12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos
What does everyone in the modern world need to know? Renowned psychologist Jordan B. Peterson’s answer to this most difficult of questions uniquely combines the hard-won truths of ancient tradition with the stunning revelations of cutting-edge scientific research.
12 Rules for Life – Humorous, surprising and informative, Dr. Peterson tells us why skateboarding boys and girls must be left alone, what terrible fate awaits those who criticize too easily, and why you should always pet a cat when you meet one on the street.
What does the nervous system of the lowly lobster have to tell us about standing up straight (with our shoulders back) and about success in life? Why did ancient Egyptians worship the capacity to pay careful attention as the highest of gods? What dreadful paths do people tread when they become resentful, arrogant and vengeful? Dr. Peterson journeys broadly, discussing discipline, freedom, adventure and responsibility, distilling the world’s wisdom into 12 practical and profound rules for life. 12 Rules for Life shatters the modern commonplaces of science, faith and human nature, while transforming and ennobling the mind and spirit of its readers.
Peterson’s 12 rules
Rule 1 Stand up straight with your shoulders back
Rule 2 Treat yourself like you would someone you are responsible for helping
Rule 3 Make friends with people who want the best for you
Rule 4 Compare yourself with who you were yesterday, not with who someone else is today
Rule 5 Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
Rule 6 Set your house in perfect order before you criticise the world
Rule 7 Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
Rule 8 Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie
Rule 9 Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t
Rule 10 Be precise in your speech
Rule 11 Do not bother children when they are skate-boarding
Rule 12 Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street
Book Review by Kyle Willey
I took about a month to finish Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, in part because I wanted to slow down and try some of the advice in my life.
12 Rules for Life is an interesting book. Equal parts philosophy, psychology, and self-help book, it covers a broad range of topics, with Peterson drawing from life experiences, religion, and history to build a strong case for his points and provide what seems on its surface to be very good advice for people.
This is where Peterson’s background as a clinical psychologist comes in handy. 12 Rules for Life is billed as an “antidote to chaos”, and that is what its primary focus is. It’s not great at helping you be more successful if you’re disciplined and self-reliant already. As someone who always struggled with grasping the world, however, I found it very helpful.
Since I started reading this book, I lost 12 pounds, went from writing five hundred words a day to three thousand words a day, started waking up earlier in the morning consistently, and have been much happier.
Some of that is attributable to the fact that I was already willing to make changes, and many of the things I was doing were obviously bad ideas.
But there is something to be said for the lessons Peterson teaches. They are complicated, sometimes a little indirect, and mired in allegory. This makes them more valuable, if anything. Peterson doesn’t use a magic formula, he uses principles of right action. This book provides general ideas and positions that can serve as a great tool to understanding how people think and why things go wrong.
Not everyone will agree with it. There is a chapter in the book where Peterson reflects on the fact that he has opportunities with clients where he could tell them one thing or another and their minds would make it to be total truth either way.
Perhaps that is what Peterson has done here: perhaps most systems like this are sufficient to improve lives if brought diligently into practice.
Or perhaps there is something to Peterson’s words. His indictment of meaninglessness and his calls to purpose echo soundly throughout the book. There have been those who say that Peterson’s calls for people to get themselves organized and his oft-mystical language is a cover for something sinister.
But I don’t think they’ve ever really listened to him.
Approaching Peterson a skeptic, I was not sure that reading a book would have the power to change anything in my life. The first few chapters were met with nods, hesitancy, and the concession of points that sounded good. I wasn’t hostile to him, and I found many of his points quite clever.
But when Peterson delved deeper into the archetypes and depth psychology I became suspicious. I had a moderate distrust of the Jungian method; I use it to teach literature, but I did not believe in using archetypes to assess personality.
Peterson’s point is that we are all part of something great and interconnected. Because it is so massive, we need to be working to make sense of it. It won’t happen automatically, and if we go for an easy explanation we may find ourselves walking dark, treacherous paths of misanthropy and rejection.
We are complicated pieces in an even more complicated puzzle. Peterson’s approach is one of self improvement. When we take steps to sort ourselves out, we also need to enter a symbiotic process of bringing order to our world.
The purpose of this is not to achieve some sort of superiority. It is to achieve survival. The world will change, and we will be forced to adapt.
Peterson states that “life is tragic.” His point is that people need to be ready to deal with adversity. Anyone can handle good times, because that’s what we are able to rest and relax during. The true test of a person comes when they lose a loved one or a job or their health. They need to make a decision: what will they do in response.
Peterson uses haunting examples to illustrate what happens when this goes wrong. Using everything from Dostoevsky to the Soviet Union (and countless other insights from modern and historical figures), he creates case studies of what happens when things go wrong and people turn to dysfunction rather than improving their situation.
His 12 Rules serve as a guide on how to go from that point of failure to a point of redemption, offering a series of suggestions and guidelines to take a life that is becoming corrupted by hatred of the world and everything in it and turn it into a vessel for growth and self-improvement.
Is it a perfect guide to living life? No.
Is it helpful? Does it give insight to great truths? Yes.
#1 NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
“Jordan Peterson, has become one of the best-known Canadians of this generation. In the intellectual category, he’s easily the largest international phenomenon since Marshall McLuhan. . . . By combining knowledge of the past with a full-hearted optimism and a generous attitude toward his readers and listeners, Peterson generates an impressive level of intellectual firepower.” —Robert Fulford, National Post
“Like the best intellectual polymaths, Peterson invites his readers to embark on their own intellectual, spiritual and ideological journeys into the many topics and disciplines he touches on. It’s a counter-intuitive strategy for a population hooked on the instant gratification of ideological conformity and social media ‘likes,’ but if Peterson is right, you have nothing to lose but your own misery.” —Toronto Star
“In a different intellectual league. . . . Peterson can take the most difficult ideas and make them entertaining. This may be why his YouTube videos have had 35 million views. He is fast becoming the closest that academia has to a rock star.” —The Observer
“Grow up and man up is the message from this rock-star psychologist. . . . [A] hardline self-help manual of self-reliance, good behaviour, self-betterment and individualism that probably reflects his childhood in rural Canada in the 1960s. As with all self-help manuals, there’s always a kernel of truth. Formerly a Harvard professor, now at the University of Toronto, Peterson retains that whiff of cowboy philosophy—one essay is a homily on doing one thing every day to improve yourself. Another, on bringing up little children to behave, is excellent…. [Peterson] twirls ideas around like a magician.” —Melanie Reid, The Times
“You don’t have to agree with [Peterson’s politics] to like this book for, once you discard the self-help label, it becomes fascinating. Peterson is brilliant on many subjects. . . . So what we have here is a baggy, aggressive, in-your-face, get-real book that, ultimately, is an attempt to lead us back to what Peterson sees as the true, the beautiful and the good—i.e. God. In the highest possible sense of the term, I suppose it is a self-help book. . . . Either way, it’s a rocky read, but nobody ever said God was easy.” —Bryan Appleyard, The Times
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About the Author
JORDAN B. PETERSON, raised and toughened in the frigid wastelands of Northern Alberta, has flown a hammer-head roll in a carbon-fiber stunt-plane, explored an Arizona meteorite crater with astronauts, and built a Kwagu’l ceremonial bighouse on the upper floor of his Toronto home after being invited into and named by that Canadian First Nation.
He’s taught mythology to lawyers, doctors and business people, consulted for the UN Secretary General, helped his clinical clients manage depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and schizophrenia, served as an adviser to senior partners of major Canadian law firms, and lectured extensively in North America and Europe.
With his students and colleagues at Harvard and the University of Toronto, Dr. Peterson has published over a hundred scientific papers, transforming the modern understanding of personality, while his book Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief revolutionized the psychology of religion. The author lives in Toronto, ON. www.jordanbpeterson.com