12 Rules for Life – Jordan Peterson

Rating 5/5

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12 Rules for Life Review

Must read. The author is very opinionated and presents, what are ultimately, his opinions as facts – risking steamrolling readers who aren’t prepared to think for themselves. Despite that it is worth the risk given that he has almost certainly thought through his opinions more than the reader.

Especially useful for men who are seeking purpose. His advice to focus on meaning over happiness and seek responsibility have been beneficial to my own life.

Whilst it is highly philosophical in places it is also practical and pragmatic without falling into the classic self help traps of how-do. I can’t think of anyone who could read this and not find something in it to improve in their life. Whether you are a parent, just finishing school or suffering from a midlife crisis.

He encourages you to stand up and live your life. Not the bland follow your passion ‘dream’ but hard practical facts of life. Plenty of religious references and interpretations that provide a new perspective on the Bible.

Left me feeling upbeat and excited about life even if a little terrified. The dance between order and chaos. My biggest takeaway was the importance of telling the truth, especially to yourself.

12 Rules for Life Book Notes

Meaningful is better than happy.

Balance order and chaos. Rules and routine vs growth and challenge.

Goals – a valid goal is something which must be valued. Goals and progress key to happiness. Plus absence is not neutral it becomes negative.

Life is suffering. Meaning is the only way to make it worth while.

1. Stand up straight

Be aware of positive (accelerating) feedback cycles – both beneficial (gym, food, feel good) and harmful (anxiety, don’t take risks, more anxiety).

When breaking the loop key is progressive, persistent behaviour. E.g. drive to gym then go home, go to locker then home, one push-up then home etc.

Many people still carry emotional scars from bullying (even if they don’t realise it). E.g. stress and manifesting in other ways. Only way is for them to rise up. Realise that you can be terrifying. And sometimes must as honesty demands it. Weirdly it gives you self respect. “There is very little difference between the capacity for mayhem and destruction, integrated, and strength of character. This is one of the most difficult lessons of life.”

But you can change. Start with something as simple as posture. Emotions are physical as well as mental.

Standing up is not only physical it’s also spiritual. Standing up in this voluntarily excepting the burden of being. You respond to the challenge instead of bracing for catastrophe.

To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept a terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open. It means deciding to voluntarily transform the chaos of potential into realities of habitual order. It means adopting the burden of self-conscious vulnerability, and accepting the end of the unconscious paradise of childhood. It means willingly undertaking the sacrifices necessary to generate a productive and meaningful reality.

Others will respond. We are primed for hierarchy and alpha displays.

2. Treat yourself like somebody you are responsible for helping

“Pain matters, more the meaning matters. It is this reason, I believe, that so many of the worlds traditions regard the suffering attendant upon existence as the irreducible truth of being.”

The way we experience the world is more like a story or movie than scientific objective reality. Love, death, experience, perspective.

Consciousness is the balance between order and chaos.

There is often a trade off between safe and strong. Ask this question when considering what to do.

Neither ‘Doing on to others as you would have them do you’, or, ‘loving your neighbour as yourself’ have anything to do with being nice.

Not about what you want or what makes you happy. What might life look like if I care for myself properly?

You must know where you are and where you are going. So that you can bargain with yourself and defend against others. Discipline and keep promises and reward.

“He who’s life has a why can bear almost any how” Nietzsche

3. Make friends with people who want the best for you

4. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not who someone else’s today

There will always be someone better than you. Even if you used to be one in a 1 million, with the internet, now there are 7,000 of you.

If something can be done at all, it can be done better or worse. To do anything at all is therefore to play within a defined and valued end, which can always be reached more or less efficiently and elegantly.

There are many worthy games to play at in life. If you don’t succeed at one, choose another. Or even create your own. Remember that life is made up of multiple games.

You might even conclude that the games you’re playing are so specific and unique to you so the comparison to others is simply inappropriate.

Who are you? You can’t even tell yourself what to do, anymore than you can tell your wife, children, friends or employees.

Consult your resentment. The evil triad: arrogance, deceit and resentment.

Speak your truth. Take responsibility.

The first step is to understand who and where you are. “perhaps happiness is always to be found in the journey uphill, and not in the fleeting sense of satisfaction waiting at the next peak.”

You have to negotiate with yourself. Is there something you should, could and would change for the better in your life right now?

Compound – what tiny change could I make today to make things better tomorrow?

What you aim at determines what you see.

You can only find out what you actually believe (rather than what you think you believe) by watching how you act.

5. Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them

Never sacrifice respect for being liked.

6. Set your house in perfect order before you criticise the world

Start by stop doing what you know is wrong.

7. Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)

Life is suffering.

Religious sacrifice is the portrayal of delayed gratification.

The future can be bargained with.

Make your purpose to reduce and end needless suffering. To make the work a slightly better place.

8. Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie

Life is an important game – if it wasn’t important you wouldn’t be playing. Moves in the game are only valid if they help you win. If it doesn’t the move is bad. Try again.

Truth means sacrifice.

Take 100% responsibility for life.

An aim provides structure, progress, meaning.

Ambitions of character and ability are better than power and status.

Most importantly never lie to yourself. Learn to feel it. Be cautious of using words for appearance or others words to avoid your own thinking.

Goals will likely transform and change as you do and as you get closer to truth.

Everyone needs concrete goals but they should be subordinated to a meta goal. A way for approaching and formulating goals. E.g live in truth.

9. Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t

How to listen – each person can only speak after they have first restated the ideas and feeling of the previous speaker accurately and to their satisfaction.

When speaking to a group focus on one person at a time.

10. Be precise in your speech

Everything clarified and articulated becomes visible. And therefore can be addressed.

Don’t let catastrophes grow in the shadows.

Why refused to specify, when specifying the problem would enable its solution? Because to specify the problem is to admit that it exists. Because when you define success you also defining failure so that if and when you fail you won’t notice and won’t be able to hurt. But life is suffering you will get hurt one way or another.

11. Do not bother children when they are skateboarding

We need risk in our lives.

Noone understands your wants and desires. Not even you.

If you think tough men are dangerous, wait until you see what weak men are capable of.

Man up

12. Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street

That life is suffering is pretty much part of every major religion.

When undergoing something terrible or a crisis – set aside some time to talk, think and manage every day. But do not talk or think about it at any other time.

Have gratitude and appreciate the small things.

Conclusion

Ask yourself what had we each done to contribute to the situation we were arguing about? However small, however distant, we had each made some error.

Questions to ponder:

  • Write down the word you want inscribed on your soul
  • What shall I do tomorrow? The most good possible in the shortest period of time
  • What shall I do next year? Try to ensure that the good I do then will only be exceeded only by the good I do the year after that.
  • What shall I do with my life? Aim for paradise, and concentrate on the day

12 Rules for Life Kindle Highlights

There is very little difference between the capacity for mayhem and destruction, integrated, and strength of character. This is one of the most difficult lessons of life.

To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept the terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open. It means deciding to voluntarily transform the chaos of potential into the realities of habitable order. It means adopting the burden of self-conscious vulnerability, and accepting the end of the unconscious paradise of childhood, where finitude and mortality are only dimly comprehended. It means willingly undertaking the sacrifices necessary to generate a productive and meaningful reality

Pain matters, more than matter matters. It is for this reason, I believe, that so many of the world’s traditions regard the suffering attendant upon existence as the irreducible truth of Being.

that which we subjectively experience can be likened much more to a novel or a movie than to a scientific description of physical reality.

God says, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat something you weren’t supposed to?” And Adam, in his wretchedness, points right at Eve, his love, his partner, his soul-mate, and snitches on her. And then he blames God. He says, “The woman, whom you gave to me, she gave it to me (and then I ate it).” How pathetic—and how accurate. The first woman made the first man self-conscious and resentful. Then the first man blamed the woman. And then the first man blamed God. This is exactly how every spurned male feels, to this day. First, he feels small, in front of the potential object of his love, after she denigrates his reproductive suitability. Then he curses God for making her so bitchy, himself so useless (if he has any sense) and Being itself so deeply flawed.

If something can be done at all, it can be done better or worse. To do anything at all is therefore to play a game with a defined and valued end, which can always be reached more or less efficiently and elegantly.

Maybe you don’t trust yourself. You think that you’ll ask yourself for one thing and, having delivered, immediately demand more. And you’ll be punitive and hurtful about it. And you’ll denigrate what was already offered. Who wants to work for a tyrant like that? Not you. That’s why you don’t do what you want yourself to do. You’re a bad employee—but a worse boss.

You can only find out what you actually believe (rather than what you think you believe) by watching how you act.

(People often get basic psychological questions backwards. Why do people take drugs? Not a mystery. It’s why they don’t take them all the time that’s the mystery. Why do people suffer from anxiety? That’s not a mystery. How is that people can ever be calm? There’s the mystery. We’re breakable and mortal. A million things can go wrong, in a million ways. We should be terrified out of our skulls at every second. But we’re not. The same can be said for depression, laziness and criminality.)