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Sandor Dargo
Sandor Dargo

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12 Rules for Life - An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson

Human lives are built around rules for millennia. You can think about ten commandments to start with, the laws of Hammurabi and in fact all the laws, rules and regulations we have ever had to follow.

What we do at work are guided by rules that we call processes. What we can do in life is controlled via laws made by our leaders.

There are different systems, somewhere whatever is not allowed is permitted (like in Japan), in other societies anything that is not permitted, is allowed.

The goal is the same. To provide a system that helps people living together as a functioning society.

The usefulness of a society that is based on rules is only questioned by anarchists.

The rest debates about the number of rules we need and the rules themselves, but not the necessity of them.

12 Rules for Life - An Antidote to Chaos provides 12 maxims that the author, Jordan Peterson, thinks everyone should know about.  12 recommendations that can bring a little order to the chaos of our lives. 12 rules that if followed can lead to a life of responsibility, a life of meaning.
A book from one of the most important thinkers on the world stage for many years as the Spectator wrote.

The 12 rules are:

  • RULE 1: Stand up straight with your shoulders back
  • RULE 2: Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
  • RULE 3: Make friends with people who want the best for you
  • RULE 4: Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today
  • RULE 5: Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
  • RULE 6: Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world
  • RULE 7: Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
  • RULE 8: Tell the truth—or, at least, don’t lie
  • RULE 9: Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t
  • RULE 10: Be precise in your speech
  • RULE 11: Do not bother children when they are skateboarding
  • RULE 12: Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street

12 rules are a lot to discuss in an article, probably it would be way too much. So I picked only three of them. It could it easily be another set of 3, here is my choice for today.

  • RULE 2: Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
  • RULE 6: Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world
  • RULE 11: Do not bother children when they are skateboarding

RULE 2: Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping

While there exists a stereotype of developers who hoard information for themselves and do not like to help others, I believe most of us are keen to help others. This is my experience.

It is also important to remember that others are not the only people who we should help.

If not the others, who else you might ask?

First of all, we should help ourselves! In other contexts, some would say we should pay ourselves first. The two rules are a little bit different, but behind we have the same concepts.

If we don't consider ourselves important enough, well, no one will. Period. On the other hand, we will not be able to help others in the long run if we neglect our needs.

If a less experienced colleague makes a mistake, what do we do? We go there laughing at him? Mocking him? Well, maybe a bit of mocking if you are on really good terms, but above all, we try to help him overcome the problems.

If you make a mistake what do you do? Are you biting and blaming yourself falling into a vicious cycle or do you try to help yourself to overcome?

Many of us have the tendency to do the former, probably it's easier and so many people have a victim mindset. It's so self-validating. But we should focus on the latter approach. Remember, if you work hard, you'll make mistakes. It's okay. Just help yourself by learning from them.

After all, if you help yourself, you'll be able to help others even more.

RULE 6: Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world

This should evident right?

In case of a problem, before you start fingerpointing at others, you should think about first what you did. Did you do everything possible to avoid that problem? Could you have done something better? Answer those questions with brutal honesty.

But wait, there is more to it. Before you criticize someone else in any circumstances and there was nothing on your side that could have helped the situation, maybe because it's simply not up to you, you should think about whether you've been doing better on your side.

You go over to some friends, and you find some dust on the shelf. Don't be critical, but ask yourself whether your house is in perfect order.

Don't get me wrong, this doesn't mean that problems should not be identified. This doesn't mean that in a code review you shouldn't point out - potential - issues. But there are worlds between presenting problems and criticizing people for making those mistakes.

If we continue on this road, we can easily end up on a much wider scale.

Before you'd like to change the society, the world, you must change yourself first. That's your first and most important responsibility. Don't march on the streets, demanding others to change as long as you are not a role model yourself. Be the change, be the leader who can say "after me", not the one who says "go ahead"! The only way to lead well is to lead by example, not by demands.

RULE 11: Do not bother children when they are skateboarding

What? Yes. Do not bother children when they are skateboarding. They are experimenting, they try to find their limits. They strive to get better.

It's healthy. This is a behaviour what we all need and should embrace. We, people. We, developers. While of course, some rules have to be set, we must experiment. Just as Thomas Edison failed a thousand times to invent the light bulb, we will also inevitably fail, and we want to limit the scope. It's always part of the journey, yet sometimes it's invisible for the people outside.

We all are responsible for getting better and as adults, we should grow to be self-independent in our professions. We must become technically solid and autonomous developers who can not only execute tasks but someone who can identify problems and who can deliver solutions. If you're afraid of such developers, fine. Think about what a weak and reliant one is capable of!

Learn, experiment, take extreme ownership. Encourage others to do so.


Jordan Peterson's book is for those who look for a meaningful life and are interested in the thoughts of one of the most important thinkers nowadays. While he is a psychiatrist, he is also a witty writer. He doesn't only give rules, he tells stories from his life, his medical practice and from science. Some are quite tough and sad. Yet, this is not a book to make you feel bad about your life and society. It's a book about how to stand up straight with your shoulders back and succeed through all the adversities you will face.

Happy reading!

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Top comments (3)

jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel 🕵🏻‍♂️ Fayard • Edited
  • RULE 13 : You will not succeed to follow most of the rules most of the time. Don't beat yourself about this failure. Everyone else will also fail. Because in fact life is a futile attempt at fighting entropy, and we are all beautifully flawed human beings, not the self-disciplined robots described in the self help books.

In fact Jordan Peterson himself developed a severe addiction to Benzodiazepines, a class of drugs used to treat anxiety, insomnia, epilepsy, and other disorders and had to go through an emergency medical detox in Russia to escape it

mkaschke profile image
Martin Kaschke

maybe interesting for you

sandordargo profile image
Sandor Dargo

That's great news, thanks!