12 Rules For Life

An Antidote to Chaos.

I haven’t written a book summary in quite sometime. I’m excited to share the incredible wisdom and life lessons that I’ve gained from Jordan Peterson.

Today’s post will be a summary of the book ’12 Rules For Life’. I’ll try not to make this too long, but it was just such an exciting read that I have a lot to share. Each of these rules dive into a lot more topics than I cover here, so I’d recommend you give the book a read yourself if you find this interesting.

Here’s a summary of those 12 rules:

Rule 1: Stand up straight with your shoulders back

The core lesson from this rule is to understand that life is dangerous. Chaos is always around the corner. We have a choice each and everyday in how we respond to the emerging chaos. It’s about building the habits that are required to make progress on a constant basis.

“It is to accept the terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open.”

Pay attention to your posture, quit hunching and acting defeated. Don’t beat around the bush. Speak your mind and put your desires forward. Dare to be dangerous. Accept the burden of existence with courage and use it to find joy and meaning in your life.

Rule 2: Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping

This is something that I often find myself thinking about. Why do we not treat ourselves as well as we treat other people we care about? Some of us even treat our pets better than we do for ourselves.

You deserve respect. You are important to other people just as much as you are to yourself. Keep the promises you make to yourself. Determine where you are going. Discipline yourself carefully. Don’t underestimate the power of vision and direction. Consider what is truly good for you. Not just what you want or what would make you happy.

The main concept here is that your Being is intrinsically connected to others. If you mistreat yourself, it may have negative consequences for other people. Take care of yourself as if you were a child.

Rule 3: Make friends with people who want the best for you

This is connected to the previous rule, in the sense that you’d want to surround yourself with people who care for you and help you grow.

There are people we keep in our lives because we want to help them. We want to be heroes and rescuers. But there’s a limit to that. You need to distinguish between people who genuinely want help and those who are exploiting a willing helper.

“If you have a friend you wouldn’t recommend to your sister, father or son, why would you keep such a friend for yourself?”

Rule 4: Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not who someone else is today

When we have standards, we’re undoubtedly going to experience failure. That’s the consequence of striving above mediocrity. It’s important to value and appreciate what you currently have in your life and the progress you’ve made thus far.

The point here is that you should see yourself as a stranger. Get to know yourself better. You need to pinpoint your mistakes and failures, because you can’t fix something unless you know it’s broken. Be very cautious when you compare yourself to others. We’re all at a different stage in our personal development.

Pay attention. Focus on your environment. Notice the things that bother you and figure out how to fix them. Ask yourself whether you even want to fix them. Ask yourself how your life will be improved if they end up being fixed.

“What could I do, that I would do, to make Life a little better?”

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

The lesson here is about disciplining your children or people under you care to become better members of society. To allow them to experience failure, to learn from it, to gain independence from it. To say ‘No’ when it needs to be said and stick to it.

Limit the rules and then figure out how to deal with a situation where it’s broken. Use the least necessary force to enforce those rules. Never let things degenerate to the point where hatred is formed. Parents should understand their own capacity and limits just as well.

“Parents are the arbiters of society. It is an act of responsibility to discipline a child.”

Rule 6: Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world

We’re all incredibly flawed, this should come as no surprise by now. The point is to clean up our lives as best as we can. Ask yourself a few important questions before criticizing others:

  • Do things fall apart because we have not paid sufficient attention?
  • Have you taken full advantage of the opportunities offered to you?
  • Are you truly shouldering your responsibilities?

Stop doing what you know to be wrong. That’s something that will profoundly change the quality of your life. Say and do things that will make you strong and honourable.

Rule 7: Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)

A central theme in the book is sacrifice and delaying gratification. This is extremely important, because sacrifice and work are pretty much the same thing. We’re giving up something valuable in the present for something even more valuable in the future.

Expedience is avoiding responsibility, hiding from your problems and lying to yourself about what’s not working out for you. It transfers the curse on your head to someone else or to your future self. Expedience is impulsive and limited.

Meaning is the balance between order and chaos. When you’re at the right place, at the right time and where everything lines up as best as it can. Meaning is aligning your life with purpose.

“Practice sacrifice and sharing, until you become expert it, and things will go well for you.”

Rule 8: Tell the truth -or, at least don’t lie

What should you do when you don’t know what to do? Tell the truth.

Being truthful is imperative to having good character. If you’re not truthful and honest to yourself, how can you do the same for others? Being truthful includes avoiding willful blindness; that is when you refuse to know something that could be known.

If your life isn’t as good as it should be, try being truthful. Stop deceiving yourself.

“A man’s worth can be determined by how much truth he can tolerate.”

Rule 9: Assume the person you are listening to might know something you don’t

Listening is a form of paying attention. It’s not thinking or doing, it’s being present to the information you’re receiving. Don’t judge or formulate a response, just pay attention. Restate the ideas and feeling of the person you’re listening to as accurately as you can, before speaking.

The point is that you can always learn by listening to other people. What you know will never be enough.

Thinking is a form of listening to yourself. That’s why true thinking is so rare, because it’s difficult and most of us don’t have the patience for it. You have to try and be two people at the same time.

“You can be pretty smart if you can just shut up.”

Rule 10: Be precise in your speech

Having arguments are necessary to solve problems, which requires us to confront our chaos. Linking this back to the concept of ‘willful blindness’; we need to realize that not thinking or speaking about something doesn’t make it go away.

Specifying the problem will enable us to find a solution. This can only be done when we admit that the problem exists in the first place. You need to determine where you’re going in your life, because you won’t get there unless you move in that direction.

Note your errors. Articulate them and strive to correct them. Don’t be afraid of conflict or suffering, they’re inevitable and can help you grow. Specify your destination and take sail. Admit to what it is you truly want and let those around you know who you are.

“Everything is intricate beyond imagining. Everything is affected by everything else.”

Rule 11: Do not bother children when they are skateboarding

We often think we’re doing people a favour when we protect them excessively. This is especially true with regards to children. What we need to realize is that we’re all constantly seeking some form of danger. It invigorates us and makes us feel alive. We need to push ourselves past certain limits to grow. We need to push ourselves to even understand what our limits are.

Being overprotective can be hindering to development. We need the freedom and ability to make mistakes, in order for us to learn from them.

“Too much protection devastates the developing soul.”

Rule 12: Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street

What I took from this rule is that we need to be mindful to the little blessings in our life. There is so much that we take for granted on a regular basis, that it makes us bitter and resentful.

If we can focus more on our blessings and truly incorporate gratitude, our perspective and experience of life will significantly change. We’re imperfect, we’re going to make mistakes, we’re going to fall, but we’ll learn, we’ll grow and we’ll adapt.

“When you love someone, it’s not despite their limitations, it’s because of their limitations.”

I hope you managed to gain some wisdom from all these rules. They’re definitely applicable to our every day lives, especially because they have to do with our perception.

Keep growing. Keep learning. Keep pushing. You got this.

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