Jordan B. Peterson - 12 Rules for Life An Antidote to Chaos.pdf

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Jordan B. Peterson
1 2 R ULES FO R LI FE
An Antidote for Chaos
Foreword by Norman Doidge
Illustrations by Ethan Van Scriver
Table of Contents
Foreword by Norman Doidge
Overture
RULE 1
/ Stand up straight with your shoulders back
RULE 2
/ Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
RULE 3
/ Make friends with people who want the best for you
RULE 4
/ Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today
RULE 5
/ Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
RULE 6
/ Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world
RULE 7
/ Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
RULE 8
/ Tell the truth—or, at least, don’t lie
RULE 9
/ Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t
RULE 10
/ Be precise in your speech
RULE 11
/ Do not bother children when they are skateboarding
RULE 12
/ Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street
Coda
Endnotes
Acknowledgements
Follow Penguin
Foreword
Rules? More rules? Really? Isn’t life complicated enough, restricting enough, without abstract rules that
don’t take our unique, individual situations into account? And given that our brains are plastic, and all
develop differently based on our life experiences, why even expect that a few rules might be helpful to us
all?
People don’t clamour for rules, even in the Bible … as when Moses comes down the mountain, after a
long absence, bearing the tablets inscribed with ten commandments, and finds the Children of Israel in
revelry. They’d been Pharaoh’s slaves and subject to his tyrannical regulations for four hundred years,
and after that Moses subjected them to the harsh desert wilderness for another forty years, to purify them
of their slavishness. Now, free at last, they are unbridled, and have lost all control as they dance wildly
around an idol, a golden calf, displaying all manner of corporeal corruption.
“I’ve got some good news … and I’ve got some bad news,” the lawgiver yells to them. “Which do you
want first?”
“The good news!” the hedonists reply.
“I got Him from fifteen commandments down to ten!”
“Hallelujah!” cries the unruly crowd. “And the bad?”
“Adultery is still in.”
So rules there will be—but, please, not too many. We are ambivalent about rules, even when we know
they are good for us. If we are spirited souls, if we have character, rules seem restrictive, an affront to our
sense of agency and our pride in working out our own lives. Why should we be judged according to
another’s rule?
And judged we are. After all, God didn’t give Moses “The Ten Suggestions,” he gave Commandments;
and if I’m a free agent, my first reaction to a command might just be that nobody, not even God, tells me
what to do, even if it’s good for me. But the story of the golden calf also reminds us that without rules we
quickly become slaves to our passions—and there’s nothing freeing about that.
And the story suggests something more: unchaperoned, and left to our own untutored judgment, we are
quick to aim low and worship qualities that are beneath us—in this case, an artificial animal that brings
out our own animal instincts in a completely unregulated way. The old Hebrew story makes it clear how
the ancients felt about our prospects for civilized behaviour in the absence of rules that seek to elevate
our gaze and raise our standards.
One neat thing about the Bible story is that it doesn’t simply list its rules, as lawyers or legislators or
administrators might; it embeds them in a dramatic tale that illustrates why we need them, thereby making
them easier to understand. Similarly, in this book Professor Peterson doesn’t just propose his twelve
rules, he tells stories, too, bringing to bear his knowledge of many fields as he illustrates and explains
why the best rules do not ultimately restrict us but instead facilitate our goals and make for fuller, freer
lives.
The first time I met Jordan Peterson was on September 12, 2004, at the home of two mutual friends, TV
producer Wodek Szemberg and medical internist Estera Bekier. It was Wodek’s birthday party. Wodek and
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