Jordan Peterson: 12 Rules for Life – EconTalk

Key Takeaways

  • Life is not about happiness – what people actually want is to not be anxious and miserable
  • Instead of happiness, look for meaningful engagement and significant responsibility – happiness is a gift, not the main pursuit
  • Always assume that the person you’re listening to knows something you don’t
  • Don’t let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
    • If your kids are bothering you, the probability that they are bothering other people is extremely high
  • Set your house in order before you criticize the world

Intro

  • Host: Russ Roberts (@EconTalker) is an economics professor at George Mason University and a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution
  • Guest: Jordan B. Peterson (@jordanbpeterson) is a Canadian clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto

Books Mentioned

Happiness Is Not The Goal

  • Life is not about happiness – what people actually want is to not be anxious and miserable
  • “Being happy” is not an optimal goal
    • There will be a lot of times throughout your life when you can’t be happy – most people have at least one serious thing going wrong at any one point in time (sick child or relative, financial difficulties, relationship problems, etc.)
  • Instead of happiness, look for meaningful engagement and significant responsibility – happiness is a gift, not the main pursuit
  • “Life is suffering” is the default position of life, not happiness
  • People need a transcendent goal in life so that they have something to aim at for the long-term
    • You need to have a goal that is beyond the gratification of the impulses of the current moment – if you only follow the pleasures of today, you’ll have a difficult time in the future
      • Young children aren’t able to survive by themselves because they have a difficult time grasping the concept of the future – some adults have that problem as well
    • Develop a long-term goal and break it down into smaller goals that can be accomplished each day that move you closer to the end goal
      • Also try to find a goal that benefits you and the people around you (like opening up a grocery business to make money instead of selling drugs to make money)

Parenting Advice

  • “Don’t let your children do anything that makes you dislike them”
    • Adults have a ton of power over kids and can make their lives terrible if they wish, whether intentionally or unintentionally – the best way to prevent this from happening is to encourage behaviors you like in your kids while discouraging behaviors you dislike
    • If your kids are bothering you, the probability that they are bothering other people is extremely high – leading them to be disliked by other adults and children, and perhaps more prone to bullying, isolation, or anti-social behavior
      • You want your kids to be able to make friends anywhere they go
  • Communities act as a feedback loop
    • When you do good for others and the world, people want to invite you to places, be your friend, and spend time with you
    • When you act in a negative manner, people avoid you and limit contact with you

Lessons From Jordan’s Book – 12 Rules For Life

  • When Jordan talks about life being tragic and full of suffering, a lot of people are relieved to hear that – it changes the common idea that life is meant to be all about happiness
    • Although life can be terrible, in the end, good is stronger than evil
      • A lot of problems in the world could be solved if each person took responsibility in their life for a small problem and worked to fix it and then moved on to the next problem
  • “Assume that the person you’re listening to knows something you don’t”
    • When having a conversation with a stranger, remember this rule, because it can help you learn something new
  • “Set your house in order before you criticize the world”
    • Lots of young kids believe they can change the world and often pursue that as their goal even though they can’t even keep their rooms clean or are struggling with their classes
      • Instead, start in your domain of competence and then expand it over time – work locally then move up the chain
  • Having a proper life requires sacrifices – you can sacrifice something you care about in the present to obtain something greater in the future
    • You are constantly trading with yourself and others for a better future (like buying stocks today in the hope that the price will rise in the future or grinding through medical school in the hope of being a successful doctor in the future)

Thoughts On College

  • There are a lot of problems with the current college system:
    • Tuition rates have risen drastically over the past few decades
    • Colleges keep expanding their administration instead of their faculty
    • Student loans are accessible to young kids who aren’t aware the debt will follow them forever
      • “The administrators have determined how to pick the future pockets of the students and have essentially transformed a large part of the American population into indentured servants”
  • Students should be taking entrepreneurial risks and trying to create something new while they are young but because of student debt, they are less likely to do something innovative and risky
  • “The universities are doing an increasingly bad job of teaching people to write and read and think…I’m not happy with the current state of the universities, I’m embarrassed by what’s happened”

Additional Notes

  • More people should read the Bible as a literary text instead of a literal text
    • The Bible contains many fundamental stories and reading it will help people understand how those stories helped shape society
      • The Bible is like Shakespeare, both are difficult to understand and whether or not the stories are true, there are still countless lessons that can be learned from each
  • Tragedy can be a good thing – it often exposes a person’s naivety and helps them grow/better understand the world
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Notes By Alex Wiec

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