Beyond Order (2021) is the follow-up to Jordan Peterson’s previous book 12 Rules for Life and identifies another 12 rules to meet life adversities, and flourish.
- Exec Summary
- FULL SUMMARY
- RULE 1 | Do not carelessly denigrate social institutions or creative achievement
- RULE 2 | Imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that
- RULE 3 | Do not hide unwanted things in the fog
- RULE 4 | Notice that opportunity lurks where responsibility has been abdicated
- RULE 5 | Do not do what you hate
- RULE 6 | Abandon ideology
- RULE 8 | Work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens
- RULE 8 | Try to make one room in your home as beautiful as possible
- RULE 9 | If old memories still upset you, write them down carefully and completely
- RULE 10 | Plan and work diligently to maintain the romance in your relationship
- RULE 11 | Do not allow yourself to become resentful, deceitful, or arrogant
- RULE 12 | Be grateful in spite of your suffering
- MORE WISDOM
- Real-Life Applications
- We need both order and change: social institutions and pre-existing processes served us well, but we also need to change them from time to time. Conservatives who tend to defend institutions and liberals who tend to attack them need to recognize the necessity of both, purge the extremists and psychopathic ideologues from their own ranks, and talk and agree with each other
- Learn to work with other people to develop solid, win-win interpersonal relationships, your mental well-being depends on it. See the “social exchange” to better understand Peterson’s take on win-win and win-win value exchanges
- Address issues head-on, rather than pretending they don’t exist, both in life, and in interpersonal relationships. Unaddressed issues sap your self-esteem and silent resentment poisons your mood
- Aim at something and work hard to achieve it because happiness, meaning, and fulfillment come from personal growth, from progressing on your goals, and from adding value to others and to society
About the Author:
Jordan Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist and former professor of psychology at the University of Toronto.
He rose to fame when he objected to a new rule to address trans women as “she” and has become a thought leader of conservative and alt-right movements and, in part, for red-pill communities.
He is also the author of “Maps of Meaning“ and “12 Rules for Life“, for which this book is the sequel.
The crux of this chapter is this:
The institutions in place have both a dark and bright side.
We must start recognizing that, and avoiding any extremism for or against institutions.
Institutions often add value or at least added value in the past, and they are necessary for social functioning as well as for individual psychological health.
However, they can turn tyrannical when those in power act selfishly, or stifling when they become unsuited for a changing world.
That means we do need to change our society and rules from time to time to adapt to new realities or to fix the rotten system.
But since systems that are in place are often in place because they worked and because they served us as well, we run the risk of undoing what’s good, to make place for something that may work not as well -or even turn out to be disastrous-.
So we walk a tight line and, strike a balance between changing & reforming when it’s needed, and keeping the system intact when it’s working.
How do we do that?
With dialogue between the conservative, who tend to defend the status quo, and creative types (liberals), who tend to distrust authority, dislike rules, and seek change.
But both camps, the conservatives and liberals, must be open-minded to accept that both camps need each other, and both would ideally be able to recognize when the pendulum has swung too much in one direction.
Equally important, both need to make sure that they purge and do not give in to the toxic elements in their camps (and in themselves):
Why we need power-aware eagles on both sides
The same is true of the knowledge of the shadow side of both.
To manage complex affairs properly, it is necessary to be cold enough in vision to separate the power hungry and self-serving pseudoadvocate of the status quo from the genuine conservative; and the self-deceptive, irresponsible rebel without a cause from the truly creative. And to manage this means to separate those factors within the confines of one’s own soul, as well as among other people.
These “eagles” are also aware of their own dark sides.
And the “reformative eagles” also aren’t simple “rule breakers”. Later in the book, Peterson says that those who break the rules ethically have mastered them first, understand the necessity of those rules, and break them in keeping with the spirit rather than the letter of the law.
Community and social ties are crucial to your well-being
We are social animals, and other people are crucial to our well-being:
People exist among other people and not as purely individual minds.
People remain mentally healthy not merely because of the integrity of their own minds, but because they are constantly being reminded how to think, act, and speak by those around them.
Jordan Peterson also assesses his clients along their social life, including:
- Do they have friends and a social life?
- A stable and satisfying intimate partnership?
- Close and functional familial relationships?
Humans organize in hierarchies (as all social animals do)
Negotiation for position sorts organisms into the omnipresent hierarchies that govern access to vital resources such as shelter, nourishment, and mates. All creatures of reasonable complexity and even a minimally social nature have their particular place, and know it.
Peterson also suggests individuals within those hierarchies transact with each other based on “units of value”:
All social creatures also learn what is deemed valuable by other group members, and derive from that, as well as from the understanding of their own position, a sophisticated implicit and explicit understanding of value itself.
Humans are part of value-based exchanges
Those hierarchies serve to share and provide ordered access to what’s valuable.
And everyone subconsciously knows about the hierarchies, and what’s valuable.
They understand it “as if their survival and reproduction depend upon it” quips Peterson, because that’s exactly all about survival and reproduction (de Waal & Suchak, 2010).
A good life means establishing win-win relationships
“Win-win” is how this website defines it, but it’s exactly the same that Jordan Peterson refers to:
The universal rules of fair play include the ability to regulate emotion and motivation while cooperating and competing in pursuit of the goal during the game (that is part and parcel of being able to play at all), as well as the ability and will to establish reciprocally beneficial interactions across time and situation
(…) And life is not simply a game, but a series of games (…) The best player is therefore not the winner of any given game but, among many other things, he or she who is invited by the largest number of others to play the most extensive series of games.
Jordan Peterson here says that the successful player is the one that better goes along with others, and to whom others give more opportunity for win-win and value exchanges.
It’s not a coincidence, says Peterson, that children before 3 years old, cannot make friends. It’s because they don’t know how to play the iterated game that sustains over time, which is exactly what friendship is.
To learn more about social and value exchanges, see:
Hierarchies are not purely based on dominance
As in the first book he famously used lobsters as an example of hierarchy and power, this time Jordan Peterson uses rats.
The bigger rat, he says, can beat the smaller ones the vast majority of times, but he cannot remain in the social structure if he abuses of that dominance.
The general rule, he says, is that albeit power and dominance are important, you can’t base your personal success on the bullying of others:
power is simply not a stable basis upon which to construct a hierarchy designed to optimally govern repeated interactions
This is also something we often repeated here at The Power Moves, and especially in the beginning, before we developed our own foundational strategies and philosophies.
Many guys came here looking for ways to “beat others”, and we call that stage of self-development “dickhead-dom”.
Dickhead-dom is a step forward compared to a passive, submissive, too nice guy. But it’s far from optimal, and far from the best you can do.
As a matter of fact, Jordan Peterson says that alpha males among primates are more pro-social than lower-raking primates:
Alpha males among at least certain primate groups are far more prosocial than their lesser comrades. Power doesn’t work for them, either.
Note: Jordan Peterson uses (confuses?) power for “dominance”
We agree in principle with Jordan Peterson and we’re glad he’s saying this because we’ve been reminding readers and students the same since we first started.
What he’s referring to though is not to “power” in the larger sense of the word, but in “value-taking dominance”.
To use instead the definitions of the originator of this concept, power through is value-adding power that is good for the individual, and does not bully or harass others. Power over instead is the value-taking dominance that is less likely to lead to individual success (Turner, 2005).
Or simply read here the simplified version:
To play well, then, you need to work on yourself and develop the right attitudes and (social) skills to well engage with others.
Ultimately, says Jordan Peterson, you should turn yourself into “the most desirable of players”.
The most desirable of players gives value.
Note: we generally agree, but there are important exceptions
Albeit we agree in principle and we also agree this approach and mindset work for most people, most of the times -and especially in democracies and free societies-, there are also important exceptions.
It is possible to hold onto power with more dominance than value-giving, and it is possible to climb hierarchies without exactly being moral or fair.
For more on reaching and doing well at the top, see:
Social Win-Win Requires Giving, But Also Power-Awareness
Through friendship and collegial relationships we modify our selfish proclivities, learning not to always put ourselves first. Less obviously, but just as importantly, we may also learn to overcome our naive and too empathic proclivities (our tendency to sacrifice ourselves unsuitably and unjustly to predatory others) when our peers advise and encourage us to stand up for ourselves. In consequence, if we are fortunate, we begin to practice true reciprocity
Peterson here is telling us to become a giver who can establish win-win mutual giving to do well in life, but also reminds us that it’s important not to be naive, because there are predatory takers who will not give back.
We call this attitude here “enlightened collaboration”, and enlightened collaboration requires power awareness, including knowledge and know-how of the “dark side” of human nature as well as the ability to spot and recognize those takers:
RULE 2 | Imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that
In this chapter Peterson focuses on the importance of self-development.
Particularly, he focuses on personal self-development.
Other self-help authors may call the imaginary version of yourself your “best possible self”, including ethics and morals, and then aiming at that.
Peterson also stresses the importance of facing the difficulties of life head-on for personal development (and draws from the Biblical story of Exodus).
From snakes to humans as “bigger evils”
Working on “who you could be” isn’t just an adventure in the real world: it’s an adventure in the “world within”, of self-awareness, including, and may be especially, your dark side.
Ethics and morals are an important part of Peterson’s journey of self-development, and they can’t be complete until we learn and master the “devil within”.
It took humans millennia to even reach that level of conceptualization, he says:
At some point in our evolutionary and cultural history, we began to understand that human evil could rightly be considered the greatest of all snakes. So, the symbolic progression might be (1) snake as evil predator, then (2) external human enemy as snake/evil/predator, then (3) subjective, personal, or psychological darkness/vengefulness/deceit as snake/evil/predator. Each of these representations, which took untold centuries, perhaps millennia to conceptualize, constitute a tangible increase in the sophistication of the image of evil
RULE 3 | Do not hide unwanted things in the fog
This chapter exhorts people to:
- Face and discuss interpersonal problems early on, rather than ignoring negative additions. Admit it to yourself, first, that there is an issue, even if that issue may make you look “bad”. And then address them with those who are involved
- Find our what you truly want, instead of hiding it out of fear of not achieving it
Generally speaking, the closer your relationship and the more common the problem, the more important it is to address them.
If an issue happens daily, no matter how small it is, it adds up -in social power dynamics we call this concept “death by a thousand cuts”-. So you want to clarify it early on, lest you start disliking someone for a small pebble.
Your strategy, under such conditions? Show your disappointment whenever someone close to you makes you unhappy; allow yourself the luxury and pleasure of resentment when something does not go your way; ensure that the person who has transgressed against you is frozen out by your disapproval; force them to discover with as much difficulty as possible exactly what they have done to disappoint you;
RULE 4 | Notice that opportunity lurks where responsibility has been abdicated
This chapter in short says:
The failings and undone work of other people can be an opportunity fo you to pick up the slack, do it, learn more, and become more indispensable and more valuable.
And everyone wins, including you personally.
If you want to become invaluable in a workplace—in any community—just do the useful things no one else is doing. Arrive earlier and leave later than your compatriots. Organize what you can see is dangerously disorganized. Work, when you are working, instead of looking like you are working. And finally, learn more about the business—or your competitors—than you already know. Doing so will make you invaluable—a veritable lynchpin.
It’s also a reminder of the importance of “reframing”, to not complain about other people’s failings, but to try to look at them -and turn them- into opportunities.
Peterson says whenever you think that the “world is not set right”, that’s your cue that you may have a destiny to fulfill: to make the world just a little better -or, “less wrong”-.
Anger and outrage are doorways to meaning and destiny. It’s up to you to turn them into positive missions, rather than keeping stuck at complaining mode (note: the author seems to have fallen himself for anger and outrage mode sometimes with his Twitter behavior).
Treat yourself and your partner well: today is an opportunity for a better tomorrow
Treat your partner well, because it’s also best for you:
You can treat your husband or wife any old way right now, this moment, no matter how horrid and thoughtless that way might be, but you are going to wake up with him or her tomorrow, and next month, and a decade from now (and, if not that person, then someone else equally unfortunate). If you treat the person you are committed to in a manner that does not work when it is repeated across time, then you are playing a degenerating game, and you are both going to suffer terribly for it. This problem is not materially different from failing to make peace with your future self. The consequences are identical.
“Future self” refers to the almost infinite iterations of “future you”.
While a selfish individual does what’s best for him and him only right now, he fails to consider “future him”.
Does who take into account “future him” instead are a step closer to taking into account those who are close to him as part of “future him” and “future us”.
Yet another genius intuition and way of looking at cooperation that I hadn’t thought of, and must thank Peterson for.
The author also says that we can’t really escape from being bound with “future ourselves”, because we subconsciously feel bad when we know we’re not doing what we should be doing and what’s best for us.
My note: I partially agree here and many people’s present happiness, satisfaction, and well-being is tied to how they treat their future selves. But there are also some people who either don’t care much about their future selves, or simply care more about “present themselves”.
A great quote from this chapter:
Your life becomes meaningful in precise proportion to the depths of the responsibility you are willing to shoulder. That is because you are now genuinely involved in making things better. You are minimizing the unnecessary suffering. You are encouraging those around you, by example and word. You are constraining the malevolence in your own heart and the hearts of others.
RULE 5 | Do not do what you hate
The rule makes sense… On paper.
And it says that you better not submit to what’s “wrong” of you do, and that it’s your moral duty to stand up to what’s unjust.
This is also an important principle we added to our Start Here page.
Unluckily, in Beyond Order, this chapter becomes Jordan’s Peterson tirade against the current culture of feminism, identity politics, political correctness, etc.
His example of fighting the culture of identity politics takes up 99% of “not doing what you hate”.
Frankly, I don’t like identity politics, but I’m also tired of those who can’t stop complaining about it.
Doesn’t JP realize that complaining about only thread-expands it?
Finally, the character he brings as an example of “fighter” goes from lay-off to lay-off, and albeit Jordan Peterson sub-communicates she’s the hero who keeps fighting, one may even wonder if she’s not that annoying character who always has to find an excuse to complain and pester people and superiors.
RULE 6 | Abandon ideology
Another genius chapter with which we couldn’t agree more.
Rile 6 describes the danger of attributing the cause of complex individual and social problems to single variables such as sex, class, or power, and how dangerously persuasive these ideologies can become to the masses.
TPM’s philosophy also includes individualism and a possible life stage of rebellion as a way to self-discovery as an important step to becoming ideology-resistant.
What we call “enlightened individualism” is both a fundamental step toward self-empowerment, and a necessity against what Robert Greene calls the “downward pull of the group”.
A good general rule of thumb to spot ideologies is that a certain group tends to take all the blame, while in truth, says Peterson, “no group guilt should be assumed”.
Says the author:
Such division of the world into the devil without and the saint within justifies self-righteous hatred—necessitated by the morality of the ideological system itself. This is a terrible trap: Once the source of evil has been identified, it becomes the duty of the righteous to eradicate it. This is an invitation to both paranoia and persecution.
Start with your own self-development, and looking at yourself first:
It is much more psychologically appropriate (and much less dangerous socially) to assume that you are the enemy—that it is your weaknesses and insufficiencies that are damaging the world—than to assume saintlike goodness on the part of you and your party, and to pursue the enemy you will then be inclined to see everywhere.
Ideologues are power-seeking manipulators
Ideologues are fundamentalists, but potentially more dangerous than fundamentalists for their fake appeal to rationality:
Ideologues are the intellectual equivalent of fundamentalists, unyielding and rigid. Their self-righteousness and moral claim to social engineering is every bit as deep and dangerous. It might even be worse: ideologues lay claim to rationality itself. So, they try to justify their claims as logical and thoughtful.
It works like this:
- Come up with simplified abstractions to demonize and complain against
The ideologue selects a few abstractions that over-simplify extraordinarily diverse and complex phenomena. Some examples include “the environment,” “the patriarchy,” “the feminized society,” “the rich,” “the poor,” “the oppressed,” and “the oppressors.”
This approach, says Peterson, is attractive to incompetent and corrupt intellectuals who are smart, but lazy.
The first joiners also tend to be smart, and cynicism and arrogance also help.
And then all the rest are simply the following sheep.
- Frame yourself as the “good hero” fighting the holy war, and your supporters as “good but oppressed”
The ideologue wants to keep the problem simple, which helps make an emotional appeal that hides his own darker motives and personality:
Since the ideologue can place him or herself on the morally correct side of the equation without the genuine effort necessary to do so validly, it is much easier and more immediately gratifying to reduce the problem to something simple and accompany it with an evildoer, who can then be morally opposed.
While the idelogue places himself on the side of the “morally right”, he does the same for the of people he recruits, which are either victims, or innocent, or unjustly denied some rights.
- Come up with a semi-logically sounding theory that explains everything (especially why the losers are losers because of that other mean group or system)
Next, the faux theorist spins a post-hoc theory in which every phenomenon, no matter how complex, can be considered a secondary consequence of his new system.
The a school of thought that emerge propagate the methods of this algorithmic reduction and tacitly or explicitly demonize those who refuse to adopt the new beliefs and worldviews.
Please note that the theory mustn’t always and necessarily be (all) wrong.
Sometimes, it can start from at least a few good observations or even start with some genius insights.
For example, Marx and Freud (read more on Freud’s dark leadership here).
- Come up with terminology for your theory to make it sound more credible, to make people feel like insiders, and to keep the critics at bay
If an impenetrable vocabulary accompanies the theory, so much the better. It will then take potential critics some valuable time even to learn to decode the arguments.
- Recruit losers who want a new ideology that explains why they’re losers and offers them hope for change
Their followers, desperate to join a potentially masterable new dominance hierarchy (the old one being cluttered by its current occupants), become enamored of that story. While doing so, being less bright than those they follow, they subtly shift “contributed to” or “affected” to “caused.”
- Frame your theory as “teaching”, “knowledge” or “improvement”
The new adherents will be taught that mastering such a game constitutes education, and will learn to criticize alternative theories, different methods, and increasingly, even the idea of fact itself.
- Shift your ideology to match the followers’ needs
The originator(s), gratified by the emergence of followers, start to shift their story in that direction as well.
But even if the originator objects, says Peterson, the cult has already begun.
- Welcome to the cult
And there is a conspiratorial aspect that rapidly comes to pervade the school where such “education” occurs, and where such activity is increasingly all that is permitted: Do not criticize the theory—and do not get singled out.
RULE 8 | Work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens
Make a goal, choose something to aim at, and then work hard to obtain it.
5 Things to work hard at
Jordan Peterson also makes a list of what’s generally worth committing to, and working hard at:
Peterson even says “perhaps in that order”.
The author even implies, or outright states, that committing to one single partner is a superior choice, and one may see that also as an example of Peterson’s conservative-leaning preferences.
RULE 8 | Try to make one room in your home as beautiful as possible
This rule is the follow-up, or more advanced version, of “clean your room” from his previous 12 Rules for Life book.
RULE 9 | If old memories still upset you, write them down carefully and completely
To fix the present, sometimes you want to analyze your past.
Often people don’t repress memories, but rather “push them away” by occupying their minds with something else.
And traumatized people don’t even understand what befell them.
But for both, the solutions is often in a deeper analysis, rather than in avoidance or “blissful ignorance”.
The example is an author’s former patient. The patient had an extremely naive view of people and the world as good actors, in a good place.
Eventually, he met a boyfriend who actively wanted to harm him. The experience might have seemed bad, but banal enough to overlook. Instead, it was exactly by analyzing it that he was able to diagnose his issue, and address it by finally becoming an adult who can accept the evil in the world.
Says Peterson of this patient’s personal growth and empowerment as he grappled and accepted human’s dark side, including his own:
His face had hardened. He looked older and wiser. I had seen this happen frequently in my clinical practice when people incorporated the darker parts of themselves, instead of—let us say—compartmentalizing them. They no longer had the habitual look of deer caught in the headlights. They looked like people from whom decisions emanated, rather than people to whom things merely happened.
RULE 10 | Plan and work diligently to maintain the romance in your relationship
Romance and dating are skills, and you must work to develop them, and insert them into your relationship:
Let us try thinking about it this way, instead: Neither of you have any skill at dating. One attempt is therefore going to be insufficient. Maybe you need fifteen dates—or forty—because you have lost the knack, need the practice, and must develop the habit and goodwill. Perhaps neither of you are very romantic to begin with; or if you were once, those days have long gone. This is a skill you must learn, not an unearned gift from Cupid.
Trust trumps cynicism and is a necessity for intimacy
Trust in turn trumps cynicism, and true trust is not naivete. Trust between people who are not naive is a form of courage, because betrayal is always a possibility (…)
To trust is to invite the best in your partner to manifest itself, with yourself and your freely given trust as the enticement.
This is a risky business, but the alternative is the impossibility of true intimacy, and the sacrifice of what could have been two minds in dialogue working in tandem to address the difficult problems of life for a single mind striving in solitude.
Relationships based on dominance are poor and tenuous, best to set up win-wins
Peterson says that there are three fundamental states of social beings:
- Tyranny (you do what I want)
- Slavery (I do what you want)
- Negotiation: it may seem more difficult in the short term, especially when you have enough power to be a tyrant. But it’s the best for the long run, including for you
Peterson says something that we repeated here several times and we also agree with: tyranny may seem good for the tyrant, but is often not the best situation, not even for the tyrant himself.
Tyrants automatically make others slaves, and, in Peterson’s words, “slaves take any and all chances whatsoever available to them to take revenge on their tyrants, who will, in consequence, find themselves cursed and damaged by their slaves.”
The captain and co-captain relationship set-up
On the dating sections of this website we generally recommend going for a “captain and co-captain” relationship setup.
The man as the captain, who elevates her to a co-captain role, investing her with responsibility and respect to make her own decisions, chip in, and be part of the decision-making.
And with an open-minded enough captain to admit when he’s mistaken and ready to go with the co-captain’s preferences and decisions if they turn out to be better.
RULE 11 | Do not allow yourself to become resentful, deceitful, or arrogant
This chapter starts with the premise that you’d have plenty of reasons to be resentful, deceitful, and arrogant.
But you also plenty of reasons not to.
And it’s your responsibility not to let the world and its challenges make you a worse person.
The antidote, says Peterson, is to have more faith and to focus on the positives, on self-development, and on contribution:
The right attitude to the horror of existence—the alternative to resentment, deceit, and arrogance—is the assumption that there is enough of you, society, and the world to justify existence. That is faith in yourself, your fellow man, and the structure of existence itself: the belief that there is enough to you to contend with existence and transform your life into the best it could be.
RULE 12 | Be grateful in spite of your suffering
Jordan Peterson regards suffering as an inevitability -an inevitability exaggerated by malevolence-.
But, he says, he believes even believe even more deeply in the ability to transcend suffering, psychologically and practically.
And in people’s ability to constrain malevolence, both in themselves, in others, and in the world.
Go through the darkness, to strengthen your light
At level of beliefs:
It is easy to be optimistic and naive. It is easy for optimism to be undermined and demolished, however, if it is naive, and for cynicism to arise in its place. But the act of peering into the darkness as deeply as possible reveals a light that appears unquenchable, and that is a profound surprise, as well as a great relief.
But also at a more practical level in social and life effectiveness:
It protects us, as well. If you fail to understand evil, then you have laid yourself bare to it. You are susceptible to its effects, or to its will. If you ever encounter someone who is malevolent, they have control over you in precise proportion to the extent that you are unwilling or unable to understand them. Thus, you look in dark places to protect yourself, in case the darkness ever appears, as well as to find the light. There is real utility in that.
Yep, we agree with that.
And it’s one of the reasons why we believe that learning power dynamics is essential in life. And even more crucial to anyone who wants to succeed while also adding value.
Drop the heavy-cynicism to fly higher
On this website we say that a certain dose of cynicism is helpful to avoid falling for the naive outlook on life.
However, too much cynicism is harmful.
Peterson shares a great example of how abandoning over-cynicism changed a man’s life for the better:
He had ceased criticizing what he was doing or himself for doing it, deciding instead to be grateful and seek out whatever opportunities presented themselves right there before him. He made up his mind to become more diligent and reliable and to see what would happen if he worked as hard at it as he could. He told me, with an uncontrived smile, that he had been promoted three times in six months.
The young man had come to realize that every place he might find himself in had more potential than he might first see (particularly when his vision was impaired by the resentment and cynicism he felt from being near the bottom).
the young man who had something to say to me was thrilled with what had happened to him. His status concerns had been solidly and realistically addressed by his rapid career advance, and the additional money he was making did not hurt, either. He had accepted, and therefore transcended, his role as a beginner. He had ceased being casually cynical about the place he occupied in the world and the people who surrounded him, and accepted the structure and the position he was offered. He started to see possibility and opportunity, where before he was blinded, essentially, by his pride. He stopped denigrating the social institution he found himself part of and began to play his part properly. And that increment in humility paid off in spades.
Ambition equals not power hungry: ambitious is good
Ambition is often—and often purposefully—misidentified with the desire for power, and damned with faint praise, and denigrated, and punished. And ambition is sometimes exactly that wish for undue influence on others. But there is a crucial difference between sometimes and always. Authority is not mere power, and it is extremely unhelpful, even dangerous, to confuse the two.
Those who are power hungry—tyrannical and cruel, even psychopathic—desire control over others so that every selfish whim of hedonism can be immediately gratified;
When people wield authority, by contrast, they do so because of their competence—a competence that is spontaneously recognized and appreciated by others, and generally followed willingly, with a certain relief, and with the sense that justice is being served.
good people are ambitious (and diligent, honest, and focused along with it) instead because they are possessed by the desire to solve genuine, serious problems. That variant of ambition needs to be encouraged in every possible manner.
Peterson goes ahead to say that it’s cruel and bad for everyone when people equate ambition and a drive to achieve with power hunger and selfishness.
And he also adds, as we agree, that power may accompany authority and “perhaps, must”. We agree that yes, it must, or else it’s much better for the leader and his goal, else he wouldn’t much leverage if at all.
Trust against the possibility of betrayal requires courage, but it’s necessary for win-win and human connections
Trust, says Persons, but of the “mature and tragic sort”.
The naive person believes because he thinks everyone is trustworthy. The person who has “truly lived” knows better:
Someone with experience knows that people are capable of deception and willing to deceive. That knowledge brings with it an arguably justified pessimism about human nature, personal and otherwise, but it also opens the door to another kind of faith in humanity: one based on courage, rather than naivete. I will trust you—I will extend my hand to you—despite the risk of betrayal, because it is possible, through trust, to bring out the best in you, and perhaps in me. So, I will accept substantial risk to open the door to cooperation and negotiation. And even if you do betray me, in a not-too unforgivable manner (assuming a certain degree, shall we say, of genuine apology and contrition on your part), I will continue to extend my hand. And part of the way I will do that is by telling you what I am feeling.
Strength in the face of adversity and death is a favor you make to the others
People tend to feel guilty on their deathbeds for the grief and trouble they will cause those left behind.
This is a burden I often felt myself: I had a strong drive to explore and take risks to learn adn grow in life.
But I was sometimes more worried about the pain I’d cause my family if something happened.
So I totally agree with Jordan Peterson when he says that “to collapse in the aftermath of a tragic loss is, therefore, more accurately a betrayal of the person who has died, instead of a tribute”.
A strictly individualistic ethic is harmful to the individual as well
The idea here is that looking after yourself means looking up for countless forms of “future you”, which is also a form of kindness and giving.
That means that if you are treating yourself properly, you must consider your repetition across time. You are destined to play a game with yourself today that must not interfere with the game you play tomorrow, next month, next year, and so on. Thus, narrow selfishness is destined to be nonproductive. It is for this reason, among others, that a strictly individualist ethic is a contradiction in terms. There is in fact little difference between how you should treat yourself—once you realize that you are a community that extends across time—and how you should treat other people.
In a marriage, for example, you face the same problem with your marital partner as you do with yourself: You are stuck with the consequences of an iterating game.
Power Protect Your Boss & Higher Status People
t is said, with much truth, that genuine communication can take place only between peers. This is because it is very difficult to move information up a hierarchy. Those well positioned (and this is a great danger of moving up) have used their current competence—their cherished opinions, their present knowledge, their current skills—to stake a moral claim to their status. In consequence, they have little motivation to admit to error, to learn or change—and plenty of reason not to. If a subordinate exposes the ignorance of someone with greater status, he risks humiliating that person, questioning the validity of the latter’s claim to influence and status, and revealing him as incompetent, outdated, or false. For this reason, it is very wise to approach your boss, for example, carefully and privately with a problem (and perhaps best to have a solution at hand—and not one proffered too incautiously).
This is an example of what we refer to here as “power protecting”, and it’s indeed a very good idea to power protect those above you, lest they come to resent, dislike you, and potentially enemies who want to get rid of you.
On conforming VS rebelling:
the ability to conform unquestioningly trumps the inability to conform. However, the refusal to conform when the social surround has become pathological—incomplete, archaic, willfully blind, or corrupt—is something of even higher value, as is the capacity to offer creative, valid alternatives.
On shutting up when you haven’t yet done the work to speak up:
Now, there is nothing wrong, in principle, with the expression of concern for planet-wide issues. That is not the point. There is something wrong, however, with overestimating your knowledge of such things—or perhaps even considering them—when you are a mid-twenty-year-old with nothing positive going on in your life and you are having great difficulty even getting out of bed. Under those conditions, you need to get your priorities straight, and establishing the humility necessary to attend to and solve your own problems is a crucial part of doing just that.
On the importance, but also on the inherent risks of dating:
Who dares wins —if he does not perish. And who wins also makes himself irresistibly desirable and attractive, not least because of the development of character that adventure inevitably produces
On the importance of aiming at something:
If you aim at nothing, you become plagued by everything
On ideologies’ “reductionism”:
This is because “sexuality” (like any multifaceted single term) can be defined as tightly or as loosely as necessary by those who use it for comprehensively explanatory purposes.
No matter how defined, sex is a crucially important biological phenomenon—key to complex life itself—and its influence may therefore be genuinely detected or plausibly invented in any important field of endeavor and then exaggerated (while other factors of significant import are diminished in importance). In this manner, the single explanatory principle can be expanded indefinitely, in keeping with the demands placed upon it.
Marx did the same thing when he described man in a fundamentally economic, class-based manner, and history as the eternal battleground of bourgeoisie and proletariat. Everything can be explained by running it through a Marxist algorithm.
There is, of course—as in the case of Freud—some value in Marx’s observations. (…) Regardless of its hypothetical virtues, however, the implementation of Marxism was a disaster everywhere it was attempted (…)
Ideological reduction of that form is the hallmark of the most dangerous of pseudo-intellectuals.
Sometimes it’s naive self-help (yes, we said that)
This is an important criticism.
And it’s not like Jordan Peterson goes full-on, naive.
And yet, at times, it’s slightly more on the naive side.
For example, he implies that in “healthy organizations” people advance on merit and competence, and seems to imply that merit alone, or merit preponderantly, decides who advances.
To being with, we say here that these “ideal organizations” may as well be a minority. And two, even in ideal organizations, people’s psychology doesn’t cease to matter. People still prefer to promote those they like, those they are friends with -or at least those who aren’t enemies with-, those who support them -or at least those who don’t disempower and undermine them, which may also happen by mistake when a competent individual is clueless, and those who know how to play the political game.
As the Harvard Business Review says, politics are inherent to any human organization.
Another example: when Jordan Peterson promotes value-giving and win-win as the “almost only” viable strategies to succeed, he is not fully describing reality.
He suggests so, for example, when he says that dominance and power don’t work and that rats -and some alpha male primates- also need to be “nice” and pro-social.
Again, we don’t disagree: we embrace that strategy indeed -not only for moral reasons, but also because for most people and situations, it also works better.
But we must recognize there are different approaches that can also lead to the very top.
Jordan Peterson is more on the naive side because he does not give enough weight, space, and recognition to the value-taking strategies, which can also be successful to achieve certain goals.
Or, for that matter, he fails to recognize the more Machiavellian approach: to pretend to be a value-giver, but to instead play for selfish reasons only, and to manipulate others for personal gain, or to backstab and cheat as soon as the payoff is big enough.
As well, there is of course a grey area and a general value-giver can at times be a value taker and manipulate others.
Naive in the solutions, too.
Sometimes Peterson’s solutions are naive in that they may reveal too much, or maybe assertive at the wrong times, and with the wrong people -in Power University we teach and show that not everyone deserves your honest assertiveness-.
Or too vulnerable. For example, he recommends approaching an intimate partner like this:
I feel isolated and lonely and hurt, and cannot help but feel that you have not been as attentive to me over the last few months as I would have liked or that might have been best for us as a couple. But I am unsure if I am just imagining all this because I am upset or if I am genuinely seeing what is going on.
I’m afraid that a man talking like that to a woman would lose a lot of respect -and even attraction-.
It’s not just about what’s effective at surfacing issues, it’s also about what’s effective in general, and what serves your (and your partner) best interests over the long run.
And losing respect doesn’t serve anyone’s interest.
To learn more about maintaining long-term respect and attraction, see:
To learn more about vulnerability, see:
- The power of vulnerability: when to be vulnerable, and when not
And to learn more about naive self-help, see this foundational article:
Peterson is on a cultural warpath, but I don’t want to be dragged into it
Several chunks of the book feel a lot like conservative trading against current culture.
Frankly, I’m F* tired of “identity politics”, “PC”, feminism, etc., etc. But even more tired of those who can’t stop complaining about it.
And yes, if we look at the arguments, JP is (largely, albeit not always 100%) right.
It’s stupid to spend hours talking about how to call a flipchart in a way that is not derogatory to this or that group, and yet… If it’s a waste of time to discuss that nonsense, isn’t it also a waste of my time to complain, dissect, and tirade against how stupid that is?
I don’t want to spend my time thread-expanding on stupidity.
And I recommend TPM readers to do the same.
Jordan Peterson is no voice of reason anymore: he’s a biased conservative on a warpath, and it shows in Beyond Order
We like Jordan Peterson’s work here, and there is an important philosophical overlap with TPM.
However, we preferred Jordan Peterson when he was a free-thinking man, and not associated with any ideology.
Now, as much as he criticizes ideology, he has joined a rather conservative group as a militant.
It’s a pity, because his rules are on point, but he sometimes doesn’t realize how he’s failing or warping his own rules with his new bias.
For example, in discussing ideologies, he brings feminism as an example and patriarchy as an example of a dangerous reduction of complexity that vilifies all men. True, he’s right. But why not add that some men are doing the same with women? Now, with both camps, we’d have a level-headed rule. With just one side, it reeks of bias.
And he pretty much said so himself:
A tendency for negativity
There seems to be a certain bent toward negativity and pessimism in Peterson’s writing.
For example, Jordan Peterson sees the suffering in life as inevitable.
Maybe it’s inevitable that someone will experience periods of suffering.
But why not underlying that, sometimes, it’s about periods, rather than whole lives?
Also, the way he always exaggerated the adjectives around “suffering” and “pain’ threads-expands and increases the pain, but he rarely does the same for, say, joy and pleasure.
Take this example in the coda:
the COVID-19 pandemic have rendered everyone’s life tragic in an unimaginable manner
Covid made everyone’s life tragic in an unimaginable manner?
Frankly, this way of talking makes me angry because it uneededly makes people feel worse. Was Covid “tragic”? Uniginably so? For everyone?
Because I personally traveled more during covid that in any other time. Even while “stuck” in South Korea I have made some of my best memories, including a great love story, and meeting one of my best friends -to this day one of my best friends-.
And I’m certainly not alone. I’m sure thousands of people met the love of their life during lockdowns, or got married, or started a family. And also have friends of entrepreneurs whose businesses boomed during covid.
So, in short, Peterson’s negativity sometimes expands so much, that it becomes ridiculous and patently false.
There is enough negativity in the world that we don’t need anyone to expand on it.
“Persuasion Frames” to sell the author’s narrative all throughout
If you’re aware of power dynamics, advanced persuasion techniques, and frame control, you can spot that the author is out to convince the readers, rather than simply lay out facts.
The biblical story of Exodus is properly regarded as archetypal (or paradigmatic or foundational) by psychoanalytic and religious thinkers alike because it presents an example of psychological and social transformation that cannot be improved upon
“Cannot be improved upon” is an extremely bold sentence.
How can anyone say something like that?
So to justify such a claim, the author covertly borrows a whole group’s high credibility -the “psychoanalytic thinkers”- to land authority to his assertion and gain the readers’ trust (we call it “power borrowing” here).
The “big words”, such as ” psychological and social transformation” also serve to increase his authority by self-framing as highly intelligent, well-learned, and scientific -the type of source you want to listen to-.
The “because” serves as a keyword of persuasiveness, and to smoothly package the whole sentence together to raise as little pushback as possible.
Over-reads into stories
I personally have the feeling that Peterson tends to over-read into stories, be they biblical, or commercial.
And Peterson being highly intelligent, he can easily “see” anything he wants to see into any story, and then spin a nice narrative that “kind of makes sense”. Or, at least, that sounds nice enough that people want to believe it.
But is the story itself that says what Peterson interprets it to say, or is it Peterson that invested the story with all that extra meaning? I sometimes had to wonder if it was the latter.
He even says that stories precede and, he seems to suggest, are superior science when it comes to “accuracy”:
Thus, if we naturally construe the world as a story, then perhaps the world is most accurately, or at least most practically, construed as a story (and accurate and practical are not so easy to distinguish). You might argue, contrarily, that the scientific view of the world is more accurate, in some sense, and that the scientific view is not fundamentally a story. But, as far as I can tell, it is still nested inside a story: one that goes something like “careful and unbiased pursuit of the truth will make the world a better place for all people, reducing suffering, extending life, and producing wealth.”
Peterson is smart, so he foresaw the possible criticism of stories being unscientific, and made that note to include, address, and pre-emptively defuse the criticism.
However, he fails to make a good case, in my opinion. Science is science, and it’s not “nested” into any story. Or, if it is, that has no bearing whatsoever in science’s power to describe and predict reality as compared to a story.
Puts his morality above science, reality, or perfectly normal psychology
Jordan Peterson is a conservative.
And, among other things, he prefers people to stay married.
However, he sometimes lets his own preference taint his analyses.
For example, in an imaginary dialogue with a married man having an affair, he says:
You are fifty. You have this twenty-four-year-old, and she is willing to break up your marriage. What is she thinking? Who must she be? What does she know?”
“Well, I am really attracted to her.”
“Yes, but she has a personality disorder. Seriously, because what the hell is she doing with you, and why is she willing to break up this marriage?”
“Well, she does not care if I stay married.”
“Oh, I see. So, she does not want to have an actual relationship with someone, with any degree of long-term permanency. Somehow that is going to work out well for you, is it?
I find it nasty that he slaps a woman who happens to be attracted to an older man with a label of “having a personality disorder”.
It’s an authority power move to slap someone with a final, unappealable label of “wrong”, “not right”, and “not worthy”.
In that analysis, he also puts his morality, his ideals of “proper behavior” and his “respect for the institution of marriage”, above what are in truth very normal drives and normal intersexual dynamics that are perfectly in line and predictable with simple evolutionary psychology (so you’d expect better by a psychologist).
Please note that this is NOT to say that an affair is “OK” or to be encouraged.
Quite the opposite: one may still dissuade her or him to consume, or to stick, with that affair. What is wrong though is to do so on the basis of personality disorder, or of categorical “right and wrong” that make people feel defective for having drives and desires that are perfectly normal.
- Some covert self-promotion:
If you check the forum for “Tony Robbins” you’ll find why sometimes we call him the “king of self-promotion”. Turns out, Peterson is not that far off sometimes, and certainly not foreign to covert self-promotion himself. At times, it can get grating.
- Stop with the rules now, please
I quote a public (negative) review of Beyond Order:
Twelve MORE rules?
Wasn’t the whole point to create twelve basic rules for life?
Any charlatan can make up rules “don’t put your finger in a light socket,” “don’t spend more than you save,” “if it’s pink in the middle it’s cooked to little” – but Peterson had invented Twelve Rules – not more, not less – it was a brilliant distillation, awe-inspiring in its simplicity.
Now Peterson was adding twelve MORE rules.
What was going on? What, if anything, would stop an endless proliferation of rules? Are there 12 more rules coming? 24 more? Only God knows! If Peterson can just make up more rules, willy-nilly, it might as well be 10,000 rules.
Albeit I may put it differently, I also agree that “adding more” is an easy pitfall to fall for.
Good “general principles”, should be few and limited.
- Some rules make less sense than others
We don’t believe much in “rules” and “laws” on this website as most things are contextual.
However, that’s not to say that “rules” are useless, or that there are no generalizable principles.
Still some of these Peterson’s rules seem too specific to me to be generalized to abstract principles.
For example, Jordan Peterson says to write down what bothers you, which makes sense… Sometimes.
But some other times, people may have too big a tendency to dwell in the past, and they may find more benefits in letting go and moving on.
- A(another) case of “rules” as chapter titles and unconnected chapter content
For example, artists and artists’ role in society, is under “make your room as beautiful as possible”.
And parents’ mistake in over-protecting children, together with lengthy examples from both his clinical practices and the omnipresent stories, is under the rule “Do not allow yourself to become resentful, deceitful, or arrogant”.
- Christianity is not the basis of cooperation
How can such a smart guy believe that such a relatively recent, cultural impact, has shaped human’s tendency for cooperation?
It’s either bias, or self-manipulation.
Human ability for cooperation predates any religion.
Also see “The Origins of Virtue“.
- Sometimes feels a bit egocentric and too self-referential
Not necessarily egocentric in the sense of narcissistic, albeit at times I wished he cut his own references short, but in the sense of basing too much of theory on his own life experience.
And, any life often being limited to draw a large-enough amount of data -ie.: he only has 2 children and only observed 1 granddaughter, he can’t generalize too much-, it feels like Jordan Peterson sometimes relies on personal anecdotes.
- A professional narrator might have been better
He’s a great reader, with great intonation, but sometimes maybe just a little bit too high-pitched.
- Negotiations tips aren’t always the best possible angle
I’m nitpicking now and looking at this from a social strategist’s point of view.
But this approach to your boss is not optimal:
And then, if you want to negotiate for a raise, or more autonomy—or more free time, for that matter—you can go to your boss and say, “Here are ten things that were crying out to be done, each of them vital, and I am now doing all of them. If you help me out a bit, I will continue. I might even improve. And everything, including your life, will improve along with me.” And then, if your boss has any sense—and sometimes bosses do—then your negotiation will be successful. That is how such things work.
The concept is correct, 100%, and we totally agree with the approach of finding leverage through value giving.
However, that pitch is slightly confrontational and disempowering, and many bosses with an ego -and more than sometimes bosses do have an ego, just like everyone else-, will want to deny you just to re-assert their power and to avoid being one-upped.
See Power University for better approaches.
Again, so much genius
Jordan Peterson, in many ways, is a genius mind.
Some of the new concepts I learned, appreciated, or even incorporated into my models:
The concept that we need both rule defenders and rule breakers
It’s simple, yet deep and enlightening.
The concept that both conservatives & liberals need to watch out and purge their camps from their respective toxic manifestations
The genius here is this:
As long as you’re dealing with a sensible, high-integrity person, his original beliefs and political preferences don’t matter.
You can talk to him and reach some kind of agreement.
The problem arises when ideologues and manipulators -and, I’d add, “non-sensible extremists”- co-opt a cause for self-serving interests.
It’s up to all of us to purge the manipulators and dangerous personalities from our own ranks.
The necessity of knowing and understanding evil
This is is a foundational concept to this website since its first inception, so it wasn’t new for us.
But we’re glad someone like Jordan Peterson also shares it.
Plus, he added the layer of “evil within us”, to include our own tendencies for aggression, hatred, envy, manipulation, and generally taking value.
Beyond Order is a self-development book with a conservative bent.
If you can look past the personal preferences -and biases- of the author, then there is much genius in it, and much gold for your own growth.
I personally enjoyed it, and learned a few new things as well.
Check the best books collection or get the book on Amazon.