Book Summary: 12 Rules For Life. Jordan Peterson in place of Moses.

Book Summary: 12 Rules For Life, Jordan Peterson

By James Razko

In this summary of 12 Rules for Life, you will learn to take extreme ownership of yourself, what lobsters have to do with social status, that sometimes it’s ok to flick your kid on the head, and why destroying the patriarchy might be a bad idea.

Summary of 12 Rules for Life in 12 sentences

  1. Hierarchies are fundamental to life, so look like a winner by fixing your posture.
  2. Care for yourself as you would an animal or loved one.
  3. Avoid making friends with people who will drag you down.
  4. Compare yourself to your past self, not others. 
  5. Raise a responsible and likable child.
  6. Take extreme responsibility for yourself and do not blame the world.
  7. Sacrifice for the future and live a meaningful life. 
  8. Tell the truth to yourself and others to stop living a life lie. 
  9. Conversations are opportunities to learn and grow, only if you truly listen.
  10. Use clear and precise language to avoid chaos. 
  11. Avoid suppressing (good) human nature, or it will make for unhappy people. 
  12. Life is hard, so celebrate small joys in life.  

Book Summary

12 Rules for Life, by Jordan B. Peterson



One sentence Summary, 12 Rules for Life: Rule 1: Hierarchies are fundamental to life, so look like a winner by fixing your posture.

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer

Percy Bysshe Shelley


Mathews Law: From cities, wealth to the distribution of matter throughout the universe, those that have more will get more, and those with little will have less. 

Hierarchies are billions of years old. From the instant complex life arose on earth, dominance hierarchies have “dominated” life. 

The part of our brain that tracks dominance hierarchies is older and more fundamental than we can imagine. For example, Simple and ancient animals like the 350 million-year-old and relatively unchanged lobster knows their position on the hierarchy among other nearby lobsters.


Perceiving you are low on the dominance hierarchy will decrease serotonin, which will: 

  • decrease confidence
  • increase stress
  • lower happiness
  • increase impulsivity
  • shorten lifespan 

Perceiving you are high on the dominance hierarchy will increase serotonin which will 

  • increase confidence
  • raise happiness
  • decrease impulsivity
  • lengthen lifespan

Eating And Sleeping Well

To help treat anxiety and depression, the author first recommends his clients to get their diets and sleeping habits in order. Circadian rhythm influences emotion. 


People who have had previously low status and have since moved on to be higher status sometimes do not notice this change and their body language often still reflects their previous state. 

Submissive body language can create a feedback loop by stressing you out and attracting more bullies. 

Some cannot stand up for themselves; however, people are often bullied because they do not fight back. 

Believing that all aggression is wrong, is a mistake. Learning to respond with appropriate aggression can stop bullying, create boundaries, and break cycles of oppression.

There is very little difference between the capacity for mayhem and destruction, integrated, and strength of character. This is one of the most difficult lessons of life.

12 Rules for Life, by Jordan Peterson

Embrace Your Dark Side

Understand you and all human beings are capable of horrendous acts. For example, many soldiers develop PTSD, not from the things they witnessed during battle, rather the things they did. 

Learn to recognize your dark side, embrace your emotions and apply them tactfully when necessary, like in the case of bullying. 

Stop Slouching

Submissive Posture 

  • small and closed presence
  • slumped shoulders
  • slouching
  • lowered chin 
  • avoiding eye contact

Dominant Posture

  • wide and tall presence
  • chin up 
  • chest out
  • erect 
  • make eye contact

Faking it is Making it

Your body’s nervous system and the people around you respond to your posture.

By moving your body into a happy posture (faking a smile), you will feel happier. Emotion is linked to body language. Being happy will change your body (smile), and your body (smile) will change your mind. 

If your posture is poor and defeated looking, you will create less serotonin and people will see you and treat you as defeated. 

On the other hand, if you stand up and make yourself large, you will encourage the production of serotonin, and people will treat you more like a winner. 


Quit drooping and hunching around. Speak your mind. Put your desires forward, as if you had a right to them—at least the same right as others. Walk tall and gaze forthrightly ahead. Dare to be dangerous. Encourage the serotonin to flow plentifully through the neural pathways desperate for its calming influence.

12 Rules for Life, by Jordan Peterson



One sentence Summary, 12 Rules for Life: Rule 2: Care for yourself as you would an animal or loved one.

People tend to care for their animals better than they care for themselves. For example, you are more likely to correctly fill and administer a  prescription for your pet hamster than for yourself.

Chaos and Order

One billion years ago, before multi-celled animals, life divided into twin sexes, and 200 million years ago animals began to care for their children. The categories of male and female, and parent and child are ancient and are fundamental parts of existence. 

Chaos and order, the feminine and masculine, or Yin and Yang are all different names for the essential experience and building blocks of life. 

Order is symbolically associated with the masculine, while chaos is symbolically associated with the feminine. 

Order is associated with judgment, rules, and punishment. Chaos is associated with birth, possibility, and ideas. 


Humans are the only animals aware of our weakness, certainty to suffer, and eventual death. This same awareness allows us to inflict suffering on others and exploit their weaknesses.

Treat yourself like a child you are responsible for. Do what is best for yourself. Often, doing what is best for yourself, does not always make you happy. Like raising a child, make yourself a decent human. Do what is right for yourself and others. 

To make anything in the world better, you must first work on yourself.

Have a Clear Vision

Have a clear vision for your life. Importantly, come to know who you are and who you want to be. Shape yourself with that clear vision. 

Learning who you want to become requires learning and the worst parts of yourself, or as the author puts it, “your own personal hell.” By understanding your worst qualities and possibilities, you can steer away from ‘’your own personal hell” and walk towards your metaphorical heaven. By this, you will make yourself and the world a little better. 

Don’t underestimate the power of vision and direction. These are irresistible forces, able to transform what might appear to be unconquerable obstacles into traversable pathways and expanding opportunities.

12 Rules for Life, by Jordan Peterson



One sentence Summary, 12 Rules for Life: Rule 3: Avoid making friends with people who will drag you down.

Choosing the wrong crowd

Often, people of low self-worth choose bad friends because they believe they do not deserve any better. Others can lack the necessary tools and knowledge to choose good friends.

Also, people of low and high self-worth make poor friend choices by trying to recuse someone. This drive, while on the face may seem right is usually done to make that person feel better about themselves. 

 Saving someone may be tempting. However, most people do not want to change their life for the better; It is often easier to stay mired in the mud than attempt to make the long journey out.  A person must save themselves.  Attempting to save someone will likely harm you.

Make Friends Who Lift You Up

Make friends with people who will both support your positive trajectory and punish you mindfully when you veer off course. These are true friends.

In any relationship, both must be strong and fight for themselves, or one will end up subjugated to the other.  

It requires strength to befriend and stand aside good people; for this reason, many choose the easier route and make friends with unhealthy people. 

Here’s something to consider: If you have a friend whose friendship you wouldn’t recommend to your sister, or your father, or your son, why would you have such a friend for yourself?

12 Rules for Life, by Jordan Peterson

To learn more about toxic friendship click here.



One sentence Summary, 12 Rules for Life: Rule 4: Compare yourself to your past self, not others.

The future is like the past. But there’s a crucial difference. The past is fixed, but the future—it could be better. It could be better, some precise amount—the amount that can be achieved, perhaps, in a day, with some minimal engagement. The present is eternally flawed. But where you start might not be as important as the direction you are heading.

12 Rules for Life, by Jordan Peterson

Comparing Yourself

Today, there are too many people to compare yourself with, and it can be difficult to believe you are good at something. Even if you are one in a million, if you live inside a city, or surf the web, there will always be someone better than you. 

Life is a Game

Life is as a game you did not choose to play; however,  inside this grand game, you are playing many other sub-games you can choose. Some games are suited for you and others are not. Choose the games that best suit your character. To do this, you must discover who you are and who you want to be. And after you have found this, you will need to muster the courage and dare to change.

To play your life’s game well, you must be truthful and articulate what you want and need to yourself and those around you.

Like any game, you can choose to play or not. You can reinvent yourself at any moment. If you fail at being one thing try another.  

Inner Critic

There are right ways and wrong ways to utilize your inner critic. 

Comparing yourself to other people is the wrong way. You are a singular being with specific needs and circumstances that have no relation to others, so why compare yourself to anyone else.

Comparing yourself to your previous self is the right way. And, Done with care and thoughtful aim, your inner critic can guide yourself to a better way of being. 

Where to Aim

To aim high, aim low. 

Aim to make tiny improvements every day of your life. As you become better than your previous self,  your bar will continually raise over time. This will compound and soon will have completely changed your life. Think of building a pyramid brick by brick, level by level.

When attempting to raise your bar, negotiate with your inner self, be polite and treat the inner you as you would a small child.


Vision is an expensive resource. For this reason, you will only see what you are looking for. By giving your inner self a goal, it will seek out and see things it will have otherwise missed. If you are not aiming for anything, you will likely go nowhere.

Likewise, our biases and beliefs narrow our vision, blinding us to possibilities and growth. 



One sentence Summary, 12 Rules for Life: Rule 5: Raise a responsible and likable child.

Human beings are capable of great evil. Raise your children to be decent and well-adjusted adults.


Do not be an Oedipal mother or father.

An Oedipal mother does everything for her children. She never pushes them out of the nest, in an attempt to keep them close to her forever. Her children may never mature, will become bitter and feel worthless. 

To always shelter your child from fear and pain is a mistake. When they leave home, they will be ill-equipped to handle the realities of a harsh world.

Be a Parent

Besides, mental and physical abuse, children can be equally damaged by lack of discipline. This often happens when well-meaning parents hold their child’s friendship over their duty as a parent. 

Rebellious children are testing and learning their limits, with parents and society. You owe it to your child to help them understand what is acceptable in and out of the home. This is achieved with mindful discipline. 

Many parents believe a crying child is always sad or hurt. Many times, children cry out of anger. Crying out of anger is often an attempt to dominate the parent. Learn to recognize and correct this.


Disciplining your child with care is a responsibility that requires, effort, conflict, mercy, and long-term judgment. Discipline is not anger or revenge.    

Consistent correction is how a child learns limits.


Children would not be vulnerable for so long if they did not need training. 

You can train your children with small rewards. The reward must be large enough to get his or her attention and small enough to make future rewards worthwhile.  When teaching a child break complex tasks down into digestible parts.

You can teach anyone anything by delivering rewards after three have acted out the desired action. The key is careful attention and delivery of the reward immediately.


Teaching your child to navigate society with grace is essential to their future well-being. They do not need to be mindless drones; instead, develop free thinking and instill habits and values that will lead to a full adult life. 

After the age of four children are socialized primarily by their peers. It is a parents duty to make sure their child knows how to play well with others. Otherwise, they will find it difficult to make friends and will not progress properly. 

5 principals of a Responsible and Likable Child

First Principle—Limit The Rules.

Too many rules are confusing and ineffective. The author, suggests applying rules such as:

  • Do not hit, except in self-defense 
  • Do not bully
  • Eat civilized
  • Pay attention to adults
  • Go to sleep properly 
  • Take care of your belongings
  • Be good company

Second Principle— Use minimum effective force necessary to discipline.

To find the minimum effective force you must experiment. Each kid is different and responds to discipline differently. 

In some situations,  physical punishment may be necessary. Some situations require immediate discipline. For example, if your child attempts to walk into traffic or intentionally/unintentionally hurts a younger sibling. 

Many forms of punishment, including time out, are as physically and psychologically painful as physical punishment.  In some cases, a light tap, swat across the backside, or physical restraint can be the minimum effective force. 

Third Principal— Parents when possible, should come in pairs. 

Fourth Principal— Parents should know their capacity for evil and good. Knowing this will help you be a better parent and less likely to act out of revenge and anger.

Fifth Principal—Parents are proxies for the real world. It is of primary concern for a parent to ensure their child will be socially acceptable. Your kid will achieve nothing If he or she is rejected by society.  


Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.

12 Rules for Life, by Jordan Peterson



One sentence Summary, 12 Rules for Life: Rule 6: Take extreme responsibility for yourself and do not blame the world.

Blame yourself

The world is unfair, and everyone is suffering. However, to blame others will only make you bitter and unhappy. On the other hand, discovering the truth, that you are responsible for your condition, will set you free.

Before blaming the world for your problems, take full account of your life. Ask yourself hard questions, like, are my bad habits getting in the way of my happiness, have I taken advantage of all opportunities afforded to me, have I worked hard,  are my negative attitudes getting in the way of my success, and so on.  Be determined to tell yourself the truth. 

Use your intuition to guide you on your search for truth, ownership, and authenticity. 

You can know that something is wrong or right without knowing why. Your entire Being can tell you something that you can neither explain nor articulate. Every person is too complex to know themselves completely, and we all contain wisdom that we cannot comprehend.   

12 Rules for Life, by Jordan Peterson



One sentence Summary, 12 Rules for Life: Rule 7: Sacrifice for the future and live a meaningful life.   

The Pursuit of Sacrifice

To be successful, you must delay gratification. You must sacrifice. The more you sacrifice in the present, the larger the reward you will reap in the future.

Sacrifice to avoid future suffering and sacrifice to prevent future evil.

Humans sacrifice and work because we are aware of our mortality and fragility.

The Pursuit of Meaning 

To pursue meaning, you must do the hard work of discovering who you are. 

Pursue a meaningful life, by living by your life by your highest ideals.

Meaning cannot be produced. You can create the right environment and foster its appearance, but It comes upon you. And, when it does, you can choose to follow it, or not. When meaning enters your life follow it. 



One sentence Summary, 12 Rules for Life: Rule 8: Seek authenticity, and avoid living life lies by telling the truth to yourself and others. 

Living a Life Lie

Before you attempt to fix anything in the world, correct yourself.

A life lie is a false story that one tells themselves to shirk responsibility for failing to achieve one’s goals.

Admit When You Are Wrong 

Many of us make arbitrary decisions (like career choice) early in life. And, often these arbitrary decisions control our present and future, even when we no longer agree with or wish for what we decided some time ago. We begin to tell our selves lies to avoid the painful reality. We lose sight of our authentic self.      

Admitting to yourself when you are wrong and confronting your being, is the path to authenticity.

If you bend everything totally, blindly and willfully towards the attainment of a goal, and only that goal, you will never be able to discover if another goal would serve you, and the world, better. It is this that you sacrifice if you do not tell the truth. If, instead, you tell the truth, your values transform as you progress. If you allow yourself to be informed by the reality manifesting itself, as you struggle forward, your notions of what is important will change. You will reorient yourself, sometimes gradually, and sometimes suddenly and radically.

12 Rules for Life, by Jordan Peterson

Be Honest 

The more you tell the truth to yourself and others, the more your life will point in the direction of good. 

If you deconstruct a big lie (like genocide), it is composed of countless smaller and smaller lies. Evils roots begin with the smallest lies we tell ourselves.

Stop lying to yourself. It may feel good at the moment, but after that instant, you are only accumulating conscious rot, sweeping the festering truth under the rug, until one day it comes piling out, burying you and everyone around you. 

Truth is the ultimate, inexhaustible natural resource. It’s the light in the darkness.See the truth. Tell the truth.

12 Rules for Life, by Jordan Peterson



One sentence Summary, 12 Rules for Life: Rule 9: Conversations are opportunities to learn and grow, only if you truly listen. 

True Conversation

True thinking is an internal dialogue, and the ability to debate two or more opposing points of view. It is listening deeply to yourself and adjusting your thoughts and perceptions of the world.

A true listener gives the person talking the space to hear himself. The true listener represents the crowd and public opinion. A true listener does not need to speak. 

If you develop the ability to listen truly, people will tell you incredible things. Your life will be more interesting. If the conversation is boring, you are likely not listening.

Summarize for Clarity

The author recommends you to try an experiment suggested by Freud. 

He suggested that his readers conduct a short experiment when they next found themselves in a dispute: “Stop the discussion for a moment, and institute this rule: ‘Each person can speak up for himself only after he has first restated the ideas and feelings of the previous speaker accurately, and to that speaker’s satisfaction.

12 Rules for Life, by Jordan Peterson

This act of summary is a powerful tool. Summary allows for genuine understanding and aids in the consolation of memory. 

Common Types of Conversation

  • One person trying to dominate the other 
  • Neither speaker is listening to each other; instead, both are thinking about what to say next
  • One speaker is trying to prove their point of view
  • A lecture (the audience communicates nonverbally)
  • To be the most entertaining speaker
  • Mutual exploration: Everyone is seeking truth and attempting to learn something

Uncommon Types of Conversation 

  • True listening
  • True thinking

By truly listening to yourself and others you will seek knowledge instead of clinging to what you know already. 



One sentence Summary, 12 Rules for Life: Rule 10: Use clear and precise language to avoid chaos.

Scratching the Surface

We are only capable of seeing the surface of anything. For example, When we see a car, we do not see it’s arc through time, how it works, or the atoms that comprise it. We barely scratch the surface of anything including the people we see and ourselves. If we saw any more than we do, we would be utterly overwhelmed.


The boundaries of ourself can extend past our skin. When you pick up a tool, you can feel the end of it. When you pilot a car, it becomes part of you. 

The boundaries of ourself also extend to our loved ones, teams and fictional characters. 

People will sacrifice themselves for loved ones, countries and ideas. 

Things Fall Apart

When something goes wrong, we freak out because the narrowness of our seeing is revealed and we are confronted with the chaos of reality.

When things fall apart our sense of self can crumble with it.

Avoiding Chaos

Chaos can be avoided by telling each other the truth.  Every lie we speak to another person builds over time and eventually will come back to bite us.

Specify your problems. It may be hard admitting there is a problem. Without specifying the problem, you can not begin to find a solution. 

When things fall apart, and chaos re-emerges, we can give structure to it, and re-establish order, through our speech. If we speak carefully and precisely, we can sort things out, and put them in their proper place, and set a new goal, and navigate to it—often communally, if we negotiate; if we reach consensus. If we speak carelessly and imprecisely, however, things remain vague.

12 Rules for Life, by Jordan Peterson



One sentence Summary, 12 Rules for Life: Rule 11 : Avoid suppressing (good) human nature, it makes for unhappy people. 

Be Grateful for Culture

Culture should change, but we should be grateful and deeply consider our culture. After all, it has countless years of wisdom built into its fabric. 

We should not teach our children that culture is the result of male oppression. Culture is the accumulation of work and sacrifice from both women and men.

Of course, culture is an oppressive structure. It’s always been that way. It’s a fundamental, universal existential reality. The tyrannical king is a symbolic truth; an archetypal constant. What we inherit from the past is willfully blind, and out of date. It’s a ghost, a machine, and a monster. It must be rescued, repaired and kept at bay by the attention and effort of the living. It crushes, as it hammers us into socially acceptable shape, and it wastes great potential. But it offers great gain, too. Every word we speak is a gift from our ancestors. Every thought we think was thought previously by someone smarter. The highly functional infrastructure that surrounds us, particularly in the West, is a gift from our ancestors: the comparatively uncorrupt political and economic systems, the technology, the wealth, the lifespan, the freedom, the luxury, and the opportunity. Culture takes with one hand, but in some fortunate places it gives more with the other. To think about culture only as oppressive is ignorant and ungrateful, as well as dangerous

12 Rules for Life, by Jordan Peterson

Women and Men are Different

Men need to toughen up. And men get tough by pushing themselves and each other. This is why men enjoy extreme sports, are more likely to be in a car accident, and get in trouble in class. Men like dangerous things and to feel useful. Suppressing this nature can be dangerous.

One danger of going against men’s nature by over feminizing them is many seeking an outlet will develop an interest in harsh and fascist ideology. 

Many women would benefit from being more aggressive. If you are too agreeable, people will walk all over you. 

Marriage is a Luxury

Women natural desire men who are tougher, smarter, and higher on the dominance hierarchy than they are. Because women when compared to men increasingly have higher, education, income, self-confidence, intelligence, and social rank,  many women find it difficult to find a partner who can outdo them. The over-feminization of men is also bad for women, who will not be able to find adequate partners.

Increasingly marriage is becoming a luxury only the rich can afford. 

Create Rather Than Destroy

Increasingly, the idea of destroying or dismantling the patriarchy has become popular. There are entire fields of study devoted to it. It would be better to focus on fixing things, rather than destroying them. Labeling men as the problem only divide us.



One sentence Summary, 12 Rules for Life: Rule 12: Life is hard, so celebrate small joys in life.  

Though thirty spokes may form the wheel,
it is the hole within the hub
which gives the wheel utility.
It is not the clay the potter throws,
which gives the pot its usefulness,
but the space within the shape,
from which the pot is made.
Without a door, the room cannot be entered,
and without its windows it is dark
Such is the utility of non-existence.

Tao Te Ching, Translated by Raymond B. Blakney


Nobody likes an invincible hero. A hero without a struggle isn’t a hero. Even god fights the devil. For example, for some time Superman was too strong and to super. He could do anything, and readership began to flounder. So, the authors gave him weaknesses and made him vulnerable, and people loved Superman again. Everyone needs trails and weaknesses to make them stronger. If life had no suffering, there would be no joy.

Imagine a Being who is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. What does such a Being lack? The answer? Limitation.

12 Rules for Life, by Jordan Peterson

Be Grateful

Life is suffering, and if you pay attention, even on the worst days of your life, you will still find small things to be grateful for. Take the time and opportunity, to appreciate the little things that come your way. Enjoy the small gifts life bestows. For example, when a cat on the street decides to walk over to you, pet it.

There is no day without night.  

Feeling Like A Pioneer? Sign up to be the first to know about new book summaries.

If you enjoyed this 12 Rules for Life Summary , support the author and me by purchasing a hard copy of 12 Rules for Life <—— From this link. If you do, I’ll earn about .70 cents. It’s not a lot, but every penny will help me dig a little deeper into The Mine and I really appreciate it.

Compliment this Book Summary of 12 Rules for Life with these other summaries:
Atomic Habits by James Clear
This is Marketing by Seth Godin
Free Will by Sam Harris
The Inner Game of Tennis