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Publisher's Summary

What does everyone in the modern world need to know? Renowned psychologist Jordan B. Peterson's answer to this most difficult of questions uniquely combines the hard-won truths of ancient tradition with the stunning revelations of cutting-edge scientific research.

Humorous, surprising, and informative, Dr. Peterson tells us why skateboarding boys and girls must be left alone, what terrible fate awaits those who criticize too easily, and why you should always pet a cat when you meet one on the street.

What does the nervous system of the lowly lobster have to tell us about standing up straight (with our shoulders back) and about success in life? Why did ancient Egyptians worship the capacity to pay careful attention as the highest of gods? What dreadful paths do people tread when they become resentful, arrogant, and vengeful? Dr. Peterson journeys broadly, discussing discipline, freedom, adventure, and responsibility, distilling the world's wisdom into 12 practical and profound rules for life. 12 Rules for Life shatters the modern commonplaces of science, faith, and human nature while transforming and ennobling the mind and spirit of its listeners.

©2018 Jordan B. Peterson (P)2018 Random House Canada

Critic Reviews

"Jordan Peterson is the most important and influential Canadian thinker since Marshall McLuhan. His international fame and impact continue to grow exponentially. Peterson's bold interdisciplinary synthesis of psychology, anthropology, science, politics and comparative religion is forming the template for the genuinely humanistic university of the future." (Camille Paglia)

"Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules for Life hits home - from identifying the deeply engrained hierarchical ladder that motivates our decision making to asking indispensable and sometimes politically unpopular questions about your life and suggesting ways to better it. If that's not enough, its first twenty pages give a summary of evolutionary psychology that's breathtaking." (Howard Bloom, author of The Lucifer Principle)

"Firm but caring.... Peterson speaks the way I always wished my father had.... He is the right man at the right time, someone capable of showing young men that cleaning up their room has cosmic significance, and that imposing a little order upon chaos is good for the soul, which in turn is good for the world." (National Review)

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Not Your Average 'Self Help' Book

I won't lie an say this was an easy text to listen to. Not even close. Jordan Peterson does not throw his proverbial punches. He says it exactly how he sees it and then elaborates his position at great length with personal anecdotes, scientific research, and professional experience he has had as a psychologist.

If you are willing to do some hard self- and social-analysis, this book may truly change the way you view the world. It may not. I guarantee if you go into it objectively and willing to consider Peterson's extremely well thought-out and carefully worded advice, you will gain something from this book. Even when you disagree, which I certainly did at times, you can gain another clear and honest perspective -- and that is always valuable, in my humble opinion.

It is evident and worth noting that the author has strong political beliefs and values, as well as a Christian background and moral foundation. But he does not harp on any religion being right or wrong-- at all. So be assured that you can find value as a Buddhist, a Muslim, an athiest, or any other spiritual foundation you may have personally.

As for his political stance, as a political 'swinger' myself (as in I vote for the candidate's platform, apparent values and plan, NOT party affiliation), I found Peterson's beliefs to be heavily Right leaning, but don't be fooled by outside accusations of him being anti-liberal, sexist, etc. While he clearly feels strongly against certain political constructs, his views struck me as being more pro-humanity than any other petty label. Again, he backs his points with evidence of many types and explains why he believes as he does. This is how discourse begins, and how blind idealism without logic or critical analysis, ends. Peterson invites a conversation about how people often wear metaphorical blinders and how we might remove them and truly see each other's unique and often valid perspectives. This is how we as a society can grow. That said, sometimes I felt his points were specifically aimed at certain hot-button issues, which valid and valuable, got a tad soapbox-y.

Regardless of how I personally feel about his 12 Rules (which, to be clear, I mostly agreed with, at least in principle, if not always practice), I feel the book is absolutely valuable for EVERYONE to read. I will certainly be re-listening to it.

My biggest beefs with it is:
(a) sometimes the sentences were so dense with meaning I would have preferred to read them, rather than only listen. But that's just how I comprehend complex and often abstract ideas the best. That's just me. But it would be fantastic if the text was available with the audio.

(b) I just have to say -- the focus on women as mother's more than anything else cuts straight to a very personal place for me -- as I am unable to bear children -- so I personally felt a lot more like I was being indirectly told that I had fundamentally failed at something critical for my existence, failed my family, and society after finishing the book -- at least according to Peterson's greatest valuation of the feminine. I am confident that wasn't his intent AT ALL, so I am not offended, just saddened that it was not broached as a side-note as he went into great detail about mothers and women primarily as child-raisers. Biological motherhood is not always a 'choice' we can make, but society as a whole seems to view women primarily (and historically) in terms of their ability to produce offspring. That perspective needs to be reevaluated by everyone, in my humble opinion, including Mr. Peterson. I would like to hear his thoughts on that sensitive, and often devastating, subject. Are childless women still to be held in such high esteem? Or is that our only real value after all? I certainly hope not.

Regardless, I still gained a lot of perspective from this book, a lot to think about, and some of his points really spoke to me in powerful and positive ways, regardless of my gender. So thank you, Jordan Peterson for sharing your opinions, experiences, and values in such an open and deeply considered way.

507 of 566 people found this review helpful

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This is my favorite self-help book I have ever read!

In this book, I found what I have been lying to myself about. I have been trying to climb my way up the dominance hierarchy by being successful in the world’s eyes. I’ve been trying to raise my status to make me more attractive to a potential wife. I’ve been doing this by being successful in business, eating healthy, reading books, working out, trying to gain fame, and becoming surface level friends with high status individuals. However, I realized in this book that a lot of it is a farce. I have mainly been doing these things to avoid doing the hard work that terrifies me: deep, meaning relationships. This book isn’t really about that, but a good part of it is about cleaning out your own closet before you try to save the world. I think anyone can read this book and realize another dragon they have been ignoring. I am going to start it again soon, and I have already made hard moves and had challenging conversations towards cleaning up my personal relationships. Maybe a year from now I will actually be someone that someone great wants to marry instead of just looking like someone who is. Thank you Jordan Peterson.

938 of 1,127 people found this review helpful

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  • Lane
  • RIO RANCHO, NM, United States
  • 01-31-18

Powerful

It's hard to imagine a more impactful work than 12 rules. There were moments, many moments, when I had to stop the book and think and reflect. As other reviewers have mentioned, the author is brought to tears during the reading. This was not some stunt, the topic he was discussing was so biting and deep that it was impossible not to cry.

It's important not to go into this book pre judging Peterson. His or your ideology is not relevant to the importance of this book. He speaks truth, simple and plain. Of course, it is HIS truth and you must understand it as such. It's also not simple. Peterson has this uncanny ability to talk for an hour and have 20 soundbites you want to remember. It's honestly, uncanny.

I can't possibly recommend this book highly enough. It's interesting, it's funny, it's biting, and it's deep. It will change you, but in a good way!

333 of 414 people found this review helpful

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Very Christian and faith base book.

As much as some of the ideas are interesting, I wasn't expecting religion and faith base to be the center of this book of ideas.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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No More Shame

The trouble with Peterson is that he's long winded, but won't stop saying meaningful things, won't stop speaking truth, and won't sugar coat reality to make us feel better, and is therefore impossible to stop listening to. That's good.

It's so disturbing to hear a grown man cry during a reading, because it forces us to encounter vulnerability and strength and breaks apart our denial of reality as a place of suffering. That's good.

Only listen to this book if you want direct blunt reality, wisdom, and odd encouragement. Only listen if you want life to never be the same. This book has helped to initiate me as a man, because, perhaps for the first time, I don't feel ashamed of my masculinity, and so have lost some of the guilt around being a man in western culture.

I think this book will mark a turnaround for men (and perhaps women) everywhere who feel disillusioned with life, because here, implicitly, he calls out the gold in men by telling them, "You have something to offer the world." Now I know there is something worth fighting and suffering for, a better tomorrow for me, and for those around me, because I've realized that because I'm a man, I can make a little more chaos into order.

330 of 412 people found this review helpful

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The cure to find meaning in a meaningless world

If you could sum up 12 Rules for Life in three words, what would they be?

Ancient Modern Wisdom

Who was your favorite character and why?

The underdog lobster has to be the best. Some antidepressants and he's right back in the fight.

What about Jordan B. Peterson’s performance did you like?

I liked his intellectual honesty and also he is a good narrator.

What did you learn from 12 Rules for Life that you would use in your daily life?

If you do not run from your suffering, one day you will overcome it.

Venture into the unknown and slay the dragon of chaos.

Share the treasure.

And become some sort of hero.

How to live a meaningful life, in a practical way.

Any additional comments?

If you like Jordan Peterson, Jocko Willink has similar ideas from a very different perspective, also worth checking out.

340 of 427 people found this review helpful

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Completly eye opening!!!

I've listened to many of self help crap and even read, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F#ck. It didn't matter what I read or listened to, I wasn't finding the answere I was looking for, to a question I truly didn't understand. This book along with Peterson's many online lectures put more into perspective for me than anything has in years of searching. I've identified the Dragon growing ever more powerful in my life and come up with a game plan for slaying it!...This book didn't solve my life problems, it helped open my eyes to the most obvious issues that I'm responsible for correcting....

237 of 303 people found this review helpful

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Best audiobook I have ever bought

This is by far the best audiobook I ever bought. Very deep, authentic and healing. I want to give the highest recommendation that I have ever given to any audiobook.

231 of 296 people found this review helpful

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Rambling, repetitive nonsense

I listened 3 chapters in, patiently waiting for the point or any coherent statement. It never came. Instead the author goes on and on filling fluff, circling around some incoherent message he is poorly conveying. Maybe Ill come back to this book later but for now there are other promising options in queue.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Louise
  • North Alabama
  • 05-28-18

Disappointing

I purchased the Audible version of Peterson’s book with high expectations. It was recommended for me based on previously purchased books (perhaps Amanda Palmer’s “The Art of Asking” and Mark Manson’s “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”?). It had lots of 5-star reviews, a very-glowing Wikipedia article, and an ever-growing author fan-base, as demonstrated by the sold-out appearances across Canada and the USA.

The first rule “Stand Up Straight with Your Shoulders Back” went from a common-sense understanding for the need to respect oneself, to an analogy of lobster dominance hierarchy – maintained through physical battles with the goal of attracting the best mates. I thought, OK, Humans don’t do that, but it was a unique presentation.

Then on to “Treat Yourself Like Someone You are Responsible for Helping”. A good idea, better expressed in other books as ‘you are responsible for your choices and actions and improving your life.’ This chapter starts off OK, but then Peterson interprets deeper meaning into Bible stories and why you need to know these to understand yourself. Including in his dialogue is the assertion that there are no real atheists, they just haven’t found their God yet. There is no mention in this chapter, or future ones, that there are other stories from other cultures that pre-date the Jewish culture, and some of those stories were incorporated into the Old Testament stories. No recognition of other religious heritages. No examples from Greek and other philosophers, although there was some Stoic-sounding phrases used.

I continued listening and my disappointment in this book grew. Each rule is presented authoritatively, and it becomes clear that each is presented in a way to support his underlying agenda, which I interpret as: let’s go back to the days of the male dominant culture of the 1950’s, and get rid of any indoctrinating ideology that conflicts with this view from colleges, universities and public discourse (even though I say I promote free speech), and society will be the better for it.

I reached my conclusions based on the some of the ideas presented by Mr. Peterson:

1) Dividing humans into stereotypes of males and females. Men are meant to be strong and take care of women so they can take care of children, because that is what all women want. Women represent chaos. Men are in danger of being feminized. To Peterson, the concept of “transgender” is not real – it is a language issue.
2) Men need to be “strong” to attract the females, because having sex reduces violence. “Strong” is never defined specifically, and the term is often used to mean physical strength.
3) The overuse of Jungian archetypes to describe the roles of humans (mostly men) in society. This is outdated psychology.
4) The either/or characterizations of viewpoints. One either agrees with Mr. Peterson, or one is a horrible person – a liberal, leftist, post-modernist, SJW (Social Justice Warrior), promoting politically correctness, and equality seeking to the detriment of white males.

Overall recommendation: I wish I had not bought this book. I do not understand why there are so many 5-star reviews.

From a literary standpoint, it is not well written. It is rambling and unfocused.

On overall content: It is preachy and moralizing. These are RULES – and Mr. Peterson reads these like a father lecturing a child, and often his tone is angry. The basic sentiments expressed are shallow and only serve as a basis for his preaching.

I can see how this appeals to younger men, but not to those who are older and whose life-experiences led to observations that are contrary to Mr. Peterson’s.

262 of 340 people found this review helpful