Simple, easy to learn skills & proficiencies to buff my character?
June 25, 2015 3:22 PM   Subscribe

What are some simple, useful skills and proficiencies that a person can teach themselves or otherwise acquire in a relatively short space of time?

I guess this could conceivably encompass things like "reading body language" but I'm mostly thinking of stuff that has literal hands-on application. Arty, crafty, tradey-type stuff.

What I mean: stuff like how to tie a versatile knot, or riffle-shuffle a deck of cards, or properly sharpen a knife (things I can already do with varying levels of effectiveness and enthusiasm).

What I don't mean: "life hacks" like using butter instead of shoe polish, or opening cans sideways or whatever because that's technically better, or gimmicks like making electricity out of potatoes, etc.

Length of time in which to learn: let's say <1 week.
posted by turbid dahlia to Grab Bag (26 answers total) 78 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: in b4 "use the search function" - I am aware of other questions of this nature but they are quite old and new intelligence (and Mefites with it) may have subsequently come to light!
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:26 PM on June 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

CPR. There's not much else on earth you can learn in under a day and use to save someone's life.
posted by Itaxpica at 3:33 PM on June 25, 2015 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: CPR is a great answer - and thankfully a thing I can already do!
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:53 PM on June 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

You can learn how to open a beer with any stiff object. Here's a link on doing it with a folded-up piece of paper. Basically you grab it right under the cap, and then use your stiff object (paper, a branch, a the heel of a butter knife, whatever) as a lever to pop off the top. I can be helpful to work your way around the outside if the cap is giving you trouble.
posted by Aizkolari at 3:58 PM on June 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Tons of YouTube videos, but I learned how to wire wrap crystals and stones recently. It's pretty cheap and the results are awesome. Now I have some suncatchers (which I hung via some cheap ribbon). Related is bead work, knowing about crimping beads to keep other beads from sliding (who knew?). So I also made a curtain of crystal beads, dangling on wire at different heights, held on by a crimping thingy. Rainbows in the morning!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 4:01 PM on June 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

literal hands-on application.

posted by Huck500 at 4:26 PM on June 25, 2015 [3 favorites]

Pick a lock
Build a simple piece of furniture
Accurately copy a line drawing without tracing it
Knit or crochet
Use a sewing machine
Write simple code in a new computer language (you could learn to output "hello world" in all the major ones very fast)
Do complex arithmetic quickly in your head. (It just takes practice)
Simple home maintenance tasks like unclogging a toilet, wiring a light switch, etc
posted by lollusc at 4:49 PM on June 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

You could teach yourself how to solder well enough in a week to build any basic kit from adafruit or evilmadscientist.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:02 PM on June 25, 2015 [6 favorites]

Contact juggling is a performance trick that is simple to learn each individual trick and looks very impressive.

If you're looking at arts and crafts, what about macrame? The basic square knot of the same knots used for netting so it has some "ran world" application.
posted by thebotanyofsouls at 5:38 PM on June 25, 2015

Depending on what you mean by character, all of the below can easily be learned in a week:

Basic HTML coding
Regular Expressions
Calculating Poker Pot Odds
Card throwing
posted by 256 at 5:47 PM on June 25, 2015

Since you mention shuffling, learn some fancy ways to cut a deck of cards. The pivot cut, Charlier cut, and thumb cut may look hard but it only takes ten or fifteen minutes to stop dropping cards and maybe a few more hours after that to start looking good.
posted by d. z. wang at 5:56 PM on June 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

Roast coffee beans
Pull a decent shot of espresso
Properly iron a shirt
Hem pants/skirts
Make pizza from scratch
Cut a loaf of bread thinly and evenly
Prep and chop vegetables like a pro
posted by nanook at 5:58 PM on June 25, 2015

How to mix colors, the use of tone and tint, how to understand color palettes. Get some paints or cheap modelling clay (my fave) and discover which colors make what (hint: it's not what non-color mixers think).

Upholster a dining chair.

Most efficient way to clean windows.
posted by Thella at 10:27 PM on June 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Car repair. How to change a tire, oil, diagnose common random car trouble you might see or experience on the road.

It'll come in handy eventually and you might just make someone's day as a good Samaritan.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:40 PM on June 25, 2015

Basic knife skills. Kitchen, not combat.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:49 PM on June 25, 2015 [4 favorites]

If you aren't already aware - basic computer maintenance and troubleshooting.

It amazes me that people pay to have someone "clean-up" their computer (i.e., run Malwarebytes, ccleaner, and update software), add memory, replace a hard drive, and other tasks that anyone capable of running the machine could easily handle.
posted by she's not there at 1:21 AM on June 26, 2015

Hand sew a small zipper to make pouches. You don't need a sewing machine to make small ones, and a 6" zipper pouch with heavy fabric can actually be just as fast to make by hand sewing as by machine, and they are bloody useful and make fantastic giftwrap or gifts themselves. I've got them made specifically to fit various items I regularly carry, and also to recycle favourite old clothes into something useful. You can learn how to do one in a week definitely, and practice will make your stitches smaller and faster so you can make them while watching TV.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:28 AM on June 26, 2015 [4 favorites]

I mentioned basic electronic kits above, but it might also be possible to learn enough about Arduino and Raspberry Pi to make some pretty impressive projects. I haven't jumped in myself because it looks daunting, but it may not be for you.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:09 AM on June 26, 2015

Learn to draw from life, then learn some basic color theory for painting. You'll start to see beauty everywhere, and you'll be able to keep some of it for yourself.
posted by glass origami robot at 11:09 AM on June 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Learn to identify common trees and birds.
posted by oomny at 3:32 PM on June 26, 2015

Basic jewelry-making will teach you enough to be able to not only make pretty things, but be able to repair your and other people's jewelry. It doesn't take much time to learn how.

Improv classes, maybe? I haven't done it yet, but there's a 4-day course locally (though over 4 weeks) that sounds pretty cool.

Basic calligraphy isn't hard to pick up, and people are delighted by it.
posted by wintersweet at 6:07 PM on June 26, 2015

Ok, I love these types of questions, but I really find the most value in them when it's a very step-by-step, here are the resources to get you up to speed, thing. If they are not being provided in-thread, I must do my best to provide.

Computer Hardware!
Fixing/repairing smartphones, netbooks, etc etc etc.

First step, say you have a smartphone with a broken screen, a laptop with insufficient RAM, or you need a replacement battery for any device. You look up the model number of your device, either by looking at the box it came in, about screens in the device, or looking at the back of your device and googling numbers and codes until you've got the details.

Go to youtube or google, and search for your device model, and the keyword 'screen', 'battery', whatever.

You watch the less than 10 minute video, and go, Oh my gosh - it's really that easy? All I need is the part, and a teeny special screw driver!.

See, you watch (/fast-forward) through the video first, so that you know it's well within your capabilities, and so you can abandon the plan if it does, unusually and uniquely, involve a soldering iron or something. Also, if there isn't a video for it because it's an unusual piece of hardware, start with something easier.

Then you search for the part on something like Ebay.
You look for the listings where the tiny screwdriver or plastic wedge required are included with the battery/screen/whatever (yes, it's REALLY that easy).

You order, a package arrives a few days (or weeks, if you really skimp on shipping), then you follow along with the video... and tada!
You now have a working device.
Bask in your accomplishment, and then try and convince people that no, they don't need to get a whole new smartphone because they smashed the screen, no really, it's less than US$10 if they just smashed the screen, and it's only $30 or so if the picture is really fried too...
Ok, or maybe just go back to basking in your new geek cred.

BONUS SKILL: Almost All Home Repairs
Yep, you can youtube your way through pretty much all home repairs, also. I barely watch Youtube, but for hands-based, technique-skills, observation is very useful. It's often worth it just to see if it'd be less hassle than hiring a handyman (and provides a reference point so you can make sure your handyman isn't a complete muppet - painting directly onto unprepped surface that hasn't been cleaned with sugar soap is asking for failure, let alone directly onto a mildewed surface).
posted by Elysum at 6:56 AM on June 28, 2015

Response by poster: Hot-diggity! There's some great stuff in here folks - excellent to the max!
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:57 PM on June 28, 2015

stuff like how to tie a versatile knot

Why settle for one? I'm slowly working my way through the Knots 3d app and it's great. There are other knots apps but this is the best one I've tried. I always carry a bit of string (well, paracord) with me, and practice my knots when I have a spare moment.

Yes I am a Girl Scout why do you ask
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:39 PM on July 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

A stable handstand.
Climbing up and standing on someone's shoulders, and getting off again safely, or getting someone else standing on your shoulders.
Wiring a plug.
Sewing on a button or hemming your pants.
Some simple magic tricks for entertaining children
Knife throwing.
posted by emilyw at 3:33 PM on July 2, 2015

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