12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

by Jordan B. Peterson

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What does everyone in the modern world need to know? Renowned psychologist Jordan B. Peterson's answer to this most difficult of questions uniquely combines the hard-won truths of ancient tradition with the stunning revelations of cutting-edge scientific research.

Humorous, surprising and informative, Dr. Peterson tells us why skateboarding boys and girls must be left alone, what terrible fate awaits those who criticize too easily, and why you should always pet a cat when you meet one on the street.
     What does the nervous system of the lowly lobster have to tell us about standing up straight (with our shoulders back) and about success in life? Why did ancient Egyptians worship the capacity to pay careful attention as the highest of gods? What dreadful paths do people tread when they become resentful, arrogant and vengeful? Dr. Peterson journeys broadly, discussing discipline, freedom, adventure and responsibility, distilling the world's wisdom into 12 practical and profound rules for life. 12 Rules for Life shatters the modern commonplaces of science, faith and human nature, while transforming and ennobling the mind and spirit of its readers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345816047
Publisher: Random House of Canada, Limited
Publication date: 01/23/2018
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 6,571
File size: 17 MB
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About the Author

JORDAN B. PETERSON, raised and toughened in the frigid wastelands of Northern Alberta, has flown a hammer-head roll in a carbon-fiber stunt-plane, explored an Arizona meteorite crater with astronauts, and built a Kwagu'l ceremonial bighouse on the upper floor of his Toronto home after being invited into and named by that Canadian First Nation. He's taught mythology to lawyers, doctors and business people, consulted for the UN Secretary General, helped his clinical clients manage depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and schizophrenia, served as an adviser to senior partners of major Canadian law firms, and lectured extensively in North America and Europe. With his students and colleagues at Harvard and the University of Toronto, Dr. Peterson has published over a hundred scientific papers, transforming the modern understanding of personality, while his book Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief revolutionized the psychology of religion. The author lives in Toronto, ON. www.jordanbpeterson.com

Read an Excerpt

It does not seem reasonable to describe the young man who shot twenty children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012 as a religious person. This is equally true for the Colorado theatre gunman and the Columbine High School killers. But these murderous individuals had a problem with reality that existed at a religious depth. As one of the members of the Columbine duo wrote:

"The human race isn’t worth fighting for, only worth killing. Give the Earth back to the animals. They deserve it infinitely more than we do. Nothing means anything anymore."

People who think such things view Being itself as inequitable and harsh to the point of corruption, and human Being, in particular, as con­temptible. They appoint themselves supreme adjudicators of reality and find it wanting. They are the ultimate critics. The deeply cynical writer continues:

"If you recall your history, the Nazis came up with a 'final solution' to the Jewish problem. . . . Kill them all. Well, in case you haven’t figured it out, I say 'KILL MANKIND.' No one should survive."

For such individuals, the world of experience is insufficient and evil—so to hell with everything!

What is happening when someone comes to think in this manner? A great German play, Faust: A Tragedy, written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, addresses that issue. The play’s main character, a scholar named Heinrich Faust, trades his immortal soul to the devil, Mephistopheles. In return, he receives whatever he desires while still alive on Earth. In Goethe’s play, Mephistopheles is the eternal adver­sary of Being. He has a central, defining credo:

"I am the spirit who negates
and rightly so, for all that comes to be
deserves to perish, wretchedly.
It were better nothing would begin!
Thus everything that your terms sin,
destruction, evil represent—
that is my proper element." 

Goethe considered this hateful sentiment so important—so key to the central element of vengeful human destructiveness—that he had Mephistopheles say it a second time, phrased somewhat differently, in Part II of the play, written many years later.

People think often in the Mephistophelean manner, although they seldom act upon their thoughts as brutally as the mass murderers of school, college and theatre. Whenever we experience injustice, real or imagined; whenever we encounter tragedy or fall prey to the machi­nations of others; whenever we experience the horror and pain of our own apparently arbitrary limitations—the temptation to question Being and then to curse it rises foully from the darkness. Why must innocent people suffer so terribly? What kind of bloody, horrible planet is this, anyway?

Life is in truth very hard. Everyone is destined for pain and slated for destruction. Sometimes suffering is clearly the result of a personal fault such as willful blindness, poor decision-making or malevolence. In such cases, when it appears to be self-inflicted, it may even seem just. People get what they deserve, you might contend. That’s cold com­fort, however, even when true. Sometimes, if those who are suffering changed their behaviour, then their lives would unfold less tragically. But human control is limited. Susceptibility to despair, disease, aging and death is universal. In the final analysis, we do not appear to be the architects of our own fragility. Whose fault is it, then?

People who are very ill (or, worse, who have a sick child) will inevi­tably find themselves asking this question, whether they are religious believers or not. The same is true of someone who finds his shirtsleeve caught in the gears of a giant bureaucracy—who is suffering through a tax audit, or fighting an interminable lawsuit or divorce. And it’s not only the obviously suffering who are tormented by the need to blame someone or something for the intolerable state of their Being. At the height of his fame, influence and creative power, for example, the towering Leo Tolstoy himself began to question the value of human existence. He reasoned in this way:

"My position was terrible. I knew that I could find nothing in the way of rational knowledge except a denial of life; and in faith I could find nothing except a denial of reason, and this was even more impossible than a denial of life. According to rational knowledge, it followed that life is evil, and people know it. They do not have to live, yet they have lived and they do live, just as I myself had lived, even though I had known for a long time that life is meaningless and evil."

Try as he might, Tolstoy could identify only four means of escaping from such thoughts. One was retreating into childlike ignorance of the problem. Another was pursuing mindless pleasure. The third was "continuing to drag out a life that is evil and meaningless, knowing beforehand that nothing can come of it." He identified that particular form of escape with weakness: "The people in this category know that death is better than life, but they do not have the strength to act ratio­nally and quickly put an end to the delusion by killing themselves. . . ."

Only the fourth and final mode of escape involved "strength and energy. It consists of destroying life, once one has realized that life is evil and meaningless." Tolstoy relentlessly followed his thoughts:

"Only unusually strong and logically consistent people act in this manner. Having realized all the stupidity of the joke that is being played on us and seeing that the blessings of the dead are greater than those of the living and that it is better not to exist, they act and put an end to this stupid joke; and they use any means of doing it: a rope around the neck, water, a knife in the heart, a train."

Tolstoy wasn’t pessimistic enough. The stupidity of the joke being played on us does not merely motivate suicide. It motivates murder—mass murder, often followed by suicide. That is a far more effective existential protest. By June of 2016, unbelievable as it may seem, there had been one thousand mass killings (defined as four or more people shot in a single incident, excluding the shooter) in the US in twelve hundred and sixty days. That’s one such event on five of every six days for more than three years. Everyone says, "We don’t understand." How can we still pretend that? Tolstoy understood, more than a century ago. The ancient authors of the biblical story of Cain and Abel under­stood, as well, more than twenty centuries ago. They described murder as the first act of post-Edenic history: and not just murder, but fratri­cidal murder—murder not only of someone innocent but of someone ideal and good, and murder done consciously to spite the creator of the universe. Today’s killers tell us the same thing, in their own words. Who would dare say that this is not the worm at the core of the apple? But we will not listen, because the truth cuts too close to the bone. Even for a mind as profound as that of the celebrated Russian author, there was no way out. How can the rest of us manage, when a man of Tolstoy’s stature admits defeat? For years, he hid his guns from himself and would not walk with a rope in hand, in case he hanged himself.

How can a person who is awake avoid outrage at the world?

Table of Contents

Foreword Norman Doidge vii

Overture xxv

Rule 1 Stand up straight with your shoulders back 1

Rule 2 Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping 31

Rule 3 Make friends with people who want the best for you 67

Rule 4 Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today 85

Rule 5 Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them 113

Rule 6 Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world 147

Rule 7 Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient) 161

Rule 8 Tell the truth-or, at least, don't lie 203

Rule 9 Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don't 233

Rule 10 Be precise in your speech 259

Rule 11 Do not bother children when they are skateboarding 285

Rule 12 Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street 335

Coda 355

Acknowledgements 369

Endnotes 371

Index 390

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12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 27 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I didn't realize just how much of a child I was before reading this book. Some pretty sobering stuff here, while also intellectually dense, it still has plenty of room for humor in between its lessons. Learn how to grow up and become a responsible adult before you fall into the Peter Pan syndrome. Learn why so many young people today feel nihilistic, resentful, and hopeless, and discover that the solution is simple, but no one's been teaching or kids this: By bearing the burden of responsibility by narrowing your focus rather than remaining untapped potential well into your 30's, the alternative is to take responsibility for your own life, stop being the victim, and find true happiness and meaning in life through responsibility and contribution to the society around you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The general wisdoms provided in this book are worth reviewing and understanding. The self challenges are worthy and references are generally excellent. Judging this book by the highest standards must acknowledge the author’s occasional ramblings and mis-directions. Worth reading a second time and passing along to others.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I rarely write reviews for my purchases, but this is one of them that truly deserves the effort. Wish there were more than 5 stars to give.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Smart, funny, and 100% on point. Everyone should read this book!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A wonderful and easy read filled with good and sound wisdom.And a healthy dose of humor. His penmanship is astounding, and he is straight to the point. Very good book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Some very good, substantive arguments Some very excellent points to take away Over all, a bit too ponderous.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An inspiring in how to get your act together.
Anonymous 15 days ago
Anonymous 8 months ago
A beautiful and challenging journey. But also a starting point for discovery and growth.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Really helpful!
zuccccccccccccccccccccccc 12 months ago
Good book/
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I don’t know if he’s right but he makes a lot of sense.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's been an amazing book. I've really liked it so far.. I am nearing the 4th chapter / rule now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It made me think about myself in different ways. I discovered things about myself I hadn't considered before. This was a really great read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was more entertaining and relevant than expected but it had a religious tilt. Good read overall.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thoughtful and humorous, this book is one of the best things I've ever read. I'll have to read it again because there is so much in it that I need a refresher. I recommend this book to anyone interested in better understanding the psychology behind living a better, more meaningful life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This will be the best $20 you ever spent. Period. Dot.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Integral to every young persons development.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book for developing oneself and character.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fantastic read, I would recommend that everyone read this book. Jordan Peterson is a great intellectual. Also check out his videos online on a variety of topics.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
KjamesN More than 1 year ago
It brings to light self evident truths that we often hide. I cant recommend it enough.