Book Bite #1 | 12 Rules For Life
12 Rules For Life: An Antidote To Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson
Hello there! If you’re here for the first time and don’t know what “Book Bites” series is about, please read this introduction first, so you can get the most out of this article.
Ok, welcome back my friend! Actually, this book wasn’t planned to be the first one (as you saw at the index in the introduction to this series), but I wanted to keep it like that to show you that life doesn’t always go as you planned, but the most important thing is to take the best from it and keep moving forward.
Now let’s get into the book. I came across with this book ’cause 2 reasons, the first one is because I’ve started to use Amazon Audiobooks platform: Audible; and it was one of the top recommendations. The second reason and the one who fully convinced me to listen it was a developer colleague called Robert Wade (@coding_rob on Instagram), whom I haven’t met (yet), but I really like what he’s doing and I hope to meet him soon.
I feel a lot of empathy with Rob, like if we’re following similar paths, but each one by their own means; so when I saw on his Instagram that he’d just read “Crushing It!” by Gary Vaynerchuk and “12 Rules For Life” I felt like a had to give it a chance too; I’ve just listened “Crushing It!” audiobook too and another extraordinary book called “Applied Empathy” by Michael Ventura, but as they are both “biz dev” books and very helpful on the professional side, I felt that like I must balance that with more social or self development content; and “12 Rules For Life” sounded totally like that kind of book.
I tried to keep my expectations low about it and let to its content to surprise me in anyway possible, thinking that even when I didn’t agree 100% with the author’s perspective, it would be helpful as a thoughtful moment to ponder for a while and gain a bigger perspective about life and being. And it surprised me indeed.
So keep that in mind and try to do the same with this abstraction, here you will find my interpretations of each rule and what thoughts they sparkled to reflect on. Hope it expands your perspective and give you a lot of “eureka” moments too. Enjoy!
Rule 1: Stand straight with shoulders back.
Help yourself to build confidence and happiness, behave as the winner you are; even if you’re not winning as much as you want, it will help you get there.
The world works by dominance and hierarchy, the strongest takes all, so don’t be mild; be bold and play at offense.
This attitude and body language will order your brain to produce more dopamine and regulate serotonin, this means that you’ll feel more pumped and ready to deal with anything.
It’s important to keep this mindset as long as we can, since this is one of the biggest factors between winning or losing: optimism and strength will always take you further.
Rule 2: Take care of yourself as someone you are responsible of.
Very often, we take care of others better than ourselves, discovering why is a long journey and very subjective. In this book the author looks back into Genesis and other biblical lectures to find answers, but I’ll give you my own perspective about it, if you are interested in his perspective also, get the book!
Recently I’ve come to think that everyday our priorities are shifting, important things become urgent, urgent tasks become irrelevant, irrelevant assets become vital, etc. and this changes force us to re-do our activities for the day, week or month.
When it comes to issues related with others, we don’t hesitate to arrange them first, and leave ourselves a couple steps behind; rather it is because we want to be accountable or because we don’t want to let people down.
Another common case is described by the saying, “is easier to give advices rather than take them”.
Think about it, when we give an advice to someone else, we are capable of remaining at an objective perspective, put away excuses and overcome obstacles.
We become very clever people which seem to understand the best paths toward solutions.
But when we do it for ourselves, subjectivity comes in, we make unceasing excuses and obstacles seem unbearable. Why is this so?
The answer is right there, the difference is because we think we are unique and our problems too, and it’s in part true, we are unique and not everybody has our same problems, but we are all able to solve them.
So, starting from today, change 2 aspects of your mindset:
1. Think about yourself as someone you are responsible of; make it your priority. This means, put away excuses and start to find solutions.
2. Stop being indulgent with yourself.
You know what is best for you on the long term and what is only a whim. Commit to yourself and honor your word.
Rule 3: Make friends with people who wants the best for you.
This is a tricky point, because first you need to figure out what is the really best for you and stop bullshitting yourself.
One of the recent global trendy topics is self awareness, part of it consists of being conscious of the self deceiving practices we do to ourselves; what activities are only excuses to procrastinate, avoid facing hard tasks or even reality and realizing what relationships we are cultivating.
Relating with toxic people is easy, specially when we have cultivated bad habits, these people get attracted because they have similar activities and we just nurture each other’s demons.
When the book says that you should surround with people who wants the best for you, it refers to people who are not willing to allow you to be less than the best version of you.
The kind of friends who will support you to aim higher, achieve your goals, be healthful, have great and deep relationships, the persons who want to see you climbing to the top and will partner with you because they also want that for themselves.
People who feel uncomfortable when they see others improving and succeeding doesn’t match with this, they can be dangerous and drag you into a void of cynicism, envy and ungratefulness.
Imagine this scenario, where your friends are people very different of you, they like other things but their core drive is to be better, and get you to be better also; people who have your back in hard times but also push you forward when you try to give up and help you realize you are capable of more when you think you have reached your limits.
This isn’t about rich or accommodated friends, although they could be very helpful, this is about life perspective and the drive to succeed; envy is toxic and it’s a symptom of short sight, people who are able to see opportunities inside crisis and gather valuable resources when everybody think it’s impossible never envy others because there is nothing to envy, nobody owes you anything, and everything is out there for you to take it.
Rule 4: Compare yourself with who you were yesterday, more than who someone else is today.
It’s easy to lose perspective of our achievements when we start comparing ourselves with others, and this is a biological pattern of human beings.
Sight is an expensive sense for our brain, it demands a lot of resources to work and to process information, therefore the average person only perceive the 10% of the full picture our eyes see, to achieve a wider focus need exercise and practice.
When we focus on others, we manifest this limitation, we choose arbitrarily 1 characteristic from the others life and start measuring our success according to it: money, health, friendships, career, etc. Without considering a complete balance with every progress and success we’ve achieved; this is why is dangerous.
When we lose track of our progress, our energy is drained, our efforts may seem vain and it becomes harder to keep going.
On the other hand, when we keep perspective on our own achievements and goals, the opposite effects happen: we feel pumped, our efforts are worth and we want more; we keep moving forward.
It’s inevitable to look at others progress and make comparisons, but the next time you get that impulse, keep perspective on your own achievements and what you want to become; there will be always someone who is better or worse than you at something so focus on the most important: yourself.
Learn this and take it with you always:
“If you were better before, it means you can improve; and if you are better now, it means you are doing right, keep going.” ~@ElChojin
Rule 5: Don’t let your children do anything that would make you dislike them.
At first I thought this rule doesn’t apply to me since I don’t have children, but going through the chapter you can tell that it can be applied to other persons you are responsible of, like employees.
Boundaries and curiosity.
Since the day we are born, we need to recognize the boundaries around to survive, when our sight is not fully developed, we use touch and the other senses to do this physical recon: Walls, steps, faces, toys, food, etc. everything need to be tested.
Once we are familiarized with this process enough to do it constantly and without thinking about it a lot, we go to the next level recon tasks: social boundaries. This is where it gets tricky.
Within our genes, we are programmed with some default behaviors: shyness, aggressiveness, dominance, kindness, irritability, etc. Acknowledge of the social boundaries means to push relationships and people as much as it’s allowed.
Therefore, children will punch and force those around them to acknowledge their hierarchy in the community, and establish dominance to climb to the top. This behavior applies also with new employees, someone who tends to be dominant will start to push the boundaries of the new workspace and the people there, looking for a way to climb to the top and dominate the ground, using all the techniques they have learned since they were just children.
To manage that and point it to the best direction you need to put limits, reasonable limits like a few rules and face them directly when they opposite stubbornly, face them as an unbreakable wall.
Another principle on this is punish/discipline. As the power figure and the top at the hierarchy, don’t become a tyrant or a dictator (that only leads to revolution and scheming); apply the minimum force necessary to establish the rules, don’t use your power recklessly, there is no need to beat up your child/employee, you just have to show them the way and bring them back on track when they derail.
The opposite for punishment is reward. Punish when someone rebels without purpose, but also reward when someone is in the right path and keep improving the system.
Punishment is for when the mistakes has been made, and reward when mistakes are been avoided, and expected behaviors are manifesting; these are the actions to keep the team aligned towards the main goals.
Rule 6: Set your house in perfect order, before you criticize the world.
This rule is really simple, it means to focus on improving yourself before you start complaining and blaming the world.
Watch and listen yourself, your daily habits, track your mistakes and the bad times of your life and answer yourself honestly: what was your role on those situations? Aren’t you the real guilty of getting there?
When you blame others, you lose strength and perspective of how you can solve your problems; you start to think that you are powerless to those situations and there is nothing you can do. Acknowledge your role and your mistakes, and correct yourself from there. As a great Spanish MC said:
“If you want to change anything, change yourself”. ~@Kase.O
Rule 7: Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient.
This is another rule that I think has as many interpretations as there are people in the world. What is meaningful? What is expedient? The key to find the answer is time.
Something is “expedient” because of its benefit on the short term; it is instant gratification. On the other hand, “meaningful” very often is related with delaying the reward, and even make sacrifices in the present in order to achieve something better on the long term.
The book goes very deep trying to find different sources of this binary behavior, though it’s very interesting I’m limiting myself to tell you only one, to listen the others you will need to get the book or you can ask me about that when we meet.
The source I felt most appealed was from the cave men and the creation of the future self; when we went to hunt and find a big animal that could easily feed us for a week, we didn’t have a way keep it for too long, most probably the meat will go rotten and we will need to hunt again the next day: but what happened if we shared that with others? Maybe they will become loyal to us, in the future; may be they will share their meat with us, in the future; all this possibilities would come IN THE FUTURE.
From that moment we started to bargain with the future society, including ourselves. This gave us the chance to think further today, to fight against temptation and short term satisfaction.
Pursuing the expedient doesn’t seems harmful at beginning, you could think you can leave it as an option for a couple times; but the problem becomes visible when those pursuits start to stack.
Sometimes what is expedient for ourselves hurts others, so imagine someone who is stepping on anyone when it’s possible, that would be a toxic person, dangerous to gather with.
On the other hand pursuing what is meaningful gives us a hope for the future, because we don’t know what we want all the time, neither how to get it sometimes; but sticking to a meaningful purpose becomes the light in the dark to discover those aspects.
That is one of the most important things, “meaning” is about purpose, is aiming high and being aware of why. When you pursue what is meaningful you can build anything: communities, brands, societies, clubs, relationships, etc.
Pursuing what is meaningful is building; just doing what is expedient is destroying, or worse, is nothing.
Rule 8: Tell the truth.
Truth isn’t peace, it’s a sword. It comes with conflict, but when you go trough it, there is a win-win for both sides.
Truth confronts problems now, keeping them simple enough to fight them; lying only delay them, stacking them until they are impossible to overcome.
When you lie, you start to carry a story with you, a problematic story which only grow bigger as time passes and truth is the only thing will stop it.
There isn’t too much else to say that you don’t know about truth and lies, we’ve all been there; the best take away from this is again a contrast between long and short term, between what is expedient and what is meaningful: lying is expedient on short terms, truth is meaningful and the best for long term.
Rule 9: When you listen to someone, assume they may know something you don’t.
Listening is an action worth to be converted into a habit; true listening, which is complicated to achieve.
True listening implies to drop your biases and be fully objective; judgements crossing your mind just pass by and you have to let them go.
When that’s achieved, it becomes a dangerous place, because you start to understand why the other person is doing and thinking their way through; it makes sense, it can transform you. But also it expands your consciousness, you apply empathy and at this moment, masks come off and you are able to connect deeply and meaningfully. Real relationships are shaped by this.
Another upside from true listening is that you can see from the others eyes, you can live and learn from their experiences, may be the person you are listening to already faced a challenge you are struggling to overcome or is facing the same you are and just listening helps you to figure out your way out.
On the other hand, you can really help someone when you listen to them, to speak is to think, is to articulate your ideas in order so when it comes from your mouth, they make sense. When this happens, people come to realize the solution for what they are going through, or that it wasn’t a problem at all.
Keep in mind that not all people are needed for advice, and sometimes advices aren’t helpful enough, potentially they can be harmful too.
Rule 10: Be precise on your speech.
Precision is a component of order, is a direct antidote for chaos, and the world itself is chaos.
The world is changing constantly, and the only time life is simple is when everything around ourselves behave; like a clockwork.
When things break or behave different than they are supposed to, they reveal their big complexity, which was already there but it wasn’t visible, and we didn’t care to look at.
To talk about precision, is to talk about accuracy and perspective working together; so a precise speech is an accurate description of the reality, dropping any biases.
If the world by itself is complicated enough, when we describe it careless and inaccurate, the only thing we are helping with is making it more complex, we finish bringing more chaos and creating problems where there weren’t.
As a matter of fact, this chapter is also about objectivity and subjectivity, when you rely only on subjective perspectives or avoid reality and leave it to the imagination, complexity gets more intricate and problems only grow bigger.
If you are precise in your speech, you will lead actions to the most useful end; you will ask more practical questions which lead to understanding and you will be able to face problems as they are, not bigger or smaller, preventing them to grow impossible to solve and avoiding those who weren’t even necessary.
Precision in speech becomes precision in action: that means simplicity and productivity, period.
Rule 11: Don’t bother children while they are skateboarding.
People develop themselves facing risks, it’s part of our survival nature; during cavemen era, those who didn’t tolerate danger and overcome it were those who died first, and their genes were left behind.
But even nowadays, there is a threatening behavior wearing the mask of “protection”, but is actually a very harmful and destructive approach. Danger is necessary to develop character and skills to survive nowadays too. Week people who doesn’t get through this “training course” become poisonous and resentful, they become incapable of dealing with society and daily problems by their own; they blame others to never become accountable or fully responsible of themselves.
Very often, this lifestyle turns them into thinking that terrible actions are “justified” if the purpose is “correct”; from committing fraud to genocyde. From their perspective, is the only way to deal with it, but this doesn’t have to be your case if you have develop your character and face life’s obstacles as they pop up.
Facing risks is a way to discover our limits, acknowledge our skills and find what we need if we want to keep improving; it’s how we push our boundaries.
If you compare the Olympics, for example, the one celebrated on 1950’s against the 2016, each competition looks very different now and then; it isn’t look like the same animal. First place in the 50’s can’t compete with third place of someone in 2000’s, maybe neither with the 10th place.
And the only way we could achieve that level and will keep going further is by recognizing our boundaries and taking the risks to push them; so don’t underestimate yourself or others when facing dangers, it’s our duty and our best reward to overcome it.
Rule 12: Pet street cats/dogs when you cross with one.
This rule appeal to kindness, gratefulness and love, given and received. People and live beings are capable of bearing catastrophes and huge pain, often because life’s adversity has manifested many times upon us; and kindness acts as a short term antidote for those calamities.
Pure acts have consequences on both ways, on the people who do them and on those who receive it too; that’s why there are phrases like “the biggest reward is meant for those who give”. This analogy of “petting” a street cat actually refers to the act of being kind and grateful with your surroundings, no matter how dark times are you struggling with.
Don’t take for granted the good things you have and that are happening around you; daily there is something out there that can draw a smile on your face and will help you to carry on, may be it is to pet a cat (or a dog), may be it is to meet an old friend or a date with someone, you choose. It’s up to you to find the silver linings on every storm.
I may add another quote to this rule:
“The beauty lays on the eyes of the observer, everything is the same color of the light it receives.” ~@Kase.O
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That is pretty much the book, I cut off a lot of examples, larger explanations for each rule; and also these are my interpretations, biased by my own experiences; hope you find them handy and useful as they are for me.
Also, if you want to get the source and go deeper on any of them, don’t hesitate on getting the book, this is a link to get it.
Thanks for reading!