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12 Rules for Life

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson

The Rules:

  1. Stand up straight with your shoulders back
  2. Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
  3. Make friends with people who want the best for you
  4. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today
  5. Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
  6. Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world
  7. Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
  8. Tell the truth - or, at least, don't lie
  9. Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don't
  10. Be precise in your speech
  11. Do not bother children when they are skateboarding
  12. Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street

(excerpts, quotes, paraphrasing)

No values = No meaning

...but between value systems, there is possible conflict:

Rule 1.

Positive feedback loops:

Good Sleep will help with anxiety and depression:

Rising up:

To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept the terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open. It means deciding to voluntarily transform the chaos of potential into realities of habitable order.

People, including yourself, will start to assume that you are competent and able.

Rule 2.

"If we wish to take care of ourselves properly, we would have to respect ourselves - but we don't, because we are - not least in our own eyes - fallen creatures."

"People are excruciatingly aware of their own faults and inadequacies, real and exaggerated, and ashamed and doubtful of their own value."

Lessons from Carl Jung (neither has anything to do with being nice and both are equations, not injunctions:

"This means embracing and loving the sinner who is yourself, as much as forgiving and aiding someone else who is stumbling and imperfect."

To treat yourself as if you were someone you are responsible for helping is, instead, to consider what would be truly good for you. This is not "what you want." It is also not "what would make you happy."

Rule 3.

"Assume first that you are doing the easiest thing, and not the most difficult."

If you buy the story that everything terrible just happened on its own, with no personal responsibility on the part of the victim, you deny that person all agency in the past (and, by implication, in the present and future, as well). In this manner, you strip him or her of all power.

"If you have a friend whose friendship you wouldn't recommend to your sister, or your father , or your son, why would you have such a friend for yourself?"

"It's not a good thing, not a selfish thing, to [choose people who are good for you]."

A good, healthy person is an ideal. It requires strength and daring to stand up near such a person. Have some humility. Have some courage. Make friends with people who want the best for you.

Rule 4.

"No matter how good you are at something, or how you rank your accomplishments, there is someone out there who makes you look incompetent."

Dare, instead, to be dangerous. Dare to be truthful.

An evil triad:

  1. Arrogance
  2. Deceit
  3. Resentment

Take stock:

"We must see, but to see, we must aim, so we are always aiming."

"Because we always contrast what is with what could be, we have to aim at what could be." But our aim can be off and we fail and live in disappointment. What to do?

Aim small - set this goal: By the end of the day, I want things in my life to be a tiny bit better than they were this morning.

The way we deal with the world - we ignore the overwhelming complexity of the world while concentrating minutely on our private concerns.

"You cannot aim yourself at anything if you are completely undisciplined and untutored."

Find out what you actually believe (instead of what you think you believe) by [watching how you act].

Faith is not the childish belief in magic. That is ignorance or even willful blindness. It is instead the realization that the tragic nationalities of life must be counterbalanced by an equally irrational commitment to the essential goodness of Being.

Pay attention.

From Sermon on the Mount:

Concentrate on the day, so that you can live in the present, and attend completely and properly to what is right in front of you - but do that only after you have decided to let what is within shine forth, so that it can justify Being and illuminate the world.

Rule 5.

It is an act of responsibility to discipline a child.

If you do not discipline your child, the world will. The world will be much more harsh to them.

Violence ... is no mystery. Peace is the mystery.

Positive reinforcement:

  1. Figure out what you want
  2. Watch those around you like a hawk
  3. Whenever you see anything a bit more like you want, swoop in and deliver a reward

Positive emotions differentiated variants:

Negative emotions differentiated variants:

General principles of discipline:

  1. Limit the rules
  2. Use the least force necessary to enforce those rules
  3. Parents should come in pairs - parenting is exhausting and thus easy to make mistakes
  4. Parents should understand their own capacity to be harsh, vengeful, arrogant, resentful, angry, and deceitful

You love your kids, after all. If their actions make you dislike them, think what an effect they will have on other people, who care much less about them than you.

Rule 6.

Life is hard - everyone is destined for pain and slated for destruction.

This is life. We build structures to live in. We build families, and states, and countries. We abstract the principles upon which those structures are founded and formulate systems of belief. At first we inhabit those structures and beliefs like Adam and EVe in Paradise. But success makes us complacent. We forget to pay attention. We take what we have for granted....We fail to notice that things are changing, or that corruption is taking root....everything falls apart.

If your suffering is unbearable and you are starting to become corrupted: Consider your circumstances - and start small.

Start to stop doing what you know to be wrong. Don't blame, don't question, have some humility.

Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.

Rule 7.

Whats the difference between the successful and unsuccessful? [The successful sacrifice.]

Pain and suffering define the world. Sacrifice can hold pain and suffering in abeyance ... and greater sacrifices can do that more effectively than lesser.

Once you become consciously aware that you, yourself, are vulnerable, you understand the nature of human vulnerability, in general.

Aim up. Pay attention. Fix what you can fix. Don't be arrogant in your knowledge. Strive for humility, because totalitarian pride manifests itself in intolerance, oppression, torture and death. Become aware of your own insufficiency - your cowardice, malevolence, resentment and hatred. ... Maybe it's not the world that's at fault. Maybe it's you. You've failed to make the mark. You've missed the target. ... above all, don't lie. Don't lie about anything, ever. Lying leads to Hell.

Alleviation of unnecessary pain and suffering is good and will bring meaning:

Meaning > Expediency

Meaning signifies that you are in the right place, at the right time, properly balanced between order and chaos, where everything lines up as best it can at that moment.

What is expedient works only for the moment - immediate, impulsive, and limited.

Do what is meaningful, not what is expedient.

Rule 8.

Taking the easy way out or telling the truth - those are not merely two different choices. They are different pathways through life.

Christ is identified with the Logos. The Logos is the Word of God. That Word transformed chaos into order at the beginning of time. In His human form, Christ sacrificed himself voluntarily to the truth, to the good, to God. In consequence, He died and was reborn. The Word that produces order from chaos sacrifices everything, even itself, to God. That single sentence, wise beyond comprehension, sums up Christianity. Every bit of learning is a little death. Every bit of new information challenges a previous conception, forcing it to dissolve into chaos before it can be reborn as something better.

Set your ambitions, even if you are uncertain about what they should be. The better ambitions have to do with the development of character and ability, rather than status and power. Status you can lose. You carry character with you wherever you go.

Rule 9

Alcohol temporarily lifts the terrible burden of self-consciousness from people. Drunk people know about the future, but they don't care about it.

Memory is not a description of the objective past - it is [the past's guide to the future].

People think they think, but they don't. It is mostly self-criticism that passes for thinking. True thinking is rare - it is listening to yourself. It involves conflict - so you must tolerate conflict.

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

If you first give the devil his due, looking at his arguments from his perspective, you can:

  1. Find the value in them, and learn something in the process or
  2. Hone your positions against them (if you still think they are wrong) and strengthen your arguments further against challenge

Talking and thinking are more about forgetting than about remembering.

If you listen: people will tell you the most amazing, absurd, interesting things. Conversations will not be boring.

[People organize their brains with conversation]. If they don't have anyone to tell their story to, they lose their minds. Like hoarders, they cannot unclutter themselves.

Healthy mental function is result of our ability to use the reactions of others to keep our complex selves functional - we outsource the problem of our sanity.

Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don't.

Rule 10

Don't ever underestimate the destructive power of sins of omission.

What you need is someone exactly as imperfect as you.

Everything clarified and articulated becomes visible - it does not pile up into a big mess.

Doing so will likely be painful. Probably you'll get hurt. Life, after all, is suffering.

In a world where everything falls apart - it was specific things that fell apart, not everything; identifiable beliefs failed; particular actions were false and inauthentic.

If we speak carefully and precisely, we can sort things out, and put them in their proper place, and set a new goal, and navigate to it - often communally, if we negotiate; if we reach consensus. If we speak carelessly and imprecisely, however, things remain vague.

If you shirk the responsibility of confronting the unexpected, even when it appears in manageable doses, reality itself will become unsustainably disorganized and chaotic.

Courageous and truthful words will render your reality simple, pristine, well-defined, and habitable.

Say what you mean, so that you can find out what you mean. Act out what you say, so you can find out what happens. Then pay attention. Note your errors. Articulate them. Strive to correct them. This is how you discover the meaning of your life. That will protect you from the tragedy of your life.

Confront the chaos of Being. Take aim against a sea of troubles. Specify your destination, and chart your course. Admit to what you want. Tell those around you who you are. Narrow, and gaze attentively, and more forward, forthrightly.

Be precise in your speech.

Rule 11

People do not seek to minimize risk - they want to optimize it. The act to achieve what they want, but push themselves a bit so they can develop.

If you cannot understand why someone did something, look at the consequences - and infer the motivation.

Competence (not power) is a prime determiner of status.

The biggest personality long term success predictors:

Aggression underlies the drive to be outstanding, to be unstoppable, to compete, to win.

If you are resentful, look for the reasons: Maybe someone is taking advantage of you - moral obligation to speak up for yourself - maybe a confrontation.

Tell the person you confront exactly what you would like them to do instead of what they have done.

Assume ignorance before malevolence.

Rule 12.

People are social - they like members of their own group.

People are antisocial - they don't like members of other groups.

The idea that life is suffering is a tenet of every major religious doctrine.

What can be truly loved about a person is inseparable from their limitations.

When you love someone, it's not despite their limitations. It's because of their limitations. Being requires limitation.

Put things you can control in order. Repair what is in disorder, and make what is already good better.

If you pay careful attention, even on a bad day, you may be fortunate enough to be confronted with small opportunities where a cat might come visit you, for half a minute. It's a nice break. It's a little extra light, on a good day, and a tiny respite, on a bad day.

Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street.


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