12 Rules For Life:  Return of the Jordan (Final Part of the Review Trilogy), Charles Atlas, The Simpsons . . . and Being a Man, The Definitive Review

“No. Not yet. One thing remains. Vader. You must confront Vader. Then, only then, a Jedi will you be. And confront him you will.” – Star Wars:  Return of the Jedi

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The Boy in full Vader get up.  He looked at me and said, “You are my Father, John Wilder.  Can I have more cake?” and then force-choked me when I said no, three pieces was enough.  So I cut off his hand.  That’s good parenting where I come from . . .

As promised, this is the final part of my book review for Dr. Jordan Peterson’s new bestseller, “12 Rules for Life.”  You can find the first part here (LINK) and the second part here (LINK).  Quotes, if not otherwise noted, are Peterson from the book.  Sorry for the delay – the flu was busy attempting to eat my lungs.  I’m better now.

 

I strongly recommend this book – and get no money if you buy it at this time – in the future, who knows?

Rule 9:  Assume That The Person You’re Listening To Knows Something You Don’t

If you listen, most people are really not boring.  Okay, some are.  But they are mainly parents of children who haven’t graduated from high school and anyone from Iowa.  Everybody else is interesting.  Dr. Peterson talks about how he sat down with a woman, and within minutes she was telling him she was a witch.  And not only that, a witch whose coven regularly got together and prayed for global peace – a world peace witch.  By day?  She was a minor bureaucrat; I imagined a driver’s license lady.  Not who you’d size up to be a witch.  Oh, wait.  EXACTLY who you’d size up to be a witch.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve interviewed lots and lots of people for my job.  I was never bored once.  But I had people blurt out amazing things in the interview.  “I got fired for stealing.”  I was hiring for a position that had lots of financial responsibility, and maybe kinda lax oversight.  No job there.  “I hated my co-workers.”  Yup.  Big points for working well with others.  Again, people will tell you amazing things if you just shut up and listen.  Dates were interesting, too.  Had one date where the girl’s plan was to go off and find herself in the Peace Corps after she’d just gotten out of a relationship with her husband who had buried a bus so he could grow illegal weed.  Yeah, that night was an early exit.

But few enough actually listen (I’ve been guilty of that myself, lots of times) without responding – i.e., defining the problem for the speaker.  Even worse is defining the situation for the speaker – Peterson discussed a woman who was unsure if she had been raped after continually getting drunk and going home with guys.  He could have defined it as “yes” or “no” for her but that would have prevented her from sorting it out herself, which was crucial to helping her.  He used this example to point out that being too intrusive in a conversation often warps it in a manner that changes the framework for the other person . . . and prevents them from getting better.

Peterson listens, because his theory is that people talk to simulate their reality.  Humans are the only critters that do that – simulate entire worlds with our words and model the results of present actions into the future.  When we run these simulations, we often simulate the words and behavior of others – I know I have a pretty accurate simulation of The Mrs. running.  It’s over 98% accurate.  The Mrs. likewise has one of me, too.  We have tons of conversations with each other without even speaking to each other, because the other just our simulation.

Honest listening – turning off the simulator – is required for real conversation.  Our filters and feedback contaminate the discussion.  Once we get to that honest listening stage, we can have Real Conversations – Conversations where we truly hear each other and can create new knowledge, and sometimes solve our own problem.

Rule 10:  Be Precise In Your Speech

Dr. Peterson begins with a discussion of the coming obsolescence of laptops.  Most of our laptop experience is located outside of the laptop – it’s only a “single leaf, on a tree, in a forest . . .”  Our laptops feed from all of the other computers out there – from the Facebook© servers to the wonderful servers that bring you Wilder, Wealthy and Wise and that Japanese cooking site you don’t want your wife to see that you’ve been to visit after she goes to bed so you can dream about sushi.  Those exist outside of your laptop – and your laptop only pulls information from them.

But we don’t inhabit that forest.  We inhabit a simplification of that world.  In our world where we give objects purpose and meaning – we don’t let them simply exist – we give a car purpose – it must take us from one place to another.  A light switch ceases to just exist – it gives us light, and in a blackout part of us is shocked (pun intended) when the switch doesn’t bring us light.  Peterson feels that precision is required so we down drown in the vast amount of detail that surrounds us.

Our model gums up when violated.  I used a light switch – Peterson uses a cheating spouse – inviting Chaos in.  Peterson then pops some Yeats in the CD player for good measure:

The Second Coming, by W.B. Yeats

 

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again; but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Speech is required to sort this chaos out, to make sense of it, to dispel it.  A night light might also be nice to scare the rough beast away?

“Say what you mean so you can find out what you mean.  Act out what you say so you can find out what happens.”

Rule 11:  Do Not Bother Children When They Are Skateboarding

Skateboarders are pretty talented, and Peterson spends some time discussing their skill, and the methods by which they optimize risks, which is crucial, Peterson felt, to growing as a man.  Unfortunately (in Peterson’s opinion) there are adults who what to spoil all the fun by putting in features that make skateboarding impossible while also looking ugly at the same time.

Those adults are then (at least by proximity in the chapter) compared to a friend that Peterson had.  Peterson’s friend (also discussed in earlier chapters) had a problem:  he hated mankind.  He came to no good, making himself a victim at every turn, and learning to hate beautiful, successful people.  They seemed to make him even madder.  Dr. Peterson then followed up with a description of a TEDx talk by a professor . . . who also hated the human race.  These self-appointed judges spoil the fun . . . and the risk.

And the result?  Boys are being pushed out.  25% of college degrees granted are in the fields of healthcare, psychology, education, and public administration.  80% of these degrees go to women.  Peterson feels that this is Not Good.  If projections hold, there will be very few men in non-STEM fields in the next few years.  And this is bad for women.

Huh?

How many college-educated women consider, say, a plumber a great catch?  Some, to be sure, but not many.  When it comes to marriage, women tend to marry someone either at the same social/economic status or of a higher status.  As those guys disappear?

Marriage becomes something for the rich.  The rest of the girls get hookups in their twenties, and a basket of cats when they hit 33.  If they have kids, the results are similarly grim – because single parent families are statistically inferior in every way to dual parent families.  So those rich kids?  Yeah, life will be better for them.  Because they have two parents.

Maybe patriarchy isn’t so bad?  Feminism is a creation of Marxism (per Jordan), and between that and post-modernist thought – we’re trying to fundamentally remake civilization in ways that may not be as stable as civilization created over the last 11,000 years or so.  And Marxism led to Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot.  And that idea became the most deadly idea of the entire 20th century – killing more people, primarily their own citizens than any other idea.

Peterson REALLY doesn’t like Post Modernism, either, since it’s a philosophy that says there’s no truth and makes the claim “that logic itself is a merely a part of the oppressive patriarchal system.”

Boys are boys, but society is trying to force them to be girls, per Peterson.  Which is really, really wrong.  Biology is a huge part of what makes a boy act like a boy, and a girl act like a girl.  Then, a large amount of (enjoyable) discussion about ancient gods and Disney© animated movies.

Then we get back to Peterson, talking about when he worked on a railway crew.  Peterson uses these (amusing) stories about men and how they want particular behavior from other men:  Do your job.  Don’t whine.  Don’t be a suck up.  What to men want and value from other men?  “Be tough, entertaining, competent and reliable.”

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The above ad is from comic books, literally all comics books, of the 1950’s and 1960’s.  I sent away for as similar set of books.  You, too can learn Karate for only $19.95.  If you can learn karate by yourself from a book.  With a poor work ethic.

Peterson (really) feels that the Charles Atlas ad captures a lot of human sexuality in seven panels.  Women want tough men.  It’s here that he combines The Simpsons and Fifty Shades of Grey in the same hilarious paragraph.  Lisa Simpson doesn’t want Milhouse, dude, she wants a kinky billionaire.  Or that bad kid from Springfield Elementary.  Or a dude that will keep you safe on the beach.

Because women want men.  Tough men.  And you get men through risk.  Through . . . skateboarding.

Rule 12:  Pet A Cat When You Encounter One On The Street

Peterson baits and switches here – starting with a discussion on dogs.  But he brings back to cats, and also to the theme of the chapter – human suffering.  It will literally suck to be a human.  People die.  People suffer, sometimes horribly and inexplicably.  But, somehow, Superman™ needs Kryptonite© – this suffering makes life, well, not interesting, but certainly not fake.

It’s a worthy chapter, and my summary is short because I’m not one to use Peterson’s tough times, and I rarely write about my own.  I’ll give you my bullet point summary:

  • Dogs are Happy
  • Cats have Terms and Conditions for Love
  • Enjoy Both Dogs and Cats – They Have Purity of Being
  • Because Life Sucks

CODA:  Not The Led Zeppelin Album

Peterson caps it off – again, buy the book.  I’ll just ask you – what do you want for yourself tomorrow?  What about next year?  Who could you be if you really tried?

So, that’s it.  It’s a pretty long review, and I’m glad you stuck it out this far.

Pluses of the book?  Amazing philosophical content.  Easy read.  Original thoughts.

Downside?  Chapters could be more evenly edited to tie the content together, and follow the old rule – tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em, tell ‘em, tell ‘em what you told ‘em.  There are several chapters that I read a second time after about a week to write this review, and being prepped with the previous read and knowing what to look for, I enjoyed the chapters much more.  Maybe this review will act as a guide you can use when you go through it to look for more content that sparks your interest.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Peterson also dictated this book – many of the passages sound like speech turned into text, though I might be wrong since I’ve heard a LOT of Peterson speaking but very little of his written stuff.

Overall verdict:  totally recommend it.  Best way ever to confront Vader.  And then the Ewoks burned my copy – because they stopped making Star Wars® in 1983.  Wonder what would have happened if they had made a sequel or two?  I’m glad they never did.

12 Rules For Life: The Peterson Strikes Back (Book Review Part II, Episode 5)

“Search your feelings, Lord Vader. You will know it to be true. He could destroy us.” – Star Wars:  The Empire Strikes Back

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The Boy and Pugsley engaged in an epic Lightsaber® battle.  At the end, The Boy cut off Pugsley’s arm and said “You are my brother, Pugsley, join me and we’ll rule our parent’s house . . . together.” 

As promised, there is the second part of my book review for Dr. Jordan Peterson’s new bestseller, “12 Rules for Life.”  You can find the first part here (LINK).  The third and concluding post is here (LINK).

You can bet I won’t call it “The Peterson Awakens.”

Rule 5:  Do Not Let Your Children Do Anything That Makes You Dislike Them

Children, are, perhaps the only legacy many people will leave on this Earth after they die.  Some parents are horrible and provide no limits to their children, creating tiny toddler tyrants, rather than children people like to be around.  You have seen these children.  You despise them.  Yet they exist.  Why?

Increasing divorce rates since the 1960’s increases the severity of this problem, creating fractured families.  Peterson blames a LOT on the 1960’s:  “. . . a decade whose excesses led to general denigration of adulthood, an unthinking disbelief in the existence of competent power, and the inability to distinguish between the chaos of immaturity and responsible freedom.”

See, I told you he was Dangerous.

This is the opposite of the nihilistic (at its core) “if it feels good, do it” philosophy that stems from Aleister Crowley’s “do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”  Which was written by this guy:

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Wilder Rule #56:  Hats make the man!

Here are some takeaways from this chapter.

  1. Order is required – children want limits.  But there can be too many rules as well, and parents are the key to sorting that out, as their interactions with their children determines the future of society.  Parents seem to have difficulty imposing their will on their children.
  2. Peterson: “Two year olds, statistically speaking, are the most violent of people.”  This cracked me up.  But it’s true.  And you have to tame them, either with rewards or punishment.
  3. Is physical punishment acceptable?   But only the minimum amount required.  The world is filled with physical punishment – just check out any middle school fight.
  4. You need two parents because being a single parent is a tough, tough job. Single parenting isn’t preferable – Dan Quayle was right, Murphy Brown was wrong.
  5. Understand your weaknesses, your dark side as a parent.
  6. Parents are simulators (for their children) of the real world. Use your efforts to make them “socially desirable.”

Peterson must be an interesting parent.  But I assure you, growing up at his house wasn’t boring.

Rule 6:  Set Your House in Perfect Order Before You Criticize the World

This is, so far, my favorite chapter (though the next one might be even more impactful).  Although I expected this to be based on an outward focus, this is Dr. Peterson adapting and providing a more generalized version of his “clean your room” lecture.

“Clean your room” is Dr. Peterson’s advice to those who have issues.  And, it’s literal, not just a silly metaphor or slogan.  He wants you to clean your actual room.  Why?  A variety of reasons – but it’s a way to start you off realizing you can make the chaos in your life go away, if only you try.  And cleaning a room, making it better, is something anyone can do.  It’s not hard.

But in this chapter, Dr. Peterson starts at the basics of broken people.  It’s a dark path.  “Everyone is destined for pain and slated for destruction.”  He takes us from mass shootings to serial killers to a suicidal Leo Tolstoy (The War and Peace author dude) who wouldn’t be around rope for a period of time, since he was pretty sure he was going to hang himself.  Peterson takes us to these places, because it’s important to understand what brought them to this state.

  • A belief that the world lacked meaning.
  • Suffering (in some cases) horrific abuse at the hands of others.
  • A belief that God or the human race was evil.

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Tolstoy, looking for all the world like a garden gnome wearing dominatrix boots.

Although Peterson starts with mass shooters, the same beliefs that led them down the road to hurting others causes some people to destroy not outward, but inward.  Those beliefs are poison for the soul.

But some people, when confronted with a great evil, turn and face it right back, like Alexandr Solzhenitsyn.  Dying of cancer, released in the nick of time for surgery to save him, Solzhenitsyn did what every good Soviet citizen did:  he wrote critical articles and, eventually, a novella critical of the Soviet state.  One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was actually published in the Soviet Union.  The Gulag Archipelago was published in the West.   Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel® Prize© for his writing – writing dedicated to making his home country better by showing the true horror of the Soviet state.  He turned what could have been bitter resentment into something that changed the world and toppled a totalitarian state.

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Solzhenitsyn, looking dapper in his Soviet prison outfit, circa 1950.  (image from http://www.solzhenitsyn.ru)

I went through a similar situation with my first marriage.  It was constructed on mutual mistrust, and was painful for both of us.  I used that experience to reflect on who I wanted to be, and used that experience to reflect on who I wanted to be, and used that . . . sorry, stuck.  I figured out who I should be as a husband, and as a result?  I became better than I was.

I got a better life out of my difficulties.  Solzhenitsyn’s work helped end the Soviet system and made nuclear annihilation less likely and won a Nobel®.  To-MAY-to, To-MAH-to.

But Dr. Peterson has a sure-fire (seriously) way to fix this:  clean up your life.  There are a large number of questions in this section that Peterson asks that you really think about.  I’ll not repeat them all here, buy the book, cheapskate.

Peterson:  “Start to stop doing what you know to be wrong.”  Start to . . . because starting is the hardest part.

And how do you know if it’s wrong?  Seems like if it feels good, you should do it, right?

Peterson:  “Do only those things you can speak of with honor.”

And after you fix one thing?  Another thing to fix will become obvious.  And another.  And another.  After a while?  You’ve fixed yourself.  You’re useful.

Peterson:  “You will be then left with the inevitable bare tragedies of life.  But they will no longer be compounded with bitterness and deceit.”

Rule 7:  Pursue What Is Meaningful, Not What Is Expedient

There is a LOT of philosophy in this book.  And there is a LOT of the Bible.  Peterson feels that the Bible itself is an “emergent” document – one that has properties that exceed its sum.  It’s the distillation of thousands of years of stories culminating in the crucifixion and resurrection, honed and explained and shared until they have literally changed the way the Western world thinks (and paved the way for pesky things like science, freedom, liberty, and the abolition of slavery).

One emergent property is the idea that instead of instant gratification (which would allow you to lie, cheat, steal, and kill in the extreme) is replaced by delayed gratification.  This delayed gratification can be Earthly in the Christian world, or it can be Heavenly.  This ability to delay gratification is a significant difference between animals and humans and a defining part of Western civilization (though not exclusive to Western civilization).

Dr. Peterson explains that the delay of gratification can be compared to a bargain with reality.  I can do something now-like lift weights-to create a future that I want to exist-being strong so I can drive my enemies before me and hear the lamentations of their women.  No single weightlifting session makes me strong, it’s the sum of them that create the future state.  But my actions, like magic, create a different future.

Honestly, Conan the Destroyer was better than this one.  But the music was sublime.

As we begin the religious parallelism – the future is a “judgmental father” that wants you to sacrifice now, for a potential future gain.  Sacrifice what, exactly?  What limits are there to the sacrifice?

Maybe everything?

Peterson:  “If the world you are seeing not the world you want, therefore, it’s time to examine your values.  It’s time to rid yourself of your current presuppositions.  It’s time to let go.  It might even be time to sacrifice what you love best, so that you can become who you might become, instead of staying who you are.”

Powerful.  And think to the parallel construction of God sacrificing Jesus to transform the human race.  Just as Cain and Able had a sacrifice war, as Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son, God swaps the equation and makes a sacrifice for us, so that we might be saved.

But, Peterson returns to Cain.  Cain sacrifices.  And sacrifices.  And sacrifices.  And God says:  “meh.”  So Cain kills.  And that is the tragedy.  Cain was not necessarily evil before he became a murder, but Dr. Peterson observes: “. . . convictions must die – must be sacrificed – when the relationship with God has been disrupted.”

In this battle between the now and the future, proper action must be based on honesty, and generosity that is aimed at producing actions that make the world better – actions with meaning.

Rule 8:  Tell The Truth, Or At Least Don’t Lie

I’ve mentioned (in some other post) before about The Mrs., and how I promised her (and, more importantly, me) that I would never lie to her.  It gave me the power/ability/responsibility to bet truthful.  “Do these pants make my butt look big?” is a question that she’s never asked me.

It’s almost as freeing as a superpower – the freedom to always be honest.  One time in the B.C. (before cellphones) I was late coming home from work.  Really late.  It just so happens that the governor of the state of Alaska (not Palin, Murkowski) was next door talking to my boss.  And there were at least three television stations broadcasting.  I stayed until they left, and then went home:

The Mrs.:  “Why are you late?”

John Wilder:  “Governor, television stations, all next door talking to my boss – and I didn’t want all the ladies in Fairbanks to come knock down our door chasing me?”

The Mrs.:  “Okay.”

No questions, no disbelief.  Just . . . “ok.”

And, as I’ve said before, if I told The Mrs. that aliens took me time travelling to go dancing with Marilyn Monroe, Gary Busey and Cleopatra, well, she’d at least believe that I believed that.  She might think I was as nuts as Busey, but she wouldn’t think me deceitful or doubt my sincerity.

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Dr. Jordan Peterson:  “What should you do when you don’t know what to do?  Tell the truth.”

Peterson is a Truth absolutist.  He believes (in opposition to Post-Modernist thought) that there is Truth.  All things are not shades of gray.  There is Truth.  Additionally, speech that’s spin – meant to manipulate you?  It’s a lie, too.

Life sucks.  It’s going to be hard.  But to make it Hell?  You need to add lies.

Why not lie?  It contaminates everything.  Small lies become big lies.  Which infect and overwhelm everything . . . it gets to a situation where “. . . lies have destroyed the relationship between individual or state and reality itself.”

The pain from lying isn’t all outward – if you lie, your character is injured, and when life gets rough (as it will) you won’t have character to support you – only lies.  And lies hurt you in a different way – they create a victim mentality in you.  You believe that the world should conform to the lies that you have even begun to tell yourself, and when the world doesn’t?  You blame the world instead of yourself.  You create a victim narrative to explain it all.

What’s the benefit of telling truth?

Peterson:  “Truth reduces the terrible complexity of man into the simplicity of his word, so that he may become a partner.”

And that’s a pretty good reason to tell the truth.

And the truth is?  Peterson likes Trailer Park Boys, but probably not as much as I do.  Here’s a bit of Bubbles doing Bowie.  Enjoy.  Next Friday we’ll conclude this review, and maybe dismember some Ewoks®?

Jordan Peterson’s Cannon Lobster and 12 Rules for Life Review

“This is Peterson, your new replacement.” – Idiocracy

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The Texans had a cannon, the lobsters did not.  Therefore?  The lobsters lost control of vast swaths of Texas very quickly.  Except the Alamo.  The lobsters won there. 

Here is the first of three posts on Dr. Jordan Peterson’s newly released bestseller, “12 Rules for Life.”  The second post is here (LINK). The final post is here (LINK).  There’s a link to the book on Amazon down below.  I don’t (as of this writing) get anything if you buy it there, but that might change over time.  Regardless, buy the book.  Jordan Peterson is amazing.

Peterson puts more ideas into a five minute YouTube video excerpt from a lecture than most college courses do.  Dr. Peterson is unfailingly moral and gutsy.  He is willing to share uncomfortable facts and naked truth, which is anathema to those that would prefer the safety of soft and pretty lies.  He is unfailingly polite.  And blunt.  And I’d be fascinated to see him with a glass or two of wine in him.

Dr. Peterson’s work is based on decades of study combined with a keen intellect and countless hours of work as a clinical psychologist helping people with everything from addiction to performance measurement and enhancement.  He has earned his wisdom.

Jordan Peterson is Dangerous.  He’ll make you think new thoughts, and question your basic assumptions about who you are, and who you can be.

We need a thousand more like him.

I’ve only read a third of the book as of this writing (it was released on Tuesday), but that’s enough to get the first four rules.  By observation, the book is already in thirds – the first four rules are about an inward focus.  Rules 5-8 are about obtaining and creating control in your own life.  Rules 9-12 are about facing outwards, so my strategy of breaking this review/discussion into thirds makes sense to me.

Rule 1:  Stand Up Straight with Your Shoulders Back

This is also the first lesson in super hero school, except they add “and put your clenched fists on your hips, and stare up at a waving American flag.”  See, Dr. Peterson and I just saved you $75 in superhero school tuition.

This is actually awesome advice, even as weird as it sounds, since adopting this pose will immediately make you feel better, more powerful and more in control of your own life.

Huh?

Yeah.  And the secret is buried 350,000,000 years back into the past.  As Dr. Peterson notes, that far back there weren’t even trees on land.

But there was serotonin.

How do we known this?  Crunchy, tasty lobsters whose life diverged from ours 350,000,000 years ago.  Turns out that lobsters have social status, and those who have good status produce more serotonin.  And a big lobster that wins the big lobster fight?  A big boost of serotonin.  One of the same, powerful brain chemicals in humans.

The loser?  The loser of the big lobster fight, well no serotonin for him.  He has to settle for having his brain melt so it can rewire itself because it literally cannot cope with his new, lower status.  And you thought you were depressed after losing the annual Christmas Monopoly game to your snot-nosed nephew who still has a lisp.

Serotonin, winning, losing and social hierarchy have been around forever. Prozac® works on lobsters to make them less depressed.

But the winning lobster wins even more and becomes more dominant.  If he were a person, he’d be setting himself up for a successful career.

Because loser lose. And they pay for it.  They’re sicker, they die earlier, and they have a lower likelihood of producing offspring.

Dr. Peterson then references Price’s law – Price’s law pertains to the relationship between the literature on a subject and the number of authors in the subject area, stating that half of the publications come from the square root of all contributors.

Winners win.  He brought up classical music.  Half of classical music played is from four composers:  Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky.  And only a small number of the songs from those four are the most beloved songs in classical music.  The same principle explains why Jeff Bezos is planning to create an Amazonian Interstellar Empire while you can’t afford to pay your car insurance bill this month.  Winning is awesome.

It’s so awesome that if you win?  You live longer.  You’re healthier.  You enjoy life more.  You’re confident.  And you have all the serotonin and PEZ® that you could want.

And we can’t all be Bezos.  But we can stand up straight like a hero.  It will make you feel better, stronger, and just adopting that confident pose will help spike your serotonin and stop your lobster-brain from melting into loser configuration.

Back to Peterson:  “To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept the terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open.”

And back to Wilder:  “I want to go out of this world as I came into it – screaming and covered in someone else’s blood.”  (This apparently is from Sniper: Reloaded, per the Internet, but I’m going to pretend I wrote it.)

Rule 2:  Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible for Helping

This chapter has a fairly long digression on Order and Chaos.  Interesting, philosophical, but Dr. Peterson could have anchored it more firmly to the Rule.  I’m not complaining, but I’m not going to talk as much about it since it was rather obliquely tied to the rest of everything going on in the chapter.  This chapter probably could have used a bit more ruthless editing.  Again, great stuff, just needed to tie it all up in a bow.  Dr. Peterson:  I volunteer if you need a hand next time!

Back to the Rule:

Think of how you talk to yourself when you look in the mirror or have just screwed up.  It’s horrible.  And if a friend talked to you EVEN ONE TIME as much as you berate yourself?  You’d cut them out of your life pretty quickly.  But it’s much messier when it’s you treating you like that, because you can’t tell you that you never want to see you again.  Just not practical.  Unless you’re an old timey vampire and your reflection can’t be seen in a mirror.

I digress.

Other takeaways:

On “protecting kids” from this chapter . . . you can’t keep them away from the evil of the world so . . . “It is far better to render Beings in your care competent than to protect them.”  Why anything less for yourself?

Peterson has several powerful questions at the end of this chapter, an example:  “What might my life be like if I were caring for myself properly?”  And no, I won’t list them all.  Buy the book.

Rule 3:  Make Friends with People Who Want the Best for You

Thoroughly enjoyable chapter, with all of the backstory that you’d expect in a superhero origin movie.  Reading Peterson’s version of his adolescence brought memories of mine back, as we both grew up in rather small, remote, cold places.  And, no, that doesn’t refer to our father’s hearts.  It ends with a friend that couldn’t be saved – because the friend didn’t want to be saved.

I’ve had a great friend walk down the drug path, where they’d do and say anything to get more money to buy more drugs.  Did I want the best for him?  Sure!  Did I try to help?  Absolutely.  But the last night he was in my car was the night he snorted coke in it.  And the reason why I didn’t lend him anymore money was he never paid me back the $75 that I lent him.  Oh, he paid me back, he said.  Left it under my front door mat.

I didn’t have a front door mat.

And friendships are reciprocal.  I was promoted at work (years ago) and placed in the partially uncomfortable position of managing the people who had been my peers, sometimes for years.  One of them was Willie.  Willie was a certified genius.  When he was a summer college intern, he (and all the other interns) were offered 3% of anything they could save the company.

He saved them three million dollars.

They gave him a cool computer and a check for several thousand dollars.  But not $30,000 to an intern.

So, I’m in the position where I’m supposed to lead Willie.

He kept coming in late to work.  It made sense because the people that he mainly worked with were several timezones west.  He’d get in later in the morning, and stay until 7pm or 8pm.  Makes sense, right?

Not to the company president.  “He’s late again.”

Oh, man.  First time leading a department and Willie was going to sink me.

“Willie, you’re killing your career.  The president of the company is on my back.”  The president was six layers of management above me.

“I don’t care.”

“Willie, you’re killing me.  They’re going to fire me if you keep coming in late.”

“Oh.”

And Willie was never late again.

A friend?  Absolutely.  We still talk to this day, even though we haven’t worked together in well over a decade.  If I needed to borrow silly amounts of money?  Yeah.  I could do that with a group of at least seven friends.  Find those people.

Surround yourself with people who will not stand for you hurting yourself, and would do anything to avoid hurting you.  Avoid those who you are friends with only out of loyalty, and whose motives are suspect.  Lies?  Deal breaker.

One of the things I love about Dr. Peterson is that he’ll quote Homer Simpson.  And Dostoevsky.  In the same chapter.   And he does it in this thoroughly enjoyable chapter.

Rule 4:  Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday, Not Who Someone Else Is Today

The Internet makes it easy to compare any aspect of yourself to the best of seven billion people.  And you’re not one of them.  Someone is smarter.  Someone is richer (unless your name is Bezos) and someone plays better guitar than you.  If you get caught up in making these comparisons, you’re always going to lose.

And we’re not wired that way.  We’re wired to know about 150 people really well and trust them.  We can get to trusting larger numbers (through various means) but the competition for best storyteller was once a village-wide event, not a world-wide event.  It’s not really hard to be strongest out of 150 people.  It’s not really hard to be one of the best singers.

But today?  At the touch of a button I can make myself feel inadequate by comparing myself against tons of different people.

Peterson:  “Who cares if you’re the PM of Canada when someone else is the president of the United States?”

But the only real competition for me is me.  Am I getting better?  Am I pushing myself to be the best Wilder I can be?  And are the people really happier?  Was Tom Petty (LINK) happier than me?  In a hobby, I sometimes look to see what happened to famous people who I envied in my youth.  Almost universally, I turn out ahead of them.  And many of them are dead, youthful, untimely deaths.  Tom Petty or me – who has it better?  Me.

Realize that you can strongly influence your daily progress.  Do you want to be CEO?  Really?  Probably not.  80 hour weeks every week probably aren’t your thing.  Understand how your talents can best be used, and then work like hell at being the best you possible, because competing against seven billion?  That’s going to kill you.

So will fighting a giant radioactive lobster with a cannon . . . more on Peterson next Friday.

I’ve written more about Peterson’s ideas here (LINK), here (LINK), and here (LINK).  Click on them if you love Truth.

40 Things You Should Know.

“That’s a short list. That can’t be everyone you want to kill. Are you sure you’re not forgetting someone?” – Game of Thrones

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The W3 stands for Wilder, Wealthy, and Wise.  Get it???  Thanks, Dawn!

So, I’ve not done a list.  But, why not?  Jordan Peterson did one (reference LINK and LINK and LINK), so I figured I could do one, too.  Enjoy!

  1. Tell the truth. This will have the beneficial added benefit of changing your behavior so you’re not ashamed of what you do.    The whole truth.  Even about that.  And that.  People might not like you, but they’ll respect you.
  2. Showing up on time is important. It shows respect.  It also is easy to track, if you’re a boss wanting to get rid of people.  Even if you do a great job, you’ll be the first to go if you show up late.  Unless you bring doughnuts, and, honestly, that wears thin after a while.
  3. Don’t give up. How close were you to break-out success when you gave up?  Even Johnny Depp succeeded, which proves that anyone can!
  4. There are no friends like those formed in youth. There are no pretenses.  The cruel calculus of testosterone and estrogen has yet to set in.  Greed is not an issue.
  5. Be nice. Life is already really hard for some people.  Don’t be their villain, unless it pays really well, and even then karma is . . . tough.
  6. When you speak, you own the space between the words. You have the ability to turn your words into something amazing, since infinite possibility lies between one word and the next.
  7. Don’t do things you hate, or things that make you feel like a failure. Putting yourself in situations like that is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  8. Apologize.  But only when you are wrong, which, if you read this blog, is rarely.  Never apologize unless you were clearly and completely wrong.
  9. Be of value. If you don’t contribute, you’re part of the problem.  Which problem?  All of them.
  10. Don’t make yourself into a victim. Almost everybody is where they are because of their choices.  Own your choices, and own your outcomes.  No one likes victims.
  11. If you really are a victim? Act like you’re not.  Because even if deserved?  No one likes victims.  And if you have enemies?  They’re mad because you’re living well.
  12. Opportunity is found where responsibility is neglected.
  13. Solve someone else’s biggest problem – that’s the road to wealth.
  14. Remember, giving someone something creates a debt in their mind. The larger the gift, the bigger the debt.  And nobody likes someone they owe a lot of money to.
  15. If you don’t want to go to bed because you don’t want to get up tomorrow? Fix your life.
  16. Have children and have them early. But only if you have a spouse.  And can keep your spouse.
  17. Cooking your own food is cheaper. And it gives time for conversation.  Some of the best conversations occur around the barbeque grill and the deck late into the night.
  18. Be tough when you have to be. To be kind when toughness is required results in tragedy.
  19. A pleasure repeated too often becomes a punishment, unless it’s Game of Thrones®.
  20. Beware of ignoring public opinion. Public opinion resulted in witch burning, the guillotine and Hula Hoops®.  You don’t want to be on the wrong side of opinion at the wrong time.
  21. Don’t see conspiracy when simple laziness, plain stupidity, or normal greed would explain the situation just as well.
  22. Schools used to be run by school boards. Now they’re run by unions and lawsuits – none of these groups have the students in mind.
  23. You don’t win ‘em all. If you’re the Cleveland Browns®, you lose most all of them.
  24. You are the sum of your experience, your intellect, your body, your surroundings, and the people you interact with. You also control your own change.  So, get up.    The you of today isn’t ready for tomorrow unless the you of today is changing to meet those challenges.
  25. Betrayal of trust is often unforgivable. Never trust someone who betrays you.  Forgive?  Maybe.  Trust?  Nope.
  26. Real changes don’t happen until an emotional experience occurs.
  27. You have your shot – would have and could have don’t exist. (Unless the Many Worlds Theory of quantum mechanics is correct, in which case all things happen, so have another beer.)
  28. The best (and maybe only) way to win at gambling is to own a casino.
  29. No matter how awesome your idea, it has no value unless you make it real. This takes risk, execution, and work.  Which is a lot more difficult than talking about your wonderful idea.
  30. Unless your boss is a good boss, your being younger and smarter than him won’t impress him, it will make him jealous or fearful. Neither of those things are good.
  31. Know the strengths and weaknesses of your (biological) parents. You’re not too much different than them.  At best, you can avoid their weaknesses.  At worst, you’ll follow every one if their downsides.
  32. Tip well, if you can afford it. Waiting on tables is tough work.  And if you do tip well?  They’ll remember you and take care of you.  It’s nice to show up and find the right bottle of wine waiting for you.
  33. You’re not going to win the lottery. Unless it’s the one that Shirley Jackson wrote about. (LINK)
  34. If you’re travelling in winter, travel on the top half of your gas tank. It doesn’t cost any more.
  35. Keep your napkin in your lap while at the dinner table.
  36. Always use deodorant.  And if in doubt?  Have a breath mint, too.
  37. Keep in touch with people who have helped you, so you can help them. And because you’re a person.
  38. If you have too much stuff – your stuff will own you. Except books.  You can have as many of those as you want.
  39. The only way that you can know another person across centuries is to read what they’ve written. Have you written anything worthy of reading by your great-great grandchildren?  No?  Get to work.
  40. You’re going to die, and we all die alone.  Understand that the only person with you throughout your life is . . . you.  Be prepared to keep yourself alive in any emergency you can imagine.  Otherwise you’ll never see the end of Game of Thrones®.

Superpowers, Stress, Ben Franklin’s Nails

“I’m not stressed beyond the stress induced by telling you how stressed I am.” – House

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The Boy took this selfie.  Not sure what he was upset about.  Maybe it was the stock market? 

I think too much.  I know, I know, it hurts.  The Mrs. tells me I should just relax and not think so much.  But perhaps my superpower is that I think about the future, so to not think about the future would be like Superman® not flying or Aquaman™ not . . . talking to fish, or whatever it is that he does.

To me, the future is a set of probabilities, branching at intervals.  And what I can do is imagine branches from decisions in the past reaching into the future, starting at the single, solid limb of now, and moving forward, getting smaller, as larger probabilities stay thicker, but smaller possibilities branch out into tiny limbs.

The tiny limbs are real, though, and they represent things that can happen based upon both the choices made today as well as some element of chance (either random or not).

As we’ve discussed in the past, Taleb taught us that all probabilities and all risks aren’t equal (LINK).  And Seneca said it’s always easier for things to come crashing down than to hold them together (LINK).

 

But we are active in creating our future.  I can place myself (mentally) in that future to understand what that situation looks like.  I can imagine a future where I cooked a cherry pie.  I can then map it out and see what I can do now to make a better then.  Like buy whipped cream for the top.  And I can imagine a future where we’ve all forgotten about Warrant:

Is it wrong that sometimes I sing the lyrics “She’s a hairy guy?”  I swear this isn’t about Jenner.

My Superpower is a little like chess, but with more showering than the last chess tournament I was in.  Also, the variables are not as well-known as chess, but in most cases I’ve done really well with at work and at life with this ability, though I cannot yet hover or make adamantium claws spring out from my knuckles, which would be even better superpowers than fish-talking.

But when we finally get to a decision point, most of the time it’s like coming home to a place I’d already been on my imaginary branch so I’m generally not surprised.

One advantage to this power is that I look at the risks around me on a regular basis and try to figure out ways around them, measures that mitigate them, or better yet, insurance that I can get that allows someone else to take the risk (insurance is not always an Allstate® product, sometimes it’s a contract where somebody else owns a risk, which can often be gotten for asking).

Of the things I do at work (besides being snarky and obscure), this is probably the best one.  Way better than my coffee consumption skill, though I’ve been told that’s legendary.

And frankly, I like the pressure when the ball is in my hand and I have the ability to think, to perform and to achieve.  I like the odds on me performing well, because I think like this:

 Diz ſagent uns die wîſen, ein nagel behalt ein îſen, ein îſen ein ros, ein ros ein man, ein man ein burc, der ſtrîten kan.

-Freidank (Which is a dude’s name.) via Wikipedia

I know, a knee-slapper, right?

The English version of that is:

The wise tell us that a nail keeps a shoe, a shoe a horse, a horse a man, a man a castle, that can fight. – Now a translated Freidank, still via Wikipedia

And, know that Freidank lived in 1230 A.D., long before Ben Franklin collected a version in his book “The Way to Wealth” that most of us are more familiar with:

For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.

Thinking this way is stressful, but not the bad kind of stress, but rather the excitement, the exhilaration of having a real problem, a meaningful problem to be solved.  Are there exciting challenges?  Sure!  Are there horrible, frustrating setbacks?  Also, sure.  But when everything comes together and we light up the cigars to celebrate, it more than makes up for anything “stressful” along the way.

A Stanford® professor (LINK) has been doing research and agrees.  “Good” stress is . . . not bad for you, and, in fact, may help you perform at your peak.  It’s a challenge.

That same article noted that stress was bad mainly if you thought it was bad.  If you thought it was okay, exciting, just a challenge?  It tended to not have the bad long-term consequences we associated with stress: the heart attacks, the stress hormones, the late night peanut butter and tuna sandwiches, etc.

But for me, the downside of this thinking was still this thinking.

I can see bad things.

My job (in many cases) has been literally looking at the worst case and pulling back from there.  I once looked at tornado frequency in the Midwest, and made a half-hearted attempt to quantify the likelihood of civil war changing our government (this was only for about six months of my career, but it was an interesting six months).  Since that was my job and I got paid to do it, it tended to bleed over into home life, so I thought about worst case scenarios even when I was off the clock, and related them to myself and my family.  The upside?  The last time we needed duct tape, paracord, a socket set, and a knife on a family trip (this really happened) we had it in the emergency kit in the trunk.  I only wish I had packed the goatskin – we could have used that.

So I think.  It used to be worst at night when I was ready to go to sleep.  The possibilities would branch out and I would end up going down decision/probability trees (of my own personal life) and, being night and all, often end up in some dark places.  I’d start with, say, needing to pay the mortgage, and then end up penniless and panhandling to pay for new shingles after a storm that never happened.  Yeah.  Silly.  Now I play the radio so other people think and I can listen – it distracts me so I don’t end up on paranoid rabbit trails.

The downside of this is that thinking down chains of causation, I used to build up a big amount of worry in a hurry about personal stuff.  It’s not that I’m scared of the future, it’s that the future can be so uncertain – understanding that a risk exists doesn’t tell you very much about the risk.  For that, experience and mathematics are key, but we’ll have that on a Monday post some week.

One thing leads to another, and I ended up with?  Stress.

Not the good kind.  I’d worry about aspects of my future that were difficult to control.  Research indicates that the key to removal of stress in life is having control.  In psychological speak, believing that most outcomes depend on things that you can do and control is called an “internal locus of control” and is just a fancy way to show that you like having the ball in your hands on a 4th and five with 30 seconds left on the clock.  You believe you control your own outcomes.

So I turned parts of that into challenges.  I challenged myself to have enough money so that I didn’t have to worry about next week’s mortgage, or even next year’s mortgage.  I took my money stress and put it in my hands, and thankfully had the opportunities to make sufficient money that I’m not scared about tomorrow.  I did my best to take what was a (bad) stress and turn it into a good pressure to achieve.

Tough times along the way?  Yeah.  But way more wins than losses.

I think that’s why it’s exhilarating to quit a job – it’s the ultimate demonstration of control when you can move to a situation where you think you’ll be happier.

I think that (in part) is what Jordan Peterson means (LINK) when he says “clean your room” – take control of some facet of your own life so that you feel you’re able to fix your own situation before you burn out.

I’ve switched from being fixated at looking down long dark halls and now I see the light coming in from the side rooms.  And I like to think that I take some time to play there – because on a long enough timeline, all of our mortality rates are 1.0.

And I’m committed to taking control and ownership of my issues.  Like Mark Twain said, “Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.”  And, as I noted on an earlier post, that’s at least part of what keeps me writing.  I’m taking control, taking the garbage out, and making sure I have enough nails.

Somebody might need that horse after all.  Better yet?

Let’s saddle up Ben.

For heaven’s sake, if you’re really stressed out, go see a doctor, not an Internet humorist!

Jordan Peterson, Success, Bruce Campbell, and Roman Emperors

Discovery Channel© has Shark Week™, and at Wilder, Wealthy and Wise® we are lucky enough to have Dr. Jordan Peterson Week©.  This is the third of three posts on Dr. Jordan Peterson – his website is here (LINK). My first post on Dr. Peterson can be found here (LINK), and the second post here (LINK).

 

“Jamie, how many 29 year old record company presidents operate out of their mom’s trailers? Know what I’m sayin’?”- J-Roc’s Mom, “Trailer Park Boys

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Oil Tank Dennis Quaid (playing Sam Houston) knows a little bit about Oil Tank success, starting his own Oil Tank country and all.

I had intended on just doing three posts this year on Dr. Peterson, but will probably do updates from time to time, since his ideas are stone-cold interesting and I think I could do six weeks of posts on those ideas without repeating myself, but if I did that we’d just have to hand over the reins to Jordan, and I own the domain name, and I don’t think he’d share the revenues.

Elon Musk almost always has something going on, too.

Monthly updates about these guys?  We’ll see.

(By the way, Elon, GOOD JOB dumping Amber Heard, she’s really not worth a Prius®, dude.  I’m telling you – she is trouble and likely a Terminator® sent by James Cameron from the future to mess with your Mars (LINK) plan.  You dodged a bullet!!!)

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Now a 100,000% better with no Amber Heard. (image, Wikipedia)

But this is Wealthy Wednesday, and Dr. Peterson has a lot to say about success (and, it seems, almost everything else), which is reasonable given the unreasonable amount of success that he’s had, especially recently.

Today we’re going back to those forty points that Peterson laid out on Quora (LINK) in response to the question “What are the most valuable things everyone should know?”  In the analysis on Truth last post (LINK), Dr. Peterson had 16 out of 40 points that related in some way to Truth (I know, we could quibble, was it 15 or 17, but why quibble, since we’re friends?).  Are there any of the 40 points that speak to success?

Yes.  Dr. Peterson speaks on things I consider to be huge when it comes to a deep, meaningful success that combines significance with economic success.  I mean, why would you want a Justin Bieber-level success if you could have success that mattered, like Bruce Campbell?

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A perfect gift for any occasion!

Peterson has several videos on YouTube® that directly tackle important personal development points that lead to success:  fear (and how to overcome it), the importance of having a routine, where to find the freshest and plumpest Pez®, and how success leads to even more success.  I encourage you to watch the videos.

But going back to the 40 points.  Many relate to behaviors (behaviours in Canada, eh) that lead to success.  These are quoted below (bold) with Dr. Peterson’s gracious permission.  My commentary follows.

  • Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient. – There is always the opportunity to do things just for the moment, but when you work on what matters? That leads to long term success and value.  This means that, no, eating only appetizers doesn’t make a good dinner.  You need cake, too.
  • If you have to choose, be the one who does things, instead of the one who is seen to do things.   Do them so you how to do them.  Do them because they are meaningful.  Do them because it’s right.  Doing them just to be seen?  Yeah, we wedgied that guy in High School.  That’s the worst kind of smarmy dude.
  • Pay attention. Sorry, dozed off.  Oh, yeah.  People notice when you take them seriously, when what they say matters to you.  If you’re not present in the moment, those that are will notice.  And you’ll miss important things.  “Hang on, honey, I have to tell Google that they should lower their price to $750,000.  They want a million bucks!  Stupid college kids.”  (Yes, that really happened, and he did not get the deal.)
  • Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you need to know. Listen to them hard enough so that they will share it with you. There is an implied Trustworthiness in this statement.  Be worthy of their trust.  Realize that Truth is not where you look, it’s where you find it.
  • Be careful who you share good news with. Bad bosses get jealous, and even good people get jealous.  Similarly, don’t appear too good to your boss.  A boss that’s intimidated by you is not generally a rational boss.  If you have to make that calculation, beware.  Likewise, sometimes your friends get a bit tired of hearing of an endless sea of victory.  Be real to them.
  • Be careful who you share bad news with. People who don’t like you (or to whom you just represent a tool) can use that news against you.  Similarly?  Don’t share your weaknesses.  Hey, Clark Kent – your boss does NOT need to know that you’re nearsighted and break out in hives every time you’re near a little kryptonite©.  Also, your bad news might be insignificant compared to someone else’s bad news.  Your very worst day might be better than the best day of the person you’re talking too.  “Oh, my, and the caviar was nearly off!  I made do, however,” won’t go too far if the other person can barely afford to pay their chauffer and their private pilot.
  • Make at least one thing better every single place you go. The right people generally appreciate this.  They see it, and it’s obvious.  If they don’t see it?  You know, deep inside, it was the right thing.  A guy was working really hard on making a concrete footer smooth.  I pulled aside his great-great-grandboss.  “You know that’s going to be buried, right?  I’m good if it’s a bit rough.  Heck, it’s really even better if the concrete is rough.  More friction.”  Boss’s response?  “It’s his work.  The man has pride in it.  I’ll let him own it.”  What a good answer.
  • Imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that. How many days do you want to spend being the you that isn’t the best you?  The first step is imagining.  Once you’re there, Von Mises (LINK) will take over.  If you see a better you, a path to get there, and believe that your action can take you there?  Nothing can stop you.  Unless you told your boss about the whole kryptonite® thing.
  • Do not allow yourself to become arrogant or resentful. Good things will happen to you during your career.  Bad things will happen to you during your career.  People will step on you (if they can) to elevate themselves over you.  You’ll forget the contributions of great team members.  Focus on this:  You’re never as good as people think, or as bad.  You have had amazing help through your life.  “Don’t spend time hating the situation.  The situation doesn’t care.” (Marcus Aurelius, probably)

Marcus

Unknown Sculptor, Pierre-Selim (Self-photographed) [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Why is it that when I wear a toga to work that they think I’m a little off?  Marcus rocked his!

  • Work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens. This implies that you’re going to get rid of the fear of failure.  If you try, really hard, and fail, what will happen?  Mainly, nobody notices, except you.  And you get stronger.  It has been my experience that the harder I work at something, the better I get.  And sometimes I achieve results that are beyond anything I ever could have expected.  And other things fail, but I learn a little bit more each time.
  • Maintain your connections with people. Outside of graffiti artists, The Mrs., and Keanu Reeves, most of us don’t work alone.  Most of us depend on others to make us better, make us stronger.  There’s a natural pull for certain people (introverts and those under stress) to pull back, mainly when they need other people the most.
  • Do not carelessly denigrate social institutions or artistic achievement. The stupid form you just filled out?  Yeah, somebody had to design it, and they had a reason.  See if you can make the form better, after understanding why it even exists.
  • Nothing well done is insignificant. There is the possibility of beauty in the most mundane and base of tasks – cleaning a microwave oven can be significant, especially when it’s done well.  I can show you the fulfillment you will get from cleaning a microwave.  See you at my house on Saturday?  Only a minimal charge for this lesson.  (H/T M. Twain)
  • Dress like the person you want to be. True enough.  Some days I’m Homer Simpson.  I would just love to be involved in those wacky adventures!  Danger point:  If you work at a construction company and dress like an investment banker you will be mocked.
  • Be precise in your speech. Meaning is important, and certain people follow only concrete statements.  Precision in a concrete fashion is especially important to them – their brains don’t understand exaggeration for effect.  Likewise, when someone asks you a yes or no question?  Answer yes or no before you explain the answer.  They might not care why.  And precision in speech leads to truth.
  • Stand up straight with your shoulders back. Posture feeds directly into mindset and emotion, and in guys pumps testosterone up when done right.  Standing tall and strong like a superhero, hands on hips?  Yeah, you’ll feel like a superhero, and being a superhero is a great way to get important things done.  Especially if “things” is slicing up people with metal claws.
  • Don’t avoid something frightening if it stands in your way — and don’t do unnecessarily dangerous things. Bosses hate fear and like courage (good bosses).  They also understand risk.  They like it when you take appropriate
  • Notice that opportunity lurks where responsibility has been abdicated. There will be times when you will see something undone.  Do it.  It will be noticed.
  • Be grateful in spite of your suffering. Nobody likes a whiner or wants to spend time with a whiner.  Nobody wants to hear a whiner whine except his enemy.  Everyone suffers.  To repeat myself, your worst day is better than someone’s best day.  Act like it.

Dr. Peterson is doing more than writing about success, he’s quarterbacked creation of a software suite called “Self Authoring,” (LINK).  Note that I am not as of this writing date getting paid if you sign up.  I’ll let you know if that changes.

The concept behind Self Authoring is to work through issues – fix yourself – by revisiting and writing about events in the past that were particularly difficult for you or in some way may be holding you back.  Additionally, there’s a focus on writing a future as well to create a meaningful goal or set of goals to work for, sort of an anti-nihilism pill.

Bill Gates probably doesn’t need this.  Those who are able to be pretty clear of their past and are able to perform at a high level already based on solid future goals are probably not the target market, though Dr. Peterson did say that one driving factor in designing and creating this tool was from requests by companies for ways to help their high performing employees perform on an even higher level.

When people write about their painful past, people experience long term positive impacts (compared to a control group).  Likewise, another group constructed and wrote about their future, and had similar impacts (when compared to the control group).  I have theories about everything, but I wonder if confronting past trauma made them braver?  I wonder if it allowed them to really examine what happened in context and they were able to trace the impacts to their present state?

In the end, Self Authoring is consistent with Peterson’s maxim – you have to fix yourself.

I wonder if that’s part of the mission of this blog?  I know that Orthodixie (LINK) (another blogger from my past, an Orthodox Priest with a Carolina accent, and no, I’m not making that up) and I would talk about how blogging let us mentally, “take out the trash,” and how much better we felt after we’d gotten something out on paper, even something unrelated to the things that were bothering us.  I’ll probably give the Self Authoring program a try.  I’ll let you know how it works out . . . but get yourself a Priest as a drinking buddy if you can.  It always amused The Mrs. when I engaged him in theological debate after wine.

Me, I’m still cleaning on my room, making it a little better each day.  I know that The Mrs. is very much looking forward to me being done with that.

Dr. Jordan Peterson, Truth, and Even More Truth

This is the second of three posts on Dr. Jordan Peterson – his website is here (LINK). My first post on Dr. Peterson can be found here (LINK).  The third post can be found here (LINK).

“J-Roc raps about gangsters and guns, pimps and hos and Compton.  The guy’s not from Compton.  He’s a white kid from a trailer park.  He should rap about what he really knows which is living in his mom’s trailer eating peanut butter sandwiches.” – Trailer Park Boys

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When I think that society is too complicated, I then remember that I couldn’t even take this picture without the help of the millions of elven technicians that live in my camera.  Then I cry.

As a reminder, Dr. Peterson is a psychologist that teaches at the University of Toronto, but don’t hold that against him:  he seems to be one of the good Canadians at this point, though a bit fixated.

On what is Peterson fixated?  Dr. Peterson seems to be obsessed, and not with Pez® or Japanese tentacle pudding cups like a normal man.  No, Peterson is obsessed with the truth.  Earlier this year in response to a question on Quora, (LINK): “What are the most valuable things everyone should know?” Dr. Peterson didn’t come back with a 250 page book priced at $43.50 (I’m talkin’ about you, Dr. Tainter (LINK)) but rather a fairly simple 40 item list.  I’d suggest you go over and read it – it’s not bad.  My list would be different, but you’ll have to wait for a new post for my list – this post is all about Peterson.

I’ve often heard it said, if you want to know who someone is, just ask them.  I was reading an article on the web where these psychiatrists were attempting to figure out a test to give people to determine if they had narcissistic personality disorder.  The best test they’d yet determined was to ask them, “Are you a narcissist?”

Narcissists seem pretty proud answering, “Yes, I am!  Because I’m so awesome!”

Nice.  So, with that in mind, let’s listen to Dr. Peterson.

Dr. Peterson’s first rule is:

Tell the truth. 

Simple.  I think we all learn to lie about stuff as soon as we learn about consequences.  We all start out as horrible liars, since being three years old doesn’t exactly pop us to the top of the “able to make up good, convincing lies” chart unless your parents are very, very stupid.

After playing with lies, if we are very, very, lucky we learn that lies are really, really bad.

I’ll tell you my story, because I’m just enough of a narcissist to think you might be interested.  Because I’m that interesting.

I’ve been divorced, and can attest that divorces are very expensive because they’re worth every penny.  My first wife and I didn’t have personalities that really matched very well.  To top that, neither one of us was very good at telling the truth to each other – it was like a US-USSR arms race where, instead of stockpiles of nuclear weapons, our Cold War involved an ongoing series of falsehoods aimed at one another.  She was relieved to move out.  I was relieved when she moved out and was replaced by Boris Yeltsin (for a short time).  It took tanks and a promise of vodka to get Boris out of the house long enough to change the locks.

Regardless, I could see the impact that lies and distrust had made in my life, and I made a personal vow that, no matter what I did in the future, I would always tell anyone in a future relationship the Truth.  No lies.   And I have told the Truth, regardless of the outcome to The Mrs. since we met.  One time I called home, late, while I was still at work.  I whispered into the mouthpiece, “Can’t come home right now.  Governor of the state is in the office right next to mine, surrounded by news media, talking to my boss.”

The Mrs. only reply was, “Okay.  See you when you get here.”

By this time, we’d been married almost eight years, so, based on my constantly telling the Truth during that time, plus during every interaction before we got married, I think I could have called up and said, “Honey, been picked up by a UFO, and they have Elvis and we’re going out for ribs and beer.  Be back before 11pm.”

This may or may not be what happened to me.

She might have believed that was what was really happening, but she would certainly have believed that I thought it was the Truth.

And this has paid off during my entire relationship with The Mrs., in dividends, though certainly she knows better than to ask my opinion on anything where she doesn’t really want a True answer.  Has it caused friction?  Very rarely.  It did today, because I told her my opinion, and was told (essentially) that she didn’t want that right now.  Sometimes Truth is not what we want.

But in every case, it has led to harmony and trust.  If you have a partner who always tells you the Truth, you know you have someone who is on your team, always.

But back to Dr. Peterson.

In response to the Question on Quora, he listed 40 points.  By my count, 16 of them (40%!) dealt directly with Truth.

Here they are, quoted with permission, with my commentary:

  • Tell the truth. Discussed above.  The core of Dr. Peterson’s points.
  • Do not do things that you hate. If I were to quote Shakespeare, I’d quote Hamlet here: “To thine own self be true.”  Oh, I guess I just did.  This is Truth to self.  Your hate (if everything else is set right) will be based on the dissonance of what you’re doing and your best self.  You’re avoiding Truth by doing things you hate.
  • Act so that you can tell the truth about how you act. Directly related to the above, the idea of having to tell someone, Truthfully, what you did prevents you from doing things you would be ashamed of.  Which would include eating a whole bag of Ruffles®, unless it saved an orphan in some way.
  • Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient. Again, this is more “Truth to self.”  As my coach in high school said, “Wilder, when you cheat on those pushups, you’re just cheating yourself.”  I kid.  I never cheated on pushups in high school.  I cheated on squat-thrusts.  But, when cheat yourself from the Truth of the meaningful, you end up with the never ending squat thrusts of the expedient.
  • If you have to choose, be the one who does things, instead of the one who is seen to do things. I had a boss who was always seen doing things.  In reality, he mainly was responsible for ensuring we had a constant Internet connection, mainly by surfing for things that amused him.  But if there was a way to be seen by his boss doing the “right” thing?  He would move faster than a miniature poodle on a porkchop to get in the credit zone.  I’m pretty sure he’s never been happy, especially since his strategy is to always look good, but he has none of the skills to create great outcomes.  My corollary:  Do things, and be seen doing them.  You can have both.  But never stop doing things.
  • Imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that. Again, the theme of being Truthful to oneself continues.  But this is aimed at being Truthful to the long term you.  If you cheat that you, you’ll always have regrets, and probably termites, too.
  • Try to make one room in your house as beautiful as possible. “Who says that fictions only and false hair become a verse?  Is there in truth no beauty?”  Okay, I stole that from the poem “Jordan (I)” by George Herbert, 1593-1633.  And that’s creepy, because I only learned the poem’s name or author tonight – to me it was just the title of a sub-par Star Trek episode (the one where Spock goes temporarily blind).  But outside of the creepy factor of researching a poem to find that it has the same name as the person you’re writing about, beauty is truth, and truth is beauty.  The elegance of pure math.  The sudden discovery of a True thing.  The Wilder corollary to this one:  ugly things around your house steal your energy.  Fix them.
  • Work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens. Again, Truth to self.  I have seen people with amazing skills and talents just stop on their way upward – because they are afraid to fail.  I’ve done that myself, until a very visionary leader told me, after I’d explained what he wanted was hard to do, “Wilder, just do it.”  Nine times out of ten when he told me that, I achieved it.  The tenth?  He got fired.  But he got a severance package worth about $1.4 million.
  • Do not carelessly denigrate social institutions or artistic achievement. There is truth in beauty.  There is also truth in the stable social constructs that have created wealth, peace, and Pez® for thousands of years.  Tear them down?  It’s easy.  But can you tear them down and put up something even better?  Probably not.  Can you make them better?
  • Make friends with people who want the best for you. Again, Truth is your primary commodity here.  Friends who want the best for and from you will tell you the Truth.  Others won’t.  One time I saw the head of operations for a company walk down the hall with about three feet of toilet paper trailing behind his waistband, top center behind, like a big, white, fluffy skunk tail.  Nobody else saw him.  I didn’t tell him when he walked out of his office, somewhat flushed and embarrassed.  He made small talk until he realized I wasn’t going to say, “Hey, saw your toilet paper tail and I’m going to tell everybody!”  And I didn’t tell the office.  He was a nice guy.
  • Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world. How is it possible that you have the answer to world peace, and there’s a towel on the floor in your room?  Or your son hates you?    Thought so.  Fix the things around you so you understand the Truth required to fix the world about you.  I’m still working on cleaning my room, so, my advice is suspect.
  • Be precise in your speech. Precision in speech means . . . you say exactly what you say you mean.  Which is?    The Truth.  And if you go back to Orwell, removing words, or making them mean things they don’t removes the ability to even make certain arguments through language, so at some point the Truth isn’t even possible to utter anymore.
  • Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.  By not teaching Truth to your children you cripple them to find Truth on their own. And finding Truth by yourself is harder than finding a clean spot on Johnny Depp’s sink.  As smart as your children might be, they are not wise, and need you to guide them through Truth so they might find Wisdom, and through Wisdom enough money to pay for your retirement home some future day.
  • Do not hide unwanted things in the fog. We try to hide Truth from ourselves every day.  We look in the mirror and manage to not see what anyone else in the world can plainly see.  While there is no reason that you have to tell the world your deepest regrets, you should at least be able to see them and understand that they are True.
  • Read something written by someone great. Great people write Truth, that’s why what they write is great.  The more profound the Truth, generally, the simpler.  But a great writer can, in 200 pages, take you on a journey that wraps you around and through a path where you walk to Truth.
  • Remember that what you do not yet know is more important than what you already know. As much as we search for the Truth, we learn more every day.

Here is a Peterson theme:  Truth in a Post-Modernist context is always relative and always the product of the culture that created it.  It ceases to be objective Truth, and becomes a relative truth.  From the points above, you might predict that Peterson would reject Post-Modernism because it denies the very existence of Truth.  And you would be right.

The battle lines are set: Modernism vs. Post-Modernism and the very existence of Truth.

What amazes me is that it is clearly explicable in our world that there are objective facts that are True, yet in a Post-Modernist viewpoint, nope, not so.  Therein lies the ultimate fight between Peterson and Post-Modernism – Peterson is on the side of Truth, and his opponents deny that Truth even exists.

There are too many points, too many places where Truth is not the relative product of a culture to even begin to argue that truth doesn’t exist.  (If you must have an example:  there is a force we call gravity that causes mass to clump together.  Truth.  Gravity is not a social construct.  There are cultural Truths as well, but I’m not going to open that can of worms with this post.)

So, I’ll allow that the narcissistic side of my personality is pretty sure that you’ve enjoyed this, but the Truthful side knows that you did.

As for me?  I’m with Dr. Peterson.  Go with the Truth.  It’s a winner.