anything that can be learned in a few minutes or days, like a lot of parlor-trick-type things, can't really be that badass. Start here.
posted by ludwig_van at 1:14 PM on May 24, 2010

We're thirty comments into this and no one has mentioned The Art of Manliness yet?

Everything from how to shave using a straight razor, to how to pick out a suit, to how to throw a baseball, to how to rotate your tires, to how to "Exit a Room Like a Man".

We're playing to stereotype to a ridiculous degree, but it's pretty awesome. Sure, there's a grooming section, but there's also sports, skills, etc.
posted by valkyryn at 1:19 PM on May 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

Came here to suggest, like valkyrn about, The Art of Manliness.
posted by General Malaise at 1:21 PM on May 24, 2010

Yeah, wood is cheap, bricks are cheap, making stuff is cool. Also tying knots and rope work. Which leads me to second climbing, which is a gift for the tall and makes you feel fantastic. Also, the local Red Cross volunteers will let you train in first aid and get free access to sporting events and music stuff. Knowing what to do in emergencies is pretty cool. As is lifesaving, if the local pool has classes (there's less opportunity to do this on a casual basis, but it's definitely worth knowing).

I guess it's all intensely personal though: do what you do, do it well, and don't be showy about it.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 1:28 PM on May 24, 2010

Capoeira/parkour tricks are hella badass.
posted by callmejay at 1:28 PM on May 24, 2010

do a lot of shit,

explore and find stuff you love to do, and keep trying new things.

Try things you know you will suck at and don't get pissed or flustered when you fail.
Put yourself in situations where you will learn things, either about how things work, or what your limits are.

Reclaim reasonable risk. If you think you will like camping do it, then do it solo. Over the last few years I have taken to going on solo trips to the BWCA during off season, not because it is badass, but because it is out of the ordinary and I love it. Yeah, sometimes it puts me at increased risk, but we live in a world that is too risk aversive, even when the risk is minimal. We won't let our kids walk to the store by themselves by we will consume 4000 calorie meals.

Do what is right, all the time.
posted by edgeways at 1:30 PM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Learn to open a champagne bottle with a saber.
posted by gnutron at 1:32 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Enough said!
posted by TheBones at 1:33 PM on May 24, 2010

Badass = Bruce Lee. Get into martial arts and kick some ass.
posted by stormpooper at 1:42 PM on May 24, 2010

Open a beer bottle with a lighter your eye socket.

Joking aside, learn to make things, and don't be the braggart telling everyone about how awesome you are. Most people don't make anything, be it dinner or a house; being vaguely competent with the physical world around you goes a long way.
posted by Forktine at 1:56 PM on May 24, 2010

The things that have made me feel like a badass (and obviously I am setting a much lower bar than many people would, or maybe I'm just not much of a badass and I'm taking what I can get) are times when I am able to pull some skill or trick out of nowhere without fuss or visible effort. They are all of dubious, or ephemeral value but a few things that have given me this feeling:
  • The beer bottle/lighter thing.
  • Push starting a car.
  • Rolling a bummed cigarette, perfectly, with the people you are with not knowing you've ever even smoked a cigarette.
  • Baking a pie from scratch without a recipe.

posted by dirtdirt at 1:58 PM on May 24, 2010

What an amazing range of responses! About the only common theme is modesty/understatement. My vote for best understated badassery goes to Roger Moore as Bond. (David Caruso as Horatio seems to be modelled on Moore's Bond.) My vote though for best all-round badass trait is--maturity. Gain that and you'll get respected, and why else did you want to be a badass?
posted by Logophiliac at 2:00 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

You're into cooking, and know some knife skills? Take advantage of the growing trend and the information it makes newly available, and learn as much as you can about butchering! I would be spectacularly impressed if I knew someone had just carved my pork chops fresh from the pig.

also... Metafilter: Totally a fuck-ass awesome welder.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 2:01 PM on May 24, 2010

It isn't just an activity that makes a person badass, it's the context of the activity. Replacing an alternator on a car does not make someone badass. However, about six years ago, the alternator on my car took a dump. It was January in interior Alaska and the temperature was -20 F. I was in the parking lot of a gas station with my hood up, and not a fuckin' clue as to what I was going to do. A disheveled looking fellow in his early 30s approached me, and after some initial chitchat told me his friend might have a spare alternator at his junkyard. At that point I was going to take my chances. We went to the junkyard, found a similar model car, he removed the alternator and drove us back to the gas station. He then proceeded to replace the alternator in my car. Just a reminder, it was -20 F and he did all this without wearing gloves, or even a jacket. His only comfort was the cigarette dangling from his mouth. My fingers were completely numb and I had good winter gloves on. I was pretty sure this guy wasn't human. He had the coolest attitude, as if nothing in the world bothered him. When he finished I offered to pay him. He saved me about $250 and quite a bit of stress. He declined, but accepted a pack of smokes. I shook his hand and he left. That guy was a badass. Oh, and on the way back from the junkyard, he pulled two cars out of the ditch.
posted by Beardsley Klamm at 2:02 PM on May 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial-arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Columbian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad.

- Neal Stephenson
posted by charlesv at 2:08 PM on May 24, 2010 [9 favorites]

Wow - I really wish I had read some of those how-to links about shaving with a straight razor before I tried it.

Shaving with a straight razor makes me feel like a badass, and I heartily recommend it. Read the Art of Manliness site that valkyryn linked to, and check out straightrazorplace. I'm reading it now and it's awesome!

Here's my personal tips for straight razor goodness:

1) If you find your grampas old straight razor, boil it before you use it.
2) There really is no 'strop shop', and the places that do carry nice shaving stuff charge an unbelievable amount for a strop. You can use the inside of your leather belt.
3) After you've ruined your face, razor, and belt with this method, go to the local beauty store and get a straight razor holder (barbers use them for sideburns) and a box of disposable straight razor blades WITHOUT the little guards on them. This will help you until you get to the next step.
4) Blow a huge amount of money on shaving stuff because IT IS AWESOME.

(I haven't made it to step 4 yet, I'm still using disposables)

I encourage you to make a map of your face before you start shaving. I'm pretty sure I had a mole on my neck that is no longer there.

When you change your disposable straight razor blade, you should chant out loud 'This is a new razor blade. This is a new razor blade.' This will reduce the odds that you will come out of the bathroom looking like a Novice Chainsaw Juggler.

If you have an unreasonable fear of bears, shaving with a straight razor will help you with that fear because you can cut anything or anybody the fuck up when you are holding a straight razor, including yourself. With a new blade you can cut someone to the bone and they will barely feel it. You can cut YOURSELF to the bone and barely feel it. Bears better watch it.

Careful on the part of your jaw right below and in front of your ear. Dunno why, but it seems to be a common 'problem spot' in my discussions with others.

If you're travelling on an airplane, don't even try to take this shit onboard.

Upon review, welding is probably a little more manly. But if anyone sees you shave with a straight razor they will think you are badass, especially if you're good and quick.

Good luck, and remember to get a nice thick aftershave lotion!
posted by Skrubly at 2:31 PM on May 24, 2010 [7 favorites]

I don't know about Badassery but it seems that you are asking about ways to be more self-reliant, which I think is a noble goal. It is very easy to get away from the things we depend on for our lives and fail to appreciate them, the shear amount of toil involved and the people we all depend on to make our lives possible. BTW this is why I don't visit resorts in third world countries-I can't stand the thought of the toil involved in spoiling my rich ass. So here is a list of things my parents made sure I had some idea about

Learn how to sew a garment-it takes a lot of skill and time to do this and we all wear clothes everyday.

Grow your own food and kill your own meat. It takes time and effort and skill to grow tasty edible vegetables, and it takes nerve and dedication to kill, dress and butcher an animal to make it edible without wasting any meat. It also makes you responsible for that in a way that plastic wrapped steaks at the store don't. It makes being a carnivore a concious decision that once had a face.

Build your own shelter-Building a whole house is not necessary or practical but if you have a suburban yard you can build a shed or doghouse that would stand up to any weather and provide the minimal shelter to keep you alive.

Learn to use and care for the tools that make all the above possible. Care of tools is important for a craftsmen liviliehood and imparts a reverence to the work they can do.

To me a badass is someone who walks in to any situation with a quiet confidence that they can handle any problem that comes up-or die trying. And when the job is done they can walk away without requireing the adoration of anyone.
posted by bartonlong at 3:17 PM on May 24, 2010

charlesv : Until a man is twenty-five...

Shorter: Buy a motorcycle, use an atomic warhead as a sidecar, wire it to your pulse to detonate if you die.

On a more practical note, find something you find cool and get really good at it. You'll notice a running theme in what people find badass and it's almost always characterized by supreme competence at whatever it is you're doing. Cooking, climbing, martial arts, welding, music, whatever. Even stuff not normally associated with badassery like sculpting or drawing will stand out when done with god-like skill.

A couple of easy, cheap, and inherently badass things to play with: throwing knives. You can buy an inexpensive set, or make your own out of old-thrift store cutlery and a grinding wheel. All you need is a backyard with ten or so feet and a reasonable backdrop and you can work at it all day. It's not particularly physically taxing, and the skill is mostly learning to judge the distances, and it looks really cool.

Archery is another one (and my preferred.) The initial setup is a bit more expensive, but once you have the equipment it ceases to cost a lot. And it really is very cool being able to, from a great distance, put a couple of arrows into a space the size of your hand. As an added bonus (though it starts pushing from cool to geek pretty quick) is that if you really wanted to, you could make everything yourself. The bow, the arrows, the fletching. All of it.

Guns are fun too, but they carry a lot of baggage when it comes to badassness. Too many people buy a gun and think it automatically endows them with power, when the truth of it is that the only things that makes you badass with a gun is being able to 1.) shoot it with absurd accuracy, or 2.) smith it with awesome skill. 3.) Twirl it like a cowboy (this one is either going to make you cool or an absolute ass depending on skill/ situation).

But again, it all comes back to taking something you enjoy and improving your skills at it to the point of inspiring awe in others.
posted by quin at 3:22 PM on May 24, 2010

Skydiving. It just takes a little time and money. And you have to jump out of the airplane.

The badassedness doesn't come from skydiving, as it's fairly simple to do the basics well. The badassedness comes from being quiet and understated about it. There's a lot of fun in being in a conversation with someone pimping his exploits cuz he's skydived twice while strapped to the instructor (a tandem jump), and you get to say, "Yeah, got my license. Pack my own chute. No biggie."

Hmm, upon reflection the badassedness of most things comes from being understated about your mad skillz. In situations where someone is trying to look cool, show alpha status, or one-up the crowd, you:
Do a standing backflip,
juggle three clubs,
shoot quick double-taps in the black from 25',
solve the puzzle or do the math in your head (ooohhhhh),
hand over the 5/8ths socket or #2 phillips driver just before it's needed,
back a long trailer without shambling,
ride a horse Western or English,
know how to use the voice of command,
and admit to being wrong without being embarrassed.

Diverse skills, quiet self-assurance. Of course, I could be wrong. These traits may just make you an asshole...
posted by lothar at 3:23 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

True fact: anything you learn to do will make you at least a little bit more badass. Anything.

Although, I suppose somethings are more badass than others, anything helps at least a little bit.
posted by cirrostratus at 3:29 PM on May 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

Not caring if anyone thinks you are a bad-ass or not.

That might not be %100 bad-ass, but is a step on the way.
posted by ovvl at 3:51 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

By your definition, which I too am reading as "be more self-reliant", my dad is the most bad-ass guy I know. When I was a little lemniskate, the rest of my family would get a kick out of how, when anything would break, I would just shrug and say, that's ok, Pop can fix it. I truly, unshakeably believed he could fix anything. We never had a car he couldn't fix - or at least make better. When he wanted to go ice fishing, he built the ice shanty that weekend. He built our huge deck one summer, he put up a great wooden fence. So extrapolating from that, my advice would be - learn how to fix your car, at least the basics. Learn to do basic household repairs, inside and out. Fishing and camping and hunting, those kinds of things too.
posted by lemniskate at 3:52 PM on May 24, 2010

Become fluent in a foreign language.

Be able to go to someone's house and whip up a fantastic meal from ingredients they already have in their kitchen.

Basically, have hidden, practical skills that imply great life experience, so that you are constantly surprising people.

I'm sure extreme sports are fun, but they don't seem badass to me because they remind me that we live in a world where people create pretend danger for themselves.
posted by Knowyournuts at 3:57 PM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

You probably need something involving a large amount of fire. Have you considered a barbecue pit or barbecue in general?

I think what you want is fire, sharp objects, and noise. Sharp objects = the satisfying world of cutting things down with an axe (Mr. Llama carved a path through the woods behind our house. I think it was one of his life's great satisfaction).

Noise. I don't know. Fireworks?

Also, building your own outdoor pizza oven is getting a lot of play lately. It involves basically making a giant rock igloo to grill pizza at 700 degrees. That might be up your alley.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:01 PM on May 24, 2010

Open a beer bottle with a lighter (or any object you can use as a lever).

Open beer with teeth
posted by low affect at 4:02 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I just figured it out guys: homebrew
posted by low affect at 4:03 PM on May 24, 2010

Whitewater kayaking! It makes me feel badass, then humbled, then goofy, then around the cycle again.
posted by The Dutchman at 4:06 PM on May 24, 2010

Cirrostratus got it. Learning anything new is another stone in the road to badassery. Although I think that the term 'badass' might be a bit misplaced in this thread. When I think of that I think of a guy who doesn't shy away from a fight with a Hell's Angel. I think you're going for 'manly' or simply 'awesome.'

I felt way more awesome when I learned a second language, learned to work with kids, traveled alone in a foreign country, learned to scuba dive, bungee jumped. Stuff like that.
posted by fso at 4:10 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I forgot, this website would be a good read for you.

1001 Rules for my Unborn Son
posted by fso at 4:20 PM on May 24, 2010

Triathlons. Or even just marathons. Noodling. Know how to fix a car. Get flowers for your mom every mother's day. Build your own bbq smoker and then get really good at barbecuing. Climb rocks and/or trees. Learn that martial arts thing where somebody tries to attack you and somehow you flip them flat on their back without even breaking a sweat. Know what you're talking about when discussing single-malt scotch, but don't ever be the one to bring it up first. Karaoke with enthusiasm and flair, regardless of your ability to sing.
posted by vytae at 5:38 PM on May 24, 2010

learn to mix really good drinks
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:50 PM on May 24, 2010

I work in my own machine shop and the turkey I will eat for supper was one I raised, killed and cooked myself.
I think people with language or math skills are serious badass.
posted by Iron Rat at 6:51 PM on May 24, 2010

Hot wire a car
posted by mmascolino at 8:51 PM on May 24, 2010

There are a few skilled crafts that I have tried which, having tried them, I would say are badass as hell. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Welding. Pretty obvious. You're working with hot metal and a big torch. More than likely you've had to use a plasma cutter to get to that point. The light is so bright you have to wear special goggles. Pretty badass.
2. Glassblowing. You might think this sounds dainty, but I think it's more badass than welding. You have to work much faster, there's molten glass all over, and shit bursts into flames all the time. Glassblowers are crazy fuckers. Downside: expensive. It takes a ton of fuel to keep a glass furnace hot, and they pass the expense on to you.
3. Blacksmithing. I was not muscular enough to be a blacksmith. I am very, very not muscular, so this is not to say it's THAT hard, but blacksmithing is the one craft I've tried that was literally beyond me physically. I really enjoyed it right up until I lost the use of my wrist for an entire day after every lesson.
4. Soldering. This is a different kind of badass, because it's not loud and it's not big, but tell you what, you get a certain amount of cred when you get good at soldering, and it's something you might actually be able to use someday to improve your actual life. You can get jobs doing it, even. Plus you get up close and personal with electronics and know a capacitor from a resistor when you see them around. I feel like soldering is badass in the same way surgery is badass, especially soldering small surface mount components.
5. Sourdough. Getting a starter together and being parental about keeping it alive and then making bread after bread with it: certifiably badass.

Bonus thing I've never tried:
6. Neon. Making neon signs is, from what I hear, like glassblowing but with gas and these thin canes of glass that you have to bend realllll carefully. I have never had a chance to do it, but I get the impression it takes balls of steel.

In all these cases you have to shut your mouth the fuck up about the fact that you've done them right up until it's necessary though. I'm breaking that rule right now, but like, I don't think any of my coworkers or most of my friends know I know how to do this stuff, because there has been no reason for it to come up. I have art glass in my home that I've made and nobody knows I made it unless they ask where I got it. You're not a badass if you let your badass feats define you. Part of what you're after is understated competence at random, non-mundane tasks.
posted by little light-giver at 10:32 PM on May 24, 2010

Eat a bear.
posted by TwelveTwo at 12:05 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think the key - as so many others have said - is to learn a bunch of these skills but to never, ever mention them until you actually do them in front of people.
When you do, don't make a big deal out of it.
posted by atrazine at 4:08 AM on May 25, 2010

Sorry if this is waaaay too Australian, but how about beer bottle opening maneuvers that blokes make look pretty effortless. I am always impressed by these. [I am such a cheap date]
posted by honey-barbara at 4:33 AM on May 25, 2010

Open beer with teeth

Eat a bear.

Open bear with teeth.

Seriously, though Heinlein put it this way: "A man should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

The only thing I think he missed was caring for those in need. Doesn't matter who or what - the soccer mom who's got a flat tire, the old lady who needs a seat on the bus, helping a friend on Metafilter who is in dire straits, or sponsoring a child in a third-world country. Everybody has the ability to help someone else, somehow. When I see someone who's gone out of their way to do a good deed for someone who needed a helping hand, I think exactly your title: "That, right there, is badass." That's a real man.

Like the hubris alluded to above, however, a real man should know how to keep his mouth shut about what he's done.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:49 AM on May 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Learn to drive a motorcycle, learn to do all repairs and maintenance in your house, work on your construction and woodworking skills such that you could eventually build your own house, work out and work on posture and balance, volunteer at a barn or farm (throw bales, shovel stuff, dig holes, fix fences), get a killer vocabulary, be incredibly and unashamedly courteous when the situation calls for it, have time for what you want to do, learn how to open and close a knife with one hand. The point is to learn skills and self-sufficiency not so that everyone who sees you will know that you can beat them up or repair their house or make a speech or whatever, but that you have the capability to do all of that if necessary. Self-sufficiency+abs=badass.
posted by ramenopres at 9:32 AM on May 25, 2010

The next few lines, following the lines in charlesv's quote from Snow Crash (hinted at by quin):
Hiro used to feel this way, too, but then he ran into Raven. In a way, this was liberating. He no longer has to worry about being the baddest motherfucker in the world. The position is taken.

How to use an axe (video with possibly NSFW ads), and care it. The video is from A to Z Bushcraft, which has more general woodsman/survival tips and skills, and it's hosted on Wonder How To, which has more interesting videos (some are overly Maxim-type badass, others less-so). The Bushcraft site has smaller videos, though I think they're simply scaled down videos as found on Blip TV (also where WHT gets their videos).
posted by filthy light thief at 2:25 PM on May 25, 2010

As someone who's extremely tall and spent a number of years with no coordination, I hear ya.

After this post, never use the word "badass" to describe yourself or who you want to be. Just go do it.

Meanwhile, it sounds like you want vocational skills in some areas that have largely been forgotten when everyone moved to video games and television. Outdoorsmanship, metalworking and blacksmithing, woodworking and carpentry, and so on.

Pick something that seems fun, and go do it. Then give a thought as to how to do it better, and how to learn to do it better. I've spent the last year focused on woodworking, and I'm really, really liking the payoff of focusing on a hands-on skill instead of an academic one.

There's something here in Pittsburgh called Hack Pittsburgh; it's the geekier side of this, but something along those lines would help. We have a rudimentary wood shop and metal shop, and teach whatever we know to whoever wants to learn. If you look for "hacker space", that might significantly lower the cost of learning to work in a shop.
posted by talldean at 7:40 AM on May 26, 2010

And, of course, serving hot noodle soup to strangers is as badass as it comes.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:26 AM on May 26, 2010

Somewhat high level of investment, but become a dad. So badass.
posted by TheShadowKnows at 8:56 PM on May 26, 2010

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