Jordan Peterson 12 Rules For Life Summary & Review

12 Rules for Life

Book Review, Summary, Highlights, and Quotes from 12 Rules For Life by Jordan Peterson

I have to admit that Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life was not one of the easiest to get through.

With a small font, big pages, and elongated prose, Jordan Peterson’s writing and style take some getting used to.

In fact, I put this book down and almost did not pick it back up again.

But I was drawn to taking a second pass at it and it grew on me as we went along.

At times it certainly can be a lot:

  • Blunt.
  • Dark.
  • Overly religious and conservative.
  • Too long

It was certainly a challenging read, and it’s not for everybody, but it does shine an interesting light on what the hell this crazy thing we call life is really about – and how to best live it.

Yet, I also can’t say I finished the book and could succinctly remember most of the 12 rules for life once I finished!

Nor does the book come off as an antidote to chaos either…

There will be sections of this book that you disagree with.

I know I certainly do not agree with everything in it, especially much of the gender takes in Rule 11 and the conservative religious views that crop up from time to time.

In my writing of this review, I’ve also discovered some further controversies surrounding Jordan Peterson and his right-wing viewpoints on the LGBTQ+ community and gender roles.

My scoring of the book is based on my enjoyment of the book and the value I got out of it. It doesn’t mean I agree with everything the author says or does.

As with any book, within it, there are gems and duds. You pick up on the ideas that resonate with you and you discard the ones that don’t.

That is what I recommend with this book.

My review probably came off as more negative than positive, but in the end, I found it thought-provoking and memorable enough that I might consider revisiting some of it.

It’s complicated. It’s long. It’s flat-out wrong at times. Still, it’s worth a read…

AR Score: 8 out of 10

12 Rules For Life Book Summary

The 12 Rules For Life, sprung up from a post on Quora of all places to answer the question “What are the most valuable things everyone should know?”

Jordan Peterson, a Canadian Clinical Psychologist and Professor of Psychology is about as fit to answer this question as anyone – even with some tongue-in-cheek answers.

Due to its immense popularity, and numerous upvotes, it formed the idea for Jordan’s next book.

And thus we have the 12 Rules For Life:

  • RULE 1: Stand up straight with your shoulders back
  • RULE 2: Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
  • RULE 3: Make friends with people who want the best for you
  • RULE 4: Compare yourself to who you were yesterday not to who someone else is today
  • RULE 5: Do 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: Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
  • RULE 8: Tell the truth – or, at least don’t lie
  • RULE 9: Assume the person you are listening to might know something you don’t
  • RULE 10: Be precise in your speech
  • RULE 11: Do not bother children when they are skateboarding
  • RULE 12: Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street

Some are straightforward, and others are a bit confusing.

But for each rule, Jordan thoroughly examines the meaning behind each rule, providing even more insights.

And he will take you on a hell of a journey – all the way from talking about Lobsters and their 350 million-year-old history of developed social status and hierarchy to the bible, and back to modern day.

Using personal examples, religious texts, psychological studies, and more, each chapter will go on a wide-ranging journey.

Finally, he’ll conclude each chapter and rule with a powerful summary statement.

So for example with Rule 1, “Stand up straight with your shoulders back” he’ll pull it all together with a strong and passionate closing:

So, attend carfully to your posture. Quit dropping 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 graze forthrightly ahead. Dare to be dangerous.


People, including, yourself will start to assume that you are competent and able […] Emboldened by the positive responses you are now receiving, you will begin to be less anxious. You will then find it easier to pay attention to the subtle social clues that people exchange when they are comminicating.


Thus strengthened, you may be able to stand, even during the illness of a loved one, even during the death of a parent, and allow others to find strength alongside you when they would otherwise be overwhelmed with depair.


Thus emboldened, you will embark on the voyage of your life, let your life shine, so to speak, on the heavenly hill, and pursue your rightful destiny. Then the meaning of your life may be sufficient to keep the corrupting influence of mortal depair at bay.

Look for inspiration to the victorious lobster, with its 350 million years of practical wisdowm. Stand up straight, with your shoulders back.

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

Each chapter will be very wide-ranging and you may think it isn’t going anywhere, but will eventually circle back to the rule in mind.

Again, it’s not an easy read, and overly conservative at times, but despite some of its clear flaws, Jordan does construct some solid rules for life.

Best Quotes from 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson

The forces of tyranny expand inexorably to fill the space made available for their existance.

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

When life suddenly reveals itself as intense, gripping and meaningful; when time passes and you’re so engrossed in what you’re doing you don’t notice – it is there and then that you are located precisely on the border between order and chaos.

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

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 should take care of, help and be good to yourself the same way you would take care of, help and be good to someone you loved and valued.

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

Assume first that you are doing the easiest thing, and not the most difficult.

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

Vice is easy. Failure is easy, too. It’s easiet not to shoulder a burden. It’s easier not to think, and not to do, and not to care. It’s easier to put off until tomorrow what needs to be done today.

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

You are over valuing what you don’t have and undervaluing what you do.

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

There is not just one game at which to succeed or fail. There are many games and, more specifically, many good games – games that match your talents, involve you productively with other people, and sustain and even improve themselves acrross time.

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

Failure is the price we pay for standards and, because mediocrity has consequences both real and harsh, standards are necessary.

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

There is more of the world than there is of you. You must shepherd your limited resourced carefully. Seeing is very difficult, so you must choose what to see, and let the rest go.

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

It is an act of responsibility to discipline a child. It is not anger at misbehaviour. It is not revenge for a misdeed. It is instead a careful combination of mercy and long-term judgement.

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

Be good company when something fun is happening, so that you’re invited for the fun.

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

Life is short and you don’t have time to figure out everything on your own. The wisdom of the past was hard-earned, and your dead ancestors may have something useful to tell you.

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

What’s the difference between the successful and the unsuccessful? The successful sacrifice.

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

There are many problems that money does not solve, and others that make it worse.

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

To have meaning in your life is better than to have what you want, because you may neither know what you want, nor what you truly need. Meaning is something that comes upon you, of its own accord.

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

Taking the easy way out or telling the truth – those are not merely two different choices. They are different pathways through life. They are utterly different ways of existing.

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

You have a direction, but it might be wrong. You have a plan, but it might be ill-formed. You may have been led astray by your own ignorance – and, worse, by your own unrevealed corruption. You must make friends, therefore, with what you don’t know, instead of what you know.

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

You should never sacrafice what you could be for what you are.

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

The present can change the past, and the future can change the present.

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

Your wisdom then consists not of knowledge you already have, but of the continual search for knowledge, which is the highest form of wisdom.

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

You must determine where you are going in your life, because you cannot get there unless you move in that direction. Random wandering will not move you forward.

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

Who decided, anyway, that career is more important than love and family? Is working eighty hours a week at a high-end law firm truly worth the sacrifices required for that kind of success? And if it is worth it, why is it worth it?

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

Culture takes with one hand, but in some fortunate places it gives more with the other. To think about culture only as oppresive is ignorant and ungrateful, as well as dangerous.

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

Who decided, anyway, that career is more important than love and family? Is working eighty hours a week at a high-end law firm truly worth the sacrifices required for that kind of success? And if it is worth it, why is it worth it?

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

Competence, not power, is a prime determiner of status. Competence. Ability. Skill. Not power.

– Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules for Life

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