12 Rules for Life Summary, Review, Quotes, Infographic, And Takeaways

LifePersonal DevelopmentPhilosophyPsychology

12 Rules for Life Summary by Jordan B Peterson gives you twelve rules or principles for life that you can use to build yourself up for the never-ending struggles and battles of life.

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These rules will help you improve your life and make you a better human being.

Who Should Read 12 Rules For Life Summary?

  • Anyone who wants to live a balanced life.
  • Anyone who wishes to learn the principles of life.
  • Anyone who aims to dive deeper into philosophy.

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12 Rules For Life Summary

Life is a game full of struggles and hardships.

Although there are victories along the way, it’s not a smooth sail.

And unless you have principles to back you up, you will lose the game.

Today, in this article, I will give insights or share the lessons from 12 Rules for Life by Jordan B Peterson.

Let’s dive right in.

Key idea #1: Keep Correct Body Posture.

a man standing straight with shoulders back

We have a lot in common with animals. 

We want status and position.

We all want a safe place called home. 

We want to become authoritative figures in society and enjoy all the benefits. 

We aim to achieve dominance.

And when we do, we defend it with all of our might.

A good posture might help you achieve all that.

For example, you feel more confident when you stand straight with your shoulders back.

A good posture helps you feel good about yourself.

Also, when you look confident, people perceive you as a person who knows his stuff.

When you make a smiling expression, you suddenly start feeling good.

On the other hand, you start feeling sad when you make bad expressions.

This is how our body language affects the way we feel at the moment.

When the animals of the same species battle each other for their share of resources, only a few animals manage to win. 

These animals are usually called at the top of the hierarchy.

The more serotonin an animal has, the more likely it will win over the others. It makes him feel stronger. Serotonin helps animals survive in this chaotic world.

Animals with higher level of serotonin tend to expand their body.

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But when the serotonin is low and octopamine is high, the animals feel submissive and are more likely to lose. 

Animals with lower levels of serotonin tend to contract their bodies.

For example: Peterson talks about lobsters.


They have been on this planet for around 350 million years.

(Sounds crazy, right?)

Just as we need food, water, and shelter for our survival, animals also search for space and shelter to survive.

But the thing is, resources are limited in nature. 

Not everyone can have an equal share of resources.

There is an unequal distribution of essential resources.

For instance, lobsters have to compete when space is limited to find shelter.

The lobster who wins the fight gets a hit of serotonin, which increases his confidence.

And the lobster who loses the fight gets a hit of octopamine, which makes him feel weaker.

Hierarchies in nature affect the way we live.

Not only is it present in humans, but also animals.

The dominant persons in society often get most of their privileges. 

For instance, the Alpha guy gets all the girls. 

Another instance is that a small percentage of people have most of the money.

Peterson calls this the law of unequal distribution.

If you want to become a dominant and influential figure in society, you must learn to stand straight and pull your shoulders back a little with your chest expanding outwards. 

This body posture makes you feel more confident. 

Not only do you feel excited, but you look more attractive to others as you project confidence and power.

It is worth mentioning that dominance doesn’t always have to be associated with attaining a top position. It could also simply be an act of bringing order or going to gym and becoming powerful.

Real-life Application: Problems are a part of life. Whenever you feel low, observe your body language. You’ll find that your body has compressed and shoulders are slouched. Try to keep a correct your body posture. And tackle the obstacles head-on.

Opinion: A sound body posture is a nice start, but you need strong understanding of the problem to find a solution. Confidence alone is not enough to overcome challenges in life. Avoid “Fake it till you make it” approach if possible. Bring clarity in your life and true confidence will emerge from within.

Key Idea #2: Treat Yourself Better.

We tend to ignore when it comes to strengthening ourselves as an individual. 

For instance, we avoid the prescription given to us by the doctor.

But when it comes to our dog, we religiously follow the prescription.

Why is this so? 

Why don’t we care for ourselves as profoundly as others?

The author explains this with the story of Adam and Eve. 

For those who haven’t read it, let me give a quick overview:

Adam and Eve were the first humans created by God. 

God provided them with everything they needed to survive in Paradise. 

But there was a condition:

They were allowed to eat all the fruits from the trees in the forest of Paradise, except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good And Evil.

tree of knowledge

God warned Adam (before he created Eve) not to eat the fruit from that tree, and if Adam happens to eat the fruit from it, he will die.

But shit happens (cutting the story…), and Adam ends up eating from that tree.

Then both Adam and Eve get banished from Paradise to Earth and left to survive on their own. 

After that, terrible things happen. [read more]

Coming back to the question, why don’t we treat ourselves with the same tenacity as we do others?

The thing is that we don’t think that we deserve the best care.

Think of a dog. 

Dogs are predators. 

A dog is, by nature, an animal that eats other animals. 

But despite all that, we take him as a pet and provide care to him.

But on the other hand, humans are self-conscious.

We know when we inflict pain on others. 

We know what is good and what is evil. We know things.

We hurt people. We deceive people. We humiliate others. 

And that too with consciousness.

The dilemma is all humans are deeply flawed. 

This is absolute as both Adam and Eve messed up despite having everything essential for their survival. 

We don’t trust ourselves the way we should. 

We loathe our existence.

We feel guilty of our sins and therefore think that we don’t deserve care as other creatures who aren’t self-conscious.

This isn’t the right approach!

Because unless we bolster ourselves up, humanity won’t reach anywhere. 

We are important. Every single creature on this planet is indispensable.

And the best way is to take care of ourselves the same way we do for others. 

Also read: 9 Reasons You Are Important Than You Think

Takeaway: Don’t bother about the world. Think about how you can become the better version of yourself. The rest comes later. Don’t find faults in the external world all the time. Try to look at your own shortcomings and overcome them.

Deeper insight: Think about why Knowledge is sometimes called a curse. Maybe it’s because it’s very difficult to unlearn concepts. Reality is often hard to accept. Once you see the truth, it’s difficult to go back. But once you become comfortable with reality the way it is, the curse of knowledge loses its effect.

Key Idea #3: Make Friends With the Right People.


Making many friends is fun. But choosing a few good friends is extremely hard.

It would be best if you made friends only with those people who have goals and ambitions in their lives.

Friends must be there to help each other reach their goals.

Wrong friends can drag you far away from your goals. They can stray you from the right path.

Bad friends will often try to hide their flaws and never let you reach your true potential.

People make bad friends for so many reasons.

One reason is, they think that they are flawed and don’t deserve to be with good friends.

Another reason is they sometimes tend to rescue a damned person. They want to help them get out of trouble.

But before helping a person, you must understand why the person you are going to help (by becoming an acquaintance) is in trouble in the first place.

One must ask questions like:

  • “Does he deserve to be helped?”
  • “Does he want to become better?”
  • “Is he in trouble because he failed to take responsibility for his life?”

And if you find that the person is simply wasting their life and doesn’t deserve to be rescued, you must not help him by becoming his acquaintance.

“You are not morally obliged to support someone who is making the world a worse place.”

~Jordan B Peterson

Sometimes people think it’s easy to become friends with good people.

The thing is, it takes courage, grit, and persistence to stand with people who want our best. 

They might challenge you. They might punish you.

Not only that, but they might contradict you to keep you on the right path.

But these are the types of people you should be friends with.

You shouldn’t be friends with those who create an inflated fake image in front of you and don’t give a shit about you.

You must choose your friends wisely. You must choose those people who would stand with you in times of trouble and think in your best interest. 

Remember that every person has their flaws, but it depends on how you deal with them.

Think about growth. 

Think about people who wish growth for everybody.

Be with them. Become friends with them.

Deeper insight: Don’t avoid friends who tell you uncomfortable truths. Many people try to be only around people who make them feel good. Feeling good is nice. But a good friend is someone who pushes you to grow.

Read more: Are you surrounded by toxic people who don’t understand you? If yes, read this.

Key Idea #4: Compare Yourself To Who You Were Yesterday.

It was easy to be the best in your town back in the old days. You could quickly become a celebrity.

a celebrity shooting a video

But these days we have the Internet. 

The Internet has connected us. 

Now, it’s tough to become great at something and be acknowledged for it. 

Think of it like this, you have practiced day and night and managed to sing decently.

But then you realize that a five-year-old kid can sing better than you, and he/she already has 21 Million+ views on YouTube.

millions of views on youtube

And when you compare yourself to him/her, you feel lost.

You start to feel like you aren’t good enough.

But here is the thing, why are you even comparing yourself to someone who has a different experience than you?

The best approach is to compare yourself to the person you were yesterday. 

Instead of worrying about the other person and envying him, you should focus on getting better every day.

In life, there are so many games to play. 

And the interesting thing is that no person is good at all the games.

You have to try each game out and find it for yourself.

Your boss might be good at the game of business, but he might be a loser at the game of relationship.

When you compare yourself with others, you compare how well you play a particular game compared to others.

That is why it doesn’t really matter how good the other person is at a particular game because one can’t be excellent at every game.

And if you are winning each game, then chances are you’re not growing at all. You are merely winning.

Pay attention to the game you want to become great at. 

When you pay attention to something, you kind of start seeing that in a distinctive manner. 

You become blind to other things and start seeing growth opportunities.

“Seeing is very difficult, so you must choose what to see, and let the rest go.”

~Jordan B Peterson

Keep in mind: When you try to grow, some people will try to pull you back by questioning your choices, even if you are doing the right thing. Read “The Courage To Be Disliked” to get a better perspective on this.

Key Idea #5: Do Not Let Your Children Do Anything That Makes You Dislike Them.

a man with 2 kids

Kids are hard to control.

Parents find it difficult to punish their kids when they don’t follow the rules.

Sometimes parents fear that their kids will dislike them if they punish their children.

They want to establish discipline but fear giving punishment. 

Kids don’t realize right and wrong. 

They don’t know much about life, and they keep learning as they grow. Therefore, they must be taught by their parents.

“You’re not doing your child any favors by overlooking any misbehavior.”

~Jordan B Peterson

Peterson says that both Discipline and Punishment are necessary to nurture kids properly.

Generally, parents let go of little wrong things done by kids, thinking they are okay. 

They act nice and don’t punish them.

And guess what happens?

Those kids face many problems and learn the lesson the hard way in the future.

Playing nice doesn’t always help.

There are three rules you should keep in mind while teaching discipline to children:

Rule 1: “Limit the rules.”

Rule 2: “Use the minimum necessary force.”

Rule 3: “Parents should come in pairs.”

According to Rule 1, you must not impose too many rules on children. Because too many regulations can lead to frustration and limit their overall development.

Teach them a few basic rules and let them grow.

Again according to Rule 2, you should try to use minimum necessary force as too much force can instill hatred towards you.

Also, it is much more effective to go in pairs.

Practical Application: Don’t force your limited worldview on your children. Give room to their curiosity and exploration. Instead of setting rigid rules, try to teach the child how to make wise decisions.

Key Idea #6: Watch Yourself Before You Criticize The World.

Life is a cruel bitch. 

It’s full of pain and suffering. 

This is an irrefutable truth.

The worst thing is that it doesn’t give you any reason to live. 

On the contrary, it hits you hard every time you start to stand up. 

Every time you give your best and expect good results, life happens. 

Life is often different from our expectations.

And due to this, people become pessimistic. They blame life for their circumstances.

Why do you think terrible crimes like mass murder happen?

It is because the people who commit terrible crimes believe that life is meaningless. 

They believe that death is far better than the life of suffering, and living a life with grief and believing in a prosperous life is cowardly.

They often justify their actions and choose the path of vengeance.

Not only that, but they try to spite the Creator by committing crimes. 

Instead of blaming the world, Peterson says that you should take responsibility for your life.

And when you set yourself in order with diligent effort, maybe your life will become better.

“…perhaps you will then see that if all people did this, in their lives, the world might stop being an evil place.”

~Jordan B Peterson

Deeper Insight: Criticism is often a way of avoiding the fact that we can change and influence our situations. Taking charge demands courage. That’s why many people spend energy criticizing the world instead of changing themselves.

Practical Exercise: Make a list of all the things you think are not right in the world right now. Now try to think about what role you can play in the society to bring a positive change.

Key Idea #7: Pursue Meaningful Things In Life

Instead of doing things that give you instant pleasure, you should do meaningful things.

“What is expedient works only for a moment. It’s immediate, impulsive and limited.”

~Jordan B Peterson

Just look at your life and ask yourself how many things you do daily actually have a meaning.

  • Does streaming TV shows online make your life any better?
  • Does eating chocolates all day make you healthier?
  • Does your regular job actually improve your life and make you better every day?

We spend most of our time doing things that give us instant gratification and procrastinate over boring things that provide meaning to our lives.

Recommendation: “What are you doing with your life?” is a great book by J Krishnamurti if you want to get a laser sharp perspective on life and find meaning.

Key Idea #8: Always Tell The Truth.

People lie. Yes, it’s the bitter truth.

People lie for so many reasons.

Some lie to hide their weaknesses. Some lie to impress. Some lie to …

But here is the thing, dishonesty will bite you back.

When you lie, you not only fool others, but also yourself. 

On the contrary, you gain trust and confidence when you are honest.

Therefore, it’s always better to tell the truth. And if you don’t know the truth, at least don’t lie.

Also read: How to think clearly without making cognitive errors?

Key Idea #9: Be Attentive And Listen Carefully.

a kid listening to an old man

If you want to become wise, you must listen to others effectively.

Nobody is a genius, but because of our unique experiences, we know things that other people don’t. 

Contrary to this, the other person we are talking to might know things that we don’t.

Instead of competing with the other person, you must listen to what he says with undivided attention.

But in reality, we often waste our time proving our ideas and forget to listen to the other person. This must be avoided at all costs.

You should look for opportunities for growth while having a conversation.

Deeper insight: Listening is highly underrated in our society. People believe that they listen. But listening is an art one develops over time with keen observation.

Sometimes, it can be challenging to properly listen to what the other person is saying.

Most people are not experts at articulating their innermost thoughts. Sometimes, they tell something totally different from what they intended.

Good listening requires you to understand the context of what is being said, and not just the words that are coming out of the other person’s mouth.

The best part?

You also discover so many new things about the other person. For example, things like “their worldview,” “what they think about themselves,” “their likes/dislikes,” “the patterns in their speech,” etc.

The more details you pick up from a conversation, the more interesting it gets.

People get bored quickly during a conversation because they never pay full attention. As a result, they miss out on interesting tid-bits of information.

Did you know? By getting into the mind of the other party, you can also win negotitaions and turn the stakes in your favor. Read these book summaries to find out how.

Key Idea #10: Be Precise In What You Say.

They say “listen before you speak.”

But it’s also crucial to put your words correctly.

Shorter speeches are powerful and effective.

You must be precise about what you say.

Strip down all the words from your speech that don’t add any value.

Be precise. Be clear.

Also read: 7 Things To Do When You Have To Give A Short Speech

Insight: Precise speech forces you to think before you say any word. Those who think before they speak tend to become leaders and are good at influencing people.

Key Idea #11: Let Your Children Do Challenging Things.

a boy skating

Skateboarding is a challenging sport.

As a parent, you must not bother your children when skateboarding.

When you bother children while doing something challenging, you limit their growth.

Let your children learn from failures.

Let them figure things out themselves.

Imagine there are two kids. One loves taking risks while the other does only safe things that his parents allow him to do.

Who do you think would be more successful?

Chances are, the kid who loves taking risks and often tastes failure would become more successful in the future.

Key Idea #12: Pet A Cat When You Encounter One On The Street

pet a cat

This doesn’t mean that you should pet every cat you encounter on the street.

By this, the author means that you should embrace all the little things you encounter.

You must set your attitude right and celebrate all the good things and bad things that come into your life.

Also, suffering, in a way, gives meaning to joy.

When you suffer, you realize the actual value of joy.

12 Rules For Life Summary Infographic

12 rules for life summary infographic

12 Rules For Life Review

This book gives rules that relate to different aspects of life.

Not all the rules will be helpful to everyone, but the rules would be beneficial throughout life.

The author has borrowed most of the concepts from the story of Adam and Eve given in the Holy Bible.

There is so much you can learn from that story. 

With this book, Peterson shines a light on the principles that will guide you in living a meaningful life.

Furthermore, age-old concepts like Good, Evil, Joy, Suffering, Hope, Paradise, Hell, etc., contribute to the theme of this book.

The thing I didn’t like about this book is that the author refers to the Adam and Eve story almost every time he explains any idea. 

Sometimes, while reading this, I wondered if I should read the Bible instead.

Some stories were not even related to the rule that the author was talking about.

Also, the length of the book could be shorter.

Overall, this book is worth reading at least once in life.

Get the audiobook: Buy on Audible | Play free on Audiobooks.com

Get the Hardcover version: Buy on Amazon

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FAQs about 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson

Is it worth reading 12 Rules for Life?

Although it’s a lengthy one, it sure is an enjoyable read touching broad topics like psychology, self-help, parenting, christianity, etc.

How Many Copies Has 12 Rules for Life Sold?

5 million copies worldwide according to Penguin Random House publication.

Who is 12 rules of life aimed at?

The book targets millenials, especially males.

Why does Jordan Peterson say to pet a cat?

Petting a cat might teach you how to take better care for yourself as well as others.

What is the theme of 12 Rules for Life?

Life can be challenging to deal with. There are thousands of concepts that claim to give you a better life. Peterson has simplifed the complex conepts of life into 12 rules that are easy to follow and understand.

Is 12 Rules For Life difficult?

Yes, some people may find this book a bit difficult to read as it draws ideas from so many concepts. You might get overwhelmed if you are not used to reading lengthy books.

It’s your turn now

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Shami Manohar

The Brain Behind Wizbuskout.com

I am Shami Manohar, the founder of WizBuskOut. My obsession with non-fiction books has fueled me with the energy to create this website. I read at least one book every week on topics such as business, critical thinking, mindset, psychology, and more.

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