Book: 12 Rules for Life. #8 – Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie.

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. The Power of Lie. (Seeing Truth)
  2. The Power of Purpose and Character. (Acting Truth)
  3. The Way Forward

About this Rule

Rule 8: Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie.
The author describes the virtue in living your life with authenticity, integrity and intent.

  • The main idea is that we must embrace and accept reality as it is; not as we wish or desire it to be.
  • The way forward is to build the character and strength to see, accept, act and express truth in our everday lives.

I. The Power of Lie. (Seeing Truth)

There are plenty of reasons why truth escapes us or why we fail to see.

(1) Manipulation through Creativity.

  • “The human capacity for imagination makes us capable of dreaming up and creating alternative worlds. This is the ultimate source of our creativity. With that singular capacity, however, comes the counterpart, the opposite side of the coin: we can deceive ourselves and others into believing and acting as if things are other than we know they are.”

(2) Manipulation through Speech.

  • “You can use words to manipulate the world into delivering what you want.”
  • “It’s the speech people engage in when they attempt to influence and manipulate others.”
  • “It’s what everyone does when they want something, and decide to falsify themselves to please and flatter.”

(3) Manipulation through Prideful Rationality.

  • “The prideful, rational mind, comfortable with its certainty .. is easily tempted to ignore error.”
  • “Rationality is subject to the single worst temptation—to raise what it knows now to the status of an absolute.”
  • “This means that all important facts have been discovered. This means that nothing important remains unknown.”

(4) Manipulation through Omission.

  • “Someone hiding is not someone vital. Vitality requires original contribution.”
  • “If you will not reveal yourself to others, you cannot reveal yourself to yourself.”
  • “If you betray yourself, if you say untrue things, if you act out a lie, you weaken your character.”
  • “If you have a weak character, then adversity will mow you down when it appears, as it will, inevitably.”

It is not the mere misstatement of fact. It is instead an act that has the aspect of the most serious conspiracy ever to possess the race of man. Its seeming innocuousness, its trivial meanness, the feeble arrogance that gives rise to it, the apparently trivial circumventing of responsibility that it aims at—these all work effectively to camouflage its true nature, its genuine dangerousness, and its equivalence with the great acts of evil that man perpetrates and often enjoys. Lies corrupt the world. Worse, that is their intent.

II. The Way Forward. (Acting Truth)

The way forward is through purpose and expression; a learning mindset; an honest and humble acceptance of reality.

(1) Pursue an Aim.

  • “An aim, an ambition, provides the structure necessary for action. An aim provides a destination, a point of contrast against the present, and a framework, within which all things can be evaluated. An aim defines progress and makes such progress exciting. An aim reduces anxiety, because if you have no aim everything can mean anything or nothing, and neither of those two options makes for a tranquil spirit. Thus, we have to think, and plan, and limit, and posit, in order to live at all.”

(2) Build Character.

  • “Set your ambitions, even if you are uncertain about what they should be. The better ambitions have to do with the development of character and ability, rather than status and power. Status you can lose. You carry character with you wherever you go, and it allows you to prevail against adversity.”

(3) Articulate Truth.

  • “Articulate your experience as clearly and carefully to yourself and others as you possibly can. In this manner, you will learn to proceed more effectively and efficiently towards your goal.”

(4) Pay Attention.

  • “If you pay attention, when you are seeking something, you will move towards your goal. More importantly, however, you will acquire the information that allows your goal itself to transform.”

“Everyone needs a concrete, specific goal—an ambition, and a purpose—to limit chaos and make intelligible sense of his or her life. But all such concrete goals can and should be subordinated to what might be considered a meta-goal, which is a way of approaching and formulating goals themselves. The meta-goal could be “live in truth.” This means, “Act diligently towards some well-articulated, defined and temporary end. Make your criteria for failure and success timely and clear, at least for yourself (and even better if others can understand what you are doing and evaluate it with you). While doing so, however, allow the world and your spirit to unfold as they will, while you act out and articulate the truth.” This is both pragmatic ambition and the most courageous of faiths.”

III. Final Reflection

“To tell the truth is to bring the most habitable reality into Being. Truth builds edifices that can stand a thousand years. Truth feeds and clothes the poor, and makes nations wealthy and safe. Truth reduces the terrible complexity of a man to the simplicity of his word, so that he can become a partner, rather than an enemy. Truth makes the past truly past, and makes the best use of the future’s possibilities. Truth is the ultimate, inexhaustible natural resource. It’s the light in the darkness.”

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!


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