12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson: Summary

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This is a book worth reading. The content is nicely divided into 12 rules, with each rule giving applicable insights. Reading the full version of this book will most definitely help influence your thinking and help you live a more fulfilled life.

Get the book here: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

Rule 1: Stand up straight with your shoulders back

This is accepting the harsh reality of life and taking responsibility for it. It means adapting to the chaos and turning it into something with order and purpose. When you suffer you hit an important milestone in your progress to becoming a fully functioning adult with great potential.

So remember the next time you’re out, remember to:

  1. Stand up straight
  2. Speak with your mind
  3. Speak with confidence about what you want
  4. Walk tall and with purpose
  5. Don’t be afraid of the unknown

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

Care for yourself like you would a loved one. We would do anything for a loved one, but strangely we don’t seem to apply the same standard to ourselves. Stop waiting around for others to help you and help yourself.

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

Surround yourself with supportive friends as these will be the people that bring out the positive changes in your life. Be picky when choosing and losing your friends as this smart move will enable you to receive the support you deserve. There’s nothing snobby or selfish in doing so and your methods don’t have to be overly hurtful. By doing this, not only will your new friends help you, you will help them too with a positive attitude.

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

Keeping a consistent track of where you are now and where you have come from is very important. Comparing your yesterdays self with your today’s self will make your progress apparent and give you more motivation to keep pushing. If you get to a stage where you think you are winning, this should trigger a red-light as you’ll become complacent and slow down. Stay vigilant and consistent with your goals and you will not go wrong.

Rule 5: Don’t let your children do anything that makes you dislike them

A seemingly harsh statement, but perhaps not, lets break it down. Two types of parenting types exist on the spectrum: Permissive and authoritarian, neither of which are good. The Permissive style of parenting – whereby you allow your child to get away with anything – will lead to a poorly-socialized and adjusted adult. An Authoritarian style will lead to stunting your child’s sense of reasonable freedom. Both methods lead to social stunting and should be avoided, if you do not like what your child is doing, neither will the rest of society.

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

If we all did that, things could fix themselves. To put it bluntly, sort yourself out before you try and reorganize the world. Given a few months, you can dramatically change your life if you take this lesson to heart, simple things like quitting smoking, blaming your difficulties on society . Your life will become simpler, you will stop making your life unnecessarily difficult, instead saving that energy for something worth tackling.

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

Pursuing what is meaningful and not what is fun or easy is a sure way to live a fulfilled life with no regrets. By pursuing what is meaningful and often times difficult will require sacrifice but when you look back on it all you’ll be glad you didn’t take the expedient path.

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

Trust is a difficult thing to acquire and incredibly easy to lose. Different types of lies lead to different endings. Some lies are told through hatred, just to avoid pain or cause pleasure. Those types of lies are malicious and can be easily avoided. The second types of lies are the hardest to avoid and can cause great damage over time. These are the seemingly innocuous lies told to avoid awkwardness, to protect someone’s feelings or to make ourselves feel better. These lies can create all sorts of problems over time and must be stamped out immediately. Instead of telling a lie in a difficult situation, next time tell the truth: Be brave but also empathetic. Your life will significantly improve by just not lying.

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

As much fun as it is to ramble on for hours as opposed to listening to someone else ramble on for hours, consider the possibility that perhaps they know something you don’t. Instead try practicing the vital skill of ‘active listening’ as this will take you far in life. Stay humble, put your ego aside and start listening. You’ll be amazed at how much information you’ll absorb and how much more knowledgeable you’ll be for doing so.

Check out my previous article: You’re Not Listening: How to Improve Your Listening Skills in 5 steps for some excellent tips on improving your listening abilities.

Rule 10: Be precise in your speech

Being able to describe precisely what you want is a crucial first step you must take to remedy a situation. Clearly define your problem before you set about solving it. It may seem pedantic to clearly state what you mean but people will thank you for being precise and you’ll be thanking yourself to find out how much easier life is to navigate when everyone is clear with their meaning.

Rule 11: Do not bother children when they are skateboarding

Metaphorically and literally. As mentioned earlier about the two styles of parenting, another method of parenting known as “helicopter” parenting can also create problems for your child’s ability to overcome problems, as helicopter parents remove all obstructions from their child’s path. Letting children skateboard allows them to test themselves, find their limits and balance risk and reward. The pain of failure allows them to find their own boundaries and as they progress, they themselves will improve and stand on their own two feet.

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

This doesn’t mean go around harassing every pet you see but it does mean that you would take a break from time to time, escape the humdrum of modern life and appreciate the peaceful nature that is all around us, even if we don’t notice it. It gives us a time to take a backseat and reflect on life and appreciate the little things in life.

Human beings are fragile. It’s shocking that we aren’t in a state of paralyzing fear at all times, with everything dangerous around us. Every one of our lives are going to be filled with pain, disappointment, and loss. Then, we die. And if you think too much about that, you’re headed straight to the abyss. How do we cope?

People (you) are very, very tough. And if you focus on the simple and the good, you will be able to make it through. If you aim for the stars, deny tragedy from ruling over your life, and take advantage of the small opportunities for peace, you will be okay.

This quote sums up the point nicely: “And maybe when you are going for a walk and your head is spinning a cat will show up, and if you pay attention to it then you will get a reminder for just fifteen seconds that the wonder of being might make up for the ineradicable suffering that accompanies it. Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street.”

Other things you’ll learn

  1. Important lessons we can learn from lobsters
  2. Where the phrase “Pecking order” originates from
  3. Useful listening tips – Or you can go here and get some too!

Get the book here: 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

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