12 Rules for Life - by Jordan Peterson

Lots of conventional wisdom in this book (take care of yourself, pick your friends carefully, don’t compare yourself to others, don’t judge or lie, do hard things), repackaged in an somewhat novel way. Jordan is at his worst when he uses unnecessarily gendered imagery (“the masculine vs the feminine”), uses too many religious allegories, and gets over-sensational in his tone (he literally cries on the audiobook recording), but nonetheless the book is a heartfelt call to the dejected to get back on their feet.

Raw Notes

Life is a struggle between chaos and order Order, masculine; Chaos, feminine

Belief systems are not about beliefs, it’s about trust and predictability between people (match between beliefs/expectations/desires)

We’re reducing the risk of conflict, in order to give space for many belief systems. But that is causing meaninglessness.

1 - Stand up straight with your shoulders back

The world is one big Pareto distribution; winner take all. Fitness is all that matters, and constantly improves linearly.

People are fundamentally different when they are at the top vs the bottom of the pyramid. Those who are stressed have worse outcomes, and that is adaptive. Having more stress kills you more quickly, because since you are at the bottom of the food chain, you need to be vigilant, ready to react, and thus need constant high cortisol. Those at the top of the pyramid have more serotonin and less cortisol, because things just always turn out better. Change isn’t risk, its opportunity.

People need structure and routines. Sleep is most important. Always wake up at the same time each day. Eat protein (and fat) ASAP upon waking, to keep stress-based insulin down.

Positive feedback loops cause a lot of problems- phobias, insomnia, etc.

Those bullied in childhood continues into adulthood. Bullied people get older, but they end super stressed and uncertain due to the lessons they learned when they were younger, and draw out more bullying. These people don’t fight back as much. They often feel anger is wrong, but become resentful anyway. Abusers have become adapted to seeking these sorts of people out. Fighting back and standing your ground is an important part of protecting yourself and preventing abuse. They need to see their resentment as anger, and then say/act on something, to make sure justice is served.

There is very little difference between the capacity for destruction, and character.

Faking a thing can make you that thing- smiling makes you happier. Signal dominance. Fix your posture as a first step.

2 - Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping

Of 100 people, 23 are non-compliant w/ medications.

People do amazing things. They deserve respect for the load they bear. Make your load easier by making friends with people who want the best for you. Best for you, does not mean easy/happy. Children would eat chocolate all day if they could.

Neitsche: “he who’s life has a why, can bear almost any how”

3 - Make friends with people that want the best for you

We see agency in everything. We see objects as people.

Bad friends lead you down a bad path. People make bad friends because they let them get stuck in old patterns.

Sometimes it’s also because they want to save someone, believe the best in them can come out. But often that person is exploiting them, and the saver is either naive or narcissistic.

4 - Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not someone else Life is about making order. Things cannot ever be perfect. There isn’t even such thing as perfect. You can’t possibly understand the nuance of other people’s lives. Live your own, striving to get better every day

5 - Don’t let your children do anything that would make you dislike them (Discipline is freedom)

Parents don’t control their children enough. This is because our norms are changing much too quickly, favoring the young and new as an ideal, forgetting that there is wisdom in the learnings of our ancestors. Humans are as bad as they are good; discipline is required to make them more good than bad. Too little guidance is as bad as too much. Don’t sacrifice respect for friendship… discipline your children. Discipline is where you find limits. Principles for making rules: - Limit rules to things that matter- bad laws drive out respect for good laws. - Use minimum necessary force.

6 - Set your house in order before you criticize the world

Tolstoy: Life is meaningless and evil; religion is mindless and irrational. Solutions:
- Turn inward w child like ignorance
- Turn to Mindless pleasure
- Do nothing, become evil; kill yourself
- Destroy all life in protest

If you are innocent, then only way to understand suffering is that life is evil, and death is only escape. But nobody is innocent. Things fall apart. The only way therefore to understand suffering is as personal punishment, even if it isn’t. And most of the time it is. Start by working on your life, even in little ways. The little things add up to making the world better.

7 - Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient

Life is suffering. The immediate thought then, just pursue pleasure. But the future can be improved through sacrifice- like it is a human that can be bargained with. Social contract developed through surplus of food, becoming sharing, becoming personal reputation as a good person. In this way life creates meaning through sacrifice. The Christ’s death is the archetypal story of sacrifice- God giving up his only son, completely good and free of sin, to painful death for no crime. In this way sacrificing to one’s date can be made moral and good.

Original sin is the ability to see the future, then we are cursed with the endless need to prepare for it. Same goes for evil- when you learn you can suffer, you can make others suffer. In that way, we became evil for the first time. Cain+Abel is the archetype => Cain fails to prepare and kills his brother.

Maxims: 1) Never lie. 2) Act in a manner that minimizes pain and suffering.

8 - Don’t Lie

If you lie, soon your whole life becomes a lie. Especially if you lie to yourself. You lose the ability to see reality. In that way, omission is as bad as commission. The entirety of corruption stems from the willingness to lie in the personal, intimate sphere.

Neitsche: a mans worth is the amount of truth he can tolerate. Every new learning is a death. But telling truth is what keeps things alive, keeps things from falling apart.

9 - Assume every person you talk to knows something you don’t

Do what the crowd does, unless you have a good reason not to. Listening is very powerful. One tool is to summarize what people just said. Helps with understanding, but also drives clarity/distillation, and disincentivizes strawman arguments. We outsource mental sanity to our community- they provide the guardrails of what is acceptable.

10 - Be precise in your speech

Systems scaffold on each other. But when it works, you don’t see it. The things we perceive are not things, but their utility. And we perceive only as much as needed. Say what you mean, so you know what you mean. Admit your mistakes and needs. That way you can grow and hold others accountable.

11 - Don’t bother kids when they’re skateboarding

People need risk to develop mastery. We need risk in order to achieve, and so we are naturally risk-seeking. A humanist viewpoint is necessary- things are not as broken as they seem, and culture is not singularly to blame. Culture is always outdated, because it is given to us from the past. We should work on it, but not condemn it wholesale.

Fight club and iron man are fascist. We like them as compensation for a culture that is telling men to become soft. That is also why people like trump.

12 - Pet a cat or dog when you see one on a street

People tend to associate with in-groups like cat lovers or dog lovers; seems like an optimization function for mutually exclusive options: cooperation vs competition.

Life is hard. However, being requires limitations. Limitations turns being into becoming. The beauty of life is in the tiniest chunks. Pet a cat. Enjoy a coffee. These things make life worth living.