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12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson

12 Rules for Life (edition 2018)

by Jordan B. Peterson (Author)

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Title:12 Rules for Life
Authors:Jordan B. Peterson (Author)
Info:Penguin (2018)
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12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson



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If you have seen any of Dr. Peterson's lectures on YouTube, then a lot of what he talks about in this book you've probably heard all or some of what he talks about in the lectures. But whether you have or haven't, I still highly, HIGHLY, recommend this book. Though I warn that it can get rather technical, and at first glance there are parts that go on almost unrelated tangents on the original topic, but he pulls all the facts and stories together to make his grand point in each chapter (each chapter is one of the twelve rules).

Though anyone interested in self-improvement should read this, people interested in mythology, psychology, and neuroscience should read this as well. He covers a lot of subjects. What I like about this book in comparison to his lecture, is that in his lectures he's talking constantly and can be hard to take in everything he says, which is a lot and it's really freaking deep. But in the book you can digest things at a much friendlier pace, at least for me anyway.

One thing I would mention is that even though anyone could read this book, like his lectures, it's apparent that they have a greater effect on men. Women, of course, can and should read the book. But like he says a lot in his lectures, men seem to be needing the messages he conveys more so than women.

Depending on the reader, this could be a very hard read. Not that it's super complicated, it can get technical yes, but not impossible at all. It's just that the "truth bombs" that he drops can be devastating. But he also tells you that it's completely okay to feel that way, and that means that there's something about you that needs tending-to and fixing. This doesn't mean that all hope is lost for you, on the contrary, you have in you the amazing potential to become something far more than you think you are.

"Don't let who you are get in the way of who you could be", this is one of my favorite quotes of Dr. Peterson. Aim high and do all you can for the highest and best good for yourself, because you've got one life and you're all in, this is going to kill you, so why not go and find out what you are truly capable of. You're going to make mistakes, and that's the absolute best thing you need to do, because that means you're getting more and more oriented towards your goals and who you are.

I felt humbled and hopeful after finishing the book. Please read.
  Kronomlo | Mar 21, 2018 |
"Aim to be the person at your father's funeral that everyone, in their grief and misery, can rely on." (pg. 365)

There will be two types of people approaching Jordan B. Peterson's new book and perhaps wanting something from this review. I won't be going into any of Peterson's ideas here. There would be a lot to get into, and a lot that requires context. And – importantly, considering the political attacks he suffers – it is best to hear it from the man himself rather than risk misquoting or misrepresenting or oversimplifying him. Anyway, there are two types of people here: those who know who Jordan Peterson is, and those who do not.

Briefly, to those who know. This book is at the high standard he has set in his videos, interviews, lectures and public talks. He is a more engaging and more fluent speaker than he is a writer, but I do not mean this to suggest that he is a bad writer. No – he is coherent and structured and, in many ways, he writes the way he speaks (and Peterson has said that he wrote this book to consolidate what he has been speaking about for years, but in a more public-friendly way than the academic Maps of Meaning). But there is such a wealth of ideas and information that it is easier to lose your train of thought in reading the book or, as I did, you might spend ages just turning over in your mind a paragraph you had just read, in order to unpack the ideas. In a book you go at your own pace, for the most part. In a lecture or an interview (even a three-hour-long one, which is less daunting than you would think once he really gets going) there is a set pace. Peterson's fantastic three-hour interview with Dave Rubin on The Rubin Report (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJJClhqGq_M) is a great approximation of what he talks about in the book, but I did not feel like I was going over old ground when I got around to reading it. There's a lot to get into. Long story short, for those who know who he is, Peterson hits his marks here. (Though his footnotes are out of sync.)

Now, to those who do not know. You might have heard 12 Rules for Life described as a self-help book. (Which would imply it was cheap and hokey.) You might have heard Peterson described in the media as a 'hero to the alt-right' or a 'transphobe'. Now, you're likely sick of that sort of politically-correct agitprop crap – who isn't, by now? – and those sorts of slurs don't land like they used to (Peterson would probably note that that is scary in itself – that words like 'racist' have become so devalued that they have no power any more. It's the 'boy who cried wolf' story.) But you would be forgiven for wanting to keep a wide berth – we're all politicked out lately. All I would say is that the attacks are not even remotely true, and the best antidote to them is to take a look at some of his stuff for yourself – particularly his YouTube videos – and make up your own mind. (I don't have 12 rules, I have one – and that is it.)

The most remarkable thing is that Peterson is not very political. Rather, he is a trained and widely respected clinical psychologist who is trying to address why so many people are dissatisfied with their lives and disaffected with the modern world. And so, he gets down into the roots of things, the psychological roots, and he writes about them lucidly and honestly. And he finds that the best – though not perfect – attempt yet made by humans to deal with the problem of life and consciousness (the problem of Being, he would call it) is the construction of Western civilization, under the twin pillars of Christianity and the Classical tradition. And he finds that ideology (of the sort which brought Europe to its knees – and beyond, in places like Auschwitz and the gulags – with fascism and communism, and the sort which is being perpetuated by the post-modern, neo-Marxist, social justice warrior type activists in universities and the media) is the road to Hell, because it reduces things to a single problem – usually caused by something other, out there in the world, that you can project your hate onto – rather than sorting yourself out. As the popular meme goes: Jordan Peterson says clean your damn room. (Rule 6 here is an expansion on this: 'Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.') And for this, he is pilloried by the ignorant. (And perhaps also the malevolent.)

The book is more philosophy than self-help (though the boundary between the two is permeable, in theory, if you think about it). 12 Rules for Life is an unfortunate title in a sense (Antidote to Chaos, the subtitle, would have been better), as it does reinforce the false impression that it is a self-help book. (I imagine the publishers were pleased with the title, however, because such suggestiveness would help book sales.) 'Self-help' enables Peterson's many detractors to be unfairly dismissive of the book without even trying. And some of the lines that have been quoted in reviews by mainstream media organizations do sound self-help-y when taken out of context. (Sidebar: Every mainstream review or interview I have seen only talks about the lobsters bit – which is Chapter 1, implying the presenter/reviewer hasn't read the book – or the chapter on child-rearing – which would be the one chapter to appeal to the middle-class media types who project their neuroses onto their children. This tells you everything you need to know about the established media class.)

But Peterson does not provide easy answers. He is here to tell you that there are none. Life is suffering, as he often (and rightly) says. There are no magic words or maxims to make life meaningful, and even his 12 Rules require a lot of unpacking and context so that they not only make sense but you understand why they make sense (which is why I'm not trying to unpack them in this review). If you read the book honestly, you will not like yourself. You will be shown many of your failings, and you will be shown how easy it is (sometimes) to fix them, and how sometimes you don't want to fix them. It is hard when someone shows you so clearly that you are not special and that everything is on you. You will instinctively resent this. But the reason Peterson has such a wide appeal is, firstly, that he also points out what is wonderful about being human and being you, the individual you. This is not trivial. And secondly, when he speaks about this stuff, you know it to be true. You really sit up and pay attention. You know it to be true. It speaks to the core of you.

I've come rather late to Peterson's videos and lectures and so on (just a few months now), but I've been thinking along these lines for a few years. If I've not been setting down grooves, I've at least been skating across the ice. And things began to click as soon as I started delving into what Peterson was saying. He was getting down into the roots of why things are the way they are – in life, in politics, in our individual minds – and it all sounded right. Not by sleight-of-hand or by lofty rhetoric or feel-good soothers, but in fact by the exact opposite: by stark, no-nonsense lucidity about the flaws and the good things in people. "An idea is more credible when it emerges as a consequence of investigations in different realms," he writes on page 42, and this is what it feels like. You are already thinking along these lines – even if subconsciously or with bare whispers – and someone comes along and explains the ideas much more clearly than they have been in the sludge of your own mind, and you think: Yes. He's got it, man. It's honesty. That might sound easy, but who really wants to be honest about the world and the things in it, let alone about themselves? This is honesty here.

Now, a lot of the stuff here, when you delve into it, is not new stuff. A lot of it could be classed as accepted wisdom, whether proverbial or Biblical or acquired. But that's the point. It's not a criticism. Peterson is not shy in admitting this is 'ancient wisdom' and not his own (pg. 368). Indeed, he revels in it, and rightly so. It's the human struggle. It's Being. It's why certain pieces of art quicken the blood – because you're being exposed to something which chimes with that inner sense of worth and struggle. It's what the twin pillars of Christianity and the classical tradition were erected for in the first place. To maintain man. (And woman.) "Life is indistinguishable from effortful maintenance" (pg. 273). Yes. That's it. And when you read it or you hear it, you know it.

Now, certainly, you should not accept things as gospel. To speak of 'teachings' or 'rules' or 'the way' does sound a bit lame, and you can understand why many people instinctively scoff at Peterson's popularity. And I am no fan of self-help stuff. Not by a long shot. But in our popular culture there has been no-one really addressing hard truths. Certainly not in politics; Peterson is rarely political, despite his reputation – Chapter 11 is where he is most explicitly political – but when he is, he is lucid. And it is rare nowadays for someone to speak about politics in the public sphere and base their stated viewpoints on verifiable science and logical consistency.

That stand against the politically-correct culture in Canadian universities is what made Peterson famous (or infamous), but people stayed because of what he was saying not about politics, but about life. His 'message' – again, it sounds a bit lame – is the lessons of all the great storytellers and philosophers, the lessons and the archetypes, codified and told with a popular touch. His main draw is that he gets down to the root of why these are true, psychologically speaking. And he does so with eloquence, a wealth of anecdote and analogy and example, and he is not without some humour. (There is a daft 'dad joke' early on in the first chapter of which any embarrassing father would be proud.)

It's a lot to take in. But there's no-one out there really looking this stuff in the eye and speaking honestly about it. Something is coming, so I am reading as much as I can, and getting as many tools as I can. Because you can feel something is coming. And if we don't know what it is, and what tools we need to fight it, we can at least decide what we would want to preserve when it comes. I've read a lot (though still not enough) and I think Jordan B. Peterson is the best out there right now. Read him, and have a thousand compelling and terrifying and inspiring thoughts fizzing through your brain as you do. You see, I did not think I would be able to get my thoughts together to write a proper review of this book, and yet somehow I've written nearly two thousand words and still barely scratched the surface. ( )
7 vote MikeFutcher | Jan 31, 2018 |
Showing 2 of 2
Jordan Peterson may be the only clinical psychologist who believes that psychology is subordinate to philosophy and the one thing that psychology and philosophy both genuflect before is story. Story, or myth, predates religion and is, in fact, as old as language itself.

In his earlier book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief, Peterson connects the stories we share with our earliest ancestors with modern knowledge of behavior and the mind. It’s a textbook for his popular University of Toronto courses.

The one-time dish washer and mill worker spent nearly 20 years at the University before garnering international attention. In September 2016, Peterson released a couple of videos opposing an amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act which he contended could send someone to jail for refusing to use a made-up gender identity pronoun. Peterson went on to testify before the Canadian Senate, and has emerged as a foremost critic of postmodernism on North American campuses.

Postmodernism is the “new skin of communism,” In Peterson’s view. The ideology has been so thoroughly discredited from an economic standpoint that those who still advocate for it, for either political or emotional reasons, have resorted to attacking the very process in which something can be discredited—reason and debate. At the same time they have worked to change the face of oppression away from those living in poverty toward individuals who don’t look or act like those who hold most of the positions of power and authority in Western society.

Peterson’s classroom is now the entire globe. Millions are watching his lectures and other videos on YouTube. For this new and greater audience, a more accessible, more affordable compendium than Maps of Meaning was called for.

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos is more affordable for sure, but only slightly more accessible. Part self-help book, part memoir, part Maps for the masses, it’s organized sprawlingly. Rule 2 (Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping), for example, opens with a discussion of biblical texts only addressing the lesson at hand at the very end.
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If you are like most people, you don’t often think about lobsters
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345816021, Hardcover)

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. The 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 13 Apr 2017 22:14:53 -0400)

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