12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos
Author: Jordan B. Peterson
Date Read: March 28, 2021
I only discovered Dr. Jordan B. Peterson in 2020, during the height of the pandemic. After mind-numbing hours of Netflix within the first week of lockdown, my brain and soul craved something much more stimulating to feed my intellectual curiosity. I stumbled upon Dr. Peterson’s content on YouTube, after researching Dostoevsky (more on that in another book note) as I learned Dostoevsky is one of Dr. Peterson’s favorite novelists/philosophers. Like a great conversation, hours of Dr. Peterson’s lectures and interviews introduced me to new ideas, different perspectives and challenged my thoughts on common ideologies. It was refreshing and I knew I had to eventually pick up one of his books.
TLDR (but, really...read it!)
Acclaimed and to some, controversial, clinical psychologist, professor and modern intellectual Dr. Jordan B. Peterson shares his thought-provoking practical wisdom on how to live a more meaningful life, which he lays out into 12 Rules for Life.
As a critical thinker, Dr. Peterson draws on scientific evidence, ancient philosophical tenets and stories from his own practice to remind us that even as free agents, we need and even want a certain level of “rules” or “order” to balance the “chaos” (the unknown) in our life experiences. And in this balance between order and chaos, we can discover our own true meaning in life that leads to greater fulfillment than when chasing happiness.
Rule 1: Stand up straight with your shoulders back
Whether we like it or not, hierarchy exists in society...even within the lobster community, which was an interesting set up for the main point in this first chapter.
Neurochemically we are wired a certain way to process information about our structure and status. When we feel victorious and confident, we have higher levels of serotonin and vice versa. When we feel defeated, we produce lower levels of serotonin which can lead to less happiness, stress, illness, etc. How we feel and react whether it’s in our good/poor posture or feeling less than worthy in some place in the societal hierarchy, it will behoove you not to victimize yourself, but to take responsibility in your own hands, change your perspective, create positive feedback loops and gain confidence in yourself to navigate the uncertainties.
Rule 2: Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
It’s as simple as understanding that you cannot pour from an empty cup. Dr. Peterson reminds us that “You deserve some respect. You are important to other people, as much as to yourself.” So don’t neglect your needs, health, wellbeing and nurturing of your energy sources, too.
Rule 3: Make friends with people who want the best for you
Dr. Peterson states that sometimes, some people will choose friends who aren’t good for them for various reasons. Learn to recognize true friends who want the best for you, rather than those who may be energy vampires, or misery that just wants company or someone exploiting you.
My favorite line, “ Well, loyalty is not identical to stupidity.” I often explain to my friends, listeners and others, just because you have a history with a friend, it does not mean you need to take them into your future if that friend is no longer a positive influence or presence in your life.
Rule 4: Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone is today
Today’s digitized world of social media makes this all too difficult. But Dr. Peterson reminds us to “Pay attention. Focus on your surroundings, physical and psychological.” What he is saying is when we compare ourselves to others, we get caught up in their life, their process, their achievements, etc and start to get impatient with our process, frustrated and deflated. Go inward, pay attention to your own self discovery because we each have our own path to walk and find meaning that applies to us.
Rule 5: Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
I am not a parent so I can’t share my personal perspective on this particular rule. However,I agree with one of the underlying principles in this chapter that Dr. Peterson says that “parents have a duty to act as proxies for the rest of the world - merciful proxies, caring proxies---but proxies, nonetheless.” My view and display of respect to others are because of how I was raised by parents who instilled this in my brothers and I.
Rule 6: Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world
Suffering is part of life. The lesson here is that we each have a choice to make ourselves a victim of our suffering or to take action to change the course in our life. “If you are suffering- well, that’s the norm. People are limited and life is tragic. If your suffering is unbearable, however, and you are starting to become corrupted, here’s something to think about.”
Rule 7: Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
I love this rule because it’s aligned with one of the lessons I learned through my personal development journey. How I, along with, many others in this world are obsessed with chasing happiness, which Dr. Peterson points out to be expedient. But unlike happiness which is temporary and unfulfilling, pursuing meaning even with suffering which is part of our life experience is what gives our life, our Being, purpose.
“Meaning is when everything here comes together in an ecstatic dance of single purpose--the glorification of a reality so that no matterhorn good it has suddenly become, it can get better and better and better more and more deeply forever into the future.”
Rule 8: Tell the truth --- or, at least, don’t lie
Lies lead to more lies and get tangled up in a web of lies. But worse than the lie is the intent underlying the lie, especially the lie you tell yourself. First and foremost, be honest with yourself in the life you want to live and how you want to direct that life.
Rule 9: Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t
I never thought about this, but I love this line “Advice is what you get when the person you are talking to wants to revel in the superiority of his or her own intelligence.” Invest and notice genuine conversations with people who actually listen, as well as when you’re actively listening. Too often we or some people are caught up in trying to think of what to say next to impress the other person. Have some humility and actively engage to listen.
Rule 10: Be precise in your speech
When you are precise in communicating your needs, desires, wants, beliefs, etc - you are crystal clear in the direction you’re headed, your path and the meaning you’re deriving from it all. Otherwise, Dr. Peterson says, “If you don’t know where you are, precisely, then you could be anywhere. Anywhere is too many places to be, and some of those places are very bad.”
Rule 11: Do not bother children when they are skateboarding
The underlying point here I take away from this chapter is try to remember when you were a child, less risk averse to take on new challenges. Science has shown how taking risks is invaluable to our growth and development. And as we get older, sometimes we forget what it was like to be a child, innocent and fearless in taking risks.
Rule 12: Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street
This last chapter reminds us to “stop and smell the roses.” Don’t rush life as you might miss out on the little beauties in life that can add meaning to your life. As Dr. Peterson says, “If you pay careful attention, even on a bad day, you may be fortunate enough to be confronted with small opportunities of just that sort.”
READ IT OR NOT
Definitely read it.