Brief Review – Jordan’s 12 Rules for Life

Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life

Finished today

Definitely worth the read.

Don’t agree with it all, and it definitely can get one thinking.

Rule 6 is one that doesn’t sit well with me, and it does point in the general direction of something.
“Set your house in perfect order before you criticise the world.”
I don’t think the idea of “perfect order” is a valid one.
And certainly, the idea of being as sorted as possible, of being really confident that you haven’t missed something obvious and important (or even something subtle and important) – is a good idea – and not at all easy to achieve.

And I do really align with the ideas expressed on the second last page of that chapter (page 158 of the paperback) “Your entire Being can tell you something that you can neither explain nor articulate. Every person is too complex to know themselves completely, and we all contain wisdom that we cannot comprehend.” The more I understand about the complexities of the systems that we are made of, the more true that statement seems to me.

And I don’t criticise existence itself, just some of the systems we are currently using in our human societies.

Rule 7 – “pursue what us meaningful (not what is expedient)” I have a few issues with some of the ideas. To say “life is suffering” doesn’t sit well with me. Sure, pain happens, shit happens, and we all have a tendency to dwell on it, and suffer as a result, and it doesn’t have to be that way.

On Page 195 of Rule 7 he is writing of the Jungian idea of the psyche being the battleground of ideas and states “An idea has an aim. It wants something. It posits a value structure.” …. “An idea is a personality, not a fact. When it manifests utself within a person, it has a strong proclivity to make of that person its avatar: to impel that person to act it out. Sometimes, that impulsion (possession is another word) can be so strong that the person will die, rather than allowing the idea to perish.”

That is certainly true in many different senses, and it is also wrong as written.

Certainly, many beliefs, even small differences in belief, as between religious sects for example, have lead to wars and deaths – each side invoking the same god to aid their righteous fight, if perhaps in a slightly different fashion.
In the last 7 years, since curing myself of terminal cancer, I have seen many people who would rather die than change an eating habit – and have done so.
Many wars are faught in the name of nationalism, though the real reasons are rarely those spoken of openly or publicly.

So yes – ideas, and the patterns of which they consist can become so embedded in a brain, that they cause the death of the individual so infected.

But the idea itself doesn’t “want anything”, doesn’t have “an aim”, and those are certainly analogies that work in trying to get some sort of a handle on what complex sets of ideas can actually do to us – how they “possess” us.

And rule 8 seems to me to be the most important one – “Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie” – which to me has recursive depth in that as speakers we need to be responsible for how our words will probably be interpreted by the many different sorts of paradigms present out there in the world.
There are many different levels of conscious intellectual understanding possible (the set does not seem to have any limit), and as Jordan notes in many other places, we are all far more complex than we can possibly understand in anything other than the very broadest of brush stroke sketches. We are, and must always be, a mystery to ourselves in many different ways.

An interesting work.
Some very practical ways of making life work, long term, for everyone. Much of it made very real by very personal examples.
Well worth reading.
Well worth taking the time to think deeply about.


[The rules:
1/ Stand up straight with your shoulders back

2/ Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping

3/ Make friends with people who want the best for you

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

5/ Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them

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

7/ Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)

8/ Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie

9/ Assume the person you are listening to might know something you don’t

10/ Be precise in your speech

11/ Do not bother children when they are skate boarding

12/ Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street


About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see
This entry was posted in Ideas and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Brief Review – Jordan’s 12 Rules for Life

  1. debyemm says:

    I don’t always have time to read your blogs but I keep them available and remembered that you had written one on Peterson. His book and the idea of identity politics came up in my household last night and so I came by to read. Thanks !!

    Liked by 1 person

Comment and critique welcome

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s