There are, in any discipline, any number of skill levels. But to do anything in any of them, there are a bare minimum of skills you must have.

Most of these could be argued, and generally are. Coming from the outside and looking into each situation, however, there are a few things that can easily be said to be bare minimums in any discipline.

Beginning with a simple one. Car ownership, from a maintenance standpoint. Anyone who can say “Leftie loosie, righty tightie”should be able to follow the instructions in their owners manual to lift up their car, change a tire, and put the car back on the road again. Likewise, anyone ought to be able to locate the places where the fluids are checked, and check the fluids, and, again, following the instructions in the manual, acquire the proper fluids and top the fluids off- oil, trans fluid, coolant, windshield washer fluid, and brake/clutch fluid. You don’t even have to get dirty to do these things. Knowing how to do these bare minimum things can make your vehicle last a good deal longer than it would if you can’t or don’t do these things, because by the time the warning light goes on on the dashboard, it’s usually already too late.\

Home ownership is a big one, and for many if not most people, it’s most daunting. But there are things you need to know, and they are not hard. You should know where to shut off the water, gas, and electricity; where the circuit breaker/fuse box is, and what each circuit breaker does.

If you use a gas mower to mow your lawn, the same thing goes for it as for your car, though it’s usually a good deal simpler. Check the oil, make sure it’s stowed properly at the end of the season. Modern mowers with plastic gas tanks want to be stored empty after having been run dry of gas, older ones with metal tanks get stored full, preferably with Sta-bil in the tank.

Your body is your only nonreplaceable asset. Knowing how to stop bleeding and dress a wound should be something that everyone knows. Knowing when to buy OTC meds and when to see a doctor is a basic skill far too many people get wrong.

Personally I feel everyone should know at least this about firearms: How to pick up and hold a revolver or autoloader and how to make sure they are clear, how to confirm that a shotgun or rifle is loaded. Sure there are some weapons that are like unto lemarchand’s box, but for a very large portion of firearms it’s as simple as break it open or pull the magazine or open the cylinder. I would say this is even more basic than knowing where the loud end is and where the bang switch is, and the ability to even remotely hit what you are aiming at. (Edited to add: Of course the four rules)

If you are a gravedigger or a ditchdigger the basic skills are the same. The same would be true of truck drivers and bus drivers. Plumbers and pipefitters (There is a BIG difference in the occupations)

In self defense there are so many methods that claim to be the best, bare minimum, but none is really the end all and be all, I don’t think. In a conversation with Marc MacYoung some months ago, he said “be Fluffy”, referring to what someone goes through to get an angry cat (Fluffy) to a vet’s appointment. I think this is a clever bit of advice, because just acting like a wild angry cat in a bad mood will go a long way toward deterring someone who is not pretty dedicated to making your day a bad one.

I have lived most of my life trying to have at least the bare minimum in as many different disciplines as I can, and generally learning that bare minimum demystifies things enough that I want to learn more. The less you are afraid of something, the more likely you are to do more of it.