In his first book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Jordan B Peterson focused on the consequences of too much chaos in our lives and how to make it better, how to bring our lives more into order. But we cannot simply say that order is preferable over chaos, nor the other way around. It’s the wrong way to look at it, as chaos has its merits. It also brings novelty, transformation, disruption.
We need chaos. It’s part of the whole.
In his next book, Beyond Order, the author focuses on the dangers of too much security and control. We are better off if we can avoid excessive order. We have to sneak in some changes, some curiosity in our lives. We have to push ourselves into the unknown.
That’s what the 12 rules of this book are about.
I’m going to share the 12 rules and then I tell you my take on 3 of them.
- RULE I: Do not carelessly denigrate social institutions or creative achievement.
- RULE II: Imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that.
- RULE III: Do not hide unwanted things in the fog.
- RULE IV: Note that opportunity lurks where responsibility has been abdicated.
- RULE V: Do not do what you hate.
- RULE VI: Abandon ideology.
- RULE VII: Work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens.
- RULE VIII: Try to make one room in your home as beautiful as possible.
- RULE IX: If old memories still upset you, write them down carefully and completely.
- RULE X: Plan and work diligently to maintain the romance in your relationship.
- RULE XI: Do not allow yourself to become resentful, deceitful, or arrogant.
- RULE XII: Be grateful in spite of your suffering.
Work hard without sticking to an ideology and be grateful for what you get
With that header, I summarized in one sentence the rules I picked for this article. Rules II, VI and XII.
RULE II: Imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that.
I think this rule goes pretty much hand in hand with RULE VII: Work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens. Especially if you work on that one thing that you imagined for your future self.
No wind is good for a sailor if he doesn’t know where he wants to go. Probably the most important thing in your life is to have a goal. Without a goal, you don’t know… …you don’t know just anything at all. Why do you wake up in the morning? To just float around? To survive? To execute someone else’s agenda?
Those options sound pretty bad.
And so many have miserable life because they have no clear goals.
Pick a goal.
Imagine what your ideal day should look like.
Imagine what would be your life look like if most of your days would be ideal.
Now if you have a goal, if you imagined a world for yourself, why don’t you start working at it.
With all that you have! Aim at your goal and go all in, go with all that you’ve got and take it.
It is more difficult than just floating around and surviving. It comes with lots of burdens. Accepting that burden, taking on it voluntarily is already a victory in life.
What’s the alternative?
You’ll have a burden anyway. Maybe less. Maybe the burden will come in different forms. Or maybe you try to hide from the burdens and you don’t realize how you build your own hell.
Pick a goal, imagine how you could be and then aim single-mindedly at that.
RULE VI: Abandon ideology.
I turned recently 37 years old. After so many years, I finally understood, or at least I have an understanding of what Nietzsche meant by writing that “God is dead.”. Both he and Dostolevksij understood around the same time in the XIXth century the dangers of the emerging rational criticism. The existence of a transcendent, all-power deity was fatally challenged. The basis of the Judeo-Christian values that the Western civilization has been built upon were falling apart.
Both Nietzsche and Dostoevsky foresaw that with the destruction of religious values nihilism will try to take their place. But as nihilism is not very engaging they also predicted that people will turn towards a rigid, utopian, totalitarian ideology with far more lethal consequences compared to any religious, monarchical or even pagan past.
They both foresaw communism coming.
Since then, humanity had the opportunity to understand what the different ideologies offer for us. I don’t think we did understand it, but we definitely experienced it. All the tragedies, wars, genocides. They were of course, not the first ones in history but their scales attained unimaginable heights.
In ideologies, in isms - as Harari suggested - people found their new religions while they claim they are not religious.
Instead of blindly following ideologies that want to solve the big problems of humanity, at least big problems according to them, we should focus on the little blocks of society, the little blocks of like. Instead of changing humanity, have some humility. Start small. Clean up your bedroom. Maybe your house.
Pick something productive and commit to it. If you can solve small problems try to solve something bigger, something more ambitious. But abandon blindly following some rigid, utopian ideas. Abandon ideology.
RULE XII: Be grateful in spite of your suffering.
If you can look at the name of this rule, you can interpret it in different ways.
If you consider The Obstacle Is The Way, you’ll say that well, we have a problem. That problem has not appeared to stop us. It appeared to show us the way, it appeared to show us in which direction to go.
If you live by this interpretation, you’ll have a happier and more successful life.
My understanding is that Jordan Peterson didn’t mean this. Although he’d definitely support living by the Stoic rule.
First of all, he went a bit further.
He didn’t simply talk about obstacles. He talked about suffering.
If you follow his talks, you probably know that considers suffering an inevitable part of life.
He goes as far as saying that life is about suffering.
But it doesn’t mean that we should try to avoid the hardships, that we should always take the easy road.
People are designed to grow under pressure, under hardship and suffering is part of it.
So in a sense, we have to be grateful for this suffering. And in the other sense, even though we keep suffering in life, we should not forget about the good things.
Our families. Our friends.
We should forget about them even when we have all those things going on in our lives. We still have to be grateful for the good things.
And for most of the bad things too. They show us the way.
Beyond Order is yet another great book by one of the most important thinkers of our age, Jordan Peterson. In this first book, he shared rules that help us remove excessive chaos from our lives and in this next one, he explains why keeping some chaos is useful and how we can preserve the amount of disorder in our life that is necessary to experiment, transform and grow.
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