This is a continuation of the previous post, in my review of Jordan Peterson’s book “The 12 Rules for Life”.
If you have not read Part I, you might want to check it out here first before reading this post. Ideas covered in this post builds on to the first six rules.
Of course, I’m not strict on your reading preferences – there are no rules to this! (no pun intended)
Without further ado, here are the next six rules in The 12 Rules for Life, along with my personal thoughts:
7. Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
One common trait of successful people is that they understood the concept of sacrifice.
Essentially, sacrifice can be summed up into two words: delayed gratification.
We give up something of value in the present because we can get something better in the future. Sounds simple, and what a rational person would do isn’t it?
But we are living in a world where we want instant gratification.
With many “get-rich-quick” schemes and ads we see on Youtube promising you that if you join their courses, you can make 1 million dollars in e-commerce over 6 months.
Understand that the key to success is delayed gratification. Choose what is meaningful over what is expedient.
What is expedient works only for the short-term. It is immediate and impulsive. Focus on the long-term game and be patient.
Can you pass the Marshmellow Test?
Research has shown that children who passed the Marshmellow Test goes on to do better in life. Delayed gratification is a competitive advantage in life and in investing. More about that in a later post.
“Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” – Warren Buffett
8. Tell the truth — or at least, don’t lie
First, let me just say that everybody lies. Everybody.
Some studies show that the average person lies between once or twice per day. While other studies claim people lie up to 10 times over the course of a single conversation.
We often have very good reasons for lying. We lie to be kind. We lie out of embarrassment or fear. We lie out of self-interest.
But lying becomes dangerous, especially when you get into the habit of lying not putting your desires forward.
Lying is the antithesis of meaning and reality.
The only thing you could achieve by lying is only get away from a situation, but only temporarily.
Learn to Say “No”
In our personal life, sometimes it can be difficult to say “No” to people, especially those who are important to you.
But sometimes, saying “No” is the best answer.
Once you get into the habit of saying “Yes” when you need to say “No”, you transform yourself into someone who is a “Yes” man. Your happiness is at the mercy of others. You are not in control.
Beyond people-pleasing, not revealing the truth has a greater impact. It would change your character and how you make decisions in important situations.
As Peterson says: “It was the great and the small lies of the Nazi and Communist states that produced the deaths of millions of people.”
Identify your Internal State
When you lie, your body reacts. Your heart rate increases, blood pressure goes up and hands become sweaty.
Be self-aware about your emotions and body reactions when you are not telling the truth. By asking yourself questions, try to understand the reason why you are lying. Having that awareness is the first step to change.
Put Your Desires Forward
Many times, we might struggle with putting our desires forward. Especially with family and societal pressure.
For instance, studying a certain degree (e.g.. engineering/data science) or staying in that job because that is what your parents or society expects of you. Rather than your own wishes.
You don’t want to disappoint your parents / the society (who are they, really?), so you did not tell them the truth. But when you fail, you would do the exact same thing.
It might be easy for you to lie to others. But you can never lie to yourself.
Take courage. Stand up straight with your shoulders back and put your desires forward. Tell the truth, or at least do not lie.
9. Assume the person you are listening to might know something that you don’t
When people argue about something, they often fall in the trap of trying to win the argument.
But the point of a conversation is not to win. It’s to come out as a wiser person before you engaged in the conversation.
Take advantage of what the person is trying to tell you. Give them a chance to explain their ideas. Offer a summary of what others said to you.
The Power of Summarising
To prove that you have understood someone clearly, reply them with a short summary of what they have just said.
Summarise what others said to you. Then ask them, “Have I understood you properly?”
If not, make corrections to your summary until it reflects the ideas of the person you are speaking to.
He suggested that his readers conduct a short experiment when they next found themselves in a dispute: “Stop the discussion for a moment, and institute this rule: ‘Each person can speak up for himself only after he has first restated the ideas and feelings of the previous speaker accurately, and to that speaker’s satisfaction.’”
Human Biases at Play
As we acquire knowledge of a certain subject, and become an “expert” or someone with a decent amount of understanding on the topic, it becomes easy for us to be blind-sighted.
We zoomed in to our narrow tunnel vision, and become close-minded. Anything that lies outside of our model answer, is deemed as “wrong”.
But often, it is our human biases at play. Humans are great at finding confirming evidence to prove that we are right. And our self-presentation bias makes us want to look “good” and appear “smart” in front of others. So when others give a reply which seems unrelated, we become quick to judge and “switch-off” what the person says.
Take for instance, stock-picking.
When we speak about a stock that we purchased, we would come up with a list of reasons why the purchase was the best decision. Confirmation bias, cherry-picking evidence are at play.
However, assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t. Who knows, they might see something different which might be useful information for you.
Linking back to the stock-picking example, someone might be sharing with you about a stock from a different industry, one that you’re not familiar with. Instead of choosing to “switch-off” because the stock is not within your circle of competence, you pay attention to what he said.
You realise that despite it being in another industry, the stock has a similar moat to the stock you are researching on.
Whatever they said might spark an idea in your head – one which you would have never gotten, if you remain close-minded. Giving you an insight which you would have never gotten, if you remain close-minded.
Use active listening and be open-minded to take in the perspectives of others. Assume that they know something you don’t.
People think they think, but it’s not true. It’s mostly self-criticism that passes for thinking. True thinking is rare—just like true listening. Thinking is listening to yourself. It’s difficult. To think, you have to be at least two people at the same time. Then you have to let those people disagree. Thinking is an internal dialogue between two or more different views of the world.
10. Be precise in your speech
Sometimes, we refuse to be specific in our speech. Because to specify the problem, is to admit that it exists. And the pain accompanying it can be confronting.
But only by being specific in the problem would enable its solution.
For instance, maybe you feel a certain negative emotion (anger, jealousy, resentment etc) towards your partner.
Communicating your feelings is often not easy. So you try to convince yourself “It’s okay, it’s not worth fighting about this”, and do nothing to resolve the inner conflict.
However, doing nothing invites disaster. The unresolved issues swept under the rug will resurface eventually.
So instead of bottling it up and being vague, specify exactly what is bothering you and share it with your partner. Focus on that one specific issue that is bothering you, and do not dig up past grievances. Then, you can properly diagnose the problem and find solutions.
Be articulate, and use precise language to communicate with others.
Say what you mean, so that you can find out what you mean. Act out what you say, so you can find out what happens. Then pay attention. Note your errors. Articulate them. Strive to correct them. That is how you discover the meaning of your life. That will protect you from the tragedy of your life.
11. Do not bother children when they are skateboarding
This rule is similar to Rule 5 – Do Not Let Your Children Do Anything that Makes You Dislike Them.
Children do all sorts of crazy risky stuff on stakeboards, and we should let them be.
It’s dangerous, but it’s important for them to develop masculinity and competence in the face of danger.
The benefits are far greater than if you were to overprotect them. Ironically, the rebellious teenage phase can allow children to develop confidence. They take risks, confront chaos and resolve problems on their own.
Otherwise, overprotecting them does more harm than good. Children who are sheltered have a harder time dealing with failure, which is inevitable in their life.
12. Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street
The title of this chapter is inspired by the author’s experience of observing a local stray cat adapting to its surroundings in a harsh environment.
When you are going for a walk and your head is spinning with thoughts, a cat will show up and if you pay attention to it, then you will get a reminder for just fifteen seconds that the wonder of being might make up for the ineradicable suffering that accompanies it. Noticing is better than thinking.
When life gets tough, remind yourself of the little things that make life worthwhile.
Even in the darkest times, we must keep our eyes open. If you pay attention, you may be fortunate enough to be confronted with small opportunities of just that sort.
Again, here are the last 6 Rules in the 12 Rules for Life:
- 7. Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
- 8. Tell the truth — or at least, don’t lie
- 9. Assume the person you are listening to might know something that 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
Overall, the 12 Rules for Life is a great read. Some parts of the book delve into philosophy and abstract concepts, which might take some time to digest if unfamiliar with this topic.
Personally, this book has refined my perspective on how the world works. And what we can do to navigate the complexities.
An over-arching theme in this book is order and chaos.
Order is where the people around you act according to well-understood social norms, and remain predictable and cooperative. It’s the world of social structure, explored territory, and familiarity. The state of Order is typically portrayed, symbolically—imaginatively—as masculine.
Chaos, by contrast, is where—or when—something unexpected happens. Chaos emerges, in trivial form, when you tell a joke at a party with people you think you know and a silent and embarrassing chill falls over the gathering. Chaos is what emerges more catastrophically when you suddenly find yourself without employment, or are betrayed by a lover.
The 12 Rules is designed to bring into balance order and chaos, in our personal lives. For us to take responsibility for our actions and make the decision to live a meaningful life.
I hope that these rules and my sharing will help you in some way.
Here are some additional resources and the link to Part 1:
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