12 Rules of Life is Jordan Peterson’s manifesto for how to live a better life based on the accumulated wisdom of psychology, anthropology, science, politics and comparative religion. It’s a humanist thesis for those struck down by modern nihilism and disaffection.
12 Rules of Life Summary
Based on his articulate Quora answer to the question “How to Live a Better Life” Jordan Peterson distills down his essential worldview into a serious manifesto for living that belies his colourful, tongue-in-cheek chapter titles.
From ‘walking tall with shoulders back’ to ‘not bothering children while skateboarding’ Peterson’s rules for happier living are both packed with detailed insight and powerful motivating stuff for those engaged with the process of self improvement.
Below are some of the key insights from the book.
- Stand Up Straight With Your Shoulders Back – Biology is naturally conservative because all animals create dominance hierarchies.
- Lobsters are 350 million years old but their neurochemistry is similar enough to humans that lobster dominance/mating behaviours are comparable with us.
- Naturally competitive, both humans and lobsters should walk tall with shoulders back to convey confidence – if only for the neurochemical benefits of doing so.
- Furthermore, social signal extraction means that those who fake it will be assumed to be of higher social status (until proven otherwise) rather then marked down on income, confidence, looks and status.
- Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible for Helping – Standing outside your own perspective helps you form determined vision and direction.
- If you treat yourself as someone you are responsible to help then you can commit yourself to delayed gratification and allow yourself to “be cruel to be kind” in pursuit of a higher goal.
- To effectively help someone, you need to act in their holistic long term interest.
- Make Friends With People Who Want The Best For You – You are the average of your friends which means that you need to choose friends who encourage your to be virtuous and stand against your worst vices.
- This is not a moralistic point but a practical way to achieve a better living standard.
- Compare Yourself To Who You Were Yesterday, Not Who Others Are Today – Our internal critic is maladaptive so we have to choose to play good games rather than drift into nihilism.
- Becoming is an important and essential part of Being
- Do Not Let Your Children Do Anything That Makes You Dislike Them – It’s important to be a conscious parent with routine and discipline rather than pursue a liberal friend approach.
- The nature of humanity suggests children need guidance and minimum rule, minimum necessary force parenting is appropriate based on the reasonable nature of English common law.
- Set Your House In Perfect Order Before You Criticise the World – The ancient jews always blame themselves when things fell apart because the world is chaotic by nature. Ideologies simplify and distort, better to focus on the opportunities presented to you before you criticise the world
- Pursue what is meaningful (not expedient) – Life is suffering but it doesn’t follow that it’s meaningless. You need to experience pain to understand bliss. Aiming for a higher goal gives your life purpose and meaning in the face of chaos.
- Tell the Truth (or at least don’t lie) – A man can be judged by the amount of truth he can bear. Distorting reality leads to false consciousness, far better to speak your truth confidently and allow people to make their own choices.
- Assume that the person you are listening to, might know something you don’t – Deep listening and positive regard go a long, long way and it is better to be aware that you know nothing then to be proud of what little you know in life.
- Be Precise in Your Speech – The world is only simply when it is distorted, so why be trivial or imprecise when you speak? Instead, better to direct your attention to the source of concern and tackle matters head on.
- Don’t Bother Children When They Are Skateboarding – It’s better to allow risk and danger into the world then attempt to overcompensate. Competition is a natural part of the dominance hierarchy and weakening men creates more problems.
- Pet a Cat When You Encounter One On The Street – Stay present in the moment. Life is naturally a mix of chaos and order, sometimes you are up and sometimes you are down but it’s important to embrace the experience and live for the day.