Jordan Peterson’s Best Ideas (Comprehensive)

Jordan Peterson’s key takeaways from all of his lecture series (the University of Toronto lecture series, Biblical lecture series, and his 1996 Harvard lecture series), many of his podcasts, video clips, and paid products and course.

Jordan Peterson’s Best Ideas (Comprehensive)
The Deluge (c.1840) by Francis Danby

The following are Jordan Peterson’s key takeaways from all of his lecture series (the University of Toronto lecture series, Biblical lecture series, and his 1996 Harvard lecture series), many of his podcasts, video clips, and paid products and course.


Top 3 short video clips (watch in order)

Career Success

Top 5 predictors of career success:

  1. Intelligence Quotient (IQ)
  2. Big 5 Personality Traits
  3. Social Network
  4. Skills
  5. Interest

Overview

  • A high intelligence quotient (IQ) and trait industriousness (hard work) are the best predictors of career success. Leverage (like capital, employees, code, and media) is an IQ and hard work multiplier. If you have a high IQ, are conscientious, know how to use leverage, and are around other smart people, you have an extremely high probability of success.
  • Work more hours. The average person working 13% more (45 hours vs 40 hours a week) earns 44% more pay, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Not at the same job, usually – the willingness to work more hours helps land jobs that pay more per hour.

Intelligence Quotient (IQ)

  • IQ is the most accurate measure of intelligence. It has 2 components: (1) non-verbal IQ and (2) verbal IQ. Non-verbal IQ is working memory and reasoning ability. Verbal IQ is knowledge, vocabulary, and verbal comprehension.
  • IQ cannot be increased. There is a biological limit to one's IQ that is set at birth. Physical exercise is the only known way to prevent an age-related decline in non-verbal IQ.

Big 5 Personality Traits

  • The Big 5 personality traits test is the most accurate measure of personality. It is made up of 5 traits: extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness to experience. High conscientiousness is the best predictor of career success. Conscientiousness is composed of industriousness (hard work) and orderliness.
  • Conscientiousness can be increased by setting worthwhile goals, making a schedule, and developing habits.

Social Network

  • Going out and “networking” is a waste of time. Instead, become genuine friends with competent people. As you get older, you will all be in high positions and you’ll have a powerful network.
  • Additionally, you can move to an area that has many success-minded people, like Silicon Valley or Austin, Texas.

Skills

Learn skills:

  • Coding, writing, reading, public speaking, social skills, networking, and negotiating.

Use leverage:

  1. Capital: Raising money from venture capitalists, friends, family, etc.
  2. Employees: Hiring employees to do the work for you (especially effective if the employees can code or make media content).
  3. Code: Computer programming. Making websites, software, applications, or video games.
  4. Media: Writing books, recording podcasts, making social media content, and writing blog articles.

Interest

  • Interest is a personality trait-like measure of preference in either things or people. Individuals interested in things do better in fields like technology or engineering. Individuals interested in people do better in fields like clinical psychology or nursing. Follow your interest.

Clinical Psychology

Everyone needs:

  1. Friends
  2. An intimate relationship
  3. Good familial relationships
  4. A career
  5. Worthwhile things to do in their free time
  6. To maintain mental and physical health
  7. To mitigate drug and alcohol use

3 keys to self-improvement:

  1. Read great books.
  2. Learn to write well.
  3. Learn to speak well.
  • Only the ideas that come from the client themself can result in lasting behavioral change. As a clinician, you could give great advice but it won’t last. That’s why clinical psychologists help guide their clients to formulate their own treatment.
  • In clinical psychology and in life, you’re trying to figure out how to live properly (without mental illness). Clinical psychologists should study philosophy.
  • Almost without exception, people in therapy have a problem in their life that causes a psychological problem, rather than a psychological problem that causes problems in their life.
  • What you’re trying to do when you see a therapist is get your life together. You're not necessarily trying to fix the mental disorder itself. Getting your life together will (often) fix the mental disorder. It’s not like someone with an anxiety disorder has a perfectly formed life. Usually, if you’re anxious or depressed your work life and relationships aren’t going very well. If someone’s life is perfectly formed and they’re still depressed (which is rare), something has gone wrong biochemically and they can usually take an SSRI to fix it.
  • To psychologically thrive, a person needs to be doing well in health, knowledge, relationships, and wealth.
  • As a clinician, you need to be able to make the distinction between (1) a mental illness, (2) an acute mental illness, (3) an environmental problem, and (4) a physical health problem. Examples: An acute problem could be someone losing their job—they may show signs of depression but it’s not necessarily a mental illness, there are real consequences to losing your job, temporary sadness is normal. The person who lost their job should (ideally) read, learn some skills, and get a better job. An environmental problem could be that a person’s family member is causing them sadness. A person with an external problem should try to remove the problem or get away from it.
  • As a clinician, you want to know if a person has friends and a job. Are they as educated as they should be? What is their relationship with drugs and alcohol? What is their romantic relationship status and history? It’s a lot more stressful to be alone.
  • What to do in therapy: go through your life history from newborn to today in novelistic detail. Have the therapist keep you on track and ask to go deeper when necessary. Then ask the therapist what you seem to be afraid of and what you’re avoiding. Then they’ll help you break the fear down into smaller pieces and devise a strategy for approaching and mastering the problem step by step.
  • People who are suicidal often feel that they have no good options. No matter what way they turn, there’s something terrible to face and they can’t see any way out of it. They feel like they’ve been backed into a corner.
  • Exposure to the things that you don’t want to be exposed to is curative if it’s voluntary.
  • Writing about emotional events in detail helps you overcome them. You need to think through what went wrong. How did you get into a situation where something bad could happen? How can you make sure not to be in that situation again? It might be that you were in a bad situation because you were 4 and there was nothing you could do. If that’s the case, you need to update your mental models and understand that you’re not in that vulnerable position anymore.
  • The reason you have memory is not so that you can accurately remember the past. It's so that you can use the information of the past to prepare yourself for the future. Your mind won't leave you alone unless you know what happened and how to stop it in the future. So if you encountered something negative and don't know what to do if it happens again, it will stay with you. It (likely) increases your overall physiological load. Your brain keeps track of your success/failure ratio. The lower it is, the more anxious a person will be.
  • Resentment can tell you 2 things: (1) That you have a victim mentality and you need to grow up and accept responsibility or (2) that someone is actually oppressing, bullying, and demeaning you and you should have said or done something earlier.
  • When someone’s talking to you about a problem, don’t try to give them a solution. Just listen and then ask them, “What could you do about it?”
  • Carl Rogers: listen to others and then summarize what they said. Keep doing that until the speaker agrees that you accurately represented them. Pay attention, help guide their stories when necessary, and ask questions that help them open up.
  • Always steel-man other people’s arguments.
  • There’s always a good justification for not doing the work you know you need to do. Maybe your mom just died or you’re sick or you’re injured. And it’s easy to push it off—5 year dreams are always in the future so you can just delay them. You say, “Well, I should do X but Y just happened, so I’ll do X later.”
  • Association dream analysis: write out your dream line by line. Every time a person or item comes up, try to remember what it means to you. What do you associate that person or thing with? Jung says to go further—ask yourself what the mythological or archetypal associations it may have.
  • Recurring nightmares are meaningful and they are associated with decreased states of mental health.
  • Not integrating fears makes the amount of fears in the category of “so terrible I can’t face it” increase. When that list of fears gets too big, you start to have nightmares, or anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia.
  • Not paying attention to bad memories and fears makes you happier in the short-term but is catastrophic in the long-term.
  • To fix it, actively recall bad memories and face your fears. The nightmares and negative symptoms may get worse before they get better.
  • Men need to go out and ask 50 girls for their phone numbers to get over the fear of rejection.
  • When you’re young, it’s good to push yourself to work as hard as you can for 2-3 years.
  • A tremendous amount of mental illness is grounded in nihilism. When someone who’s depressed goes to see a clinician, what they often say is, “I can’t see any point in life.” What that means is that the meaning of life is unbearable suffering, so what’s the point?
  • The answer: you have to do something in your life that is so meaningful that the inherent suffering of life is worth it: kids or a career.
  • You have to identify what you want and do everything to get it. The chances that you randomly stumble upon success is 0. If you actually want something, you can have it, but you have to define it and sacrifice everything else to get it. You have to orient your entire life to making the probability that obtaining that one thing is as certain as possible. Most people want everything AND they have no plan. This is wrong—it guarantees failure.
  • A calendar keeps anxiety at bay.
  • To get over an addiction (like social media or alcohol), you have to replace it with something better.
  • Compassion is understanding that nobody can ever reach the ideal. Don’t judge others (or yourself) too harshly.
  • Peterson says that compassion is only for infants. If you do everything for your child as they get older, you are robbing them of autonomy. Don’t do anything for someone that they could do themself. That’s the Oedipal complex. That’s the story of Hansel and Gretel.
  • Freud proposed the idea of developmental fixation. People essentially stay at the emotional level of a child for their life. They’re governed by emotion, incapable of negotiation, egotistical, and their identity is generated by what they feel moment to moment.
  • Clean your room and then make it beautiful (interior design).
  • Everyone has reasons to be anxious. We know we’re vulnerable and we know that we are going to die.
  • Traveling can improve self-confidence. It shows you that you can venture out to a new place on your own.
  • Go to many different places and do a lot of different things. It has positive neurological and psychological effects.
  • Betrayal can damage someone immensely. PTSD can damage someone neurologically. It can permanently increase their neuroticism, making them more susceptible to negative emotion for life.
  • In The Cocktail Party by T.S. Eliot, a woman approaches a psychiatrist and starts talking to him about her problems. Then she says, “I hope I’m the problem.” The psychiatrist asks, “Why would you hope that?” She says, “I thought about it a lot and if the world’s the problem then I’m done because I can’t change the world. But if I’m the problem then I can do something about it.”
  • When someone tells you about a problem they have, ask, “What could you do about that?” It implies that there’s something they could do to fix it and prompts them to try to solve their own problem.
  • Clothing often plays a role in women’s dreams. If they put on the shoes of their grandmother, for instance, the dream is trying to show that some action is similar to their grandmother.
  • People today should try to get themselves together, then get their family together, and then work to fix the nation. Why this order? Because each level is more complex than the previous.
  • As you move forward, the probability that you choose the right path on your first attempt is 0. Your interests will change as you progress. Each level will take you higher and higher. But if you wait to start until you get the perfect idea, you’ll be 40 and have nothing. Even if the perfect opportunity did arise, if you haven’t worked on yourself enough, you can’t take advantage of it or even recognize it. Nietzsche called that a “will to stupidity.”
  • Assume that your first steps towards improvement will be incorrect, bad, and in the “wrong” direction. But as long as you’re building knowledge, skills, and experience, you can always do a lateral move and keep improving.
  • Going out and doing the wrong thing is a lot better than rotting away at home. The documentary Crumb depicts this: Cartoonist Robert Crumb’s older brother never left home, never got a job, never had a relationship, and ended up committing suicide at age 49.
  • Every endeavor teaches you (at minimum) what not to do. And that narrows the possibilities. You get better at identifying your ideal.
  • You need to develop yourself to be competent and at home in the widest possible number of places. Become someone who’s useful wherever they’re put.
  • The people around you will not allow you to change. They expect you to stay the same. You need to get away from them if you want to reinvent yourself into someone better.
  • When people have a bad worldview, they will reject any better worldview that you give them. That’s because to accept that your worldview is flawed will put you into chaos (into the metaphorical desert) and being in a bad place is seen as better than being lost. It also called into question their ability to understand the world—why were their mental models so far off?—that is partially what sends them into chaos.
  • People cling to their beliefs because if they are proven wrong, it would signify 2 things:
  • That they have to change their world view (which will put them into chaos).
  • That they are bad at constructing world views (which, from a Darwinian perspective, says something about their fitness).
  • Smart people realize that they will be much safer and more successful if they have others check their mental models. Rather than being scared of being wrong, the successful seek out criticism and new information.

Trait Psychology

  • What people think is their personality is usually more like quirks than personality traits.
  • The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator is radically out of date. It was made in the 1930s, before the modern understanding of biology, neuroscience, computational statistics, and data analysis. It also lacks trait neuroticism (negative emotion), which is a major flaw.
  • The Big Five personality test is the best personality measure.
  • All other personality tests are incomplete variations of the Big Five personality test.
  • The Big Five personality traits, IQ, and interest (in people vs things) are the best measures for knowing yourself.
  • Personality traits are highly genetically influenced.
  • From a Darwinian perspective, the way that organisms adapt to a complex world is by having all kinds of variations. That’s why we have personality variations. Some percentage of people will have the best personality traits for any given time and location.
  • Similarity in personality is preferable for romantic partners. Unless one is high in neuroticism, then it’s better for the other to be low in neuroticism.
  • Big Five personality test results can be more accurate if you get someone who knows you to take a second test and answer the questions as if they were you. Then compare their results with your original results.
  • For hiring, you want employees high in (1) general cognitive ability: openness, intellect, and IQ; and (2) conscientiousness (for managers).
  • A “coat of many colors” means that you can do many different things. You can have a drink at the bar with a dry-waller and have a sophisticated conversation and you should be able to talk to someone who’s more educated and sophisticated than you and be equally comfortable in both situations. These people have broadened their personalities—at least in trait extraversion and openness to experience.

Extraversion is the tendency to experience positive emotion. It is composed of two aspects: assertiveness and enthusiasm.

  • Extraverts tend to value the present more than the future. Introverts tend to value the future more than the present.
  • The biggest problem with extraverts is that they are impulsive and gamble more. They should try to delay gratification and think about the future more.
  • Introverts should find a career that is tailored to their strengths. They can also increase their extraversion to an extent by consciously working on their social skills.

Neuroticism is also known as negative emotion. It is composed of two aspects: volatility and withdrawal.

  • Anxiety exists because, evolutionarily, it’s better to be anxious than injured or dead.
  • Both anxiety and depression can be fixed with self-improvement. If clients still have anxiety or depression after their life is structurally sound, SSRIs can help.
  • Having a plan, developing a routine and habits, and incrementally exposing yourself to your fears can cure anxiety. Write an autobiography to understand your past.
  • Try to eat a food high in fat and protein when you feel your mood changing due to hunger.

Agreeableness is composed of two aspects: compassion and politeness.

  • Someone who is agreeable will value others’ interests more than their own, while the opposite is true of someone who is disagreeable.
  • The most common clinical patient has anxiety or depression. The second most common is someone who’s too agreeable and needs assertiveness training.
  • Extreme disagreeableness is the best predictor of violence and incarceration. Both incarceration and extreme disagreeableness are significantly more common in men.
  • While the distribution of the trait in each sex is not too far apart in the middle, the difference becomes apparent at the tail ends of the normal distribution model. Almost all of the most disagreeable people are men, and almost all of the most agreeable people are women.
  • Extremely disagreeable and aggressive people should get into competitive sports. They should also try to listen more and be more diplomatic.
  • The positive side of people low in politeness is that they’re blunt—they can say things that other people wouldn’t. Comedians often have to be low in politeness.

Conscientiousness is composed of two aspects: industriousness and orderliness.

  • Conscientiousness is one of the best predictors of financial and career success, second only to IQ.
  • It’s likely that trait consciousness is associated with the ability to delay gratification—to sacrifice today for a better tomorrow.
  • Industriousness is (possibly) associated with guilt and shame. Industrious people may work hard because they don’t want to be useless. Not working hard is not morally acceptable to them.
  • Highly industrious people can work too hard. Often, if they take more days off, their productivity improves. Either work fewer hours a day, take 4 extra days off a month, or take a sabbatical.
  • The downsides of extreme orderliness are anorexia and OCD. Hitler was extremely high in orderliness.
  • Extremely conscientious people get extremely judgemental and they attach morality to their judgment. They should learn to be more understanding of others.

Openness to experience is composed of two aspects: openness and intellect.

  • People high in openness should become entrepreneurs and visionary founders.
  • Openness is associated with creativity and interest in aesthetics.
  • Intellect is associated with intelligence and interest in ideas.
  • People low in openness or intellect should consume more poetry, paintings, music, movies, books, and courses.

Relationships

  • What predicts relationship longevity? If a relationship has less than 5:1 positive to negative interactions, the relationship ends—too negative. If it’s higher than 11:1, the relationship ends—usually means that problems are being pushed under the rug until they explode.
  • Nothing about sex is casual.
  • In relationships, think: how can I become the best possible partner? Don’t think: how do I find the person that’s right for me? Because answering question 1 is the answer to question 2.
  • The older you get (if you have any sense at all), the more important your family is to you.
  • It’s a real mistake not to have kids. It’s a barren future without them.
  • It’s very rare for a woman at the age of 30 to not have having a child as her primary desire. The exceptions usually have a very twisted world view. There are a small minority of masculine, disagreeable, not maternal women who really do not want to have children.
  • The only chance you have at a “perfect” relationship is with your kids.
  • People want a romantic partner who will push them to be their best over multiple decades. That’s why people who are too nice are unattractive. You want someone who will judge you for your limitations and push you to be better. You don’t want someone who thinks you’re perfect as you are.
  • The purpose of being a parent for young children is to make sure they’re exceptionally socially desirable by the age of 4.
  • All you have to do is pay attention to a kid to get them to like you.
  • Don’t agree to anything you don’t actually agree with. If you always agree even when you disagree, over time you will become resentful.
  • When you negotiate, let both parties sleep on it before agreeing.
  • Have weekly meetings where you divide chores, negotiate, and hash out differences. Probably good for all romantic relationships and housemates.
  • 2 things for long-term couples to have a good relationship: (1) Spend 90 minutes a week talking about your lives—how the house is run and what you’ve been doing (non-romantic talk). This keeps their stories caught up. (2) Go on 1-2 dates a week.
  • Asking someone for a favor is the fastest way to make a connection. It allows them to establish themselves as a trustworthy person and they can call upon you for a favor later.
  • As a parent, you have a moral obligation to encourage your child to go out into the world and be all that they can be.

Human Nature

Philosophy, Mythology, and Religion

  • Different cultures throughout history and geography have come to the same conclusion: life is suffering. What do you do about that? (1) Voluntarily accept it. (2) Strive to overcome the suffering that’s a consequence of that. (3) You try to reduce suffering for yourself and others. How do you know that will work? The only way to find out is to try. There are no guarantees. It’s your best bet.
  • You have to take a Kierkegaardian leap of faith. There is no guarantee that working hard, being truthful, and being moral will lead to success, you just have to hope it works out.
  • From a Darwinian perspective, reality is what we adapt to. But that’s slightly different from objective reality. Which one is correct? Which one is true? Nobody knows. The hero myth is the story that tells you how to win the Darwinian fitness test. The hero myth is the path of optimal adaptation for humans.

The key takeaways of the Bible:

  1. Make yourself as good as you can be and then help others do the same. That is the pinnacle of the moral wisdom of mankind.
  2. Chaos will enter your life eventually (The flood). Prepare for it.
  3. You have to work hard (Jonah).
  4. You have to sacrifice what you value most for a chance at success (Cain and Abel).
  5. Bad things can happen to good people (Job).
  6. There is an inextricable piece of evil in all of us (Adam and Eve). That’s why the devil was in the Garden of Eden—no human can eradicate their shadow.
  • Facts are the domain of science. They tell you what is (or what was or what could be). They are derived from the scientific process. These are objective truths. They cannot answer the question: what should you do in life?
  • Values (ethics) are the domain of the humanities. They tell you what should be. They are derived from myths. These are pragmatic truths. Pragmatic theory is that a theory is true enough if the outcome is the outcome that you predicted. It’s useful for answering the question: what should you do in life?
  • You study the humanities, art, poetry, literature, and music to understand human nature and high culture. It turns you into a competent member of society.
  • If myths are mere superstitious proto-theories, why did they work? Why were they remembered? Our great rationalist ideologies, after all—fascist, say, or communist— demonstrated their essential uselessness within the space of mere generations, despite their intellectually compelling nature. Traditional societies, predicated on religious notions, have survived—essentially unchanged, in some cases, for tens of thousands of years. How can this longevity be understood?) Is it actually sensible to argue that persistently successful traditions are based on ideas that are simply wrong, regardless of their utility? Is it not more likely that we just do not know how it could be that traditional notions are right, given their appearance of extreme irrationality? Is it not likely that this indicates modern philosophical ignorance, rather than ancestral philosophical error? We have made the great mistake of assuming that the “world of spirit” described by those who preceded us was the modern “world of matter,” primitively conceptualized.
  • Myths, stories, philosophy, religious texts, and literature are centrally and properly concerned with the nature of successful human existence. Careful comparative analysis of this great body of religious philosophy might allow us to provisionally determine the nature of essential human motivation and morality—if we were willing to admit our ignorance and take the risk. Accurate specification of underlying mythological commonalities might comprise the first developmental stage in the conscious evolution of a truly universal system of morality. The establishment of such a system, acceptable to empirical and religious minds alike, could prove of incalculable aid in the reduction of intrapsychic, interindividual and intergroup conflict. The grounding of such a comparative analysis within a psychology (or even a neuropsychology) informed by strict empirical research might offer us the possibility of a form of convergent validation, and help us overcome the age-old problem of deriving the ought from the is; help us see how what we must do might be inextricably associated with what it is that we are.

What should be? This question is broken up into 3 sub-questions:

  1. “What is? What is the nature (meaning, the significance) of the current state of experience
  2. What should be? To what (desirable, valuable) end should that state be moving?
  3. How should we therefore act? What is the nature of the specific processes by which the present state might be transformed into that which is desired?

The four classes of myths:

  1. Myths describing a current or pre-existent stable state (sometimes a paradise, sometimes a tyranny);
  2. Myths describing the emergence of something anomalous, unexpected, threatening and promising into this initial state;
  3. Myths describing the dissolution of the pre-existent stable state into chaos, as a consequence of the anomalous or unexpected occurrence;
  4. Myths describing the regeneration of stability [paradise regained (or, tyranny regenerated)], from the chaotic mixture of dissolute previous experience and anomalous information.

There are 3 levels of individual action:

  1. How you act (procedural memory)
  2. How you imagine (episodic memory)
  3. How you plan (semantic memory)
  • Ideally, these 3 are as aligned as possible. You imagine, plan, (and speak) the exact same way that you act.

Abstracted levels of action:

  1. Creative Behavior
  2. Imitation
  3. Play
  4. Ritual
  5. Drama
  6. Myth
  7. Religion
  8. Literature
  9. Philosophy
  10. Rationality
  11. Empiricism
  • Who do people admire? (1) People who don’t say more than is necessary. (2) People who act out what they tell you.
  • Christian morality can therefore be reasonably regarded as the “plan of action” whose aim is re-establishment, or establishment, or attainment (sometimes in the “hereafter”) of the “kingdom of God,” the ideal future. The idea that man needs redemption—and that re-establishment of a long-lost Paradise might constitute such redemption—appear as common themes of mythology, among members of exceedingly diverse and long-separated human cultures. This commonality appears because man, eternally self-conscious, suffers eternally from his existence, and constantly longs for respite.
  • Work to fix yourself before you criticize existence.
  • The people you choose to admire are indicative of your personality. You wouldn’t admire them unless they accomplished something that you value. Ask people who their idols are. Ask people what their favorite books are. What are their 5 closest friends like? What is their family like? That’s how you find out about someone. This works for getting to know potential romantic partners, business partners, employees, etc.
  • It’s morally wrong to be weak. Weak people are nice by necessity, not by choice. It’s morally good to be powerful enough to cause harm but to choose not to.
  • The environment changes, so different temperaments are correct at different times. Sometimes we need change and liberals would be correct. And sometimes we need things to stay the same and conservatives would be correct. That’s why free speech is essential. The only way to figure out who is right at a particular time is to discuss it openly.
  • Dreams seem to help you sort out your thoughts. If you keep people awake for an extended period of time, they lose their minds. Sleep is essential for mental health. Dreams might help you forget. They help you compress information and discard useless information. They also help you better remember important things.
  • Peterson had nightmares for a long time in the 90s. The study of “comparative mythological material” made his horrible dreams disappear.
  • Freud said that our fear of reality (fear of death) was the reason why we developed religious and artistic structures. He argued that we constructed religion and art as delusions to deny death. It’s based on the idea that reality is so terrible that it requires a level of delusion to face it. This idea has been brought up numerous times in socio-psychological studies. It’s a compelling argument—a certain amount of delusion is necessary for mental health. Peterson argues the opposite—an insufficient grasp of reality is what makes life too terrible to bear.
  • A lot of Jung’s later works were analyzing alchemists. Why? He wanted to know what motivated them. The alchemists were the first scientists in a sense because they were interested in matter. But they did not have the scientific process. The alchemists questioned religious dogma. Jung wanted to know what ideas preceded science. Science didn’t just come out of thin air in 1450.
  • Jung concluded that science is still imbedded in mythological formats. The same idea behind the philosopher’s stone is what motivates science—if we can figure out the truth behind what things are, we can eradicate disease, live forever, and create infinite resources. Alchemy —> science. The philosopher’s stone —> technological innovation. We haven’t changed, we just changed the names of our methods and motives to sound less primitive.
  • Much of what people define as morality is just their own cowardice.
  • There are reasonable circumstances to break rules. Harry Potter, for instance, used an unforgivable curse (crucio) twice in the series. He also breaks rules throughout the series when necessary. The hero breaks rules when necessary.
  • Always follow the things that strike you as meaningful or interesting. Hold on to your interests and don’t let it go despite the social pressure. Society will tell you to do what everyone else is doing. It has to be fun to you, look like work to others, and make money. You can’t just “follow your bliss” because what if your “bliss” is serial killing (pathological interests) or something that doesn’t make any money? It has to be moral and practical. Don’t lie to yourself—that’s what creates pathological and twisted interests. Your interests are determined by your philosophical frameworks.
  • Everything good that Freud put forward is so entrenched in our culture now that we think it’s self-evident. So people only tend to see Freud for his mistakes.
  • The mind, according to Freud, has 3 parts. The id, ego, and super-ego. The id is in the unconscious level. The ego is in the conscious level. The super ego is on all levels of consciousness.
  • The Freudian id is the dark characteristics of people: sexual desire, anger, and anxiety. It's similar to the Jungian shadow. They need to be integrated into the person’s personality—not masked or repressed.
  • The Freudian super-ego is the part of you that has guilt and shame. It comes from the judgmental eye of society and the State. It often causes you to repress the id (especially if you had a particularly tyrannical parent).
  • The Freudian ego is “you.” When you think of the conscious self, that’s the ego.
  • Freud believed that the most important myth was the Oedipal story. It’s a failed hero story. Many people’s problems come from their inability to break free of the family. An example is the story of Hansel and Gretel.
  • Jung thought that the successful hero story was the most important myth.
  • The Jungian shadow: we all have a dark side to us. We have dark desires and an evil side of us. Every person is good and evil; there aren’t good people and bad people. Read about Stalinist Russia or Nazi Germany—realize that you would most likely be one of the guards, you wouldn’t be a savior or a hero or a vigilante.
  • People’s faces change when they’ve integrated their shadow. They look less wide-eyed and more aggressive and mature. Becoming more disagreeable is an essential part of shadow integration.
  • If someone is far down in the depths of chaos (extreme victim mentality, psychological disorders, etc.) stay away from them. You cannot fix them. They will drag you down with them. If you’re not a mechanical engineer, you don’t just walk up to a broken helicopter and start trying to fix it. A broken person is probably 10000x more difficult to fix.
  • Trouble and suffering are inherent aspects of life. Chaos, anxiety, pain, disease can enter your life without there being something uniquely wrong about you.
  • Freud thought that if someone grew up without childhood trauma then they would grow up into a mentally healthy individual.
  • The existentialists thought that there was inherent trauma in life, so nobody could be fully mentally healthy.
  • A fair bit of misery is the norm. It’s not unique to any individual.
  • Given that there is inherent suffering in life, what should you do about it? Definitely not give in to it, or try to mask it with pleasure, or try to multiply it. You should try to reduce suffering in yourself and for others.
  • Thrownness (coined by Heidegger): you were randomly placed at a moment in time. Why was I born poor? Why was I born unattractive? Why was a born to abusive parents? There is no answer. It’s random. But that’s how it is, so you have to deal with it.
  • Terror management theory: humans have belief systems (like religion) that are used to mitigate death anxiety. Delusion, when used appropriately, can be helpful. This idea comes from Ernest Becker’s The Denial of Death.
  • Peterson thinks that Becker's idea of death denial is not deep enough. It should be the terror of isolated being.
  • Nietzsche: There are a variety of interpretations to distress. What seemed like a bad childhood to you, for example, may have seemed like a good childhood to someone else.
  • We are in the least corrupt and most prosperous era in history. Why are you still unsatisfied?
  • There are 2 ways to respond to trauma. Example: (1) Being bullied caused me to be a bully. (2) Being bullied caused me to never be a bully.
  • What makes you think that having everything you asked for would satisfy you? Why do you think it would make you happy? What if you have to have limits to be happy? What if insecurity and vulnerability is what you need—what if they give life meaning.
  • You can tell when someone is ideologically possessed because you can predict everything they’re going to say.Once you know the algorithmic substructure of their ideology, which is usually predicated on about 5 or 6 axioms, you can generate exactly what they will say. It allows them to remove the responsibility of thinking. It allows them to believe that they understand the world and that they have the knowledge to distinguish between the good and the evil—that’s where the danger comes from.
  • Always look for the dark side of good motivations. For instance: If you hate the successful or the rich (anyone who has more money than you), the best way to hide your resentment is to pretend you’re on the side of the poor.
  • What would happen if you stopped wasting the opportunities that are in front of you?
  • If you get your life together, you don’t just change your own fate—you also change the fate of everyone in your network.
  • You can live with no responsibility whatsoever and the price you pay is that nothing matters. Or you can take responsibility for everything and then everything matters.
  • Some percentage of people would choose the former. Especially because they get the attention that comes from being a “victim.” Those people make the world worse—they increase suffering.
  • “Remember: Upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.” — Alexander the Great.
  • The Gulag Archipelago is a real example of hell on earth.
  • When men are talking, there’s always an underlying threat of violence. That keeps the conversation civilized. If you’re talking to a man who wouldn’t under any circumstances fight, then you’re talking to a man nobody can respect.
  • Everyone’s primary motivation is to have people treat them like they have something important to say. Give people your attention and time regardless of how bad they may be at communicating. Give eye contact and attention, ask provocative questions, help them form ideas, and summarize key points. Get to the root of what people think and feel.
  • It’s a terrible curse to tell someone: “I couldn’t live without you.”
  • The oedipal mother story: The mother will accept her child no matter what they do. She's the witch in Hansel and Gretel: The witch lives in a gingerbread house. She feeds the kids candy and makes them fat. Then she eats them. It’s the devouring force of love. It’s one of Freud’s major discoveries. You should want the person to be able to stand on their own.
  • In your mid 20s the parent/child relationship should approximate friends.
  • Why would you care what your parents think?  Their opinion is nearly irrelevant. They’re no different from your friends. It’s random who your parents are, you didn’t choose them.
  • In the Bible, Jonah didn’t do the work he knew he had to do, so God had the whale eat him and take him to the depths of the ocean. He went to hell and God threatened him with death. That experience makes Jonah realize that he has to work hard.
  • You don’t want safety. To have safety, you have to stay in your comfort zone. Developing the ability to confront chaos allows you to go anywhere you want and do anything.
  • Do you want to thrive? Do you want success? Do you want happiness? If yes, you have to give up your hatred of being. You have to give up your resentment. You have to give up your martyrdom. You have to give up your victimhood. If you keep any of these, it will corrupt you and you will sabotage yourself.
  • Ideologies are fragments of the larger story. That’s why they’re so compelling—they’re (partially) true.
  • Many parents don’t like their kids. Kids are very provocative they always push you to try to get a reaction. When they do it on the wrong day (like after a parent gets fired or dumped), they can take it out on the kid. That’s why in 12 Rules for Life, Peterson says not to let your kids do anything that will make you dislike them.
  • The environmentalist story: Nature is pristine beauty. Natural harmony. Nature is paradise if there are no people. Culture is a rapacious monster. Humans are driving their culture against nature—that makes them monsters. Perhaps there should be fewer humans. The movie Avatar depicts this story.
  • The opposing side of the environmentalist story is the Frontier story: There’s a wild savage landscape out there. It needs to be conquered, stabilized, and civilized, by civilization and it will be a heroic pioneer who does it. This is depicted in the movie Star Trek.
  • Each one of the above ideologies tells a (true) part of the story. Ideologues only see one part of the story. Understanding the whole truth comes from understanding all sides of the story.
  • Most people think they’re good people but in reality, they’ve just never been put in a position where they could be bad. You can see this when a riot forms—normal people transform into thieves, vandals, and assaulters.
  • Gandhi read Leo Tolstoy. Tolstoy developed the technique of non-violence that Gandhi used. Tolstoy stressed humility with non-violence.
  • Do not do anything for anyone that they can do themselves. All that does is make them dependent and less competent.
  • Some of the meaning of a novel is in the images that you create in your mind while reading it. Whenever you see a movie adaptation of a book, it is always less rich that the novel. Because your mind contains much more information than a movie can contain. The movie also has to try to compress a 12 hour book into 2 hours of screen time.
  • In Huxley’s Brave New World, it’s rude not to have sex with anyone who wants to. The kids are born in labs and they don’t have parents. That’s the future of equality and inclusionary dystopia.
  • Differences in conscientiousness make for bad romantic relationships. The conscientious person will judge the low conscientious person for being disorganized and lazy.
  • There’s always a snake inside the walled garden. That means that there is always a negative aspect to something good. When you get a new job, for instance, that’s good but it will inherently have some negative aspects to it.
  • Evil people use victimhood as an excuse to abuse “good” people.
  • Science is about stripping off the subjective from the objective.
  • Is something lost when you remove the subjective? Yes.
  • Science can’t answer the fundamental philosophical questions or construct morality.
  • States and individuals based on tyranny are doomed to collapse. States and individuals based on improving themselves and others around them will (likely) succeed.
  • Tyrants get killed by their subordinates.
  • If you think you need more rights in America in 2022, you have a victim mindset. Take some responsibility and put the work in.
  • How do societies become corrupt? One little step at a time. If no one speaks up, they become tyrannical.
  • Part of the “rescuing your father from the depths” myth is to reunite yourself with the traditional structures of community.
  • Accept responsibility for the catastrophe of your life. Then you can transcend it. That’s what Abel did. That’s what Cain failed to do.
  • “There’s almost nothing more valuable than beauty.” Economically and practically. That’s why packaging matters when selling products. If you can beautify your product, it is worth much more. Europe spent millions making beautiful cathedrals and architecture and it has paid off many times over. People come to see them and it gives the cities tourist revenue. It brings out something in humans like music. An investment into beauty is worth it. It is seductive.
  • You can’t really understand the humanities unless you know the biblical stories. They are the dream from which the humanities emerged.
  • There’s no story without limitations. Superman would be boring if there was no kryptonite. He would always win every time. Life only has meaning because of our limitations. Good moments only exist because there can be bad moments. If time was unlimited we would have no urgency. There would be no reason to do anything today.
  • There are some people who are so toxic (victim mentality) that just being around them will pull you into their drama. They maneuver, manipulate, and interpret in a way that makes any person around them a villain in their story, regardless of what the person does or says. They have an unhappy and tragic internal narrative. They drag down the people around them.
  • The opposite of a person with a victim mentality is someone who aims upward and has a positive effect on the people around them. Self improve. Get yourself together as much as possible. Take responsibility. It influences the people around you to get better too and then they can have the same positive impact on the people around them.
  • The story of Marduk and Tiamat: Marduk has eyes all around his head and he can speak words of magic. He goes out to defeat the most powerful monster Tiamat. In exchange, Marduk will become the head god—the one who determines destiny. Marduk defeats Tiamat by catching her in a net (he contained the chaos). Only the one who could see and speak articulately could defeat chaos. Marduk cuts Tiamat into pieces and makes the world with those pieces. One of Marduk’s names is “he who makes ingenious things out of the combat with Tiamat. The person at the top of the hierarchy who determines destiny should be the one who can see and speak better than anyone else and goes voluntarily to confront chaos. Then Marduk goes to Kingu (the king of the demons—like satan) and defeats him and creates humans out of his blood. Humans have an innate darkness to them because we’re the only animal capable of voluntary deception. This story is the pinnacle of human discoveries. Pay attention, read, write, and speak to develop power.
  • Some people are so far gone that they cannot be helped. Stay away from them. They will drag you down.
  • To pay attention means to watch for what you don’t know.
  • The person who has the most authority is the one who accepts the suffering of others (like Jesus—God) and takes responsibility. Jesus (God) has authority because he died for our sins. This is straightforward. Do you like brave people or cowards? Do you like selfish people or helpful people?
  • Kierkegaard: there will come a time when we have so much security and comfort that what we’ll want more than anything else are deprivation and challenge.
  • If you’re suffering, that’s the normal state of humans. It’s not someone else’s fault. It’s not the consequence of sociological oppression. It’s not the result of our society being structured improperly.
  • You cannot completely free yourself of evil. It is always there. Partially in yourself, others, friends, enemies, and “evil” people. THat’s why there was a snake in the Garden of Eden.
  • Another translation of Cain and Abel says that Cain says, “My sin is more than I can bear.” Rather than “My punishment is more than I can bear.” That shows that Cain actually regrets his actions.
  • Sometimes family members will try to take advantage of you. They will use the sacredness of familial bond to control you or get money from you, etc. You have to sacrifice them to get the future that you want. If it’s bad, you have to completely distance yourself and never talk to them again.
  • Every system produces inequality. The only system we know that produces inequality AND wealth is capitalism. It’s obviously not perfect but it’s the best system we have.
  • You will develop 2 or 3 severe illnesses in your life. And one of them will probably be chronic. What kind of person will you be when it happens? How will you prepare for it? Everyone you know is in the same boat, so what will you do when it happens to them? How will you prepare?
  • Even having a chance at success is something to be grateful for. Only in America is it written that you are allowed to pursue happiness. In virtually every other time and place, the government was conspiring against its citizens.
  • Jealousy, resentment, and a lack of confidence cause people to undermine their idols. They end up in hell because they delude themselves into thinking that success is shameful.
  • Large systems (like society, government, big business) are simultaneously the wise king and the tyrant. So when you criticize, you need to be simultaneously critical and grateful.
  • Theogony by Hesiod depicts the birth of the gods. Kronos (Zeus’ father) gets a prophecy that one of his children will overthrow him. So he swallows all of his children so that they don’t get a chance to live out the prophecy. That story shows that some fathers will try to destroy their kids because they are worried that they will outshine them.
  • You can never tell when there’s too much order. You can never tell when there’s too much chaos. Maybe you should impose order but take feedback from others readily. Say it’s their duty to make sure you don’t impose too much order.
  • Think: what am I currently doing to screw my life over? Really think about it and then stop doing them.
  • Act as if God exists. Faith makes being good. Act out the proposition that if you act properly then being itself is benevolent. There is really no alternative: To assume the contrary is to be as cynical and bitter as possible.
  • Solzhenitsyn: Individual honesty and ethical behavior is the only thing that can stop totalitarian regimes.
  • People are being prejudiced when they choose who to have sex with. That’s why in Huxley’s Brave New World, it’s rude not to sleep with anyone who wants to sleep with you.
  • A pilgrimage to Jerusalem is the story of the Hobbit. You go on a journey outside your country, away from your kin, away from your friends. The journey transforms you as a person.
  • If you create an ideal, you simultaneously create a judge and it’s easy to feel intimidated when you create a judge. That’s why people downplay their living ideals and they don’t believe in God. And they don’t apply for challenging jobs. All of that allows you to never be judged. That’s the sheltering that the fixed mindset imposes on itself.
  • What determines our individual futures? Nature, nurture, or free will? We all treat each other as if we have free will even though science denies it exists. Just because we don’t know what free will is doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, it simply means we don’t understand it.
  • Joseph is the ideal, like Abel, and his brothers try to pull him down. That’s a recurring theme in the Bible—other people try to tear down the successful.
  • Cain killed Abel, but in modern times the killing is much more subtle—the “killing” is done by slowly picking away at their confidence over a few decades.
  • People are always looking for an excuse to have their character corrupted. Why? Because then you get to lie, steal, betray, be resentful, and do nothing because you’re a victim. Why do they want that? Because it’s easy—it’s easier to lie than to tell the truth. It’s easier to do nothing than to do something.
  • There’s always a part of you thinking, “I need a justification for being useless and horrible.” Because that would be a lot less work. Then when something terrible comes along, you’re excited because that’s the excuse that you’d been waiting for.
  • Have you done absolutely everything you can to get your life in order? If not, don’t complain. You don’t know how much of your suffering is self-imposed.
  • When religious structures collapse in a country, they are often replaced by (poorly-reasoned) secular ideologies that promise utopia. Like Marxism, communism, and fascism.
  • Egyptian myth. The dead pharaoh is Osiris. The living pharaoh is Osiris and Horus. Osiris is the wisdom of the past. Horus is the process that faces the unknown and updates the wisdom of the past. You need both to be the most successful (pharaoh).
  • People are drawn to the idea that paradise could be found in the domain of the unknown.
  • Nietzsche described the accumulated weight of history. If you’re a rock music artist, for instance, you are competing against all of the other rock artists in history and every rock artist of today. It’s better to be first. Be the first in a genre, a platform, etc. If you can’t make something entirely new, make a new category.
  • The wise king and the tyrant are inseparable. They swing from one to the other.
  • The “best” excuse to say that you want to kill everyone is to frame it as being pro-nature—you want to save the planet from the inherently corrupt human race. It’s used to delude the individual as well as others into thinking they are moral even though they are deeply immoral.
  • The ideas of great thinkers from 100s of years ago are ingrained in us—even if you’ve never read their work, you know it.
  • The more you know about what people did (what ideas they had) before you, the greater your chance of creating something new.
  • There are actions that lead to success. These actions are acted out before they are abstracted and written down. This is why you must study currently successful people—they have insights or actions that are not yet known to produce success (the actions haven’t been written down yet). You can’t only study books because there are always new techniques that are not yet written down.
  • We tend to think that we all come into contact with the future at the same time, but that’s not what happens. The people that we think of as geniuses come into contact with the future first. This argument makes more sense if you think of ideas as something you encounter on a timeline. If someone gets a great new idea before everyone else, they look like a genius compared to everyone else.
  • Every culture has unique pathological actions that everyone within the culture thinks are normal. But everyone outside of that culture would think it is insane.
  • If you try to transcend the group, they will try to kill you.
  • History shows us that humans have immense potential. So much so that the world is not (necessarily) unjust and unfair—it could be that you have not faced your fears.

Aphorisms

  • Because life is so difficult, you have to do something that is truly worthwhile to justify it.
  • People denigrate the opportunities that are right in front of them.
  • Facts are more like tools than immutable truths. They could (and often do) change in under 20 years. But that doesn’t mean they’re not useful—a computer is a tool and one from 2020 is a lot more useful than one from 2000.
  • In life, the base rate for rejection is 98%. You should expect to be rejected by 49 jobs before you get 1. You need to know that so that you don’t think there’s something uniquely wrong with you.
  • The meaning of an artwork is inarticulable otherwise the artist would just write it down.
  • When a great thinker despises men, it is their laziness that he despises. For it is on account of this that they have the appearance of factory products and seem indifferent and unworthy of companionship or instruction. The human being who does not wish to belong to the mass must merely cease being comfortable with himself; let him follow his conscience which shouts at him: "Be yourself! What you are at present doing, opining, and desiring, that is not really you.” — Nietzsche, Untimely Meditation on Schopenhauer as Educator
  • If you can’t figure out what someone’s doing, look at the outcome and infer the motivation. — Carl Jung
  • Any success that comes without the proper sacrifice and work will be short-lived.
  • Don’t let what you are stop you from being what you could be.
  • Kierkegaard inspired: if you speak the truth then whatever happens is good, regardless of what happens. Truthful speech gives rise to the good.
  • The goal is not to become successful, it’s to become the kind of person who could become successful again and again even if it was taken from you.
  • Lies and deception are the archetypal arrogance of the devil. He believes that he can twist reality with lies and get away with it. You cannot get away with lies.
  • If you see something broken, fix it. It’s an opportunity.
  • Find something that bugs you. That’s what you should write about. Because it’s interesting to you.
  • “Their heart is in the right place.” Is a moronic statement. The only thing that matters is actually doing good. Not self-aggrandizing platitudes.
  • If you paid sociologists as much as investment bankers, they’d rapidly become capitalists.
  • If someone is sinking and they’re trying to pull you down, you’re not obligated to drown with them.
  • If you happen to be extremely creative or interested in ideas, you are in the minority. Ordinary people are not like this: there are very few true entrepreneurs, creatives, and intellectuals. If you are one, you need to find other people like you.
  • The point of criticism is to separate the good from the bad. It’s not to carelessly get rid of the whole thing.
  • To those who have everything, more will be given. To those who have nothing, everything will be taken. As you’re successful the probability that you will continue to be successful or increase your success increases. If you’re unsuccessful, the probability that you will continue to be unsuccessful increases. That’s true of all known systems, not just capitalism.
  • Beware of wisdom you did not earn - Carl Jung
  • You always meet the devil at the fork in the road. Because evil beckons every time you have to make a decision.
  • Think: what is it that’s worth sacrificing my life for? Most people say nothing and that’s why they have no meaning. That’s why they have no success.
  • If you’re naïve, trusting people is an act of stupidity. If you’re not naïve, trusting people is an act of courage.
  • If anything’s holding you back, you have to let it go. Because there isn’t anything more important than progressing forward. Cheap sympathy, empathy, and nostalgia are not worth failure.
  • All people have unique experiences that only they know. You can help guide them through a story. When you think of it like this, people are an endless vista of new information.
  • No bad deed goes unpunished.
  • “Maybe the only real misfortune is to become corrupted.” - Jordan Peterson
  • The successful believe they are destined for greatness.
  • You know you’re doing meaningful work when you lose track of time.
  • Weakness must be recognized before it can be turned into strength.

Books and Resources

  • Read The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Must read)
  • Read Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche (Must read)
  • Read Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Must read)
  • Read Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Read The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Read The Devils by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Read The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Read The Myth of Mental Illness by Thomas Szasz
  • Read The History of Religious Ideas by Mircea Eliade
  • Read Memories, Dreams, and Reflections. Carl Jung’s autobiography.
  • Read the writings of the Columbine shooters. It helps you understand how people go awry—how evil is created. It makes you realize that evil exists.
  • Read Panzram—the autobiography of a serial killer. Shows that you need to be careful. Don’t be naïve. There is real evil out there.
  • Read The Discovery of the Unconscious by Henri Ellenberger. The best intro to psychoanalytic tradition. It Covers Adler, Jung, Freud + 300 years of psychoanalytic history before Freud.
  • Read The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker
  • Read Shakespeare and Tolstoy
  • Read Carl Jung’s Red Book
  • Read Symbols of Transformation by Carl Jung (similar to Maps of Meaning)
  • Read The Origin and History of Consciousness by Erich Neumann (similar to Maps of Meaning, great introduction to Jung)
  • Read The Great Mother by Erich Neumann
  • Do Jordan Peterson’s Self Authoring Suite
  • Read the Bible
  • Watch The Lion King
  • Watch Pinocchio
  • Watch Sleeping Beauty
  • Watch Harry Potter
  • Watch Beauty and the Beast. Depicts the female hero’s journey.
  • Watch The Little Mermaid
  • Read Dante’s Inferno
  • Read Milton’s Paradise Lost
  • Read The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell
  • Watch Hitman Hart documentary
  • Watch Breaking Bad
  • Read Ordinary Men
  • Read Huxley’s Brave New World
  • Look at the painting Tree of Life Flanked by Eve and Mary
  • Look at William Blake’s paintings
  • Watch My Left Foot movie. It shows what you can achieve if you’re independent.
  • Read The Stone Angel. Margaret Laurence is Peterson’s favorite female author and this is his favorite of her novels.
  • Read Carl Jung’s paper: The Relations Between the Ego and the Unconscious. Great but difficult—requires extensive knowledge of Jung’s work.
  • Read Nietzsche’s essay, The Use and Abuse of History
  • Read Endurance by Alfred Lansing