Our discussion of Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules for Life - an Antidote to Chaos began with criticism of his verbose prose and slightly scattered style, contrasted with real appreciation for the many jewels of wisdom about developing lives of meaning. On balance we all felt it was well worth the effort. A summary of our book club's meeting necessarily leaves out the depth and breadth of the content, but a brief list of chapter highlights and comments may get us close. Overall, this was one of the best discussions we’ve had as a group.
- Stand up straight with your shoulders back
We all heard this from our parents and grandparents (a recurring theme to many of the rules), but agreed that when you act the part, you can BE the part. Bill reminded us that in competitive sprinting, form and structure are critical. As in life. This chapter's dive into the brain chemistry of the lobster, and human, drove home the point that some of our deepest traits are hardwired into our Being.
- Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
As they tell you on the airplane, look after yourself first, and you can look after and help others better. The example that many people look after their dogs better than themselves was a good springboard.
- Make friends with people who want the best for you
This chapter was unique in that it was all formed in Peterson's own personal experiences, unlike other aspect where he draws from philosophers, clinical research, and religious foundations. Said otherwise, if you had a friend whom you would not recommend as a friend for your brother, sister, or other loved one, why do you have that person as a friend?
- Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.
Success can be measured in so many ways today, because there are so many games being played across life. Some are measured by their nature: many sports, business, for example. When viewed from the Long View, small steps, in the right direction, add up. But comparing yourself to others is a dark and unproductive path.
- Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.
Most of us liked this chapter and we all like our kids. For a group of guys, several with grandchildren, we talked about the state of college bound students today; college and university resources dedicated to psychology and socialization dwarf those from our ‘sink or swim’ generation. Too many college kids today have the emotional IQ of 2-year olds.
- Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world
We can't know other people's dances. In the words of that philosopher Thumper, if you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all.
- Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient).
This chapter delved into evil, whose roots are in expedience. Just make things better; you don't have to make them perfect. In the words of Mrs. Raymond, ‘There is little value in things easily attained.’ Evil is so far worse than tragedy, the differentiation is foundational.
- Tell the truth – or, at least, don't lie.
The most dangerous lies are those we make to ourselves, justifying empty lives steeped in ideologies, detached from human interaction or reality. Little lies enable big lies, and big lies by ideologues led to a hundred million murders in the 20th century.
- Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don't
Rick talked about Emotional Intelligence, and its effectiveness within organizations today. EQ (as distinct from IQ) allows us to listen and understand: ‘he who speaks first loses (control over the direction of the conversation.)’ Several of us have found emotional intelligence training in business to be equally valuable in life.
- Be precise in your speech
And be especially careful what you tell yourself. The world is simple only when it is predictable. When things go wrong is when chaos rules. These rules are the antidote to Chaos.
- Do not bother children when they are skateboarding.
This chapter admonished the general public for closing skateboard parks, but Peterson rejects that, asking why would we discourage such dedication to improving at something. For me personally, this moved the dial on what others, younger people inparticular, do to fill their time, to improve.
- Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street
We don't understand other people's struggles, so don't assume their motives are any less pure than our own. Even if you prefer dogs. This rule covered pain and tragedy, so central to humanity. Do unto to others as you would have them do unto you.
We discovered from several reviews that this book has come under criticism for its matter-of-fact discussion of the difference between sexes, hierarchies, and a focus on the individual. While some of these criticisms may have merit, Peterson's overall message to look after yourself first, seems to be good advice.
Here's a link to the book:
Our next book about Justice John Marshall will help us to understand Justice Kavanaugh better