12 Rules For Life By Jordan Peterson – Summary & Review (ANIMATED)

“12 Rules For Life” by Jordan B. Peterson is one of those ultra controversial books! Some people swear by it, while others cringe at the mention of anything Jordan Peterson.

Hate it or love it, the book is definitely an interesting read that will make you stop and think.

But, the book is also a beast. Each of the 12 rules is supported by numerous stories and examples, some are even backed by science. Peterson also has a very particular style of writing that might be for everyone.

But, have not fear. I did the heavy lifting for you by reading the book and summarizing all 12 rules below. This way you can read the 12 Rules For Life” summary and see what you agree with and what you don’t. If it converts you to a Peterson fan, grab a copy and dig into the whole thing. If not, you’ll have an idea of what the 12 Rules are an you would’ve saved yourself quite some time (and money).

So, without further ado.

12 Rules For Life Summary

Rule #1 – Stand up straight and with your shoulders back

Imagine a woman who has recently been through a somewhat traumatic event of a serious breakup or even a death of a spouse. She is already feeling anxious and vulnerable, but her life continues, so she heads to the mall.

It’s busy and it’s difficult to park.

This makes her even more stressed out and the thought of vulnerability due to recent events rises to the surface. This triggers even more anxiety.

Her heart rate starts to rise.

She detects that and she gets even more anxious, which increases her heart rate even more – and poof! — all of a sudden, a positive feedback loop.

Soon, the compounding effects transform into a panic and she heads to the emergency room. Her heart is checked out but there is nothing wrong, at least not medically.

What she suffered was the negative effect of what’s called the “positive feedback loop” and just as this loop can spiral counter-productively; it can also work to get you ahead.

It all starts with standing up straight and with your shoulders back.

All of this might seem like advice that you would receive from a grandparent.

But, it is deeply rooted in science.

As you correct your posture, your brain releases a bit of serotonin which in turn makes you feel a little bit stronger and a little more confident, which in turn makes all of this new change noticeable to everyone around you who start treating you a little bit better, which makes you feel even more confident and more strong…

Poof!

Another positive feedback loop emerges, but this one makes your life better.

All starting with standing up straight and with your shoulders back.

You are welcome ­čÖé

Rule #2 – Treat yourself like someone you’re responsible for helping

If a hundred people are prescribed a drug, one third won’t even fill the prescription.

Half of the remaining people will fill it, but won’t take the medication or will not take it properly or even end it early.

Why?

Once you peel all the layers of this complex issue apart, you are left with what Peterson calls “self-loathing” – the belief that you are not worth helping (ouch!)

Now, imagine that one of these same people from before is filling a prescription – not for themselves, but for their dog.

Chances are that they’ll be almost religious about taking the medication, the dose, the timing and everything around it.

To most people, taking care of someone else comes much easier and much more natural than taking care of oneself.

It’s unfortunate, but true.

Armed with that realization, try to take care of yourself physically, mentally and emotionally as if you’re helping somebody else. Believe that you are on a vital mission in this world, that you are here to make a big difference and that it is your moral obligation to take the best care of your health.

Rule #3 – Make friends with people who want the best for you

Surround yourself with people who only want the best for you.

They want to see you succeed and they want to see the best version of you, but also they serve as an inspiration themselves.

Great friends push one another to greater heights, call each other on each other’s bullshit and don’t let you mistreat yourself.

Avoid at all costs people who want to drag you down to their level just to feel good about themselves. Such toxic people have no place in your life.

Finally, avoid helping people who won’t take responsibility for their own actions.

Rule #4 – Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone is today

We’ve all done it at some point in our lives – compared ourselves to someone who at least on the surface is doing better than ourselves.

The grass is always greener on the other side, after all. But, with the rise of social media it is extremely easy to find someone who is doing better than you.

You lost two pounds? Well here is somebody who lost twenty.

You made $10,000 this month? Well here is someone who sold their company for $10,000,000.

You’re happy in your marriage? Well here is somebody who is happier.

Examples can be found everywhere, but instead of looking for the examples and making yourself feel miserable – do this instead:

When done correctly, you’ll soon stop obsessing about everyone else’s garden because you’ll be too busy working on yours.

Rule #5 – Do not let children do anything that makes you dislike them

In other words, aim to make your children productive members of society.

The way kids learn is through testing the boundaries of the world. They push in every direction possible just to see how far they can go.

The job of a parent, on the other hand, is to teach the children what is acceptable and what isn’t. They serve as a proxy for the society that is to come later in the kid’s life.

If children receive no feedback whatsoever or the incorrect feedback, they’re going to have trouble adjusting to society later on and that will in turn hinder their happiness. A parent needs to set rules and guidelines, but not too many, and use the minimum force needed in order to enforce those rules.

Rule #6 – Set your house in order before you criticize the world

Before blaming someone or something else for your own problems you need to pause, take a step back and reflect if you have truly done everything in your power to solve the problem.

Have you taken advantage of every opportunity or are you just pointing fingers because it’s the much easier solution?

Rule number six calls for a deep examination of oneself in order to stop behaviors that you know are wrong or destructive self-talk that is making you feel miserable. Say only things that make you strong and do only things that you speak of with honor.

Rule #7 – Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient

This rule goes deep… very deep in the meaning of life, really.

The rule calls for discovering your own meaning by doing good, preventing evils of all kind from happening and living a life dedicated on long term good over short-term impulsive behaviors.

The expedient, the immediate gratification, works only for a short period, but achieving those long term goals is what will ultimately give your life more meaning and more happiness.

Think deep, discover your true self and your true happiness and work towards achieving it.

Rule #8 – Tell the truth, or at least, don’t lie

You may be lying to others or even to yourself and most likely you’ll get away with it – at least for some time.

“Yes, the job is really amazing”

“Yeah, that relationship will definitely work out”

“Yeah, you’re definitely on the way to healthy eating next week”

But, deep down, you are quite aware that those things are inconsistent with your true beliefs. As a result, you feel constantly unsettled, restless and out of balance.

Develop your personal truth instead and act in accordance with it. It is not easy, but will ultimately reduce anxiety, increase happiness and make you feel a lot better about yourself.

Rule #9 – Assume that the person you’re listening to might know something you don’t

People often talk, as it helps them to think.

In order to process their own thoughts and even feelings and emotions, people need to verbalize them first. So, when you listen to someone, especially in a serious conversation, think of your job as helping the other person think.

Sometimes, you might say nothing.

Other times, you might need to help them reach their own conclusion and sometimes you need to be the voice of common sense and disagree with the person.

Whatever the case, your job is to listen – genuinely listen – and what is the best way of doing that, you might ask?

Summarize the other person’s message.

Taking this approach will inevitably force you to pay close attention to what they’re saying and try to understand it, instead of what most people do – trying to formulate their own answer in their heads, thus not paying attention to what is being said.

Distill the moral of the story, take the core message out and you might even help the other person understand their own thoughts better by doing this.

Rule #10 – Be precise in your speech

Stress and anxious feelings typically come from the unknown.

It makes you feel not in control as you don’t really know what the exact problem is. The scary becomes even scarier when it’s vague.

Specificity turns that chaos around. When you name a problem, when you’re specific about it, you can figure out a solution faster, much faster.

Be specific:

  • What is bothering you?
  • Why is bothering you?
  • What can you do about it?

From dealing with your own problems to having healthy relationships, specificity can only help you.

Imagine that you go to the doctor’s office with a pain in your knee and instead of then coming up with a treatment for that exact problem they send you home with multi-vitamins.

You want a specific solution for your specific knee problem, not general treatment. So, treat your problems and the solutions you come up with in the same mindset – precision and specificity.

Rule #11 – Do not bother children when they’re skateboarding.

This is a tough one to explain, and to your surprise, it has very little to do with skateboarding.

Jordan Peterson basically argues that the relatively modern concept of gender equality is incorrect; in the sense that there is no need for complete equality in every behavior, at all times, in all situations.

Men and women are not the same.

They are quite different biologically, have different qualities, different instincts and we should not deny this difference. Ignoring these innate differences and creating policies that force people against their nature might have unintended and serious consequences down the road.

Peterson argues that it is incorrect to try to make girls “tougher” or boys more “sensitive”, especially if that goes against their own natural tendencies. In other words, let boys be boys and girls be girls.

It is certainly a somewhat controversial chapter of the book and has inspired quite the debate online.

Rule #12 – Pet the cat when you encounter one on the street

You know this one from many popular sayings such as

“Stop and smell the roses”

or

“Enjoy the small things in life”

Life is tough.

Bad things happen to good people all the time and there is suffering all around.

You could get lost in the sea of negativity the world offers or accept the situation for what it is – an objective reality that is completely beyond your control. And of course, the second alternative is clearly a more productive way of living.

So, accept life for what it is and make sure to enjoy the little pleasures it offers you every day. A kid playing in a puddle of water, the smell of freshly baked goods, a good view and of course, petting a random cat on the street if you encounter one.

Your Turn Now

And there you have it, a “12 Rules for Life” summary. I told you the book was a beast! It covers a lot of ground.

Here’s a little visual snippet to help you make sense of things:

12 Rules for Life Summary

Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life

But, lets talk about how you can implement some of these and start seeing some positive changes in your life.

I suggest you start with Rule 1. Improving your posture is something anyone can do and you can start doing it today. Put that to use for a couple of days, ideally a week. If you see a change, pick another rule that calls out to you see how you can implement it.

No matter what you pick – I would stick to one major change at a time. The goal is to improve your life, not overwhelm yourself.

Question: what is your favorite rule from Jordan Person’s 12 rules? Let me know in the comment section below.


Frequently Asked Questions

This is section of the questions and concerns I hear the most about when I share my 12 rules summary and review with people.

What are the 12 rules of life according to Jordan Peterson?

  • Rule 1┬áStand up straight with your shoulders back
  • Rule 2┬áTreat yourself like you would someone you are responsible for helping
  • Rule 3┬áMake friends with people who want the best for you
  • Rule 4┬áCompare yourself with who you were yesterday, not with who someone else is today
  • Rule 5┬áDo 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┬áPursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
  • Rule 8┬áTell the truth ÔÇô or, at least, donÔÇÖt lie
  • Rule 9 Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t
  • Rule 10┬áBe precise in your speech
  • Rule 11┬áDo not bother children when they are skate-boarding
  • Rule 12┬áPet a cat when you encounter one on the street

Is 12 Rules for life a good book?

It is a thought-provoking book for sure. Some people adore Peterson’s ideas, while others disagree with them strongly. Either way, the book is worth the read.

What does Jordan Peterson do?

He is a clinical psychologist, an author, a public speaker and a quite successful YouTuber.

What books has Jordan Peterson written?

Besides the 12 Rules for Life, he is the author of “Peacemaking Among Higher Order Primates”, “Political Correctness: The Munk Debates” and “Maps of Meaning”.