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Top 10 Highly-Desired Skills You Can Teach Yourself

On countless occasions, you’ve likely said to yourself “I wish I knew how to do ______.” Then, of course, life got in the way and you put it off until you could find the time. Maybe you wanted to become fluent in a language, learn a new instrument, start performing your house repairs, or master a myriad of other skills. With the vast amount of knowledge online, you’re now your only excuse. Here are the top 10 most highly desired skills that you can teach yourself — and should.

Photos by Mister Wilson, Alex Indigo, Andy Mangold

10. Repair Just About Anything

Sure, you don’t need to repair anything anymore. You can just pay someone else to do it. But where’s the ingenuity in that? Plus, who wants to waste a bunch of money on simple tasks you can handle on your own? If you’ve adopted the DIY spirit, learning to repair your own stuff is one of the easiest and more rewarding skills you can acquire. It’s especially fruitful because as you learn new things, you can put them to use right away.

So how do you teach yourself? We’ve outlined loads of repairs you can learn on your own to get you started, but if you’re looking for something specific there is no shortage of how-to videos available on YouTube and VideoJug. There will be occasions when you do need to call a professional, as you’re not going to be a master repairman (or woman) instantly, but do remember that there is an opportunity when things break: you can learn how to fix them.

9. Pick Up An Artistic Skill Like Illustration, Painting, Or Photography

Although it often won’t earn you the big bucks, artistic skills are highly desired because they provide you with the technical abilities required to create something beautiful. You’re going to have to find your own inspiration and subject matter, but the skill you’ll need is really just a matter of technical aptitude and practice.

Picking up a book of anatomy and drawing different bones and muscles will teach you how to draw people. Drawing grids over photographs can show you basic perspective. Obviously it isn’t as simple as that, but focusing on learning to draw one simple thing, like the petals of a flower or the human hand, will help you learn how it works and get in a reasonable amount of practice. When you’re ready to move on from the basics and start illustrating on your computer, check out our digital painting lessons. For those of you interested in photography, we have lessons for you, too.

Whatever you’re looking to learn, just set aside 15-30 minutes every day to practice a very small part of that skill. It’ll take a while to teach yourself how to draw, paint, take better photos, make hamburger sculptures out of clay, or whatever it is you want to do, but breaking the daunting task into pieces and practicing each part slowly will do the trick. Plus, it’s a really nice way to unwind at the end of the day.

8. Learn To Defend Yourself

Who likes getting their arse kicked? Probably a very small majority. If that’s what you’re into, it doesn’t require much skill — just endurance. If you’d prefer to not end up hurt or injured as the result of an unexpected attack, perhaps it’s time to pick up some skills. While you’ll probably want to have a partner around to help you out — at least when you want to test your skill — we’ve outlined several moves that you can learn on your own. Although you will hopefully never need to actually employ the techniques you acquire, if you do you’ll increase your chances of coming out of a fight unharmed.

7. Improve Your Design Skills (Or At Least Acquire A Sense of Style)

Design and style aren’t an exact science, as tastes differ and change as time goes on, but there are a few principles you can pick up that’ll make your work, home, or whatever needs an aesthetic boost looking better than average. If we’re talking traditional design, you’ll first want to learn the basics of type and layout.

These are skills you can employ in your everyday work to make it look a lot more attractive. This may seem like a nearly-useless skill — spreadsheets aren’t getting entered in any beauty contests — but when something looks good it can have a greater impact. That’s always a plus in your work. If you want to take things a bit further, you can bump those skills up a notch and apply them to website design in Photoshop. Your sense of style is even a useful thing when choosing a great wallpaper and creating a clean and organised desktop on your computer. If your home is boring, just follow these guidelines for awesome interior design.

You don’t have to be a pro, but learning the basics of design can make your life a lot brighter.

6. Pick Up Just About Any Subject You Missed At Uni

Whether it’s science, finance, maths, humanities, law, or anything else, if there’s a course you wish you took at uni you’re not out of luck — you can probably find it online. To help you out, we’ve rounded up every great source of online education so you can gain that knowledge you missed. What’s great about learning online is that you can take it at your own pace and put in as much time as you can spare each day. You don’t necessarily have to master a subject, either, but learn as much as you need or want to know. While you won’t end up with a degree for your hard work, you will be a little bit smarter — and that’s the most important part.

5. Build And Hack Electronic Hardware

We love technology, and we love it more when we can make it do pretty much whatever we want. There is almost no end to what you can hack, but getting started does require teaching yourself a few skills. Learning to build a computer is a good place to start. Soldering is especially helpful and understanding the basics of arduino can help you build some really neat stuff.

One of the best ways to get started is to pick a project and learn by doing. If you’re not sure where to start, our DIY tag page can offer a few ideas.

4. Play A (New) Instrument

Whether you already know how to play an instrument and want to learn something new or are musically inept, you’ll find plenty of resources online to help you teach yourself to play just about anything. If guitar is your thing, you’re in luck as you’d be hard-pressed to not find online lessons. JustinGuitar.com offers over 500 and we’ve rounded up plenty more.

The internet can also teach you piano, drums, and even orchestral instruments like the flute and violin. Just like with repair skills, you can find a lot of how-to videos on both YouTube and VideoJug.

In addition to the instrument, you’re also going to want to learn a little music theory. Ricci Adams’ musictheory.net offers a bunch of free lessons to get you started. When you’re starting to get good, you can put together a home recording studio on the cheap to start capturing your talent and sharing it with others.

3. Cook Like A Pro

With so many recipe sites and cooking skill how-to videos online, it’s a surprise that everyone isn’t a master chef at this point. There are so many simple things you can learn that can vastly improve your culinary skill set really quickly, many of which we’ve covered. We’ve written so much on the subject of learning to cook better that this little paragraph isn’t enough to cover it all, but there are a few posts in particular that you’ll want to read to get started.

First, these tips and tricks for budding foodies will make your learning process easier. Second, follow this station-by-station kitchen guide to stay organised and efficient when cooking. Finally, these must-know recipes will help you round out your arsenal of cooking knowledge. For more, we like recipe and how-to sites Epicurious and How2Heroes. And, of course, you can always check our how to and kitchen tag pages for more great tips.

2. Become Fluent In A New Language

When we asked you which skills you really wanted to learn, language was at, or close to the top of many peoples’ lists. Fortunately for you, this clever technique offers a way to all but master a new language in a short period of time by teaching yourself. You’ll still have to work hard and put in the minutes every day, but you can come out speaking fluently in about half of a year. Pretty cool.

1. Make A Website, Create An App, Or Just Learn To Code

Learning to code is something most of us Lifehackers aspire to do at one point or another, as it’s not only a great way to create cool apps and tools that we want to use but it’s also an incredibly marketable skill when trying to get a job. To get you started, we’ve put together two helpful sets of lessons: the basics of programming and making a website.

Both sets include further resources, but there are plenty of others that we’ve learned about or have cropped up since. For starters, commenter mistermocha suggests using the “learn ___ the hard way” series. For example, if you wanted to learn Python, you could visit learnpythonthehardway.org. If you just fill in the blank with the language you want to learn and put that into a web search, you’ll likely find what you’re looking for. (You can also find most of the series here.)

If you prefer more interactive lessons, you’ll want to check out one of our favorites: Code Academy. I learned by subscribing to online learning site Lynda.com (and through a few basic classes back at uni), which is still excellent, but I’d probably have gone with Code Academy at this point since it’s in the free category. Regardless of how you decide to learn, programming skills are becoming more and more useful as time goes on. Code is not as complicated as you think, so go get started!