12 Rules for Life

Physical Copy:


By: Jordan Peterson

Rating: B+

You have to have been living under a rock to not know who Jordan Peterson is. He is the ultra articulate Canadian Psychologist on the news, podcasts, and social media. He has recently been in hot water with his government for fighting back against “compelled” speech. I enjoy and admire his eloquence in interviews and debates. He has clearly spent a lot of time reasoning through his beliefs. This is the best of his best selling books and boy was it packed full of his words. Too many words to deliver a point for me but, lucky for you, I summarized it into a couple of pages. His interviews are definitely for me…his essays not so much.

The 12 Rules

Rule One: Stand up straight with your shoulders back.

Posture conveys what you think about yourself and therefore what others think of you and how they treat you. Slouching conveys low self-perception and insecurity. This prompts people to treat you as such, which reinforces your self-perception. Standing up straight with your shoulders back while speaking up and making eye contact signals to others confidence and respect for yourself. They in turn, treat you with respect and reinforce the cycle.

“To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept the terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open. It means deciding to voluntarily transform the chaos of potential into the realities of habitable order … It means willingly undertaking the sacrifices necessary to generate a productive and meaningful reality.”

Rule Two: Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.

We tend to take better care of our pets than we do ourselves. When a pet is sick, we diligently follow the prescribed care. Yet, when we’re sick, we fail to fill or take our own prescriptions. You have to take care of yourself first if you are going to be able to serve others.

“You must help a child become a virtuous, responsible, awake being, capable of full reciprocity – able to take care of himself and others, and to thrive while doing so. Why would you think it acceptable to do anything less for yourself?”

Rule Three: Make friends with people who want the best for you.

You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Choose wisely.

“It’s a good thing, not a selfish thing to choose people who are good for you.”

Rule Four: Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.

Comparison is the thief of joy. There will always be those who are more successful, attractive, happy, you name it. Focusing on them leaves you miserable rather than grateful and proud of your own efforts. 

Rule Five: Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.

Children aren’t born with social-cultural skills—they must be taught how the world works and how to navigate society. Parents that don’t set and enforce rules are setting their kids up for failure as adults. It is the sole responsibility of moms and dads to raise children who will contribute positively to society.

Rule Six: Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world.

Of course this refers to pulling the plank out of your own eye prior to plucking the splinter from your neighbor’s finger. But he goes further. We are all going to fail and experience setbacks. We can live as helpless victims in denial of our mistakes. Some can take that further and live in anger and rage at others for our faults. 


We can see ourselves as we are in all our flaws. Then we can take responsibility for our shortcomings and take action to improve them. Only after we deal with our own crap can we truly help others.

“Stop doing what you know to be wrong.”

Rule Seven: Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient).

It is easy to avoid what you should do because it is often difficult, painful, and requires sacrifice. It is easier to take the shortcuts and do the things that are easy and may make you feel good for a moment. The problem with that is that they leave us feeling empty. They typically aren’t the things we were made to do. The things we were created to do are often difficult and require great sacrifice BUT are worth it for the person we become and the people we impact.

Rule Eight: Tell the truth or at least don’t lie.

We are all guilty of lying to ourselves and to others. Find out why you are lying to yourself and deal with it. Find out why you are lying to others and deal with it. You will lose all trust and relationships by lying. It isn’t worth it.

Rule Nine: Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.

God gave us 2 ears and 1 mouth. Listen twice as much as you speak. You might just learn something.

Rule Ten: Be precise in your speech.

Use words to bring order to chaos. Often we overlook and ignore problems because we don’t fully understand them. Problems not dealt with can become catastrophic. By using words to describe, analyze, and potentially solve a problem, we deal with our problems and the uncertainty. They are often far smaller than we make them out to be.

Rule Eleven: Do not bother children when they are skateboarding.

“Beneath the production of rules stopping the skateboarders from doing highly skilled, courageous and dangerous things I see the operation of an insidious and profoundly anti-human spirit.”

Peterson uses this metaphor to describe the postmodern movement. Postmodernism, in short, believes that any hierarchy (like gender or race) is responsible for creating winners and losers. Peterson believes that people win or lose based on their own personal merit. Content of the character not color of the skin…how controversial. 

Rule Twelve: Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street.

This is Peterson’s way of saying stop and smell the roses. Life is short, so enjoy the truly beautiful moments. 

“If you pay careful attention, even on a bad day, you may be fortunate enough to be confronted with small opportunities of just that sort. Maybe you will see a little girl dancing on the street because she is all dressed up in a ballet costume. Maybe you will have a particularly good cup of coffee in a cafe that cares about their customers. Maybe you can steal ten or twenty minutes to do some ridiculous thing that distracts you or reminds you that you can laugh at the absurdity of existence.”


I appreciate the thoughtfulness of his rules. There were a lot of really good points. He just took too long to land the plane for me. Recommended for those that already enjoy Mr. Peterson.

2 thoughts on “12 Rules for Life

  1. I loved this book but I agree, I had to read it 10 pages at a time or I’d get lost in his words. I am about 1/3 of the way through the sequel : 12 more rules for life – Beyond Order. Interesting contrast to the rules in book one.

    Great summary and reminder of the rules Albert!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: