Some Notes From 12 Rules For Life

Furkan Topal
13 min readDec 21, 2020


“Stand up straight with your shoulders back”

“…, if someone challenged or corrected him he really seemed to like it” (on the foreword Dr. Norman telling about Peterson)

“Sometimes it seems the only people willing to give advice in a relativistic society are those with least to offer.”

“The idea that human life can be free of moral concerns is a fantasy.”

“It also applies to the population of cities (a very small number have almost all the people), the mass of heavenly bodies (a very small number hoard all the matter), and the frequency of words in a language (90 percent of communication occurs using just 500 words), among many other things.” (Price’s law)

“Mark Twain once said, “It’s not what we don’t know that gets us in trouble. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.”

“The acts of life must be turned into stable and reliable habits, so they lose their complexity and gain predictability and simplicity.”

“Our anxiety systems assume that anything you run away from is dangerous.” (Mentioned how an agoraphobic woman started as avoiding from going to the mall and she ended up in a situation that she can’t even leave her house even though she started to fear from her own house as well.)

“…,people are bullied because they won’t fight back.”

“Circumstances change, and so can you.”

“Standing up means voluntarily accepting the burden of Being.”“Speak your mind. Put your desired forward as if you had a right to them- at least the same right as others.”

“…Then the meaning of your life may be sufficient to keep the corrupting influence of mortal despair at bay. Then you may be able to accept the terrible burden of the World, and find joy.”


“Treat yourself like you are someone you are responsible for helping”

“…That journey into darkness and rescue is the most difficult thing a puppet most do, if he wants to be real; if he wants to extract himself from the temptations of deceit and acting and victimization and impulsive pleasure and totalitarian subjugation; if he wants to take his place as genuine Being in the world.” (Pinocchio allegory)

“Chaos is mater, origin, source, mother; materia, the substance from which all things are made.”

“So even the ultimate in safe spaces inevitably harbours a snake.” (heaven allergory)

“In that extreme case, the too-cautious, too-caring parent merely substitutes him or herself for the other terrible problems of life. This is the great Freudian Oedipal nightmare. It is far better to render Beings in your care competent than to protect them.”

“…Only man will inflict suffering for the sake of suffering. That is the best definition of evil I have been able to formulate. Animals can’t manage that… And who can deny the sense of existential guilt that pervades human experience? And who could avoid nothing that without that guilt- a man is one step from psychopathy?”

“…I believe that the person who claims never to have wished for such a thing has neither consulted his memory nor confronted his darkness fantasies.” (Continuing above subject)

“Their goodness was something bestowed…But maybe it’s not better than, for example, goodness genuinely earned.”

“…To sacrifice ourselves to ‘highest good’ does not mean to suffer silently and willingly when some person or organization demands more from us, consistently, than is offered in return.”

“…”Happy” is by no means synonymous with “good”.”

“…You have to articulate your own principles, so that you can defend yourself against others’ taking inappropriate advantage of you, and so that you secure and safe while you work and play.”

“…You must discipline yourself carefully. You must keep the promises you make to yourself, and reward yourself, so that you can trust and motivate yourself.”


“Make friends with people who want the best for you”

“…Sometimes, when people have a low opinion of their own worth-or, perhaps, when they refuse responsibility for their lives- they choose a new acquaintance, of precisely the type who proved troublesome in the past. Such people don’t believe that they deserve any better- so they don’t go looking for it.”

“…But not everyone who is falling is a victim, and not everyone at the bottom wishes to rise, although many do, and many manage it.”

“…Before you help someone, you should find out why that person is in trouble. You shouldn’t merely assume that he or she is a noble victim of unjust circumstances and exploitation.”

“…How do I know that I am not myself merely pretending to be responsible, while pointlessly “helping” you, so that I don’t have to do something truly difficult- and genuinely possible?”

“…Rogers believed it was impossible to convince someone to change for the better. The desire to improve was, instead, the precondition for progress.”

“…People who are not aiming up will do the opposite. They will offer a former smoker a cigarette and a former alcoholic a beer.”

“…, every good example is a fateful challenge, and every hero, a judge.”


“Compare yourself with who you were yesterday, not with who someone else is today”

“..If the internal voice makes you doubt the value of your endeavours- or your life, or life itself- perhaps you should stop listening.”

“…Maybe its comments are chatter, not wisdom.”

“…In a million years, who’s going to know the difference? The proper response to that statement is not, Well, then, everything is meaningless. It’s, Any idiot can choose a frame of time within nothing matters. Talking yourself into irrelevance is not profound critique of Being. It’s a cheap trick if the rational mind.”

“…If you hadn’t decided that what you are doing right now was better than the alternatives, you wouldn’t be doing it.”

“…If something can be done at all, it can be done better or worse.”

“…Meaning itself require the difference between better and worse.”

“…But winning at everything might only mean that you’re not doing anything new or difficult.”

“…Before you can articulate your own standards of value, you must see yourself as a stranger- and then you must get to know yourself. What do you find valuable or pleasurable? How much leisure, enjoyment, and reward do you require, so you feel like more than a beast of burden?”

“…When you have something to say, silence is a lie.”

“…Could you, and would you, fix that one thing that announces itself humbly in need of repair? Could you do it now?”

“…Five hundred small decisions, five hundred tiny actions, compose your day, today and every day. Could you aim one or two of these at better result? Better, in your own private opinion, by your own individual standards? Could you compare your specific personal tomorrow with your specific personal yesterday? Could you use your own judgement, and ask yourself what that better tomorrow might be?”

“…you aim at what you value…”

“…For this reason (although not only for this reason) it is necessary to let things go during the journey uphill.”

“…life doesn’t have the problem. You do.”

“…If your life is not going well, perhaps it is your current knowledge that is insufficient, not life itself. Perhaps your value structure needs some serious retooling. Perhaps what you want is blinding you to what else could be.”

“…I will try want whatever it is that would make my life better- whatever that might be- and I will start working on it now.”

“…pursuit was something narrow and concrete. But you became stuck there, tightly jammed and unhappy. So you let go. You make the necessary sacrifice, and allow a whole new world of possibility, hidden from you because of your previous ambition, to reveal itself.”

“You are too complex to understand yourself.”

“It is instead the realization that the tragic irrationalities of life must be counterbalanced by an equally irrational commitment to the essential goodness of Being… You realize that you have, literally, nothing better to do.”

“What is it that is bothering me? Is that something I could fix? And would I actually be willing to fix it?”

“Notice your fear, and have some sympathy for it.”

“Don’t tell yourself, “I shouldn’t need to do that to motivate myself.“ What do you know about yourself?”

“Don’t over-estimate your self-knowledge.”


“Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them”

“…If society is corrupt, but not the individuals within it, then where did the corruption originate?”

“…Each person’s private trouble cannot be solved by a social revolution…”

“…an unthinking disbelief in the existence of competent power,… inability to distinguish between the chaos of immaturity and responsible freedom.”

“…It has been said that every individual is the conscious or unconscious follower of some influential philosopher.”

“…Hunter-gathers, too, are much more murderous than their urban, industrialized counterparts, despite their communal lives and localized cultures.”

“…This means that it is not just wrong to attribute all the violent tendencies of human beings to the pathologies of social structure. It’s wrong enough to be virtually backward. The vital process of socialization prevents much harm and fosters much good. Children must be shaped and informed, or they cannot thrive. This fact is reflected starkly in their behavior: kids are utterly desperate for attention from both peers and adults because such attention, which renders them effective and sophisticated communal players, is vitally necessary.

“…, that strict limitations facilitate rather that inhibit creative achievement.”

“…Violence is the default. It’s easy. It’s peace that difficult: learned, inculcated, earned… Why do people take drugs? Not a mystery. It’s why they don’t take them all the time that’s the mystery. Why do people suffer from anxiety? That’s not a mystery. How is that people can ever be calm? There’s the mystery. ”

“…When someone does something you are trying to get them to do, reward them.”

“…Scared parents think that a crying child is always sad or hurt. This is simply not true. Anger is one of the most common reason for crying.”

“…rewarding good behavior can be very effective.” (about a child)

“…she shares an anecdote about school. That’s an excellent time to pay attention. That’s the reward. Stop texting and listen. Unless you don’t want her to tell you anything ever again.” (about a child)

“…In fact, we feel more negative about a loss of a given size than we feel good about the same-sized gain. Pain is more potent that pleasure, and anxiety more than hope.”

“…If a child has not been taught to behave properly by the age of four, it will forever be difficult for him or her to make friends.” (about a child)

“…You rejected the responsibility of discipline, and justified it with a continual show of your niceness.” (about a child)

“…time out can be an extremely effective form of punishment,… come be with us as soon as you can behave properly.” (about a child)

“…If you are not acting responsibly as a parent, you’re leaving the dirty work to someone else, who will be much dirtier doing it.”

“…If their actions make you dislike them, think what an effect they will have on other people, who care much less about them than you. Those other people will punish them, severely, by omission or commission.


“Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world”

“…But people emerge from terrible pasts to do good, and not evil, although such an accomplishment can seem superhuman.”

“…nihilism (that is, the radical rejection of value, meaning and desirability)”

“…Can I stop making such mistakes, now? Can I repair the damage done by my past failures, now? … He took himself apart, piece by piece, let what was unnecessary and harmful die, and resurrected himself.”

“…If your suffering is unbearable, however, and you are starting to become corrupted, here’s something to think about… Start to stop doing what you know to be wrong. Start stopping today. Don’t waste time questioning how you know that what you’re doing is wrong, if you are certain that is…. Stop saying those things that make you weak and ashamed. Say only those things that make you strong.”

“…Don’t reorganize the state until you have ordered your own experience. Have some humility. If you cannot bring peace to your household, how dare you try to rule the city?”

“…Perhaps you will even learn to encounter them so that they stay tragic -merely tragic- instead of degenerating into outright hellishness.”

“…Perhaps your uncorrupted soul will then see its existence as a genuine good, as something to celebrate, even in the face of your own vulnerability.”

“…if we all decided to strive for the best?”


“Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)”

“…There is little difference between sacrifice and work. They are also both uniquely human.”

“…If the world you are seeing is not the world you want, therefore, it’s time to examine your values. It’s time to rid yourself of your current presuppositions.”

“…He saw that his life had been so rich and full that he could let it go, gracefully… Then he took his poison, like a man.” (Socrates’s trial)

“…There was no possibility for movement upward, in the great psychiatrist’s deeply considered opinion, without a corresponding move down. It is for this reason that enlightenment is so rare. Who is willing to do that?”

“…If a father disciplines his son properly, he obviously interferes with his freedom, particularly in the here-and-now. He puts limits on the voluntary expression of his son’s Being, forcing him to take his place as a socialized member of the world. Such a father requires that all that childish potential be funneled down a single pathway. In placing such limitations on his son, he might be considered destructive force, acting as he does to replace the miraculous plurality of childhood with a single narrow actuality. But if the father does not take such action, he merely lets his son remain Peter Pan, the eternal Boy, King of the Lost Boys, Ruler of the non-existent Neverland. That is not a morally acceptable alternative.”

“…we cannot invent our own values, because we cannot merely impose what we believe on our souls.”

“…Each human being understands, a priori, perhaps not what is good, but certainly what is not.”

“…It was from this that drew my fundamental moral conclusions. Aim up. Pay attention. Fix what you can fix. Don’t be arrogant in your knowledge. Strive for humility… Consider the murderousness of your own spirit before you dare accuse others…. to the best of my ability I will act in a manner that leads to the alleviation of unnecessary pain and suffering.”

“…How could I use my time to make things better, instead of worse?”

“…Meaning signifies that you are in the right place, at the right time, properly balanced between order and chaos, where everything lines up as best it can at that moment.”


“Tell the truth — or, at least, don’t lie”

“…He trusted me, despite (or, more accurately, because of) my objections.”

“…Instead, she warps her life to fit the fantasies of a sheltered adolescent.”

“…One forty-something client told me his vision, formulated by his younger self: “I see myself retied, sitting on a tropical beach, drinking margaritas in the sunshine.” That’s not a plan. That’s a travel poster. After eight margaritas, you’re fit only to await the hangover. After three weeks of margarita-filled days, if you have any sense, you’re bored stiff and self-disgusted. In a year, or less, you’re pathetic. It’s just not sustainable approach to later life.”

“…They believe, narcissistically, underneath all that bad theory, that the world could be put right, if only they held controls.” (about ideologues)

“…Someone hiding is not someone vital. Vitality requires original contribution.”

“…If you betray yourself, if you say untrue things, if you act out a lie, you weaken your character.”

“…Kierkegaard, conceived of this mode of Being as “inauthentic”. An inauthentic person continues to perceive and act in ways his own experience has demonstrated false. He does not speak with his own voice.”

“…An aim reduced anxiety, because if you have no aim everything can mean anything or nothing, and neither of those two options makes for a tranquil spirit.”

“…You must remove the beam in your own eye, before you concern yourself with the mote in your brother’s.”

“…Culture is always in a near-dead state, even though it was established by the spirit of great people in the past.”

“…Nietzsche said that a man’s worth was determined by how much truth he could tolerate.”

“…you should never sacrifice what you could be for what you are.”

“…Tell the truth. Or, at least, don’t lie.”


“Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t”

“…but it wasn’t boring, and that’s something.”

“…You need good, even great, reasons to ignore of defy general, public opinion.”

“…A good therapist will tell you the truth about what he thinks. (That is not the same thing as telling you that what he thinks is the truth.)”

“…He knew that listening could transform people.”

“…I routinely summarize what people have said to me, and ask them if I have understood properly.”

“…If you listen, instead, without premature judgment, people will generally tell you everything they are thinking- and with very little deceit… (You can in fact tell whether or not you are actually listening in this manner. If the conversation is boring, you probably aren’t.)

“…people organize their brains with conversation. If they don’t have anyone to tell their story to, they lose their minds.”

“… the friends a person makes later in life, after adolescence, lack the insane competitive closeness and perverse playfulness of those early tribal bonds.”

“…stable enough to be secure, but flexible enough to transform.”


“Be precise in your speech”

“…The world reveals itself to us as something to utilize and something to navigate through-not as something that merely is.”

“…The escape from tyranny is often followed not by Paradise, but by a sojourn in the desert, aimless, confused and deprived.”

“… Maybe they could have done that instead of saying, in the agreeable, lazy and cowardly way: “It’s OK. It’s not worth fighting about.”… And the monster under the rug gains a few more pounds.” (about couples)

“…Living things die, after all, without attention.”

“…What you least want to encounter will make itself manifest when you are weakest and it is strongest.”

“…Some earlier care and courage and honesty in expression might have saved her from all this trouble.”

“…Take aim against a sea of troubles… Admit to what you want. Tell those around you who you are.”


“Do not bother children when they are skate-boarding”

“…Absolute equality would therefore require the sacrifice of value itself.”

“…It’s a good idea to tell the person you are confronting exactly what you would like them to do instead of what they have done or currently are doing… No one has a direct pipeline to your wants and needs –not even you.”


“Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street”

“…what can be truly loved about a person is inseparable from their limitations.”

“… A superhero who can do anything turns out to be no hero at all. He’s nothing specific, so he’s nothing.” (about 1980’s Superman)

“…Set aside some time to talk and to think about it… If you do not limit its effect, you will become exhausted, and everything will spiral into the ground… Don’t schedule your time to think in evening or at night.” (about illness or crisis ect.)

“…There is a worthy and noble ambition: strength in the face of adversity.” (in coda)

“Your inaction, inertia and cynicism removes from the world that part of you that could learn to quell suffering and make peace.” (in coda)