Some call him the intellectual hero of the 21st century. Others call him a narcissistic weapon who uses his large vocabulary to twist the fabric of reality and politics. I just call him Jordan Peterson.
But, controversy aside, it’s hard to ignore him. Peterson’s got a practical philosophy, his IQ’s probably higher than the combined intelligence of a small town, and his motivational speeches could make a toddler go through their mid-life crisis.
Let’s face it — the guy’s got his life together. He’s a professor at the University of Toronto, goes on global tours to talk about philosophy, and he casually mentioned in an interview that he could work at full concentration for 14 hours straight. If that’s not cool, I don’t know what is.
As mixed as the world’s feelings are about him, Peterson clearly knows something we don’t. No matter what, there has to be something we can learn from him.
Well, it looks like he knew that himself.
In 2018, Peterson wrote a book called 12 Rules for Life — which (of course) became a bestseller. In about five-hundred pages, it highlighted some of life’s biggest challenges and how we could overcome them to grow stronger on the other end.
Wanna learn how an accused psychopath finds meaning in life, or how they handle stress? You couldn’t have chosen a better article.
On second thought, that might not be the best incentive for you to keep reading. Let me rephrase that a bit:
Ladies and gentlemen — without further ado, it’s time to learn about the rules that the legendary Jordan Peterson relies on, and how you can use them to live the best life you can:
Rule #1: Stand Up Straight With Your Shoulders Back
"How anticlimactic,” I thought to myself.
“All this hype and I’m getting schooled on my posture? What happened to the out-of-body experiences and spiritual awakenings?”
It’s hard to see how you stand up could make any real difference for you.
Sure, there’s health benefits to it, but is it really that life-changing?
According to Peterson, it is. To him, the real advantages of a good posture in the psychological realm. More than anything, standing up the right way shows your intent to live your life the right way.
Gaining momentum in life’s hard. The most difficult part about doing something is the hesitation before you start.
Fixing your posture is something you can do right now, and it can be the easiest step to get the ball rolling again.
Rule #2: Treat Yourself Like Someone You’re Responsible For Helping
Imagine your friend wanted you to hold them accountable to work out every day. Then, they didn’t follow through and justified it by telling you they deserved a break. Are you buying that?
Of course you aren’t!
When we’re helping others, we can see right through their lies and excuses to discover what’s best for them. We see things for what they are, and know what needs to be done.
Now, flip that scenario around. Look back and think about how many times your mind let the same excuse slide for your own exercise routine. Working out was a no-brainer for someone else, but not for you? I don’t know about you, but I smell some B.S.
Kill the part of your consciousness that hides future suffering in a shiny box, and learn to live a life where you take the responsibility to help yourself.
Rule #3: Make Friends With People Who Want The Best For You
The best way to get better at something is to make friends with stronger, like-minded people.
People who feel genuinely happy for you when something good happens to you, instead of wondering why it didn’t happen to them instead. People who stop you from taking a step backwards in life and want you to look up instead of aiming for the ground:
It’s your duty to help yourself, finding the right people to spend your life with is just as important. Good people are rare. When you find them, keep ’em close.
Rule #4: Compare Yourself To Yourself
If you could list the world’s biggest sources of depression, you’d see “Keeping up with the Joneses” somewhere near the very top.
Comparing ourselves to others is human nature. Historically, it’s allowed us to see where we fit into the hierarchy of society and live better lives. If you saw you were at the bottom of the totem pole, envy was what drove you to rise up the ranks. It’s meant to be a good thing, but up-close, that mindset does more harm than good.
That’s because comparing yourself to others is like comparing apples to oranges. If your friend’s a millionaire and you aren’t, you’re probably ignoring the fact that they’re not the same person as you. Luck, a better upbringing, connections, and many other unseen factors all come into play here. It’s impossible to see the “whole picture” behind anyone else’s circumstances.
But you know who you do have the “whole picture” one? You!
Weighing ourselves on the same scale as others just makes us more depressed and less likely to try moving forward. Wanting what other people have can easily lead you to waste your life trying to get something you don’t even want.
Your circumstances aren’t in your control, but what you make out of those circumstances is. The only person you should be comparing yourself with is the person you were yesterday. If you do that, you’ll grow almost effortlessly.
Rule #5: Don’t Let Your Children Do Anything That Makes You Dislike Them
Pretty self-explanatory, really. If you’re a parent and you let your kid do something that makes you dislike them, imagine how their friends or teaches would feel about that.
That’s right — they’d take that much worse than you would.
In Peterson’s view, your job as a parent should be to raise a child that the outside world “welcomes with open arms” — by teaching them the rvalues and skills they need before they grow up.
I’m not a parent, so I have absolutely no idea what this means. I was (arguably) a perfect child and don’t remember making a single mistake in my youth life*
*P.S: If you meet my parents, don’t ask them that.
Rule #6: Get Your House In Order Before Criticizing The World
Seriously, don’t be that person. You know what I mean.
Rule #7: Pursue What’s Meaningful
In our world, thinking for ourselves is an exception instead of something that’s expected. It’s gotten so bad that people regularly create lives for themselves that they hate — all because they care too much about what others might think:
Peterson argues that nobody really knows more about what you should do with your life than you do. In fact, who knows you better than, well…you? By doing what’s flashy instead of what you want to do, you aren’t doing yourself any favours.
Ten years from now, don’t be the person that regrets messing up a choice that someone else made for them. Lay out what matters to you and work towards those things instead. That’s where you’ll find freedom.
Rule #8: Tell The Truth, Or At Least Don’t Lie.
There’s a famous saying in the business-world that goes something like this:
“If you want to become rich, you have the option of creating a startup to get a chance of success after about five years of hard work, or you could just sell cocaine.”
In the same way, you have the option of building your life on a foundation of truth or lies. One option’s clearly easier than the other, and I don’t even need to tell you what it is.
Lying doesn’t benefit anyone, but that feeling of escaping reality can get you on a never-ending high. One lie can lead to a string of them before you know it. Eventually, you’ll be lying to yourself and start losing sight of who you are.
If you don’t know who you are, it’s pretty hard to figure out who you want to be and how you’ll get there. So you won’t. Once we’re trapped in a web of lies, our humanity falls deeper into the pit.
Tell the truth so you can be true to yourself and live a life you can be proud of. Plus, you’ll save yourself a LOT of embarrassment for when your boss knows what you were really up to on your sick day. You’ll thank me later :)
Rule #9: Don’t Underestimate Others
The only time you have the right to judge anybody for what they’ve done is when you’ve got your own “house”, or own state in absolutely perfect condition — and that’s never possible. As humans, we can get close to perfection, but it’s something that’s never supposed to be achieved:
Truly wise people never see others as inferior. They just recognize that as long as they have room to improve, criticizing someone is a sign they’ve dropped below them.
Never look at someone from up high. Be humble, but be aware to have an accurate view of where you stand.
It’s best to assume that everybody you meet knows something you don’t, and see that gap as a reminder that you still aren’t there yet. No matter who you learn from or how small the lesson, there’s always something new to discover. All you have to do is look the right way.
Rule #10: Be Precise With What You Say
In the book, Peterson mentions how your words let you speak ideas to life. Pick the right words to say and you’ll be left with the things you want when you’re done.
No thought is real until you say what’s on your mind. No conflict is real until someone tells you what’s wrong. Nothing is real unless you give it a name. Actually, let me correct that: nothing’s real unless you give it the right name.
Learn to use your voice as a tool to create the world you want to see.
Rule #11: Don’t Bother Children When They’re Skateboarding
No amount of advice, motivational YouTube videos, or reading articles like these will help you learn to live. The most they can do is teach you about what’s ahead of you.
But the only way you’ll ever understand is from ignoring those lessons, riding too fast and scraping your knee. Then, you’ll really know what they meant.
So let the children skateboard instead of scaring them before they even fall. The same thing goes for you. Don’t let any amount of pushback, hate, or fear stop you from trying something you think is worth a short. In the worst case scenario, you’ll scrape your knee, too.
In the best one, you’ll be happy you kept going.
Rule #12: Pet A Cat When You Find One On The Street
No one goes through life without pain. That pain could leave us hurt so bad that we start to wonder if our own lives have any meaning to them.
It’s in times like these where you have to pet the cat. You have to find something to hold on to that reminds you life is worth living. Find something that lets you exist moment by moment until you can start looking forward to the future again.
That’s all there is to it. I’m not promising you the world, but living with these principles will start to push you in the right direction. So if it makes you grow — even if it’s the slightest bit — what’s stopping you from taking the first step?
Thanks for reading.