Book Review: 12 Rules for Life

This book was born out of Jordan Peterson’s knack for answering questions on Quora. When asked, “What are the most valuable things everyone should know?” the Canadian psychologist and professor had plenty to say. The list grew longer with time, and suddenly there was enough for a book.

With mercy in mind for the reader, the list was whittled to 12 things – rules, if you will – to help people live simpler, less chaotic lives.

Peterson can be a polarizing person depending on your politics, but he is not polarizing to me. Rather, he makes me think and consider ideas I’ve not yet considered. He is exactly the sort of person I enjoy listening to because he’s calm and rational, and I feel certain he’s not spouting ideas that aren’t readily backed up by research and deep work. Whether I end up on the same side of the political fence as Peterson is irrelevant. This book – 12 Rules for Life – is not political. It’s relational and ethical. It urges readers to look inward and see if they are manifesting the chaos or working to live fruitfully in spite of it.

Essentially the rules are about becoming a productive adult, the importance of acknowledging that you don’t know everything, why you should surround yourself with good people, how to say exactly what you mean, and why living intentionally is the only way to live.  While nothing was earth-shatteringly new, I found myself nodding frequently and realizing that I’m already endeavoring to do many of these things. It was good to have psychological and biological research, as well as anecdotes, to back up Peterson’s points.

For review purposes, here are the 12 Rules. I agree with every single one of them.

  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 that 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 skateboarding
  12. Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street

If you know a high school or college graduate willing to read this book, buy it for him/her right away.

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