I can’t say I’ve finished Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos because as I read it I soon realized it’s a book I’ll read again and again. It’s a book that I’ll return to as a source of wisdom and a touchstone to see how I’m going.
Peterson’s style is straightforward and clear, but it contains complexity. His rules may be simple, such as Tell the Truth — or at Least Don’t Lie, but are tough to put into practice once you realize that telling the truth means living the truth. He points out that Adler, the psychologist, noted that “life-lies” are a kind of dishonesty. So whenever you deviate from the truth by saying whatever will help you socially, will give you status though its and exaggeration, or by staying quiet so that you protect your job or curry the favor of someone you deem significant and let lies continue unchecked because you’d rather reap a reward of whatever sort or you figure someone else will speak up or should, then you’re living a lie. So how authentic am I? I won’t be finished with this book till I am completely authentic and transparent with myself and others. Seems like there’s a long road ahead.
Peterson uses literature, myth, well researched psychological insights, and personal stories to illuminate each rule. I came away with a sturdier foundation for courageously getting through and flourishing when life gets tough as it’s bound to.
He looks rather angry in the photo above, but if you’ve seen his videos or television appearances, you’ll see that he’s quite personable. The video’s just over a minute and it outlines the book’s objective.
The rules seem simple, e.g. Stand Up Straight with Your Shoulders Back or Make Friends with People Who Want the Best for You. If you just read the rule and don’t read the chapter you may think these ideas are old school and just optional. However, after reading chapter one about standing up straight, I’ve learned that posture for people or animals deeply relates to status and confidence. Yes, this echoes Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk on body language. The two prove the same idea using different evidence.
I was surprised to learn things like the fact that people treat their pets better than they treat themselves. When a pet is sick, most people will administer their medicine as directed, while when they’re sick they slack off. Curious, eh? I think we can all do with an injunction to take proper care of ourselves.
I really appreciated how Peterson integrates the wisdom from earlier thinkers and family or personal experiences intelligently. His analysis of the Bible, myth, literature and research convinced me of his points. He also helped me view the wisdom of Genesis, the Old Testament and other scripture anew. I’m not surprised this book is flying off the shelves (virtual and real).
If you’ve read 12 Rules for Life, what did you think?