“How could the world be freed from the terrible dilemma of conflict, on the one hand, and psychological and social dissolution, on the other? The answer was this: through the elevation and development of the individual, and through the willingness of everyone to shoulder the burden of Being and to take the heroic path. We must each adopt as much responsibility as possible for individual life, society and the world. We must each tell the truth and repair what is in disrepair and break down and recreate what is old and outdated. It is in this manner that we can and must reduce the suffering that poisons our world. It’s asking a lot. It’s asking for everything. But the alternative—the horror of authoritarian belief, the chaos of the collapsed state, the tragic catastrophe of the unbridled natural world, the existential angst and weakness of the purposeless individual—is clearly worse.
I have been thinking and lecturing about such ideas for decades. I have built up a large corpus of stories and concepts pertaining to them. I am not for a moment claiming, however, that I am entirely correct or complete in my thinking. Being is far more complicated than one person can know, and I don’t have the whole story. I’m simply offering the best I can manage. …
I hope that these rules and their accompanying essays will help people understand what they already know: that the soul of the individual eternally hungers for the heroism of genuine Being, and that the willingness to take on that responsibility is identical to the decision to live a meaningful life.
If we each live properly, we will collectively flourish.”
~ Jordan B. Peterson from 12 Rules for Life
I’ve had this book on my shelf for a while. I decided to read it after Cal Newport and I were chatting about my recent talk (and class) called “Optimizing for the Modern Hērō.” Cal told me that the themes I explored in that class reminded him of this book. So, I immediately found the book and devoured it.
Jordan Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto. (Before that, he taught at Harvard.) He’s published over 100 scientific articles and he’s super-popular on YouTube.
The book is wonderfully intense and equally thoughtful. Peterson’s integration of everything from evolutionary psychology, politics, religion and morality is astounding. (It’s the kind of book filled with endnotes that reminds you of just how little you know. :)
As I read the book, I was reminded of the intellectual intensity of Yuval Noah Harari and Ray Dalio. (I was also reminded of Ryan Holiday as well—while Ryan brings ancient Stoic wisdom to life in a no-nonsense way, Jordan does the same thing for Judeo-Christian wisdom.)
As the sub-title suggests, this book presents “An Antidote to Chaos.” How do we mitigate the inevitable chaos of life that is so exponentially magnified in our modern lives? By creating ORDER. How? Well, Professor Peterson’s 12 Rules are a great place to start.
I enjoyed the book and highly recommend it. In addition to being thought-provoking, it’s (much more importantly) SOUL-expanding. (Get a copy here.)
Of course, it’s packed with Big Ideas. It’s one of those books that’s impossible to even try to distill into six pages, but I’m excited to share a super-quick look at the 12 Rules then shine a light on some of my favorite wisdom we can apply TODAY, so let’s jump straight in!
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