Dr. Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life are Not Meant to be Broken!

If you have followed Dr. Jordan Peterson’s trajectory closely, you would agree that if nothing, he has at the least gotten under the skin of the shallow, lazy intellectuals who have been enjoying an extended honeymoon in the marketplace of intellectuals. Right from their stranglehold on the academia to their presumption of privilege to be heard first on all matters significant or otherwise, the foundations have been shaken. Now, some of them have gone to their study to revise the fundamentals of their worldview and the ones who were there only by the virtue of intellectual nepotism have unwittingly come out in open with their lack of depth and understanding about matters Dr. Peterson speaks of. Faced with such a situation, I have seen them doing, one of these two things – either they keep talking to the straw-man their professors had created for them back in their schools or they keep throwing off meaningless personal allegations against the man. This is such a common streak in Dr. Peterson’s interviews (mostly, the ones that have been taken by the flag-bearers of lazy intellectualism) that most of the time, he is not being heard. What we see instead is some sort of passive listening while their active brain is busy stitching its next net to trap him. On the other hand, Dr. Peterson doesn’t shy away from taking his own sweet time to listen so as to draft better responses and throw in an honest question at the end of it which even though seemingly honest, pops up only by design . In a few minutes, aware or unaware, the interviewer is choked for space and starts following Dr. Peterson’s streak. So, while the interviewer is already zoned out, Dr. Peterson is still in the ring, ready to land his knockout punch.

I heard of the book 12 Rules for Life in one of his talks on YouTube. Since the subjects and delivery of his YouTube lectures had me hooked on to them already, I didn’t have much questions about going ahead and buying his book. Typically, you would place this book on the self-help shelf in a bookstore but even if the book is kept in the autobiographies section, it would make equal sense, if not more. This is because Jordan Peterson is not into empty lecturing and tall tales. He draws heavily from his own life, his struggles, and his attempts to understand the ever-elusive meaning of life to explain his rules. This works in favour of the book because a book that is meant to help you should have at least helped the author before taking birth as a book.

One must increase one’s strength by sadhana; otherwise one cannot preach. As the proverb goes: ‘You have no room to sleep yourself and you invite a friend to sleep with you.’ There is no place for you to lie down and you say: ‘Come, friend! Come and lie down with me.’  – Sri Ramakrishna (Gospel/Vol2/34.html)

Jordan presents the book as an antidote to chaos. What chaos is he actually talking about? Before he starts explaining the rules, while telling us about the title, he says, “Perhaps if we lived properly, we would be able to tolerate the weight of our own self-consciousness. Perhaps, if we lived properly, we could withstand the knowledge of our own fragility and mortality, without the sense of aggrieved victimhood that produces, first, resentment, then envy, and then the desire for vengeance and destruction. Perhaps, if we lived properly, we wouldn’t have to turn to totalitarian certainty to shield ourselves from the knowledge of our insufficiency and ignorance. Perhaps we could come to avoid those pathways to Hell-and we have seen in the terrible twentieth century just how real Hell can be.”

Now, if I had to count the attributes of today’s individual that contribute to the chaos Mr. Peterson is talking about, they would be the following –

  • Loss of Self-Esteem

    Too many in this world are being brought up with a sense of criminality about the human race. While a bunch of people keep working to make this world a better place, there are so many individuals who really believe that humans are not good enough for this planet. Add to this, the deliberate divorce from one’s own history, culture, and heritage being effected by the academia and popular media, our youngsters grow up without any self-esteem. They only know to loathe themselves and others with increasing intensity every day.

  • Playing the Victim Card

    We have become too touchy, we like flashing the victim card all the time to outshout others and make ourselves heard. We play the victim card when we are on the wrong, we play it when we have wronged someone else. This has far reaching consequences. One, nobody is ready to take responsibility for their actions. Two, the real victims are almost never heard or ignored and they keep suffering. Three, we end up living a life based on lies and deceit. We reduce ourselves to mere actors and manipulate our own worldview to see the world as a stage and everyone else as fellow actors.

  • Loss of Purpose

    This point in part is connected to the first point. Our world is more connected than it has ever been. With 24/7 internet life, online profiles, avatars, the need to flaunt or fake your happiness and success has migrated from our neighbourhoods to the World Wide Web. That world is naturally more fierce, less forgiving, and changing at a breakneck speed. So, individuals end up making stories and exaggerating their experiences instead of living a truly meaningful life with any sense of purpose.

  • Envy

    This is one aspect of our chaos that is not always addressed openly. This feeling is not unnatural but what we let it do to us is very much our own choice. While some people let it drive them to lead a meaningful life, most of the people let it destroy them one sad day at a time.

  • No Respect for the Other Person

    This other person can be your friend, family, parents, sibling, teacher, colleague, or somebody you don’t agree with on political issues. The lack of respect has made all our exchanges a zero sum game where either you are with me or against me. If you are with me, good. If you are against me, you are a fascist. The middle ground of mutual respect has perished. What am I talking about? Check this piece by Dr. Shashi Tharoor – am-i-a-closet-sanghi-for-mourning-demise-of-an-rss-man-somethings-terribly-wrong-tharoor

  • Handling Grief

    For all the interconnectedness chatter in the world, we are not really doing ourselves proud when it comes to making real connections. More families are going nuclear, people have fewer friends, we seldom know who our neighbour is, and trusting colleagues has become an impossible thing at work. While solitude can be empowering when exercised by choice of time and place, compelled loneliness leaves us terribly vulnerable in times of grief. When something happens to somebody close to us, we are caught helpless while trying to deal with our grief.

Now, this is of course not an exhaustive list, so you may add to it whatever you feel brings chaos to our life. Just one word of caution, when you start adding to the list, do not begin by thinking of the society at large. Instead, begin by thinking about yourself and your own life. Start by including the chaotic aspects of your own life. Human beings are not too different from each other. What you find in 1, you fill find in n. It is for this reason Dr. Peterson highlights the importance of changing the world by changing the self. In his Rule No. 6, Mr. Peterson says, “Don’t blame capitalism, the radical left, or the iniquity of your own enemies. Don’t reorganize the state until you have ordered your own experience. Have some humility. If you cannot bring peace to your own household, how dare you try to rule a city? Let your own soul guide you…”

 Be the change you want to see in the world. – Mahatma Gandhi

Mr. Peterson has addressed all the points mentioned here and more through his 12 rules. Every rule picks on one thing that he wants you to start doing. For each of his rule, starting from ‘Stand up straight with your shoulders back’ to the last one – ‘Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street’, Mr. Peterson explains the fundamentals, his reason for framing such a rule, the positioning of the rule in his own life, and the biological, psychological, and historical context to the rule. All these rules are an attempt to help an individual live a meaningful life. It’s not that all of these rules will sound new to you. On the contrary, you must have heard most of them at different points in your life. Many of the points Mr. Peterson identifies are in fact ancient wisdom of our sages. However, Mr. Peterson with this book lends a new seriousness to these rules that they deserve in modern times. A new teacher is good only if he helps you understand things that the previous teacher could not. So, if you have heard about these rules before and could not understand their import or function in your life, Mr. Jordan Peterson makes an excellent new teacher.

The world is the great gymnasium where we come to make ourselves strong. – Swami Vivekananda

The book doesn’t end where the 12 rules end. The author adds a beautiful chapter titled ‘CODA’ to conclude the book. The chapter features a ‘Pen of Light’. Mr. Peterson received it as a gift from his friend. I would leave out the details of this pen for you to read in the book. However, I must tell you that this book seems to have been written with the help of this pen of light, metaphorically if not literally. This book is an attempt of the most sincere kind to help individuals become stronger. Our popular culture values victimhood more than strength but it is your strength that helps you escape victimhood. By strength, one doesn’t refer only to the kind you use to thrash your enemies. Strength means something far deeper than that. Strength of character, of conviction, of intellect, of emotions, and of spirit is what today’s individuals need and the book, through stories of our author’s own struggles in his life, is an attempt at leaving you stronger that way.

My Maa passed away on 31st January, 2019 after hoping for about 14 months that she would be able to defeat pancreatic cancer. I have not been able to come to terms with her absence in my life. Perhaps, that will never happen. However, I wanted to look at other people and their grief in order to understand mine better. I began to read a lot of personal blogs of people to understand how other people have handled grief and how do they see the helplessness that comes along with it. Thereafter, I stumbled upon C.S. Lewis’s A Grief Observed. Jordan’s 12 Rules for Life reached me after that.

In the last chapter, Jordan narrates the story of his daughter Mikhaila who was diagnosed with polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) when she was about 6 years of age. He writes, “…it begins with a question, structured like a Zen koan. Imagine a Being who is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. What does such a Being lack? The answer? Limitation… If you are already everything, everywhere, always there is nowhere to go and nothing to be. Everything that could be already is, and everything that could happen has already has. And it is for this reason, so the story goes, that God created man. No limitation, no story. No story, no Being. That idea has helped me deal with the terrible fragility of Being. It helped my client, too. I don’t want to overstate the significance of this. I don’t want to claim that somehow this makes it all OK. She (talking about his client) still faced the cancer afflicting her husband, just as I still faced my daughter’s terrible illness. But there’s something to be said for recognizing that existence and limitation are inextricably linked….”

Something supersedes thinking, despite its truly awesome power. When existence reveals itself as existentially intolerable, thinking collapses in on itself. In such situations-in the depths-it’s noticing, not thinking, that does the trick. Perhaps you might start by noticing this: when you love someone, it’s not despite their limitations. It’s because of their limitations.  – Jordan Peterson

The healing perhaps never happens, or maybe it does. I’m not so sure about it at this point of my life. However, to ‘notice’ that there are many others trying to understand life and its ways just like I am, gives a meaning to my own struggle. Mr. Jordan Peterson, like many other teachers of the past, reassures my belief that my struggle is not irrelevant, it is not insignificant. That belief according to me is ‘strength’ and that’s what 12 Rules for Life – An Antidote to Chaos is about.

In conversation with Jasmin Waldmann | Part 2


Is Natalie Kofman your own reflection?

Yes.

What brought you to India? Also, you’ve got a lot of Indian things right in your book. How did you manage to do that?

Sportsfit by M.S. Dhoni asked me for my services in early 2012, to come and work with them in India. Developing and training the trainers, bringing up a new system, educating personal trainers and bringing up my own product Pilardio® here.

I agreed and after press release and the opening of Sportsfit, I relocated to India.

I am here since mid 2012 in India. I learned all about the north Indian culture, including the food, music and the typical habits.

I also give cross cultural difference programs for foreigners coming to India or Indians relocating abroad soon. When it comes to writing I have in my team a few Indian writers who support me. When I started writing on Change Me in 2014 I had a lot of interaction about Indian families and cultures with one of my writers. That gave me again a different add-on to know about the culture even deeper.

You’re now equally an ambassador of India to Germany as you are of Germany to India. German writers and philosophers have been taking keen interest in India since long. What do you think is the reason behind that?

That is true. Well, Germany is the land of thinkers, as we know. No wonder that they are interested in the spirituality from the east. And the home of spirituality was/ is India.

Speaking of the book Change Me, what made you do the self help through story when the norm is formulaic instructional approach?

I wanted to create an easy time to read and get guidance from my book. That means if my book would have been non-fiction, it would have been very factual. That would be for some people boring or soon tiring. Specially for people who don’t read frequently.

But everybody loves stories and through stories one learn and make almost automatically use of what was read. So I wrote this book for everybody who wants to change. My readers can enjoy reading and learning out of it, become self-motivate and to take action.

According to the book, it is possible to go inside our mind palace and heal old wounds. However, it may happen that we, in the process, inflict more wounds upon ourselves. Would you suggest a way to avoid that?

If you look inside and touch your wounds it can be healing. Of course it depends on how deep you feel hurt, sad, even numb because of this happening in your past. But if the first (big) step is taken- identify and allow that memory to come up into your consciousness – it is a sign that you can digest it mentally now.

Going then inside, you need to know what to do. Worse case is that you feel again the pain from that time without solving it. Means you simply live (experience) it again.

Going inside does not inflict more wounds. Here I can give you some inside. A way is to see happenings from the past dissociated, means from the point of view as an observer. In that way you see yourself in the past, doing, talking, listening, whatsoever was the painful scenario. And as an observer you look without feeling what you felt at that time. You learn out of this situation. In therapy the therapist would guide you far more in this.

Best is to get some support to make it as less painful as possible and as fast as possible. No need to invent the wheel yourself. It costs unnecessary some energy and power. You can get specialists.

Where do you draw your inspiration from? Do you like any particular self help coach or writer? What are you reading at present?

A lot of my inspiration comes from sheer observations. I sit with a coffee and observe people. Also I get inspired when I interact with a colleague of mine. He is a Life Coach in Germany. My inspiration comes also when I read philosophy and talk with some Coaches from my team.

I am inspired from biographies (last one I watched about Coco Chanel);

When it comes to writers, other coaches, therapists, and inspirational speakers, I have a few great people who I listen to. Like Les Brown, Swami Rama, John Bradshaw.

I usually read 3 – 4 books at the same time. As I am writing on my second book, I read a lot of literature related to nonviolence communication, about family therapy by Virginia Satir and John Bradshaw’s book “Homecoming”. I read some special books again and again. Right now I read Meditation, by Marcus Aurelius and a book from Gretchen Rubins.

The business makes us speak only of success stories. Failure is seldom spoken about. Have you had clients who you couldn’t help in spite of your best efforts? Did they have something in common?

I love that you point this out. The world is full of success, which lead not to the desired outcome. We call it failure. I don’t believe in this word. It demotivates and is simply wrongly used in most of the cases. I call it learning.

I had a client when I was a pretty inexperienced Coach, many years ago. She was a lawyer and wanted to reduce weight. I realized after two months that she wasn’t able to reduce weight as her problem was pathological. So I told her that she needed some other specialist and suggested her psychotherapy.

I learned a lot out of this experience. Mainly that we need to check carefully if we can really help this person or somebody else could help far better. From that day onward, I choose my clients very carefully and tell them to do the same.

‎Amit Malhotra Recognizes and Realizes through a couple of incidents in his life. Let me call them triggers. Did you have such triggers in your life where-from you started to change things for yourself?

I had many triggers/ happenings in my life. My grandmother who mainly raised me, as my mother was hard working, died when I was 12 years old. My father never lived with my mother, grandmother, and elder sister.

Then my mother died when I was 13 years old. I was alone from one day to the other. No proper guidance, no talks, no therapy. I struggled for very long – unnecessarily. To overcome those happenings I needed to find my way out. I started reading books, had behaviour therapy, turned then to a Life Coach and Gestalt and Family Therapist. The latter was the most helpful one. And I learned how amazing those work is for people – sometimes life saving. That was also the reason for me to become then a Life Coach myself.

Amit Malhotra is rich and successful in a conventional world. Was it an intentional device used in the story or was it a compulsion? A lower middle class or a poor Amit Malhotra perhaps couldn’t have afforded a personal coach. Is quality personal coaching the privilege of the rich and mighty?

The character Amit is an accumulation of my clients from the past 10 years. Usually my clients have a specific income and can afford Coaching and Training sessions.

My intention with the book is very simple. If you know you want to change, you need some guidance. And if the barrier is very high (distance and money) it would be a no-go for some people. A book can reach almost everywhere in India and is very much affordable.

Not only rich people need and want to change – actually almost everybody can utilize the services of professional Life Coaching as well as Personal Training.

Easy with a book. At least to start with!

Jasmin Waldmann is an International Life Coach, a Happiness Guru and a Mind and Body & Transformation Expert. She lives and works in Gurugram, India since July 2012. She recently published her first book Change Me through Jaico Publishing House. Bookstalkist spoke with her after reading her book.

Click here to read Bookstalkist’s review of the book Change Me.

Click here to listen to the first part of this interview.

Disha’s Corporate Avatars by Jaico

What was the need for such a book?
The book Corporate Avatars was needed because yet another of the bright alumni of IIMs wanted to become a writer and dump all her management-experience borne gyan on us hapless chaps who have nothing better to do than to listen to the rant of a person who is frustrated with everything going around her in the corporate world. In short, this book was not needed.

 

Or wait a minute, am I just being a whining kid here? All the bosses had a fight at my workplace about a couple of days back. It was loud, it was public, and it was ugly. I am not speaking of the Supreme Court Chief Justice controversy here, though that sticks for an example as well. Somehow a fight between seniors or the elders is always uglier when compared to that between the relatively younger ones. A tussle between younger people can always be swept under the rug with a nonchalant – ‘Don’t fight like kids. Grow up!’ But what do you tell these senior-most people in the team who can’t keep their volumes in check while having an altercation or a difference of opinions. They have all the right in the world to fight and I do not in any way mean to take away the child inside them but there are children outside too and that they are taking keen interest in their behaviour is something they should give a thought about. Disha has a name for at least one of these members of the corporate fight club – Mr. Matchstick.

In her book, Disha has a long list of people you will encounter in a corporate world. She explains the symptoms, gives a name to the disease, and also provides antidotes. Whether the antidotes work is for you to try them out and decide. The book is an easy and short read. It will keep your funny bones tickling every once in a while.

I would have liked the book to be a tad more humorous than it is and also a tad more serious than it is. Also, the usage of Hindi words and phrases in Roman for characters may confuse the non-Hindi readers, thereby limiting its humour quotient for somebody who doesn’t understand a phrase like Mr. Gadha Prasad and its connotations. Maybe a footnote with meanings would have helped. Also, the book needs a sharper editing as I could find multiple occurrences of spelling error and word repetition.

In the initial days of my corporate journey, I had a colleague who used to get extra touchy while working. There were times I would find her feet almost tapping my toes while having an intense discussion about some product requirement. I couldn’t understand this behaviour. Initially, I presumed it to be an act she was not aware of and ignored it. However, things didn’t stop. I didn’t want to escalate this to the HR department and tried to take control of the situation. I decided to always keep a distance of about four feet from her during any discussion thereafter and things got better. Ms. Stand Closer & Closer finds a place in this book and I could easily relate it to my personal experience. For anyone out there preparing to enter the corporate world, reading Corporate Avatars can help you transition better in a world of ironies and hypocrisies.

While a lot of issues that have been spoken of in the book remain a challenge for researchers in the field of human psychology and behaviour, and while their answers are rarely simple, Disha has managed to pack easy-to-implement solutions to the anthropocentric problems that we face everyday at our workplace. The book manages to preserve its wacky tone throughout.

Whether we are a new entrant to the industry or have spent long years working inside it, we walk into or are put into situations with people where we hit a deadlock. Either we fail to reach a solution or act in haste to damage our working relationships at workplace. In such times, this book can provide some cursory, plug and play if not foolproof solutions. The objective of the book is to prevent you from coming in harm’s way and it keeps its promise.

I would have loved a note on the avatars the author is seen in by her colleagues. It could have added some self-deprecating humour to the book and would have made an interesting read; to Jaico and Disha, if you are reading this, in the next impression perhaps?