12 Rules for Life - Jordan B Peterson

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12 Rules for Life - Jordan B Peterson

Video Book Summary

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Book Summary Notes 

12 Rules for Life

“How could the world be freed from the terrible dilemma of conflict, on the one hand, and psychological and social dissolution, on the other?" 

"The answer was this: through the elevation and development of the individual, and through the willingness of everyone to shoulder the burden of Being and to take the heroic path. We must each adopt as much responsibility as possible for individual life, society and the world. We must each tell the truth and repair what is in disrepair and break down and recreate what is old and outdated."

"It is in this manner that we can and must reduce the suffering that poisons our world. It’s asking a lot. It’s asking for everything. But the alternative—the horror of authoritarian belief, the chaos of the collapsed state, the tragic catastrophe of the unbridled natural world, the existential angst and weakness of the purposeless individual—is clearly worse."

How might we do our part to make the world better?

Jordan lays out that personal responsibility seems to be the answer.

Each of us is walking our own path absolutely.

But we all have access to responsibility and a duty to do our best to grow enough to shoulder that. 

What is our purpose here?

Some might say it's the help others or resolve some particular issue..

But the more and more I read, the more I realize that our purpose truly is to become our best selves.

Because as we develop, we have the ability to take on more of the worlds problems and make a small dent in them.

How to use this book..

Jordan lays out 12 Rules for Life that he's garnered from his research and work as a psychologist. 

They are all aspirational and infinite games, there is no 'winning' any of these rules and we can start anywhere and continually improve. 

As I was reading the book I was reflecting on how the rules are at play in my own life, and where I might direct my focus and attempt to become better.  I recommend you do the same.

The Rules

Rule One: Stand Up Straight With Your Shoulders Back

Rule Two: Treat Yourself Like Someone You're Responsible for Helping

Rule Three: Make Friends With People Who Want The Best For You

Rule Four: Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday

Rule Five: Do Not Let Your Children Do Anything That Makes You Dislike Them

Rule Six: Set Your House in Perfect Order Before You Criticize The World

Rule Seven: Pursue What is Meaningful (Not What is Expedient)

Rule Eight: Tell The Truth or At Least Don't Lie

Rule Nine: Assume That The Person You Are Listening to might Know Something You Don't

Rule Ten: Be Precise in your Speech

Rule Eleven: Do Not Bother Children When They Are SKateboarding

Rule Twelve: Pet a Cat When you Encounter one on The Street

Rule One

“To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept 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 (it means acting to please God, in the ancient language)."

"To stand up straight with your shoulders back means building the ark that protects the world from the flood, guiding your people through the desert after they have escaped tyranny, making your way from comfortable home and country, and speaking the prophetic word to those who ignore the widows and children." 

"It means shouldering the cross that marks the X, the place where you and Being intersect so terribly. It means casting dead, rigid and too tyrannical order back into the chaos in which is was generated; it means withstanding the ensuing uncertainty, and establishing, in consequence, a better, more meaningful and more productive order."

"So, attend carefully to your posture. Quit drooping and hunching around. Speak your mind. Put your desires forward, as if you had a right to them—at least the same right as others. Walk tall and gaze forthrightly ahead. Dare to be dangerous. Encourage the serotonin to flow plentifully through the neural pathways desperate for its calming influence.”

There is that word again..  Responsibility!

Jordan's not really giving us posture lessons here.

  • Though, if you're slouching while watching/reading this it's a good reminder!
  • He's talking about taking on responsibility, looking at yourself with as little distortion as you can manage.  Which is hard!
  • And working towards making your life meaningfully better (that's your responsibility).
  • ps. a small win here?  Posture! Stand up straight with your shoulders back.

Life is full of difficulty and it's hard enough just to be human..  

  • But one thing that stood out here is if all life is suffering - make it purposeful.
  • Find the things in your life that you are too afraid to confront and confront them!
  • We've only got one chance anyways, may as well stand up straight and dare to speak you mind.

What responsibility could you adopt?

  • I think now is a good time to take inventory!
  • What have we been avoiding because of fear?
  • What old dead and rigid habits do we need to kick?
  • What small action can we take right now to make tomorrow easier?

Rule Two

“You need to consider the future and think, ‘What might my life look like if I were caring for myself properly?"  

"What career would challenge me and render me productive and helpful, so that I could shoulder my share of the load, and enjoy the consequences? What should I be doing, when I have some freedom, to improve my health, expand my knowledge, and strengthen my body?’"

"You need to know where you are, so you can start to chart your course. You need to know who you are, so that you understand your armament and bolster yourself in respect to your limitations. You need to know where you are going, so that you can limit the extent of chaos in your life, restructure order, and bring the divine force of Hope to bear on the world.”

Do you care for your pet better than yourself?

Studies show people are more likely to give medication to their pets then take it themselves.

  • This is like life changing - life saving medicine we're talking about!
  • But for so many reasons self contempt/hatred being one people aren't willing to do something small to care for themselves.

What can we learn from that?

  • Personally, I think 99% of all the books we've read on this channel should be prefaced with this. 
  • Learning habits, goal setting or productivity aren't much good in my eyes..  
  • If you don't use those tools as a way to help yourself!

Instead they often become tools to punish and demean ourselves.

We force ourselves into certain patterns because we believe they'll somehow make us a little less contemptuous for ourselves.

But the real secret?

  • Begin with your best interest in mind.. 
  • Perhaps a new habit, setting a goal or being more productive is worth your while!
  • But first; what would you do if you were a personal you wanted/were responsible for helping?

A twist: What would your own best friend tell you to do right now?

Rule Six

“Consider your circumstances. Start small. Have you taken full advantage of the opportunities offered to you?" 

"Are you working hard on your career, or even your job, or are you letting bitterness and resentment hold you back and drag you down? Have you made peace with your brother? Are you treating your spouse and your children with dignity and respect? Do you have habits that are destroying your health and well-being? Are you truly shouldering your responsibilities? Have you said what you need to say to your friends and family members? Are there things that you could do, that you know you could do, that would make things around you better?"

"Have you cleaned up your life? If the answer is no, here’s something to try: Start to stop doing what you know to be wrong. Start stopping today."

There are a lot of things wrong with the world..

The next time you find yourself complaining.

  • About the flaws of someone else, the system or some hardship you've been through.
  • Turn it around and think..  Have I taken advantage of all of my opportunities?

Not much happens when you complain..

  • But a lot can happen when you're ready and willing to make some small changes to your life.
  • Let's start there! 

How about you?

  • Where are some small areas that you could focus on and make better?
  • Not sure?  Here is a hint!  Clean up your room.


“There is no enlightened one."  

"There is only the one who is seeking further enlightenment. Proper Being is process, not a state; a journey, not a destination. It’s the continual transformation of what you know, through encounter with what you don’t know, rather than the desperate clinging to the certainty that is eternally insufficient in any case. That accounts for the importance of Rule 4"

"Always place your becoming above your current being. That means it is necessary to recognize and accept your insufficiency, so that it can be continually rectified. That’s painful, certainly—but it’s a good deal.”

We're all playing an infinite game..

One that necessitates consistent change.

  • Transformation through being willing to encounter and wrestle with the unknown.
  • This process isn't going to be easy..  But it will be worth it.

There are many finite games:

  • Career
  • Relationship
  • Finance
  • Happiness
  • Etc

And playing those games is important..

  • But each win/loss in those games is ultimately rolling up into the infinite!
  • The one where you continually are growing and comparing yourself to who you were yesterday not someone 'ahead' of you.

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