Roshan Shukla has a sceptical read-through of Dr Jordan B Peterson’s flagship book.
‘Life is shit’ sums up what Peterson conveys in his initial chapter. (Sorry to dampen the mood so early on!). Above all else, what makes it so bad is that a few get all the glory, and the rest of us get left with nothing! ‘Price’s Law’, which Peterson discusses, is widely considered the sole cause of our eternal suffering. Ignoring money for a second; the majority of classical music still played today was written by the same four musicians. You’ve probably guessed already “oh Mozart and Beethoven will be two of them!”, showing the extent to which they dominate the field, (the other two were Bach and Tchaikovsky in case you wanted to know). The truth of the matter is resources aren’t split evenly, as ‘winners take it all’. Likewise, (and as bloody annoying as it is), some people will always have excessive resources while we’re all left behind. On a plus note though, chances are you wouldn’t be happy even if you were the world no.1 at your given profession. Which I, for one, can say makes me feel slightly less contemptuous of the elites.
History records the lives of princes, dukes and earls who are born into wealth, possess high social status and to top it all off never have to work a day in their lives; yet still shows them to be having a terrible ordeal. Thus Peterson is correct in doubting that climbing to the top of the artificial ladder (that of social status and wealth) will bring an end to our suffering, which he assures us is immovable. Peterson mentions that the two critical problems they still can’t overcome are the loss of loved ones and the health problems that will come with them ageing. So what is the answer of how to bear life?
Peterson mentions the first step in doing this; stand up with your shoulders back then as to accept the terrible responsibility of life with open arms. And literally, do this as your reading right now. The change in posture directly impacts our serotonin levels, thus improving mental functioning.
Peterson claims “You need to find your reason to live”. As Nietzsche put it “He whose life has a why can bear almost any how”. Personally, I feel the late Professor Stephen Hawking would be someone who the quote would be highly applicable to. Despite suffering from ALS, never opted for euthanasia. I can’t say for sure, but one would imagine his suffering from the condition in terms of sheer physical pain would have far outweighed his daily pleasure. However, no one can deny he had a reason to live; that being so he could contribute to science for the good of the world. Life is not too dissimilar to when your ill but it’s exam period so you must pull through to be able to take the paper. In the same way, our ‘mission’ is to find something we’re so duty-bound to, that we won’t think of life as unnecessary pain in vain; but momentary agony while we do a task that contributes to making the world a better place.
Here, Peterson questions: Why do we treat ourselves like crap? (Or words to that effect anyway). We’re reminded we’ve achieved something really admirable. Life allocates at least one serious struggle for us to suffer at all times. This could be living with a severe health condition, being close to someone who is ill at this very moment, bereavement, relationship problem or something else; and yet, statistically speaking, most of us productively go about our lives regardless; That is a feat in itself.
There’s proof people don’t care about themselves; Almost all research shows, that people are more likely to make sure their pets take the full course of treatment for a health condition than correctly follow the medical treatment prescribed to themselves. What Peterson is in effect saying, is that people don’t think they are worth being cared for
Well, it’s no wonder why. When there are figures who have reached greatness across various fields, we’re bound to feel inadequate Peterson believes. For instance, Margot Robbie makes us feel comparatively unattractive, and Einstein makes us feel plain stupid. However, not for a moment should we wish these figures disappear; the world is all the better for their existence. We prefer to see films starring aesthetically pleasing individuals; we have lived longer and better lives due to the work of great intellectuals.
Now let’s say for a second, you’re born with …. severe kyphosis. There’s no point me shoving a scientific report in your face and saying, “don’t worry you’ll still have a sufficient quality of life”, although it may be worth me showing you the Disney classic that is The Hunchback of Notre Dame to inspire you. Peterson finds that mythology and stories can often provide a lot more comfort than scientific fact. You may think nobody is interested in mythology; well then, why are Marvel films so popular? After all, they’re practically the same
Peterson suggests that to prevent your Achilles heel from being attacked, you could avoid all your insecurities. If you don’t risk overcoming any of your weaknesses, he guarantees you’ll remain safe. However, he warns that life will soon become pointless and monotonous. You need a challenge that pushes you to your boundaries and makes you strong to give your life purpose.
Peterson declares you’re morally obliged to make your life challenging; to do things not because they are easy but because they are hard. You wouldn’t endlessly make your child ‘happy’, allowing them an unlimited amount of sweets. You would do what is ‘good’ for your child by brushing their teeth. There’s a clear difference between doing what makes a child happy and what is right for them. This difference applies to you too. Getting pissed makes you happy; doing revision is something which is actually good for you!
On a similar note; stand up for yourself! Insists Peterson. If your friend were being insulted and pushed around, you wouldn’t tell them to just grin and bear it! If your child were being bullied, you wouldn’t say ‘put up with it for a few more years’. And yet, when you are maltreated by your bosses and colleagues, you tell yourself ‘suck it up’ and ‘get on with it’. Keeping silent is not the righteous or virtuous ‘thing to do’, it’s the easy way out through avoiding confrontation. Do what you would do if you were responsible for giving someone else advice. Stop telling yourself you are weak! You’re stronger than you think, now be a responsible adult and don’t let people put you down.
Don’t make friends with someone because you “want to rescue them”. It’s not a real thing! It’s a narcissistic method of glorifying yourself Peterson reveals. You can try telling yourself your George from ‘Of Mice and Men’ looking after Lenny, but you’re not. For instance, you may think helping a lazy, underqualified delinquent get a job amongst you and your hard-working peers is a noble deed. It is in fact, quite the contrary; chances are, they won’t buckle up, leaving your colleagues and co-workers feel resentful towards the product of nepotism. They, themselves, will suffer in the long run as having a job they don’t deserve will, in the long term, be detrimental for their self-esteem. This leaves only you having benefitted from the transaction, as for having helped the undeserving applicant land a job, you’re left feeling virtuous.
Worse still; don’t make friends with someone because they make you feel ‘less crappy’ about yourself warns Peterson. If you enjoy spending your nights getting wasted, it would be tempting to find an alcoholic accomplice to provide company. Firstly, the two of you will feel less insecure about your vices, which is somewhat bad in itself. More dangerously, you could be dragged back. Perhaps, you’ve been t-total for a month, and are now considering giving up booze for good. That is of course until your friend tells you you’re betraying him and guilts trip you into maintaining your bad habit.
Why are so many celebrities on drugs? Perhaps there is an answer to that. If life is all about becoming rich and famous, and then once having achieved it, you still don’t feel meaningful and satisfied you begin to look elsewhere. Celebrities who have acquired the previously mentioned, after years telling themselves they would feel complete when reaching the top; yet, still find themselves missing something, seek out a solution. Although this information is not from the book, Jordan Belfort (who most certainly can be considered to have the first-hand experience), proposes that explanation.
What I am trying to express in the above paragraph is that drugs are seriously damaging products that are used by troubled souls. It is for this reason, Peterson believes helping supply friends with them is not an act of kindness but rather one of convenience. It is easier to give in to their pleading than to have a difficult conversation telling them they need to ‘get their shit together’. So, in reality, despite convincing yourself you’re going out of your way for them, you’re in fact taking the easy way out. And if you can’t be bothered doing the hard route for them, are you really a good friend?
Peterson thinks it is far more challenging to be friends with some highly accomplished person …. let’s say, a former president or…Dwayne Johnson than a muppet. It would be hugely uncomfortable being friends with someone who studies eight hours a day or wakes up at 4 am to go to the gym. When we’re surrounded by ideal god-like figures, it will obviously cause some self-deprecation. But; this is a far better fate than being concealed in our current state declares Peterson.
Remember back in the day? When you thought coming top of the year in a test at school meant you were a world champion in the field. Now you realise, there are seven billion people in the world, and a few million took the that A- level paper and beat you. Perhaps you were the fastest person in the school, but you’ve still got the rest of the city to compete with; let alone, the rest of the world!
Peterson draws the analogy, that even if you were Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, you’re still not the President of the USA. Well, let’s put the solution this way; if the richest man in the world was worth $100 billion, and the second richest was worth $70 billion, you would assume the second richest has it better if you follow the same illogical reasoning you apply your own self. What you haven’t considered, however, is that there are many ‘games’. Career/financial wealth is but one of many games within their lives. What about health and wellbeing, or marital and social situation? For example, would you instead take the $100 billion and suffer hair loss, asthma and be going through a divorce if those drawbacks were the circumstances of the no.1 position holder; or, would you be the person who is in the no.2 spot who has perfect health and everyone loves?
The mind functions unfairly as to only compare you with one person in a given domain; e.g. wealth, fame, power; followed on by choosing a stellar person in a field to compare against, such as Usain Bolt. Finished off by stating irrationally that because the contrast in the ability between you and the greatest sprinter in history is so stark when it comes to running, you must be undeserving of life.
But Peterson reassures us that there is no need to become resentful. As stated earlier; there are many games to be played, and we are clueless about the personal struggles of the mega-stars. The reason anti-hero is so timeless is because, within them, we see ourselves. Ironically, if the hero of a film was presented as all-round perfect (which would be unrepresentative of any human being I know off); they would become, if anything, less captivating.
If there is a position opening for a promotion; don’t consciously think I want to get that position instead of my colleagues. Don’t think I can climb the corporate ladder and become the top, which will mean I can buy myself a humongous palace. Think, instead, what can I do contribute to the world? What can I invent, produce or bring a change about to, for the betterment of humanity? The wealthiest person in the world, Jeff Bezos, contributed amazon. Through helping make our lives easier, enabling us to order anything we want at the touch of your fingertips, he has risen to the top.
To clarify and to emphasise; Just because Peterson is saying not to compare yourself to others, that does not mean to adopt a state of mind in which you say “well, I’m never going to be faster than Usain Bolt anyway, there’s no point trying”. Nor does it mean, you’ve accomplished nothing with your life if you never go onto beat him. Find a meaningful balance; If you can run well enough, you might still be able to pick up a bronze medal for your country, and that contributes to the betterment of your country a fair deal at the end of the day.
Being lenient towards your kids isn’t kindness; it’s laziness! asserts Peterson. Telling your child off gently while conflictingly, giving them a comforting patting on the back won’t help them. They won’t learn from it so will wreak havoc in the outside world. Selfishly thinking, that them annoying their playmates doesn’t impact us, is incorrect. Peterson leaves us questioning, Who’s going to want to make friends with an aggressive brat?
Then again, maybe from an evolutionary point of view, it makes sense to spoil a child. If a child has a certain sense of entitlement and believes them self to be a ‘king’, it could help their reproductive success. An egotist will likely dominate in their career, thus providing them with more resources such as wealth. And as intra-sexual selection dictates, (well, at least for heterosexuals anyway), those with more resources such as money are more likely to find a mate and pass on their genes.
In the long-run, you will have a worse relationship with your child from being spoiling them. If you allow your child’s tomfoolery and misbehaviour to continue, it will wind you up and cause you to dislike them. If a child is taught to not repeat malpractice or bad behaviour early on, then they will not do it again, and you will not feel hatred towards them.
Don’t try and be friends with your child! If you’re their friend, then you avoid dangerous confrontations that may result in them hating you to maintain your friendship. You cant tell a friend aggressively to stop doing something annoying that society will dislike because it would be condescending to do so; and thus, if you see your child as a friend, then you believe that it would be patronising to do the same for them too. But it is not. Shouting at a child for slapping you is not a revenge for a misdeed, but rather a way of informing them that if they carry on this way, they will make no friends at school. Such is the case with a child who doesn’t learn to share. Parents don’t need a toy when they request it, but ought to teach to the child to pass it when asked for anyway; because if they don’t the child will lack social sophistication at playgroup and no one will want to be their buddy! Peterson expresses.
Be the bad guy in the short run to save them in the long run. You only have their first four years to do so. Don’t let your child do anything that will make you dislike them; the same things that make you dislike them are the same things that will make everyone dislike them. If your child is unruly and allowed to get away with everything at home until four years old, then imagine them let loose in a classroom full of students still doing whatever they want. They will become the school bully who everyone hates. Worse yet; as an adult, they will still be like that, the alcoholic who gets into fights and can’t keep down a job. Whatever you do, you must not let that happen!
Who should we blame for our suffering, and what can we do about it? Peterson points out that disease, death and ageing cannot be blamed on someone. What about the problems that can be put down to a set of individuals? Well, there are two ways we can approach this issue.
Let’s say a person was put through the worst situation, in which they were abused and beaten as a child. Peterson reports most abusers are people who were abused themselves, so this would suggest they mimic what they have seen. “They have experienced evil, so feel a desire to perpetuate it on others” as Nietzsche put it. Or more bluntly; having an ‘I had to suffer so everyone else should have to as well’ attitude. This is often the case with school shooters, that when researched were found to have been bullied at the school which they return to commit the atrocity. Perhaps most people don’t go as far as to criticise the world and produce a violent massacre, but still, go about their lives resentfully without putting their own house in order and allow the problems of their own lives to be scapegoated to people not even there at present.
However, despite most people who are abusers having been abused themselves, most people who have been abused are not abusers! Peterson informs us. This is a light in all this darkness. Majority of people evidently learn from their situation that, they hated what happened to themselves, so will make sure they don’t do so to someone else. Better yet, they might go out of their way to help prevent such things occurring to anyone in the future. For instance, they could create or help contribute to a helpline for people struggling with experiences similar to their own, and give advice stemming from their personal experience. Now, not only do you have your own house in order by not sitting around resentfully but are helping constructively criticise the world to aid its development.
Let’s say you have mediocre grades, but don’t feel you’re going anywhere, so become bitter and mope on your life’s pointlessness. Peterson suggests that you become an apprentice in a field, training to become an expert at something. Now, at this stage, you’ve already started contributing to the world; you’re providing a well-done service to improve for a nominal fee. Additionally, by then you’re paying taxes which provide hospitals for the sick, schools to educate and welfare for the vulnerable are you not? Soon, you may even employ other people to work with you, which means not only has your own life improved in it’s in quality now, but you’re helping support several colleagues and their families too!
Peterson mentions Solzhenitsyn, who was vital in the destruction of the USSR, as a classic case of this. To begin with, he first had to stop dwelling about having been put in a gulag labour camp and sort himself out, thus putting his house in order. After that, he wrote the ‘Gulag Archipelago ‘, which brutally criticised the USSR by taking an axe to the trunk of its ideological tree. That’s the message; first, get yourself fixed, and then take on the enemy.
As already discussed in Rule 1, if you weight it up, the ‘crap parts’ of life actually outweigh the ‘fun parts’. There’s no getting around that. It might seem a smart idea; therefore, to counter this fact of life by exponentially increasing the ‘fun parts’ by engaging in the expedient activity. Going on as many nights out as possible to create the maximum number of ‘nice memories’ and ‘good times’ is one method of making up for all the ‘crap parts’ where you’re going to see your family and friends die, suffer serious health problems and have career woe’s etc. However, Peterson advises us that this is not the best method.
Why pursue what makes you happy when you could you pursue what is meaningful instead. Mahatma Gandhi didn’t think when I break my fast, I can go to a buffet restaurant, and binge eat. Nor did Mandela think that when I’m released after 27 years, it will pay off because I can go out clubbing every night for the final years of my life. It was the bringing forth of independence, and an end to the apartheid, respectively. These extreme cases emphasise that when you are experiencing suffering, such as life itself, it is a meaningful cause that will keep you going and not something fun to look forward to when it’s finished.
Peterson believes that even if you care for nobody but yourself, and don’t give a damn what happens to the rest of the world, this is still a good message to follow. Working hard at university instead of going out partying, means you can get the grades to become a graduate and gain a professional job. This will provide you with a considerable income so that you can purchase anything you want.
In terms of sheer expediency, it would be easier to avoid any extra work and relax during your free time. Remember this, though, the human tribesman who goes hunting for longer and gains more mammoth than necessary can give the excess to the community. Peterson says this would help society and gain him more friends. Bill Gates was a billionaire by the age of 31 but worked for a considerable number of years after; this has meant he has built up a sizeable amount of wealth which can now be distributed to charity and has done so, with some estimates saying he has saved 122 million lives!
The worst sin is making someone suffer in vain; as some brutal regimes have done by making their prisoners build walls to knock them down hours later sadistically. Likewise, the worst pain is to try and not succeed, feeling the pain is in vain and a complete waste. It’s not all doom and gloom though! If the darkest thing in this world is labouring and suffering for no reason; that also means the most wonderful thing is when your labour and toil pays off, and the entire world is better for it.
Also, when choosing a job pick something meaningful, not something that makes you ‘happy’. Most people enjoy fornicating; however, it would be highly preposterous to suggest the majority of the population would feel as though they have fulfilled their potential if they became sex workers.
Telling the truth is frankly…effort. Telling people, you don’t want to do something or can’t be bothered to attend one of their functions is more troublesome than grinning and bearing it. Saying that, don’t opt for this. Tell them the truth that you ‘can’t be arsed’ to their face. While doing this may result in some awkward silence or uncomfortable moment; it is a much more preferable situation to living out a lie asserts Peterson.
One of the worst sorts of lying currently thriving out there is ideological lying. You align yourself with all the beliefs of a certain group purely because you like one overriding principle. For instance, you may see a political party as wholly good, so you convince yourself that all their policies are right even though you’d inevitably be lying to yourself if you ever found yourself wholeheartedly agreeing with an entire manifesto.
As stated earlier, don’t lie about being willing to do something you aren’t keen to. If this carries on, you become used to saying ‘yes’ to everything blindly; jumping on the bandwagon at every opportunity without giving it a second thought. How on earth did the holocaust happen? It is highly unlikely that everyone who contributed was actively evil, nor were most forced to; they were just indifferent, and passively went along with it. Don’t become a ‘Yes’ man, is what Peterson cautions of.
Lying to yourself is convenient. After all, in Nazi Germany, it was easier for people to lie to themselves that there was nothing suspicious going on and that the government wouldn’t get away with doing anything extremely evil. Wilful blindness; that is what it was.
Lying is counterproductive. Perhaps, you lie to your parents about wanting to study medicine at university because you know that’s what they want. In the short-run, it seems reasonable to think that you can just grind it out when you start your course in a few months times. However, if four years in, you’re sick of your course and drop out you’re in a far worse position. You have lost four years of your life and many tens of thousands of £’s on tuition fees. Peterson emphasises, don’t lie!
Never ask for advice! Well, unless you want a patronising lecture from someone who has no higher authority than yourself. Intelligence does not equate to wisdom; there’s no point asking a professor of theoretical physics about your relationship problems as they won’t be any more enlightened than yourself. Peterson recommends that instead, you have a conversation.
It is difficult to play out a conversation in your head, so you need a person to be your opponent and counter-argument maker to decide what to do. However, the opponent needs to be willing to listen, and not just waiting to blurt out their obnoxious opinion. You can ask for somebody to give what they truthfully think; although, remember what they honestly feel is not necessarily correct warns Peterson.
Even if you still disagree with your opponents’ view, it’s not been a waste of time, as your stance has been strengthened and your doubt reduced. One of the commonly occurring problems in conversation is when you spend the time in which the opposition is speaking, to think of what you’re going to say. This is a terrible idea, as not having listened to what they spoke, you will talk completely off-topic, and the conversation’s flow will come to an abrupt stop. It is for this reason that political debates are so irritating to watch; instead of taking time to listen to another leaders argument and give it fair credit or add onto what they have said, they choose to believe what their opponent says must be wholly wrong and dismiss it before giving their viewpoint. They have fatally forgotten that the person they’re speaking to may know something they don’t.
Peterson believes what a conversation is really for, is to find out the truth. It is not a debate, in which you have to manipulate facts to win. You don’t win a conversation by being vague and carefully wording your opinion to sound smarter and get your way; because there is nothing to win! If you are conflicted on what to do, you may talk to family or friends to decide what to do. And if in this situation, you are one-sided and give an unbalanced viewpoint to get your way, you might as well not have had it. Either go ahead with what you’ve already chosen or listen to the opposition and assume they may know something you don’t.
Prevent chaos from happening by being precise in your speech, declares Peterson. By equivocating; thus using ambiguous language which is vague and conceals the truth, you refuse to acknowledge a problem building up. Broadcast your issues clearly and explain the thought process behind your actions thoroughly as to avoid conflict. A married couple who feel resentment towards each, or boredom in each other’s company, would have to fully admit it to themselves before articulating it.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”. By refusing to express your thoughts verbally, you have in effect, become a slave. Instead of facing the tyrant, by which I mean your significant other, you have become oppressed and compulsively bend to their will. The lazy option of saying “don’t worry, it’s fine”, “doesn’t matter, it’s ok”, will come to screw you over in the long run. If you tell your partner you find a particular habit of theirs annoying, thus being specific and precise in labelling the problem, it will stop your annoyance building up and being released in one massive tantrum.
Sharp pain is preferable to an eternal dull ache claims Peterson. Better it is, to confront a problem head-on, then to let it drag on forever. Instead of not talking to family members for years due to a profound misunderstanding, surely it would be far more effective to talk about the specific issue that triggered the fallout directly. Remember Romeo and Juliet? The Montagues and Capulets hated each, not for any particular reason but just for some “ancient grudge”.
Even in your own head, when using your inner speech within your mind, it helps to think through problems clearly. Being precise about issues when tackling them in your mind helps reduce their complexity.
Most importantly, be precise in your speech when you have an argument with someone you care about. If you descend into a mad fit of rage about everything you dislike about someone following an unfavourable action they have committed, it will not help resolve the issue. A better solution is to mention the specific action they have partaken that you dislike and inform them as to not repeat it.
Kids prefer to live on the edge, they enjoy maximising risks by pulling off dangerous stunts on their skateboard. In fact, adults do too. Peterson finds that when we aren’t living on the edge, life becomes boring and we stop taking any risks, leaving us sloth-like and lumbering around
The world is not stable nor full of perfectly obedient human beings who don’t take dangerous chances. They do so, and this creates hierarchy and inequality. Humans, in aiming to climb to the top of the social status/self-actualisation ladder, will inevitably feel big payoffs or huge losses. Due to the entire human population engaging in this ‘gambling’ to seek thrills, it has resulted in the creation of poverty on one end, and excessive wealth on the other.
This ‘gambling’ game which humans play to achieve the highest possible position on the leadership board for contribution to the world, even when there is a significant risk to themselves, can be seen everywhere. Muruganantham who was recently in times 100 most influential people in the world list did not undergo social humiliation and the suffering of losing his wife in order to gain this place; instead, he created affordable tampons for women in India out of his own goodwill. Although now having won his wife back, and society’s approval also, he lost both temporarily while taking a risk in order to improve the lives of women in his country and gender equality. Peterson reminds us that it is not selfish to take risks to come highly on this world contribution leadership board, but human.
Such an issue can be seen with the persecution of the kulaks in Communist Russia. They were the most productive farmers in the whole of the country. They were the group who made the most substantial contribution to the agricultural output. However, due to being the group who were the most skilful and productive, they were persecuted for the slightly higher amount of wealth they possessed. This was fatal to the USSR, as they lost their most talented farmers whose initiative meant they would have been lifesavers (both figuratively and literally) in times of famine.
Forced redistribution is a terrible idea, as no pay off would mean no point taking risks, which would be detrimental to the world. If you take the risk of wasting away your childhood, studying 12 hours a day, there ought to be the pay off of a high earning job. And if there isn’t, as communism has come into effect, there would be no incentive to ‘work your ass off’ through a medicine degree. If there’s no incentive to do that, they’ll be no doctors….so we’d all be screwed.
Some people earning slightly more than others, albeit it not disgustingly unequal amounts, is not a bad thing. This is a motivator for them to risk using initiative and achieve higher targets in their profession, and in doing so, they will contribute more to the world. Don’t shame somebody who is highly aspirational and reaching exceptional levels of success, because their work is beneficial to everyone. Don’t bad mouth them and try to belittle their achievement as being unmeritocratic and only because they are ‘heterosexual’ or “middle class”. Peterson states that all must have had obstacles to overcome.
Don’t disturb children while they’re skateboarding means don’t disrupt them from taking risks and growing up. Allow them to leave home when an adult and take on the world. Sure, you could pamper them and make sure they never have the stress of responsibility. But then what will happen? They’ll live in your house till they become middle-aged; being bitter and resentful of how they weren’t encouraged to leave the nest, thus saving them from facing failure, but at the same time denying them the opportunity for a sense of achievement.
Somewhat contradictory to what was said earlier, despite the ‘shit’ that is life being made bearable by having a purpose that is worth the constant suffering for, also enjoy the daily pleasures along the way. Peterson recommends that if a cute cat/ any animal of your choosing, walks along your path, go ahead and stroke it. Having these little pleasures, like going and getting ‘smashed’ on the weekend, won’t alone make up for having to go through the horror that is existence but will help.
Role models, who are placed on pedestals as ideals we should strive to be like, are often terribly chosen. We won’t be inspired by figures who are simultaneously intelligent Oxbridge graduates, while also Olympic gymnasts at the weekend, can play grade 8 piano, and have supermodel looks that allow them to do modelling on the side. These figures are not a testament to the perseverance of the human spirit. What it fundamentally means to be human, is to have some restrictive limitation or flaw, but still be able to contribute to the world regardless. As mentioned earlier on by me, Hawking who had ALS was still able to overcome odds and massively contribute to science despite difficulties. This is far more inspiring.
A superhero who has no limitation is no hero at all! These ‘god’ like figures, who are championed as school prefects and what-not, are almost so perfect, they ironically become boring. At one point, the DC studios started losing their readership due to Superman becoming ever more powerful. This is why his weakness to kryptonite was written in, without any potential threat or inability he became…well, dull. People are interesting not despite their limitations, but because of them!
This does not mean, stay locked away in a room in an attempt to never have to confront the weakness. This will lead you to lack freedom; which is an equally dangerous situation in itself. Chances are you will fail miserably in your first attempt to confront it. But remember war is made of many battles, and there is always time to try again and succeed, Peterson cheerily reminds us.
Always look on the bright side is the last message from this final rule. On a dark, gloomy and depressing day, look for the things that cheer you up. For you, this may be the next football match of a team you support, going out with your friends or something else you enjoy.
To sum it up, you’ve probably wasted your time reading my dissection of the 12 rules. The overall message of the book can be summed up in the Mahatma Gandhi quote “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” or Muhammed Ali’s quote that “If I have changed even one life for the better, I haven’t lived in vain”. If that still flies over your head, go watch ‘The Simpsons Movie’; And I mean that seriously. Homer Simpson says while having an epiphany, “Without them, I’m nothing, in order to save myself, I have to save Springfield”. It is a perfect exemplification of this Peterson’s point.
From a self-centred point of view, it would be easier to not have been born and have prevented all your suffering, but from a selfless perspective you realise that being born offers you the opportunity to help other people and contribute to the world; that is the message of this book.
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