Book: 12 Rules for Life. #1 – Stand up Straight with your Shoulders Back

The Goal of This Post

This post is a synthesis from the book 12 Rules for Life, by Jordan Peterson.

The author shares a series of powerful guidelines, virtues and rules to help take control and responsibility for your life. I hope you enjoy it!

If You Only Takeway One Thing

“The foremost rule is that you must take responsibility for your own life. Period.” – Jordan Peterson

Post Outline

Some of the key ideas we’ll explore in this post:

  1. The Role of Serotonin
  2. Dominance and Status
  3. What it Means to Stand Up
  4. Taking Action

About this Rule

Stand up straight with your shoulders back.
The author shares stories, ranging from biological, physical, social and cultural; grounded in explaining the dominance hierarchies present in our everyday lives, as told from the scientific perspective of the observation of lobsters. Lobsters compete, fight, struggle and survive according to a dominance hierarchy, which tightly coupled with serotonin, is highly representative of the same dynamics which we as humans live by in our societies.

Dominance hierarchies have been an essentially permanent feature of the environment to which all complex life has adapted.

The Role of Serotonin

“Low serotonin means decreased confidence. Low serotonin means more response to stress and costlier physical preparedness for emergency – as anything whatsoever may happen, at any time, at the bottom of the dominance hierarchy (and rarely something good). Low serotonin means less happiness, more pain and anxiety, more illness, and a shorter lifespan – among humans, just as among crustaceans.”

Dominance and Status

Low Status
“The ancient part of your brain specialized for assessing dominance watches how you are treated by other people. On that evidence, it renders a determination of your value and assigns you a status. If you are judged by your peers as of little worth, the counter restricts serotonin availability. That makes you much more physically and psychologically reactive to any circumstance or event that might produce emotion, particularly if it is negative. You need that reactivity. Emergencies are common at the bottom, and you must be ready to survive.”

High Status
“If you have a high status, on the other hand, the counter’s cold, pre-reptilian mechanics assume that your niche is secure, productive and safe, and that you are well buttressed with social support. It thinks the chance that something will damage you is low and can be safely discounted. Change might be opportunity, instead of disaster. The serotonin flows plentifully. This renders you confident and calm, standing tall and straight, and much less on constant alert. Because your position is secure, the future is likely to be good for you. It’s worthwhile to think in the long term and plan for a better tomorrow. You don’t need to grasp impulsively at whatever crumbs come your way, because you can realistically expect good things to remain available. You can delay gratification, without forgoing it forever. You can afford to be a reliable and thoughtful citizen.”

What it Means to Stand Up

(1) “Standing up means voluntarily accepting the burden of Being. Your nervous system responds in an entirely different manner when you face the demands of life voluntarily. You respond to a challenge, instead of bracing for a catastrophe. You see the gold dragon hoards, instead of shrinking in terror from the all-too-real fact of the dragon. You step forward to take your place in the dominance hierarchy, and occupy your territory, manifesting your willingness to defend, expand and transform it. That can all occur practically or symbolically, as a physical or as a conceptual restructuring.”

(2) “To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept the terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open. It means deciding to voluntarily transform the chaos of potential into the realities of habitable order. It means adopting the burden of self-conscious vulnerability, and accepting the end of the unconscious paradise of childhood, where finitude and mortality are only dimly comprehended. It means willingly undertaking the sacrifice necessary to generate a productive and meaningful reality.”


Taking Action

“So, attend carefully to your posture. Quit drooping and hunching around. Speak your mind. Put your desires forward, as if you had a right to them – at least the same right as others. Walk tall and gaze forthrightly ahead. Dare to be dangerous. Encourage the serotonin to flow plentifully through the neural pathways desperate for its calming influence.”


The book focuses on the virtues that empower an individual to take responsibility for themselves and live a more plentiful and happy life. All content credit goes to the author. I’ve shared the bits I’ve enjoyed the most and found most useful.

Cheers ’till next time! Saludos!
Alberto

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