Principles by Ray Dalio and 12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson

These 2 books both had a big impact on me lately – but in very different ways. By now I’m sure most of you know that I loved Principles but sort of hated 12 Rules for Life.

As I was reflecting on them, I couldn’t help but notice how different they are. So I’d like to share a few of my thoughts.

Similarities between Principles and 12 Rules for Life

I believe that both Principles and 12 Rules for Life are similar in some ways.

Both books aim to tell people how they should live or offer some guidelines.

Both authors draw from the works of other authors, scientists and other thinkers and from their own experiences and opinions.

Both authors are well-know at this moment and both books have been quite successful.

Differences between Principles and 12 Rules for Life

But I believe the books are very different. I’ll share a few reasons why I think that.

The main ideas

Principles teaches you how to think in principles – how to use rules for similar situations. Dalio also focused on learning how to observe reality and think based on logic and expertise. Dalio aims to impart some basic and valuable rules meant to guide us in life, but implementing them requires effort.

12 Rules for Life gives you advice on how to think and act. Peterson’s advice is obviously much more practical and easier to understand and implement in real life.

The structure and content

Principles has a very clear structure and a logical flow of ideas. I think this is very important for a book like this because it’s easier to reference. This book focuses more on the ideas and it has few stories – the ones included are often useful and short.

The structure of the book 12 Rules for Life is great, but the structure of the chapters and the flow of ideas is…strange and illogical (to me). Many times I had no idea how Peterson went from one idea to another. I also think he included way too many stories and most of these were from the Bible. I would have liked fewer stories or stories from different civilizations, periods and religions.

The authors

Dalio shared the principles he used and refined for decades. He tested them in his work and found them valuable. I think Dalio has a tone that conveys confidence and authority. But he started his book by saying that he is “a dumb shit” who knows little compared to how much there is to know and I loved that! I also think Dalio expressed his ideas and his views as clearly as possible. It is very unlikely anyone would not understand or misunderstand what he meant.

Peterson draws a lot on several sources: Christian beliefs and teachings, the Bible and the works of other authors, philosophers and psychologists. He also talks about his own experiences and ideas. But while reading this book, it seemed to me that Peterson has an arrogant tone. He expressed some personal views with such certainty that they seemed to be the absolute truth and that seems dangerous to me. I also think that it is not always clear what Peterson means or what he believes. For example, after reading his book which includes several references to the Bible, I have no idea whether Peterson is religious or whether he believes in God or not.

There are other things I could add here, but these are the main ideas I wanted to share now.

I honestly believe that these books are quite different so they will be perceived differently. I also believe they appeal to different kinds of people. In the end, I believe that Principles is one of the best books I have ever read, while I would say the opposite about 12 Rules for Life.

Have you read any of these two? If you have read both, I would love to hear your thoughts on them!

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