12 Rules for Life

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by [Peterson, Jordan B.]

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan B. Peterson. Published January, 2018. 409 pages.

I emphasized the page count in the book’s specifications because the length is very relevant to my thoughts on the book. Specifically, that it is too long and would have been a much better book had Mr. Peterson not taken readers along his long windy roads connecting Carl Jung, ancient motifs, religious themes and personal experiences to say what he could have said much more succinctly.

Brevity is the soul of wit, it’s been said, but it can also be the key to transmitting ideas which are more easily understood and widely accepted. It was impressive YouTube videos of Jordan Peterson, from lectures to media interviews to online Q and As, which first exposed me to his ideas. Most of them, as a commentator noted in my previous post, would be considered common sense to people in generations gone by. However, this is a new era, and people demand more than the simple “because I said so” or “because it’s right” to get on board with an idea, no matter how solid it’s validity has proven to be down through the ages.

Since this is true, I was thoroughly prepared to accept that an intellectual and psychologist offering rules for life that buck current cultural thought should include a fair amount of psychological jargon and even gobbledygook in his presentation. Still, 400 pages was 200 too many, and tiptoeing through the tulips of Peterson’s theories was often wearying, but I stuck it out. I stuck it out because I find his overarching ideas, if not all the details, to be of value. On to some of the 12 Rules, which were indicated by chapters.

Rules 1 and 2 were good rules, but those chapters were among the hardest for me to read. It’s hard for a woman who believes man was created in the image of God to read copious amounts of information on how we can learn to be so much more human by observing lobsters. There were also far too many pages of psychological minutiae in those chapters as well.

Nevertheless, the rules themselves are good. The first one was common sense that we all heard from our grandmas (stand up straight!), while the second should be common sense, but I applaud Peterson for saying it because few people, including me, do it (treat yourself as you would someone you are responsible for). I liked that he highlighted that most people get better medical care for their pets than they give themselves. I believe him.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll fill you in that you can find all 12 of the rules listed here (I have no affiliation with or further knowledge of this site and found the list via a Google search).

In his exposition of Rule 6 (get your house in order before trying to change the world), Peterson makes an astute observation that most anyone paying attention has also noted. Namely, that in the absence of religious beliefs and connections, people have attached religious devotion to all number of things, including atheism and social activism. It is this ingrained feature of the human heart which, I believe accounts for people’s tendency to get out there and change the world while their own world is a mess.

Pursuing meaning rather than expediency -Rule 7- was in my opinion the closest Peterson came to a semi-accurate understanding of Christian teaching. He is correct that when expediency and advantage are primary drivers behind the things we do, life is void of meaning and will plunge into despair at the first hint of suffering. And if there is one constant in life, it’s that we will all suffer. I appreciated that bit of wisdom which seems increasingly lost on so many.

All of the rules are useful, and had Peterson and his editor been more vicious and used more precision when it came to eliminating irrelevant information, this would have been a much better book. I am certain that no portions of the book were meant to be construed as stream of consciousness, but there were sections that felt that way as I read them. It could be that Peterson is such a smart man with so many ideas that parts of it were just over my head, but even if that were the case, it underscores my point.

When a college professor writes a book to help a generation of young people, and especially young men, tap into the antidote to chaos, a little simplicity goes a long way. Nevertheless, Peterson’s rules are good if unoriginal, and many of them are brand new information to this generation of young adults.

3.5 out of 5 stars.






15 thoughts on “12 Rules for Life

  1. Robyn says:

    “Nevertheless, Peterson’s rules are good if unoriginal, and many of them are brand new information to this generation of young adults.”

    My husband is reading his book and says he really likes it. I will probably get to it next year as my slate is full right now. I do listen to Jordan Ps podcasts and lectures though and politically share his view points about society at large.

    With the young people, he does give very basic common sense “rules” but I think why it resonates so deeply with young men is because he is SO VERY authentic and real … not to mention men are starving for real truth instead of this toxic feminism. If you’ve seen him speak in person and listen to his podcasts and lectures or seen any of the dark-web interviews with him … *he’s the same guy … EVERY time*. That’s what drew our oldest daughter (21 now. But when she first started listening to him she was 18) … she introduced me to him.

    I absolutely love his agenda of challenging post-secondary education.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bike Bubba says:

    I’d wondered what a lot of the fuss over Peterson is–I’ve seen things that are strongly on both sides of the issue–so thanks. It strikes me as well that a lot of objections to his work stem from the fact that what he’s endorsing is simply to play by the rules of ordinary society, and a lot of people have a tremendous amount of themselves invested in precisely the notion that they do not need to play by those rules. To use rule #1 as a guide, “I’ll slouch if I want to, buddy!” seems a likely response, if I’ve removed a few words from what would actually be said. :^)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. hearthie says:

    Your review is spot on. I *enjoy* listening to Peterson on youtube etc (though I don’t bother with his theological theories) but the book was much too long, and it was too long because of the gobbletygook, not the rules themselves.

    He said elsewhere that he had a lot more rules and he’d cut down to these. If he’d wanted a 400pg book, less discussion and more of that would have been good. Or not. People require simplicity to effect change.

    That this is helping people (particularly young men) effect change in their lives, I applaud.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Elspeth says:

    Good morning Robyn!

    I like Peterson, really. One of his rules is to precise with your speech. And when he speaks, you can see that he measures his words very carefully. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy listening to him. I don’t even mind that his rules aren’t necessarily original to someone my age because even I can use reminders of some of it.

    And many young people have never, ever heard some of this stuff. All they’ve been taught to do is jump through hoops and chase after shallow markers of success. So I *get* his appeal. My biggest issue with his book (leaving aside theology for the purposes of this conversation) is that given the larger number of young people who could benefit from his rules and insights, it would have been a better book if the language and length of the book could appeal to a broader base.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Robyn says:

    Good morning back at you!

    But a “shorter/easier” manuscript would fly directly in the face of his philosophy of “life is hard/challenge” … his appeal (in my opinion) is not to convince people they need to change; but rather to illuminate a way for those that have already seen that something isn’t right in their own lives. He’s appealing to those that are willing to do the work — whatever it takes and however hard it is … people that are *done* with the present status quo of a non-productive life.

    It’s kind of like my blog. I don’t write to convince a wife NOT to leave her husband; but rather to those wives that have already made the choice to stay.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Robyn says:

    comment to Hearthie:

    “(though I don’t bother with his theological theories) ”

    I agree. Although, C.S. Lewis also started out as an academic as well and look what God did with him! So, who knows 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. hearthie says:

    Oh yes, I think we should pray for Dr. Peterson. I don’t think Peterson has met God face to face … yet. I get the distinct impression that he’s among academics who think that Biblical Christians are all a bit naive. Which makes me sad for him. Oh what he’s missing!!

    Have you read the book? We’re not picking on him, there really is a lot of stuff that wanted editing out. It wasn’t difficult to read, it was irrelevant. Els read the first draft of my book – if I’d indulged myself like that she’d have read me the riot act.

    But thinking on… perhaps the stuff we find so irrelevant IS relevant… if you don’t have God. One does have to do so many mental gymnastics to arrive at Christian conclusions without Christ. And those gymnastics are faintly offensive and annoying if you’re already kneeling at the foot of the cross.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Robyn says:

    “perhaps the stuff we find so irrelevant IS relevant… if you don’t have God. One does have to do so many mental gymnastics to arrive at Christian conclusions without Christ. And those gymnastics are faintly offensive and annoying if you’re already kneeling at the foot of the cross.”

    tis true. Listening to a sermon intended for milk drinkers IS faintly annoying.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Elspeth says:

    Hey, Bike. Peterson’s most forceful thrust into the public eye came as a result of his refusal to play the gender pronoun game in his capacity as a professor at the University of Toronto.

    From there, those of us who knew little about him quickly began to get more acquainted with his ideas, many of which are based on truisms that most people accepted and worked with as a matter of course until around 1960. You and I had parents who were still mostly sane, but our kids’ peers -and the men in particular- have mostly never gotten these memos. So Peterson strikes a chord there.

    I think it’s good that a call to sanity is underway. As it happens, I Googled Peterson to be sure that I was correct in citing his professorship as University of Toronto rather than another Canadian college, and these three links were at the top of the page:
    What are Christians to make of Jordan Peterson?

    How philosopher Jordan Peterson will change the world.”

    Jordan B. Peterson triggers host over female aggression data: ‘What is an out-of-control woman?’”

    I haven’t read any of them yet, but you know I’m starting with the last one first.

    Needlessly to say, love him or hate him (I’m in the third category of “like a little*), this guy is making waves.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Elspeth says:

    tis true. Listening to a sermon intended for milk drinkers IS faintly annoying.

    Hmm… I don’t find listening to sermons for milk drinkers annoying for the same reasons I don’t find rules like Peterson’s “stand up straight” annoying.

    It’s because I know that people are all on different legs of life’s journeys same as with their faith journeys. It didn’t annoy me to teach my kids to read and spell either, and I know you feel the same.

    I actually do like the rules, and the book -to repeat Hearth’s point- wasn’t difficult at all. It was an easy enough read. The parts that I labored through were not difficult but tedious in their irrelevance. Some people who are fairly intelligent and willing to work hard (like my husband, for instance) just wouldn’t have the patience to wade through all of that like I did.

    But none of that is meant to detract from Peterson’s value as it relates to helping young men find meaning, confidence and purpose. He has definitely done a lot of good in that regard.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. stmichaelkozaki says:

    Two things:
    1: Have you seen Vox Day’s takedown of Peterson? Worth a look if not.
    2: What makes Peterson so famous is his skilled rhetoric, not his ideas. I’ve never seen a guy so awesome at working a crowd and avoiding liberal hits…I guess that’s years and years of living in the belly of the beast (psychology is way liberal and like 80% women at least). So it’s cool to see a guy speaking plain truths out loud when he’s not supposed to be allowed to do that!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. stmichaelkozaki says:

    Vox is somewhat autistic and has huge blind spots yes. I’m objective about both Peterson & Vox (e.g. I don’t idolize either but find both interesting).

    But I would be careful assigning motives to either guy. The idea Vox sees Peterson as “competition” is kinda weird. In terms of fame, Vox is nowhere near Peterson and never will be (and clearly doesn’t care to be; Vox is a dislikable guy, period, and proud of it). But in terms of ideas and brains, Peterson will never be in the same class as Vox. To quote Sailer: Vox would rather be right than rich :-). Note I speak as an admirer of both. Oh how I wish I could speak like Peterson…and think like Vox…

    But truthfully Vox puts his finger on why I’ve always been bothered by Peterson’s lectures. He’s not very rational and doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. I thought your review reinforced this, myself, which is why I commented on it. Seems like everyone is seeing the same thing, just from different POV. But good post.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Elspeth says:

    Your point is taken. No doubt my general dislike of Vox colored my response. But thanks for lumping this little ol’ housewife in among people with a bit of cognitive ability.

    It is true that once you take a scratch beneath the surface, some of the ideas lDr. Peterson espouses are wanting.

    I do hope nonetheless that as he can help light a fire in the belly of this generation of young men, he continues to do that. Too many of them are adrift and have never been so inspired until Peterson.

    Liked by 2 people

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