12 Rules For Life: Takeaways and Key Points Book Summary

This is a summary review of 12 Rules For Life containing key details about the book.

What is 12 Rules For Life About?

12 Rules for Life provides twelve profound and practical principles for how to live a meaningful life, from setting your house in order before criticising others to comparing yourself to who you were yesterday, not someone else today.

The book's central idea is that "suffering is built into the structure of being" and although it can be unbearable, people have a choice either to withdraw, which is a "suicidal gesture", or to face and transcend it. Living in a world of chaos and order, everyone has "darkness" that can "turn them into the monsters they're capable of being" to satisfy their dark impulses in the right situations. The book advances the idea that people are born with an instinct for ethics and meaning, and should take responsibility to search for meaning above their own interests.

Who is the Author of 12 Rules For Life?

Jordan B. Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist, self-help writer, cultural critic, and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. His main areas of study are in abnormal, social, and personality psychology, with a particular interest in the psychology of religious and ideological belief, and the assessment and improvement of personality and performance.

How Long is 12 Rules For Life?

  • Print length: 409 pages
  • Audiobook: 15 hours and 40 minutes

What genre is 12 Rules For Life?

Nonfiction, Psychology, Self Help, Philosophy, Personal Development, Health & Wellness, Mental Health

What are the 12 Rules?

1. "Stand up straight with your shoulders back."
2. "Treat yourself like you are someone you are responsible for helping."
3. "Make friends with people who want the best for you."
4. "Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today."
5. "Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them."
6. "Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world."
7. "Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)."
8. "Tell the truth – or, at least, don't lie."
9. "Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don't."
10. "Be precise in your speech."
11. "Do not bother children when they are skateboarding."
12. "Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street."

What are the main summary points of 12 Rules For Life?

Here are some key summary points from the book:

  • Follow the 12 rules to live a more fulfilled life.
  • Rule 1: Good posture is a winner. Science shows that the release of happy hormones is higher for winners than losers. This leads to a whole host of benefits.
  • Rule 2: Care for yourself like you do your most beloved other. We punish ourselves. Do what’s best for you, as well as what makes you happy. To do this, identify your goals.
  • Rule 3: Surround yourself by positivity. Negativity spreads, so choose your friends wisely.
  • Rule 4: Stop comparing yourself to others. Being overly self-critical leads to black-and-white thinking and losing sight of the big picture. Compare yourself to yourself.
  • Rule 5: When parenting, be responsible and likeable, not just a friend. Limit the rules, use minimum force necessary, and utilize pairs.
  • Rule 6: Take responsibility, stop judging. Seeing the world negatively makes you justify bad behavior.
  • Rule 7: Set meaningful goals, instead of instant gratification. Make sacrifices, and stick with your goal.
  • Rule 8: Always speak the truth. Create achievable goals, otherwise you’re your own worst enemy.
  • Rule 9: There’s always something to learn. Listen. Summarize what someone’s said to you.
  • Rule 10: In language, precision is vital. It aids communication, and helps relationships.
  • Rule 11: Don’t have goals that suppress others’ positive qualities.
  • Rule 12: Appreciate the small joys. By being grateful for every little positivity, you start seeing the good in everything.

What are the chapters in 12 Rules For Life?

Chapter One - Rule 1: Stand up Straight with Your Shoulders Back
Chapter Two - Rule 2: Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible for Helping
Chapter Three - Rule 3: Make Friends with People Who Want the Best for You
Chapter Four - Rule 4: Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday, Not To Who Someone Else Is Today
Chapter Five - Rule 5: Do Not Let Your Children Do Anything That Makes You Dislike Them
Chapter Six - Rule 6: Set Your House In Perfect Order Before You Criticize The World
Chapter Seven - Rule 7: Pursue What Is Meaningful (Not What Is Expedient)
Chapter Eight - Rule 8: Tell The Truth - or, At Least, Don't Lie
Chapter Nine - Rule 9: Assume The Person You Are Listening To Might Know Something You Don't
Chapter Ten - Rule 10: Be Precise In Your Speech
Chapter Eleven - Rule 11: Do Not Bother Children When They Are Skateboarding
Chapter Twelve - Rule 12: Pet A Cat When You Encounter One On The Street

What are key takeaways from 12 Rules For Life?

Takeaway #1: Stand Tall & Hold Your Head High

Did you know that where you are in a hierarchy (a pecking order) can affect your posture? Hierarchies occur throughout the animal kingdom and research has shown that those at the top and bottom of the hierarchy have different chemical balances in their brains - those at the top have a higher ratio of serotonin (the happiness hormone) to octopamine. This chemical difference means that those at the top of the pecking order are more agile and have a more upright position making them more intimidating whilst those at the bottom of the pecking order are less likely to enter competitive situations against those above them which reinforces their inactivity in a continued cycle of low self-esteem, and depression. Therefore, to get higher up the pecking order you need to stand up tall, push your shoulders back, and hold your head high.

Takeaway #2: Never Compare Yourself To Others

Self-criticism is necessary because it motivates us to strive to be better and with our brains wired to see the present as lacking and the future as more promising it ensures we're always taking action and pushing forward. The problem with self-criticism comes when we start comparing ourselves to other people as we can quickly lose sight of our own progress only seeing the bigger black and white picture of success or failure rather than the small steps we've taken to get where we want to be. Comparing yourself to others also leads to zeroing in on one aspect such as how you did at work over the past year rather than looking at the wider picture of self-improvement and family life. Therefore, you should only judge yourself against your own prior accomplishments. If you start to think that you're always succeeding it's a sign that you need to take bigger risks and push yourself more.

Takeaway #3: Choose Sacrifice Over Pleasure

Have you heard the story of the monkey who got his hand caught because he wouldn't let go of the food in his hand? The moral of this story is that there is a price to be paid for greed and a reminder that we often pursue pleasure even when we know it is not in our best interest. It's easy to justify an immediate pleasure (if it makes me happy it's got to be right) rather than a sacrifice (if I give up fast food I'll become slimmer) when you're not living a happy fulfilling life but you should know that sacrifice brings better things in the future and indeed, the bigger the sacrifice, the greater the reward can be.

Takeaway #4: Conversations Are Not A Competition

Socrates had such openness to learning that he died believing that the only thing he was certain of was that he knew nothing. We should learn a thing from one of the world's greatest philosophers by using genuine conversation as a way to think and learn but unfortunately, most conversations don't happen like this because one or both people refuse to listen, treating the conversation as a competition that they need to win. To be more like Socrates you should always presume that the other person has something to say that you need to hear, so remain objective, stop thinking of what you're going to say next to get your point across and instead, listen then summarize what the person just said to make sure you understand it.

What are good quotes from 12 rules of life?

"When you have something to say, silence is a lie... so, attend carefully to your posture. Quit drooping and hunching around. Speak your mind. Put your desires forward, as if you had a right to them—at least the same right as others. Walk tall and gaze forthrightly ahead. Dare to be dangerous."

"You can only find out what you actually believe (rather than what you think you believe) by watching how you act. You simply don’t know what you believe, before that. You are too complex to understand yourself."

"It took untold generations to get you where you are. A little gratitude might be in order. If you're going to insist on bending the world to your way, you better have your reasons."

"Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today."

"We deserve some respect. You deserve some respect. You are important to other people, as much as to yourself. You have some vital role to play in the unfolding destiny of the world. You are, therefore, morally obliged to take care of yourself."

"...you are overvaluing what you don’t have and undervaluing what you do."

"If your life is not what it could be, try telling the truth... Nietzsche said that a man’s worth was determined by how much truth he could tolerate"

― Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

Is 12 Rules For Life worth reading?

Here's what top reviewers had to say about the book:

“Jordan Peterson, has become one of the best-known Canadians of this generation. In the intellectual category, he’s easily the largest international phenomenon since Marshall McLuhan. . . . By combining knowledge of the past with a full-hearted optimism and a generous attitude toward his readers and listeners, Peterson generates an impressive level of intellectual firepower.” —Robert Fulford, National Post

“Like the best intellectual polymaths, Peterson invites his readers to embark on their own intellectual, spiritual and ideological journeys into the many topics and disciplines he touches on. It’s a counter-intuitive strategy for a population hooked on the instant gratification of ideological conformity and social media ‘likes,’ but if Peterson is right, you have nothing to lose but your own misery.” —Toronto Star

“In a different intellectual league. . . . Peterson can take the most difficult ideas and make them entertaining. This may be why his YouTube videos have had 35 million views. He is fast becoming the closest that academia has to a rock star.” —The Observer

“Grow up and man up is the message from this rock-star psychologist. . . . [A] hardline self-help manual of self-reliance, good behaviour, self-betterment and individualism that probably reflects his childhood in rural Canada in the 1960s. As with all self-help manuals, there’s always a kernel of truth. Formerly a Harvard professor, now at the University of Toronto, Peterson retains that whiff of cowboy philosophy—one essay is a homily on doing one thing every day to improve yourself. Another, on bringing up little children to behave, is excellent…. [Peterson] twirls ideas around like a magician.” —Melanie Reid, The Times

“You don’t have to agree with [Peterson’s politics] to like this book for, once you discard the self-help label, it becomes fascinating. Peterson is brilliant on many subjects. . . . So what we have here is a baggy, aggressive, in-your-face, get-real book that, ultimately, is an attempt to lead us back to what Peterson sees as the true, the beautiful and the good—i.e. God. In the highest possible sense of the term, I suppose it is a self-help book. . . . Either way, it’s a rocky read, but nobody ever said God was easy.” —Bryan Appleyard, The Times

“One of the most eclectic and stimulating public intellectuals at large today, fearless and impassioned.” —The Guardian

“Someone with not only humanity and humour, but serious depth and substance. . . . Peterson has a truly cosmopolitan and omnivorous intellect, but one that recognizes that things need grounding in a home if they are ever going to be meaningfully grasped. . . . As well as being funny, there is a burning sincerity to the man which only the most withered cynic could suspect.” —The Spectator

“Peterson has become a kind of secular prophet who, in an era of lobotomized conformism, thinks out of the box. . . . His message is overwhelmingly vital.” —Melanie Philips, The Times


* Key sources: 12 Rules For Life, Wikipedia

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Tal Gur is a location independent entrepreneur, author, and impact investor. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His most recent book and bestseller, The Art of Fully Living - 1 Man, 10 Years, 100 Life Goals Around the World, has set the stage for his new mission: elevating society to its abundance potential.


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Tal Gur is a location independent entrepreneur, author, and impact investor. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His most recent book and bestseller, The Art of Fully Living - 1 Man, 10 Years, 100 Life Goals Around the World, has set the stage for his new mission: elevating society to its abundance potential.

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