A Few Reflections on Talking about 12 Rules for Life

You probably saw some of my posts about the book 12 Rules for Life. And if you saw them, you know that I really disliked this book. What happened after that and what do I think about it? I’ll share a bit of that, so keep reading if you are interested.

Why did I share those posts?

As always, I read a book and I wanted to share my opinion on it. And I wanted to be honest – even when my views are different or more controversial. I wanted to encourage people to think deeper about this book and to tell them that it may not be worth their time.

What was the effect?

Since the book is very popular, my posts got a bit more attention than I expected. It seems to me that Jordan Peterson has a pretty big and loyal fanbase. So naturally, people didn’t like my review and they reacted to it. I was surprised by the attention and some people’s reaction though.

What did people think about my review?

People seem to have mixed opinions about it. Some people shared my review and liked my honest review. Others loved the book and, consequently, didn’t like my review. It’s very interesting to see how polarized people are about this book.

The only people that criticized my view seemed to be fans of Peterson’s, usually people who also watched his interviews and YouTube videos.

I found it very interesting that nobody said “Hey, I don’t really like Peterson either, but I think his book is amazing and here’s why…” The only people that disagreed with me told me that Peterson changed their lives or other people’s lives and so on. It’s clear there’s a lot of invested time and interest there and, consequently, bias, but that makes sense.

What was the criticism I received?

So far, the criticism I received can usually be summed up like this:

They: “You would understand Peterson better if you watch his videos.”

Me: I get that, but as I said, I am only reviewing the book 12 Rules for Life. If I need to watch hours of YouTube videos to understand what Peterson meant because he couldn’t make it clear in his book instead of rambling, that’s not my fault. It’s another thing that proves the book is not that well-written.

They: “Don’t be a hater!” “People say that Peterson changed their lives, so the book must be good!”

Me: If you think that I am a hater because I share my honest opinion on a book, then you have problems, not me. If you feel personally attacked because I dare the question the logic (more accurately illogic) of a book, then you are too attached to the book or its author. This only proves you are biased and maybe you should be more willing to consider what other people like me have to say.

I am glad to hear that people were inspired to change their lives for the better. But this doesn’t prove Peterson’s book is good. People had their lives changed by other books that are unfounded or absurd. People change their lives because they believe in horoscopes, vibes and the law of attraction and other mumbo-jumbo. Does this prove all they believe is true and valuable? No.

People have their lives changed by songs, novels and TV shows, so let’s keep in mind that the effect of a piece of content seldom reflects its quality or accuracy.

They: “You must not have understood the book. You need to read it again.”

Me: How convenient of you to assume that I am less intelligent or less capable of understanding a simple book than you. This obviously spares you of the situation where you have to stop, think and reassess your own beliefs. This ensures that you won’t need to question what you believe in. Of course you will choose to think that.

And of course I deserve to be judged as less capable to understand a book because I want to question it and analyze the ideas in it. Excuse me for questioning something that has no basis or is illogical. You are right, I am the problem. Don’t even think about analyzing the book you have read and readily accepted.

As I said to someone in a comment: if you are a Peterson fan, you will want to continue to like this book. So you may overlook mistakes that were made or arguments that have no basis or are illogical. You will want to continue to think that Peterson is a great teacher because it is much easier to continue to think as you do. It takes more effort and humility to change and admit that maybe you were wrong and biased.

I feel like I have more freedom because I really don’t care what I think about Peterson. I don’t need to like or dislike him. I don’t need to justify that any of my thoughts were right because I am not that attached to them.

Still, being totally open to admit we were wrong is often not that easy for all of us – myself included.

There were 1-2 people who were willing to have an open discussion even if we have different opinions. And they were willing to have a more complex conversation about the ideas in the book. But sadly, I think we both realized the difficulty of having a long conversation on this platform.

What do I think about such discussions on Instagram?

It’s very hard to have such a conversation/debate on Instagram. If we do not communicate very clearly and concisely here, we easily get lost in the comment section. It’s hard to go back and check who said what on this platform. I think such conversations are more suited for other platforms like email. blogs or reddit (maybe even facebok).

Sometimes it’s hard to tell who is right and who is wrong, especially since the things we say can have different meanings. And the reasoning behind our statements also needs to be revealed to see who is closer to the truth. Again, this task is too complicated for this medium.

Have I changed my mind?

So far, I haven’t changed my mind at all. I stand by everything I said in my review. And I find it quite worrying how loyal people are to Peterson and how invested they are in his book.

But I get it, we live in a complicated and chaotic world, so we want to find guidance. I just wish people would look for better models and science-based information. The only thing that can bring clarity in a way that really makes sense of the world as it really is is science-based information. Everything else will just steer you in the wrong direction.

What’s next?

I am still willing to hear what Peterson has to say. I also want to hear what other people say about the book, so I will read more reviews and probably have more conversations. I would also like to read some great, well-thought, balanced reviews that go beyond praise and actually analyze this book. If you know such reviews (or if you wrote one yourself), please send them my way!

I plan on watching the debates between Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris. From what I hear, it was a great debate and Harris did a great job at pointing out the problem with Peterson’s philosophy. So I’m excited to see how that went.

One more thought…

As I noticed how many people I reached with my posts about 12 Rules for Life, I was excited. But as I thought about it, something made me sad. I asked myself: how many more people would have left comments or followed me if my view were different? How many more people would have praised my review if only it matched their own opinions, instead of questioning them? I honestly think the result would have been very different, and that made me sad.

This is just an assumption, of course, and I cannot know for sure. But I can’t help but wonder how much more likely are people to praise you when you confirm their own views (which can be right or wrong)? Just something to think about…

P.S. If you have read 12 Rules for Life and you want to add something, please let me know.

2 thoughts on “A Few Reflections on Talking about 12 Rules for Life”

  1. Love this! And I tried to follow up on the whole Sam Harris/ Jordan Peterson debate stuff but got lost in it honestly. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it if you do!

    1. Thank you. I’ve started watching the debates too, but honestly, I think watching them all will be challenging (because of their length and I really don’t like Peterson). But I am curious to see how they work through their disagreements and how they explain their logic.

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