Conservative Canadian academic psychologist Jordan Peterson (1962-) is currently all the rage, especially, apparently among resentful young men. I don’t know any of the latter so I will take peoples’ word for it. His You Tube talks have gone viral to millions. And he has clearly struck a chord, though the Financial Times article on him put it well: the hunger for his insights, possibly says something negative about the quality of parenting his fans received. Much of what he says that is useful should not need saying. I guess my parenting was pretty good. 🙂
He has been accused of many violations of political correctness, and intelligent challenging orthodoxies is fine with me. But he is also a stalwart defender of hierarchy, pushes back against the Women’s Movement and somehow sees its drive for gender equality as leading to Pol Pot and mass killings, a link that eludes me. And he seems to see inequality of whatever level as something natural and not a problem. He should try some time in the favelas of Brazil.
I could have contested his views point counter point, or like too many on the left simply denounced him. I could even select out some things I agree with him about. Like young men need to get their shit together, though we disagree strongly about what this means, I suspect. Instead, more positively and not being an armchair critic, I thought I should simply develop an alternative set of rules to contrast to or merely be different from his rules. My rules, like his rules he says, are based on decades of mentoring, in my case of the young and not so young in business up to executive level, in the US military, and in personal life and PhDs in process. I don’t really know the demographics of his mentees.
His rules and the link to the Wikipedia article on him (which I think reasonably balanced but I may be mistaken) are below my rules
Creative Conflict Wisdom’s Alternative Rules for Life
- Know yourself and get a realistic (not too high, not too low) evidence-based, reality tested sense of self and self-esteem, seeking input from others you trust. Avoid crazy makers who sap your self-esteem, or invoke your demons to play you.
- Trust, but verify. Through experience, in effect, give people you know credit ratings, as to whom to trust in what circumstances, but revise them in the light of further experience. They may grow up or regress. As for yourself: try to say what you do and do what you say.
- Try to figure out your life path and where you are on it: when lost ask the way or look for a map, but don’t inhale guru wisdom without question, as the lost are very vulnerable to this. Gurus always have their own agendas.
- Know your own boundaries and make sure others respect them and you respect theirs, but remember we are a social species and group dynamics are critically important. And in paying attention to this, be in touch with your own feelings and thus potentially with the feelings of others.
- Treat people with respect and as equal, recognizing cognitive differences among all people and responding to individuals not stereotypes. Recognize perhaps especially the current ascent of women as prejudices are reduced, and they move into the military in combat, and into new fields like technology where they are under-represented for mainly historical reasons. Don’t be threatened by this or deny it is going on for perfectly legitimate reasons. We are not exactly rich in talent and should seek it wherever it is.
- Realize that while hierarchies may be somewhat inevitable, their gradient, the abuse they allow, the incompetence on the part of authorities they hide, and indeed their positive contribution, vary enormously. None of this is inevitable: hierarchies are human creations, improvable, and challengeable and should be constantly challenged to keep them healthy and fit for purpose.
- Beware of ideologies that justify existing hierarchies and inequality; real talent based differences do not need justifying or ossifying, nor necessarily need disproportionate rewards. Be suspicious of those who claim any move towards reducing inequality or prejudice leads straight to the Gulag or Pol Pot. The best social structures are fluid and allow talent to rise and incompetents to be removed/improved.
- Become a good team player. Most work done in creating value in the modern economy, in science, in the military and other organizations is done in teams not by lone wolves, so learn to thrive in teams and to be invited to join them, so the teams can thrive. None of humanity’s current major complex problems are likely to be solved by lone effort or lone heroes, but you can do your bit.
- Follow the Golden Rule where possible: treat others as you would be treated, or even better as they would be treated. When in doubt about this, ask them. But defend or retaliate proportionately (not disproportionately) when attacked.
- If you wait to set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world, you will never achieve anything worthwhile. Experiment, improvise and learn from your mistakes with humility and curiosity.
- Listen and observe, and enquire and reflect, if you want to learn and especially if you want to learn from all of your mistakes which require noticing them too. Take responsibility rather than blaming others for your shortfalls. He/she not busy being born is busy dying (Bob Dylan).
- If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him aka the Tao that can be told is not the true Tao (Lao Tse) . Don’t trust orthodoxies, sets of twelve or whatever number of rules for life that claim to have it nailed, including this one. Use them for insights, for challenging, and then to build your own that work for you, and kick away the ladder of someone else’s twelve rules. Everyone’s set of rules reflects to some extent their values and interests, not necessarily yours. This set reflects mine, but hopefully helps some if only to contest.
Jordan’s 12 Rules are below: they are more succinct, but then he has a whole book “Twelve Rules for Life” to expand on them: mine just stand alone. I don’t actually object to any of these as such, except #6, which I think ludicrous: fine to say fix the log in your own eye before pointing out the mote in some else’s as St Matthew put it, but perfect order: give me a break. As for the rest, #3 and #5 seem a bit iffy, and I know some talented slouchers for #1 exception; but it’s more his elaboration of them, but that’s a whole other subject.
- Stand up straight with your shoulders back
- Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
- Make friends with people who want the best for you
- Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today
- Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
- Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world
- Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
- Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie
- Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t
- Be precise in your speech
- Do not bother children when they are skateboarding
- Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street