Book: 12 Rules for Life. #6 – Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world

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.

If You Only Takeway One Thing

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

Post Outline

The main ideas we’ll explore in this post:

  1. A Harsh Reality and the Capacity for Evil
  2. Acceptance, Truth, and Natural Order
  3. The Way Forward

About this Rule

Rule 6: Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world
The author describes what he believes to be at the root of our foulest nature, the ability to act and do evil in this world.

  • The author starts by describing that frustration, injustice, tragedy and pain lead to states of desperation.
  • The author then outlines how that desperation may lead to acts of vengeance, harm and evil.
  • The author finally describes a way forward, by focusing on improving and ordering your own experience of life.

The main idea is that we cannot control reality, but we can control how we respond and react. It is in this decision that we take responsibility for our lives, by “setting your house in perfect order before you criticize the world”.

I. A Harsh Reality

“People think often in the Mephistophelean manner, although they seldom act upon their thoughts as brutally as the mass murderers of school, college and theatre. Whenever we experience injustice, real or imagined; whenever we encounter tragedy or fall prey to the machinations of others; whenever we experience the horror and pain of our own apparently arbitrary limitations—the temptation to question Being and then to curse it rises foully from the darkness.”

II. The Capacity for Evil

Ultimately, it is this desperation that nourishes our natural abilities to do harm:

  • “The stupidity of the joke being played on us does not merely motivate suicide. It motivates murder.”
  • “Truly terrible things happen to people. It’s no wonder they’re out for revenge. Under such conditions, vengeance seems a moral necessity.
  • “People who experience evil may certainly desire to perpetuate it, to pay it forward.”

III. Acceptance

First, we must come to terms with the harshness of reality.

  1. “Life is in truth very hard. Everyone is destined for pain and slated for destruction.”
  2. “Human control is limited. Susceptibility to despair, disease, aging and death is universal.”
  3. “If you are suffering—well, that’s the norm. People are limited and life is tragic.”

IV. Truth and Natural Order

Then, we must learn to accept this natural order of life.

“This is life. We build structures to live in. We build families, and states, and countries. We abstract the principles upon which those structures are founded and formulate systems of belief. At first we inhabit those structures and beliefs like Adam and Eve in Paradise. But success makes us complacent. We forget to pay attention. We take what we have for granted. We turn a blind eye. We fail to notice that things are changing, or that corruption is taking root. And everything falls apart.”


V. The Way Forward (Where to Begin)

Before we get frustrated at the world and harshness of reality, the author encourages us to search within:

  • “Have you taken full advantage of the opportunities offered to you?”
  • “Are you working hard on your career, or even your job?”
  • “Or are you letting bitterness and resentment hold you back and drag you down?”
  • “Have you made peace with your brother?”
  • “Are you treating your spouse and your children with dignity and respect?”
  • “Do you have habits that are destroying your health and well-being?”
  • “Are you truly shouldering your responsibilities?”
  • “Have you said what you need to say to your friends and family members?”
  • “Are there things that you could do, that you know you could do, that would make things around you better?”

Taking Action

“Start to stop doing what you know to be wrong. Stop acting in that particular, despicable manner. Stop saying those things that make you weak and ashamed. Say only those things that make you strong. Do only those things that you could speak of with honour.”


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 valuable.

Cheers ’till next time! Saludos!
Alberto

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