Transcript of Jocko Podcast with Dr. Jordan Peterson titled ‘Facing your Inner Darkness. Breaking Your Wretched Loop. The Ultimate Hero is Dangerous but Disciplined.’ In this episode, Retired Navy SEAL, Jocko Willink and Dr. Jordan Peterson discuss discipline and leadership in business, war, relationships and everyday life. (Certain portions removed)
JOCKO WILLINK:… It does. And it’s not just individuals scattered around. These are groups of supposed human beings that are systematically implementing heinous and evil acts on totally innocent people. And I have obviously talked about evil before on this podcast. 20 years ago, during the genocide in Rwanda. 50 years ago in Vietnam during the My Lai Massacre. 75 years ago in Nazi Germany. 80 years ago in Nanking under the Imperial Japanese Army. And those things are in the past.
But it is important to remember that evil is still happening now. And I know that it is hard for us to see that, especially here in America in this unbelievably well protected bubble that we live in. A bubble that is provided and protected by young and brave men and women who volunteer to go out and hold the line. But the evil is out there. It always is.
And tonight, we have a guest on the podcast that I think has a very clear understanding of evil, of where it comes from, and how it manifests itself in the world. And he also has an incredible understanding of the good. And what we as people can do to live our lives better for ourselves, for our families, for our communities, and for the world. His name is Dr. Jordan B. Peterson.
And I’m not exactly sure when I heard Dr. Peterson for the first time. But as I dug into the content online, what really struck me was that what he was saying, and he was an academic, unbelievably smart, unbelievably well read person. And yet when he said things, they aligned almost perfectly with things that I believed and things that I had learned in my life.
And so here we were, these two radically different people from different backgrounds, one highly educated college professor, the other, a military veteran and a certified knuckle dragger. And yet, our thoughts were very aligned. And the way that I would hear him tie history and thought around human psychological evolution and to the social structure and to societal structure, and the way he laid out the maps of meaning behind the way we think, it was very useful. And it’s helped me realize that the way I feel in my gut, my instincts about people and about the world, they’re there for a reason. It isn’t random. There is some reason behind the way that I think and the way that we think.
So, Jordan, thank you for coming on the show.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Very glad to be here. That’s quite the beginning.
JOCKO WILLINK: Yeah, I think, like I said, it’s very easy for people to lose track of the fact that while you’re sitting in an air conditioned space somewhere thinking about your next Netflix movie that you’re going to watch, there are people that are in the most horrible and heinous situations that are being put on them by other human beings. And it doesn’t really stop.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah, well, it’s a hard thing for people to contemplate. I mean, there’s two elements to life that are hard to contemplate. I mean, one is that the suffering that’s attendant on life fundamentally, and then the other is the malevolence of people. And we’re not, in the modern world, we don’t really think about those as fundamental realities in some sense, because we tend to think about material situations as fundamental realities. But the metaphysical realities, the ethical realities are more real. And it’s necessary to know that in order to orient yourself properly in life.
Like, you know, I never really took the idea of good, seriously, transcendent good, let’s say, or ultimate good until I convinced myself of the existence of, well, if it wasn’t ultimate evil, it was sufficiently ultimate for me, you know, because I immersed myself in the study of the Nazi Holocaust and of what happened in Nanking and what happened with Unit 731, which is the most horrifying, that’s the most horrifying material I’ve ever read, which is really saying something because there’s plenty of horrifying material to read. And what happened in the Soviet Union and what happened in Maoist China, which, you know, so few people know about now.
And I guess what I found most striking, especially with regards to what happened in the Soviet Union was, well, and in Germany, for that matter, was that there were a number of people who were writing about it, like Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist who wrote Man’s Search for Meaning, and also Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who wrote The Gulag Archipelago, which should be required reading for every, I think, for every American citizen, that there was some integral relationship between the moral failings of individuals and the catastrophic moral failings of the state, and that that was directly causally related, you know. So Solzhenitsyn made a great case in, with regards to the analysis of the Marxist catastrophes in the Soviet Union, that they were tied integrally, not only to that dogma, but also to the willingness of the typical citizen to swallow endless lies and act them out. And he included himself in that set of deceitful people, let’s say.
And it really struck me that, because those writings are so profound, Viktor Frankl’s another good example. You can’t really read that without it really punching you, you know. It really struck me that it was possible that there was some direct integral relationship between the individual moral choices that people made in their day-to-day lives and the broad-scale social movements that happened around them. And I think I’ve come to believe that that’s the case. And, well, certainly the story that you read, the person who was written about, the rapist, was making all sorts of individual choices, right? And, you know, he might have been convincing himself that he was on some kind of holy mission, but I guess that would be in part so that he could stand looking at himself in the mirror in the morning without running away screaming if he saw what was really there.
JOCKO WILLINK: So… One of the things in Frankl that kind of, in Man’s Search for Meaning, that definitely, two points that really hit me hard when I was reading it was, one is I didn’t understand the extent to which the kapos, which were the Jewish prisoners that got taken on board to help and would get special treatment. Number one, I didn’t realize the extent to which they were in existence. I knew what they were, but I didn’t realize that they were as aggressive as they were.
And the other thing that hit me is the paragraph or the lines where he’s saying that the best of us didn’t make it out and that if you were going to live, you had to do things that you wouldn’t want to maybe do. And maybe if you were a better person, maybe you wouldn’t do them. And to me, that was harsh. I mean, this was his admitting that, that if you wanted to survive as a person in that situation, you might have to take someone’s piece of bread. You might have to move a number on a list to get someone else sent down to the execution area a day earlier than you, and that happens to postpone your execution long enough that you can make another move. And that’s a scary thing.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: You know, you saw the same thing with Solzhenitsyn’s description of the gulags because they were run in large part by the inmates. But I think that that’s a really good metaphor for totalitarian states in general, you know, because we like to think that a totalitarian state is made up of innocent, oppressed individuals who are under the thumb of an evil tyrant and that all of the catastrophes are cascading from the top down. But I don’t think that that’s true. I think that it’s more like a holographic structure where the tyranny exists at every single level. So it exists psychologically and it exists within the family and it exists within the mid-level organizations.
And so, well, you know, in Eastern Germany, for example, one out of every three people was a government informer. So what that meant is if you had a family of six people, two of them you couldn’t trust. And you can’t just say that that’s a consequence of the top down structure. The tyranny is something that exists everywhere simultaneously once it gets a grip. And it’s easy for people to say things like, well, I was just following orders. And, you know, I’m not trying to put myself in a position where I’m claiming that if I was in that position, I wouldn’t have followed orders in the same way. I mean, God only knows till you get there, right? That’s for sure.
But what that did to me was focus my attention more and more on the necessity of individual responsibility. I thought if it was individuals in the final analysis who were responsible for the great evils of the 20th century, which I think is a reasonable way of conceptualizing it, then it might be individuals who could be responsible for whatever good there might be in mankind that could help us avoid those situations in the future. And I thought of that as an alternative in some sense to nihilistic disbelief and ideological possession, you know, because if your group identity is too tight, then you start acting like a cog in a mob. That’s a very bad thing. But then if your group identity disappears completely, well, then you’re left alone and bereft. And so those are bad alternatives, right?
You’re sort of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. And it was very difficult to understand that there might be a third path between those two. I couldn’t see the existence of anything because people need belief systems in order to exist, right? To maintain psychological stability and to maintain sociological stability as well. But then if the beliefs get too rigid, then they turn into a raging totalitarian mob. So maybe you let that go because you don’t want to play that game, but then you dissolve because you have no identity. That’s not acceptable either.
When I first laid that out that clearly, it was really hard on me because I couldn’t see a third path to that. But then I started to realize, and this was a consequence of reading the sorts of things that we already talked about, but also starting to understand the underlying structure of mythology and what the heroic path meant essentially. And that meant adoption of supreme moral responsibility as an individual.
Now, there’s this idea in the New Testament, which is a really interesting idea. It’s one of these bottomless ideas, and I mean that literally. You could study it forever and never get to the bottom of it. And the idea is that Christ is the person who takes the sins of mankind on himself. And there’s something redemptive about that. And that’s actually a really dark idea because what it means, as far as I can tell, at least what it means psychologically, is that when you read these terrible things, you have to understand that you’re reading about you. If you don’t understand that you’re reading about you, then you don’t actually understand the stories. Because you put yourself in the position where you’re automatically the good person who would never do anything like that.
And then these other people are, well, they’re devils in some sense, right? And it’s very easy for people to make that division. But it’s a horrific realization when you think that the devil that you see outside is the same thing that’s inside, and that you don’t know until you’re put in a situation like that what you might do. And then it’s even worse, because if you look at the historical evidence, it was ordinary people in some sense that produced the catastrophes of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and Maoist China. I mean, they might not have originated it, but they certainly had the option to say no at different steps along the way, and they didn’t. And these things do happen one horrible thing at a time.
There’s this great book called Ordinary Men, which describes the descent of a German police force from ordinary bourgeois middle-class men, essentially just ordinary policemen, who actually were raised before the Hitler youth. They weren’t indoctrinated as young people, and they were brought into Poland to sort of mop up after the Germans had walked through. And it describes how they descended into the sort of people who would take naked pregnant women out into the middle of fields and shoot them in the back of the head. And what’s horrifying about the book is that the author, Browning, details the stages by which this occurred.
And it’s, well, for example, the commander of this unit told the men that they were going to have to do terrible things, but that they could go home if they wanted to. And then you think, well, there’s an out. But then if you really think about it, you think, well, they’re a tight, tightly knit quasi-military organization. And one of the natural thoughts under that circumstance would be, well, I’m not going to leave my comrades to do all the dirty work. That would just be a matter of cowardice. And so you can see that there’s an ethical requirement that would keep you there to begin with. And then they were…
JOCKO WILLINK: Well, you’re doing what you just said, which is taking the burden of this sinful activity on yourself. If you let everyone else do it, then you’re not acting heroically.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Well, right. And so it was easy for the men to get entrapped into that. And then the requirements for their horrific action kept ramping up. And each time they accepted the requirement of doing one horrific thing, the probability that they would accept the next requirement increased.
And what is also really interesting about that book, Ordinary Men, is that it’s not like these men didn’t suffer. They were suffering terribly. They were physically ill. They were vomiting. They were tearing themselves apart psychologically, but they didn’t quit. So that’s a great book, because if you want to know how you can be enticed to walk down a terrible path, that’s the book to read. And it’s very frightening, because if you read it properly, then you have to read it, again, as I said, as if you’re one of the people to whom this is happening, not the victim, but the oppressor. And I mean, you can also read it as the victim, that’s fair enough. But it’s ordinary people who participate in these things, and that’s a very, very terrifying thought.
JOCKO WILLINK: We actually covered that book on this podcast.
ECHO CHARLES: Both of them.
JOCKO WILLINK: Yeah, yeah, both Viktor Frankl and Ordinary Men. Yeah. It’s interesting, because I’ve watched all your stuff, read, and one of the things that I was thinking about is, you know, you talk about where the hero comes from, where this idea comes from, and how we ended up looking at these types of people as they’re good. And it happens over ages and ages, and generations and generations of saying, oh, that’s a good quality, and that’s a good quality. And there’s these 10 people that are all considered good people, and they all have this couple qualities in common. So those are good qualities. And eventually that becomes elevated to the point where we say, that’s a hero.
And what I was thinking of, so that’s what happens. And now we all have this elevated thing to look at and say, that’s something we can aspire to. That’s where we want to go. That’s where we want to be. We want to help, and we want to support. We want to make sacrifices for the tribe. How do we end up, or who ends up saying, I see something evil, and I’m going to follow in that direction?
STORY OF CAIN AND ABEL
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Well, I think that the story of Cain and Abel is a really very tightly constructed representation of that process. Because, I mean, it’s a very strange story. Because, well, for a variety of reasons. First of all, it’s very ancient. Second of all, it’s the first story about human beings, mythologically speaking, within the Judeo-Christian canon, let’s say. Because Adam and Eve aren’t real people, right? Because they are formed by God. Cain and Abel are the first people, and they’re a pair of hostile brothers.
And so the first thing that says is that sibling tension within families is a universal truth, and that can get murderous. And if you don’t know that, and you can’t see that, then you’re not watching your children carefully enough. Because siblings can torment each other to a great degree, and it’s something that you should strive diligently to observe and to quell.
But then there’s the next part of it that’s so interesting, is the IDEA OF SACRIFICESis introduced. And it took me a long time to understand what sacrifice meant. Because on the surface of it, especially the way it’s acted out, like burnt offerings and that sort of thing, it just seems so archaic and distant from us that it’s not really comprehensible. But partly from reading Jean Piaget and Nietzsche, for that matter, I started to understand that people often acted out conceptions before they understood what they meant. And we act out a lot of things we don’t understand, because we’re much more complex than we can represent. So we’re always acting out things we don’t understand.
So there’s this idea in Cain and Abel that you have to make sacrifices in order to stay on the good side of God. And so I thought about that practically, say, not so much metaphysically, but practically, and realized that that was equivalent to the discovery of time, of the future. Because we do act, and this is a peculiar discovery of human beings, maybe a consequence of our expanded intelligence, is that we’re actually aware of the future. And we actually treat the future as if it’s something that you can bargain with. Now partly it’s because the future is other people, and they remember your reputation, they remember your past actions. And if you do someone a favor, then that favor is in some sense stored up in the future. So you can think about the future as a place of judgment about your moral actions. And it’s not that far from that to imagining a God who’s keeping track of that, or who even is that.
But in any case, the idea of sacrifice emerges in the story of Cain and Abel. And Cain and Abel both make sacrifices to God in order to stay on His good side, let’s say. And what a sacrifice means is that you give up something of value in the present so that you can improve the future. And that’s no different from what we call discipline. It’s exactly the same thing. It’s just that concretely acted out version of that.
And so the idea basically was that, well, God was in the transcendent heavens. And the first question would be, well, why is that? And it’s like, well, if you go out in a really dark night and look up at the sky, you have a sense of what’s beyond you, what’s transcendent, what’s infinite. And so to associate that with the highest of values is a reasonable association, say, from an emotional point of view. So it’s not particularly primitive. It’s a smart metaphor, or it’s a smart intuition. And it’s above you.
And we tend to think of when you’re moving towards an ideal that you’re moving up, that you’re moving above, you’re moving to the mountaintop. You’re going up, not down. And so it all sits within that same framework. And it’s partly because when you go up, like on a mountain, you can see for long distances, right? So all those things are tangled together. So anyways, so the idea is that you have to give up something of value now so that you make the future better.
And sometimes it’s even something you love now. And that’s a good example, too, because often the things that stop us from moving forward are attachments to things that we should no longer be attached to, right? And in fact, you can almost make that definitional. If you’re not moving forward in your life, there’s a high probability that you have some idea or some mode of action or some habit that you’re so in love with that you won’t let go of it.
WHO BECOMES EVIL? AND WHY?
So all right, so Cain and Abel make sacrifices. And there’s kind of a hint in the story that it’s just a hint that Cain’s sacrifices are sort of second rate. But in any case, it’s ambivalent, but Abel, he just does wonderfully well, and everything works out for him. And everyone knows people like that, you know. And so God accepts his sacrifices, but for some reason, He rejects Cain’s. And maybe it’s the arbitrariness of God, or maybe it’s because Cain’s heart isn’t in the right place when he’s making his sacrifices, which is more likely.
And so Cain goes and has a chat with God. And he says, basically, what he says is something like, how in the world can You possibly justify this universe that You created? You look at me, and I’m breaking myself in half trying to adapt and to make things right. And it’s not working. And then there’s this Abel character, and things come easy to him, and everything is flourishing for him. And so like, what the hell? And if you don’t understand that question, then you’re not thinking because it’s very, very frequently the case when a serious catastrophe besets you in life, that you essentially ask exactly that question: What’s the meaning of life? What’s the purpose of the world? How come there’s suffering? And it’s easy to become resentful and vengeful as a consequence of that.
And so you’ve got to think about what state of mind having your sacrifices rejected puts you in, especially when you see someone who’s successful, because that’s where the jealousy and resentment starts to, what, fester is probably the right word. And so God says to Cain exactly what he doesn’t want to hear, which is, well, yeah, okay, but you have made lots of mistakes in your life. So He basically says, sin is at your door like a predatory and sexually aroused animal, and you’ve invited it into your house to have its way with you and produce something creative as a consequence. So you use a sexual metaphor, and so that you’ve willingly gone down the negative path, and you’ve allowed that to enter into you and to operate in a creative manner, and you’ve spun off all these terrible thoughts and this justification for not acting properly, and that’s why things aren’t going well for you, and so don’t lay that at My feet, which is the most brutal possible message he could have got.
And so then he leaves the presence of God, let’s say, and it says in the story that his countenance fell, which meant he was basically enraged, and so what does he do? He goes out and kills Abel, and then that’s a very fascinating idea, because Abel is his ideal, so he kills his ideal, and when you kill your ideal, you’re lost. And then he does that to take revenge on Abel, but also to take revenge on God, which I think is extremely interesting and a deep, deep idea.
Like these kids who shoot up high schools, for example, you cannot understand what they’re doing unless you understand this story of Cain and Abel. You cannot understand what possesses them until you can understand that someone, even someone who doesn’t believe, it doesn’t matter, it’s the psychological state of mind that matters, is they’re out for revenge on being itself, and that’s why they produce as much mayhem as possible in the shortest period of time. That’s why they sacrifice innocent people, because it’s much more vengeful and demonstrative to kill innocent people than to kill guilty people, because it’s a worse sin, so to speak, and then they kill themselves, and they kill themselves as a final demonstration of their belief in nihilism and the horror of existence, because you might say, well, why don’t they just kill themselves first and save everyone the trouble? And there’s narcissism in that too, because they know their names are going to be splashed across the page. That’s their notoriety instead of their accomplishment, and of course the media is unbelievably complicit in that.
So when you’re talking about motivation for evil, then you have to understand what it is that’s driving it, and it is a deep resentment about the structure of being for being saturated with suffering, but also for rejecting your sacrifices, and that produces the bitterness of failure. And I’ll stop with this.
One of the things that’s really interesting about the Old Testament — and the Jews in the Old Testament is that they don’t take the path of Cain. Every time they’re walloped by God, which is fairly frequently, they say, we must have done something wrong, and we have to set ourselves right. And that’s an unbelievably heroic attitude, because that’s the alternative to cursing fate. It’s like you take the responsibility for failure onto yourself, and you think, well, maybe if I just had my act together a little bit more, if I took advantage of every opportunity that was put in front of me, if I wasn’t resentful and bitter, then I could have done something that would have tilted the situation in a different direction. And that’s almost inevitably true.
JOCKO WILLINK: Well, it’s interesting, and again, this is kind of where when I would hear you say things like that. So, as you know, I wrote a book called Extreme Ownership. The opening chapter of the book is a horrible situation where the fratricide happens on the battlefield, so friendly forces killing friendly forces, some of those forces being mine. And it’s all these people I could blame, and all these little incidents that happened that I could have said, well, you know, we had this radio cryptographic change that happened in the middle of operation, and it had people who weren’t able to talk to each other, and we had these Iraqis that we didn’t speak English, and we had these units that we hadn’t worked with before, and they did things that we didn’t expect. And there’s plenty of blame to go around.
And essentially, I said, hey, you know whose fault this is? This is my fault. I’m the commander. And so when I hear you say things like that, it strikes me that you uncovered this through your study of history and philosophy and religion. And I learned it, you know, as, like I said, a certified knuckle-dragger out on the battlefield that realized, you know, if you’re going to exist as a leader and as a human, then you need to take responsibility for what happens around you. And that’s, again…
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah, you have to take, well, the religious notion in some sense is that you have to take ultimate responsibility in that, in some sense, the things that happen around you. I mean, this is… Dostoevsky, I think, said something like, every man is responsible for everything that happens to him and everything that happens to everyone else. And that’s, you know, it’s a crazy statement, right? It’s a crazy statement. And he was a pretty extreme person in many, many ways. But there’s a level at which that’s metaphysically true, you know, because what happens is that it’s failure to act often that’s the most catastrophic, you know. I mean, it’s to not do the right thing when the situation presents itself. And it’s very specific.
You know, you’re constantly in situations where you could do the right thing if you were willing to take a risk that’s actually of relatively moderate size. And you know that you could take the risk, and you know that you should take the risk, and you don’t. And that happens to people all the time. And then what happens is the thing that they didn’t oppose grows a little bit, and they shrink a little bit. And that starts a loop, eh? And you say, well, how do you take responsibility for the world? And the answer is, well, you also have to do it with a certain degree of humility, because what do you know? You know, and this is part of the reason that I’m so opposed to the activist culture on college campuses. You don’t teach 18-year-olds to go and demonstrate about capitalism, you know, because they don’t know anything. And they have problems in their own life that need to be solved that are local. And the local problems aren’t trivial, you know. They’re not disciplined. They’re not looking at the world in a straight way. They’re not taking responsibility for themselves or for their actions, their sexual actions, among others. They’re not taking responsibility for their family. They’re not looking at how they could contribute to the community. They don’t understand the fact that they don’t know anything.
And so, they should be taught to start locally and to put things together that they could put together, you know, to make their bed, and to clean up the room, and to attend their classes with regularity if they’re going to university, because that’s part of the implicit contract. And to straighten up the things around them that are actually within their power to straighten up. And then what happens is that if you do that, let’s say, religiously, which I suppose would be the same as in a disciplined manner, that your realm of influence starts to grow, but it grows in a positive way, just like you can go, you can take, you can end up in hell one step at a time. And that’s extraordinarily well documented.
You can end up at the opposite place of that one step at a time, but it’s also that same gradual process. You don’t get to leap from being a 17-year-old knothead who doesn’t know anything and who isn’t disciplined to the critic of Judeo-Christian society. You just don’t know enough to do that, especially when you can look at your own life and think about how many things that you’re doing that you know are wrong, that you could fix, that you aren’t fixing. And that’s the crucial thing. This mode of thinking isn’t asking people to stretch themselves beyond what they’re capable of. It’s just asking them to stretch themselves to the point that they are capable of, and seeing what happens. And that works. It works.
I’ve had many people write me over the last year, and this is a great thing, really, it’s a great thing, who said that they started to tell the truth, or at least not to lie, because who can tell the truth, right? But at least you can not lie. And that they started to put things in order around them that they could put in order, and that, you know, the positive things just started to happen like mad. And they’re not nihilistic, and they’ve got a purpose in their life. And so, you know, thank God for that. And it does work.
TAKING ULTIMATE RESPONSIBILITY
JOCKO WILLINK: I was trying to think of how to stop the loop of my sacrifices have been rejected. And the way that you stop that loop is instead of saying, my sacrifices were rejected, so my hard work, my effort, everything that I’m doing to try and move forward, it’s not working. And if you want to go towards hell, you keep saying, well, it’s not working, but it’s because of everyone else. They’re rejecting me. They’re not accepting what I’ve done.
Whereas if you say to yourself, Oh, it didn’t work. Okay, it’s my fault. What can I do better? And that’s how you start moving in the other direction, which is –
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah, well, at least you have control. And, you know, you don’t even necessarily have to think it’s your fault, although that’s a reasonable way of looking at it. You could minimally just accept the fact that it’s your responsibility. You’re stuck with it, and you could actually change it. And once you know, too, that if you’re failing repeatedly, then there’s probably something wrong. It’s possible that there’s something wrong with the way that you’re conceptualizing the world, because you have a choice, right? If you keep making sacrifices and they don’t work, there’s a binary choice.
And one is, well, there’s something wrong with the structure of reality. And the other is, there’s something wrong with your approach. And so then you might say, well, let’s take the first idea. There’s something wrong with the structure of reality. It’s like, you’re really going to say that, are you? You’re really going to come out and say, I knew enough to judge the nature of being. And then the alternative is also quite frightening, because then, you know, it’s you that’s making the mistakes, and you might be wrong at a really deep level. And that might mean that a lot of you has to burn off and be transformed. Maybe even things about yourself that you think are admirable and that you like, because your position, you know, your self-conceptualization is so warped and wrong. And that’s really daunting.
But you know, when people set themselves up as the judge of being, I mean, I’ve written about this a fair bit in my new book, which is called 12 Rules for Life. When people set themselves up as the judge of being, then they take on what can only be described as a kind of satanic arrogance, because they’ve actually taken to themselves the moral right to criticize the structure of existence itself. It’s like, you better be careful when you do something like that, because you’re setting yourself up as the judge of being. The Columbine kids did that. Like, if you read what they wrote, that’s exactly what happened. That’s exactly what they say, is that, you know, I’ve taken on to myself the task of the judge of being and found it wanting. And so I’m going to cause as much mayhem as I possibly can before I depart.
And that’s a very common story among people who do that sort of thing. And it’s so interesting, because every time something like that happens, people go, well, we don’t understand. It’s like, no, you won’t understand, because they write about what they’re doing. They tell you why they’re doing it. But it’s so, it cuts too close to the bone for people. And so they think, well, we don’t understand how that can happen. You know, like, there was a while back, I think it was in Connecticut, where there was a bunch of elementary school kids shot, right? Because this is kind of a one-upmanship game. And it’s bad enough to shoot high school kids, but it’s even worse to shoot kindergarten and elementary kids, because they’re even clearly more innocent. It’s like, well, that’s part of that vengeful spirit, you know, better to punish the innocent than the guilty, if you’re trying to make a statement about your hatred for the structure of reality.
And these things, you have to understand these things, really, you have to understand them at a religious level of analysis, because there’s no, well, that’s what happens when you encounter evil, is that you’re into the domain that can only be described by religious ideation. And I don’t say that lightly, you know, I’ve had many veterans come to talk to me now. And there are people who had post-traumatic stress disorder. And they’ve said that listening to my lectures has helped them out a lot, because it’s provided them with a philosophy of good and evil. And if you have post-traumatic stress disorder, you need a sophisticated philosophy of good and evil, because otherwise, you don’t have any place to put your experiences. And that fragments and shatters you. It’s no trivial matter to be touched by malevolence, or to have it manifest itself within you unexpectedly. You know, it’s physiologically destructive. It shatters people. And you have to move from a naive interpretation of the world to a very deep interpretation of the world, if you’re ever going to dig yourself out of that hole.
JOCKO WILLINK: You know, that’s interesting. And one of the things that I was going to tell you or ask you about. So, when I was a kid, I wanted to be a commando. Like, I don’t really remember wanting to do anything else. When I realized that there was that role that you could play in life, that’s what I wanted to do. And a lot of my friends in the SEAL teams were the same way. That’s what they wanted to do. And as soon as they figured out, like, oh, that exists. Oh, I can do that. And I just have to find this piece of paper and go do this stuff. And then that’s what I’ll be. Where does that come from?
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Well, I mean, that’s a very good question. I mean, I would say it’s temperamental. You know, people differ tremendously in their temperaments. And to think that there’s a warrior temperament is a perfectly reasonable thing to think. I mean, there’s been whole cultures, many, many cultures who were devoted to fostering that warrior mentality, you know, where if you weren’t like that, you were the outlier. I would say that’s probably true of most human cultures across most of time.
You know, we’ve been fortunate enough to live in relatively peaceful times, at least the vast majority of us. So, the necessity for that, like, right at the edges of actual warfare is much less than it might be under other historical circumstances. But it’s a deep part of many people’s nature. And so, the question is, what do you do with that, right? And I mean, one alternative potentially is criminal behavior. And, you know, the fact that so many people like watching movies about bad guys, you know, is an indication of how attractive that is to people. And I think the reason for that is that, well, Nietzsche observed at one point that most of what people regard as morality is just cowardice. And what he meant by that was that people don’t do bad things, not because they’re good, but because they’re afraid to do the bad things. And then when they see people do the bad things, they’re actually really deeply attracted by that, because it speaks to part of them that could go beyond the rules. And that’s actually a necessary part. It’s a really necessary part.
Like, you don’t make men safe by making them weak. In fact, they’re much more dangerous when they’re weak, because they’ll stab you in the back when they get the chance, or take advantage of you when they get the chance. You make men safe, let’s say, by making them strong, and then by making sure that they’re disciplined. And so, you know, you’ve got people like you’ve got this, let’s say, warrior mentality, that’s a deep part of their temperament. And then you have some choices about what you might do with that. You might try to discipline it and bring it under voluntary control and integrate it into your character, in which then it can make you someone who’s stalwart and indomitable, and who will move forward, you know, in the face of tremendous risk.
And, well, that’s the optimal pathway if you have that kind of temperament. And I think, like, it’s the men that have the most, what would you call it? It’s not aggressive, exactly, but we’ll leave it at that. Aggressive and fearless temperaments that can be the best men. But it’s like having a very powerful dog. You better discipline it, because otherwise it’s going to be a monster.
DANGEROUS BUT DISCIPLINED.
JOCKO WILLINK: Yeah. Well, I was a rebellious kid, right? And I could have easily gone down the path of crime. And as a matter of fact, many of my friends that I, you know, left when they stayed at home, they did end up as criminals and having big trouble with the law or going down even paths of drugs and everything else that you can get into. But when we were kids or younger, everyone kind of had the same thing. But like you said, I kind of, I’m so lucky because I just signed that piece of paper and I saw that I could do something and I could take all that aggression and all that energy. I could do something that was good and positive.
And we joke about that in the SEAL teams that many guys, you actually, to be a good SEAL, you sort of have this criminal mindset that you’ve somehow harnessed and you keep under control most of the time. And occasionally it does get out of hand and we got guys that get in trouble and that happens. And if we only took guys that would never get in trouble, we wouldn’t have anyone in the ranks really.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Well, you also see too in the classic hero stories, I mean, you see this with Harry Potter, for example, which I’m making reference to because it was such a phenomena. I mean, when something makes a welfare mother richer than the Queen of England, you shouldn’t take note, right? And when kids are reading 500-page books and standing in line waiting for the next one, and when you produce a whole movie empire around something, you should take note of that.
Well, Harry Potter’s little team aren’t the delinquents, right, who have no discipline, but they’re also not the good kids. They’re the kids who will break rules when necessary. And that’s the issue. Break rules when necessary. Now, the question is, when is that necessary? Well, that’s sort of the ultimate ethical choice. But why did that work for you, do you think? Well, two questions. One would be, why did you decide to step into a discipline structure? I mean, that’s obviously very difficult. And why do you think you did that and some of the other kids that you knew that were like you didn’t?
JOCKO WILLINK: It was really one of the most rebellious things that I could do was to join the military. So, I come from a small New England town. People get done with high school. They go to college. They get a job as whatever people get jobs as. They follow that very normal path. And I didn’t even know anyone that joined the military. And so, that was the most rebellious thing I could do. College, no. Education, no. I’m going to go be a commando. That’s what I’m going to do. And it was the most rebellious thing I could do. I think that’s one of the reasons why I did it.
It was also a complete breakaway from family. Okay, I will have no reliance on you. I’m going. You don’t have to worry about me anymore. I’m done. I will not rely on anyone else. I will be self-reliant, which I wanted to do. And so, I think those are the main things that got me there. And then what’s great about it for me was when I got there, you have a completely blank slate and you have very clear directions of what you need to do to ascend the dominance hierarchy. You do this. You do this. You follow these rules. You literally fold your underwear in this way when you’re going through boot camp and you get a better grade on your military performance. So, they give you very clear rules that you’re supposed to follow and very clear tasks that you had to do. And it was great for me because it was a blank slate because when I was in high school, I was a screw-up. Not bad, but not good.
And so, I hadn’t really set myself up properly. And now, all of a sudden, all I had to do, that was all gone. It didn’t matter. The past did not matter at all. I had a completely blank slate. If you do this stuff properly, you’ll do well and you’ll ascend that hierarchy.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah. Well, that’s a very interesting thing because then it’s not merely a matter of following a set of arbitrary rules. It’s following a set of rules that have a clear path to success. That’s a very different thing. And that’s also something that’s honest because the rules of the game are well-established. And then if you play it properly, you get to win. And that’s a big deal as well.
And you mentioned the SEAL types. And I’ve met a number of people like that. They’re capable of breaking rules, let’s say, or maybe even inclined to break them. But I also think that this is part of the reason that I’m an admirer of Carl Jung because Jung makes it very clear that, see, he was very interested in the barriers to enlightenment. Because if there’s such a thing as being enlightened, let’s say, then why isn’t everyone enlightened? If it’s just a matter of taking the glorious route and following your bliss, let’s say, it’s like, well, that sounds pretty easy.
Why isn’t everyone enlightened? But Jung’s thinking isn’t like that at all. He believed that in order to transform your personality, that first of all, you had to be disciplined, that’s for sure. But you also had to integrate that part of you that was terrible and capable of breaking rules and make it part of you. And I really like that idea.
Well, here’s an example. So about 20 years ago, I would say there was a newspaper headline in one of Canada’s major newspapers. And it was the Minister of Foreign Affairs at that time, Lloyd Axworthy, and he was talking about what had happened with Milosevic in the former Soviet Union, in Yugoslavia, and the atrocities that were being committed. And he said that he was caught unawares by that, because he didn’t have the imagination for that kind of evil. And I thought, well, you know, you think that what you’re doing is signaling your virtue by making a statement like that. But from my perspective, all you’re doing is stating your cowardice and your historical ignorance. Because if you’re going to be Minister of Foreign Affairs, you bloody well better have imagination for that kind of evil. Because if you don’t, then anyone who does wins, they beat you.
And so you know, again, in the Harry Potter stories, you see, he’s touched by evil, right? He actually has a soul fragment that’s embedded within him that’s as black as anything can possibly be. That’s why he could talk to snakes. But without that, he wouldn’t be able to have any victory. And that’s exactly right, psychologically, unless you can think the way that an evil person thinks, then you’re defenseless against them. Because they’ll go places you can’t imagine, and then they win. And so the best men I’ve met, it was interesting, even when I was in junior high and high school, because most of my friends dropped out, you know, by the time you’re grade 10, thereabouts. And a lot of them were guys who developed physically, they’re pretty powerful. And they were just damn sick and put up their hand to go to the bathroom. It’s like, you know, they’re not doing that anymore.
One of my friends got kicked out when he sort of challenged the gym teacher, you know, physically, and the gym teacher, he could do an iron cross, he was a tough guy. And so it was no trivial matter for my friend to stand up to him, but he got expelled anyways. But you know, I noticed that it wasn’t, it was often the kids whose character I admired that either quit or got expelled. And they were the tougher guys who were just sick and tired of following rules that didn’t take into account their character. And then they’d go off and work in the oil rigs or whatever. And you could do that in Alberta at that time. That was really hard work, you know.
So it wasn’t like they were necessarily taking the easy path. But like, a harmless man is not a good man. A good man is a very, very dangerous man who has that under voluntary control. And you know, you also see that, like one of the central female stories, let’s say, if the hero archetype is the central male story, there are variants of hero archetypes that are relevant to women, and one of them is BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. And you know, Beauty isn’t interested in the guy who isn’t the Beast. She’s interested in the guy who’s the beast. And that’s exactly right. But she’s interested in the guy who’s the beast that can be civilized and disciplined, right? And who can use that in the service, well, let’s say of a family. And that’s exactly, well, that’s exactly how it should be.
JOCKO WILLINK: So I gave a speech, one of my very good friends got married a few years ago, and I gave a speech. And at this speech, he was a friend of mine, SEAL. And at this speech, I was talking about what it was to be a man and what, when I felt like I was a man. And I said, there was three things that I felt. Let me transition from being, you know, mentally insecure about who I was as a person to being, okay, I’m actually good with who I am.
Number one was learning how to fight. And, you know, I got into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and mixed martial arts, and I learned how to fight. And now, all of a sudden, when I looked at other people, I didn’t, I wasn’t posturing, I wasn’t trying to pretend that I was tough. I knew that most people that I would encounter, I could defeat in a physical altercation. That was number one.
Number two was going into combat. Because even though you might be tough in a, you know, street fight or in a fistfight with someone, when you’re facing death, well, that’s a whole another level. And for me going into combat, well, what was I going to act like? Was I going to be scared? Was I going to be a coward? Was I going to be scared of death? And when I went into combat, I wasn’t. I was fine. I was okay with the fact that I could die, and I was okay with that. And I made good decisions and did what I was supposed to do.
And the last one was I got married and had kids. Because all of a sudden, all these things, these being aggressive and working to fight and be able to destroy in an efficient way, well, then I took that and combined it with, okay, now I’m going to take care of these, my wife and our children, and that’s what I’m going to do. And my point in giving this speech was he was a guy that had learned how to fight. He was a guy that had been in combat. And now there was one more step to take, which was, okay, now you’re going to get married, and you’re going to take care of these people.
So it’s interesting that, once again, that dichotomy that you talk about, it fits perfectly into the way I figured things out as a guy that went to high school and joined the military. It’s kind of crazy, but it reinforces what you always say, which is that there’s deeper meaning. There’s a reason why I’m thinking that. And the reason is because of the things that you talk about and the way these things are overlaid throughout history for human beings to have gotten to this point.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah, well, you acted it out, which is what you’re supposed to do, and it’s better to act it out and to understand it. That’s best. It’s better to understand it and not act it out than to not understand it at all. But the best is to act it out and understand it, because then the way that you represent the world and yourself is in accordance with the way that you act, and that’s optimized.
JOCKO WILLINK: Yeah, and it’s something that I was kind of acting out again. No, no real guys like my guidelines were like I was raised in the SEAL teams. Yeah, that was sort of my guidelines. And here’s a good example. When I first got in the SEAL teams, there’s no war going on. So what did a good SEAL do? You know what you did? You went out and drank and got in bar fights. That’s what a good SEAL did.
So you know what I did? Went out and drank, got in bar fights. That’s what. Okay, that’s what I’m supposed to do. It took me a while to figure out, oh, there’s actually something more than that. Like we’re actually supposed to be preparing for war. And so now, like you said, I definitely acted things out and sort of was on a decent path. But as I got older and more mature, and to this day, as I can look around and actually overlay the understanding on the way I’ve carried out my life is very, it’s very helpful to me. And it also helps me explain it to other people that see the path at all and go, they like that path. They would like to join me on that path.
And I get guys that when I was in, I look like a serial killer for all practical purposes. That’s the way I come across, right?
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Not creepy enough.
JOCKO WILLINK: There’s guys that would, you know, guys that would work for me or guys that would be around me and they’d see me and they’d kind of latch on to the fact that I was tough and aggressive. And some of those guys, they wouldn’t catch the other part, which was that I was politically savvy and I was working and I was maneuvering and I was figuring things out and talking to my boss in such a way that we could get where we needed to be. And I was doing that whole other side. And so I get these guys that would end up not doing as well as they should do because they were just, hey, Jocko is just ultra aggressive and he gets after it. And so that’s what I’m going to do. And I’ll be in the same place. The guys that would do well, the guys that said, oh yeah, Jocko is awesome and he’s aggressive and he gets after it. He’s also working and he’s also maneuvering. He’s also massaging the egos of the people around him to make sure that they get positioned in the right spot where they can go to war in the right way.
And so as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been able to tell people that more clearly, like, hey, it’s not just about that side of the ultra aggressive. You got to be aggressive. You got to be willing to fight. You got to be willing to kill and you got to be willing to die. At the same time, you got to be able to tamper and temper all those things in such a way that they can be controlled and disciplined.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Well, I also think that that’s part of what makes a world peaceful in the final analysis, because if you’re around people who are dangerous but disciplined, then everyone watches their step. And that’s exactly what should happen. Everybody should watch their step. And if there’s no reason for that, then, well, there’s no sanction for poor behavior, for example. Like, I mean, if you’re going to discipline a child, the child has to be convinced that you’re a force that’s worthy of paying attention to.
You know, I see kids, there’s a chapter in my book called, Don’t Let Your Children Do Anything That Makes You Dislike Them. And I’m pretty happy about this chapter, although I suspect it’ll be rather controversial. And, you know, it’s predicated first on observation that many people hurt their children physically and psychologically, you know, because everyone gets sentimental about the relationship between parents and children. But that’s especially in relationship to themselves, because they think, well, you know, of course, I’m going to be a good parent. It’s like, it’s not so obvious that you’re going to be a good parent, you know. And then what I see happening with people who don’t know how to discipline their children is that the children run roughshod over them in their, let’s call them hierarchical disputes, because children push for position in hierarchy. And they do that behaviorally to sort of feel out the contours of the social structure.
So, you know, your kid will act perfectly fine at home, let’s say, at the dinner table. But then you take them to a stranger’s dinner table, and all of a sudden, they act out. And you think, what’s up with you, you little monster? And what’s up is that they’re trying to figure out what the power structure is in the new. They don’t know this, of course, but they’re acting this out. They’re trying to figure out if the same rules apply in this new situation as apply in the old situation. And they can’t ask that. And they don’t even know that they are rules exactly. They’re regularities that they’ve learned. And so they’ll test and test. And then you have to show them that, yeah, it’s the same here. It’s the same in this situation.
But lots of parents are very uneasy with disciplining their children, partly because they believe that if you give a child infinite freedom, that’s best for them, and that constraints are inappropriate, which is really just, well, I don’t know what to say about that, except it’s so untrue that it’s very difficult to think of anything that’s more untrue than that. But also the thing is, is if you let your children take advantage of you, if you have an ounce of spine and an ounce of aggression, which you do, especially if you don’t admit it, then you will take revenge on your children.
So if they have a temper tantrum in a grocery store and embarrass you, which a child who’s canny can do quite effectively, because you wouldn’t let them have that pack of crayons or a chocolate bar. And then you tell yourself it’s okay and that you still, that that really didn’t make you that angry and it’s okay, but you’re fuming inside. And then you go home and half an hour later, maybe the child is doing some interesting little bit of work, maybe artwork or something, or does something good and comes up for a reward. It’s like the probability that you’re going to reward that child properly under those circumstances is zero. You’re going to take the opportunity to take your revenge. And if you don’t know that, then you’re not much of a parent.
And so part of the trick with kids is that if your child is doing something that makes you dislike them, that you have to figure out how to stop them from doing that and teach them how to do it properly. You have to talk to your wife to make sure that you’re not being too much of a monster, you know, and the same with her. But that discipline is partly what enables you to continue to like your child while you love them. And even more than that, you know, parents talk about fostering self-esteem and fostering creativity and all of that in their kids. And I think that’s misbegotten. It’s shallow for a variety of reasons.
First, it’s not that easy to foster creativity because it’s rare. And self-esteem is a very badly defined concept. And mostly it’s been used for harm, not good. What your job is as a parent is to help your learn from between two years old and, say, four years old, how to act in the world so that when people encounter them, people smile and are happy they’re around. Because then, you know, I’ve seen kids who behave badly. And everywhere they go, people wear false smiles. And everywhere they go, people are relieved when they leave. And that means you think about that world from the child’s perspective. Everyone’s lying and everyone hates them. That’s their world.
And then if you have your child, you know, capable of adhering to minimal social requirements, like maybe being able to sit at the table in a civilized manner for an hour and being grateful for being fed, let’s say, and knowing how to share and knowing how to pay attention to adults and not having that, that kind of terrible cynicism and arrogance that can develop even in a four-year-old child who’s always had his way, then they’ll interact with adults in a manner that bring out the best in the adults. And everywhere they go, everyone smiles at them and pats them on the head, maybe even tells them useful and interesting things. And so the whole world opens up for them. And that’s all a consequence of you having enough courage to admit to yourself that your child can do things that you don’t like and that you will take it out on them if you don’t straighten it out. And people don’t like that idea because they think, well, I’d never do anything. You know, I love my child. I’d never do anything to hurt them. It’s like, yeah, God, right. You know, you’re so asleep if you think that, that there’s almost no hope for you.
You have to think, I’m way bigger than this child, and I’m way meaner, and I’m way trickier, and I’m way more unpredictable. And so I better be very careful in my relationships with this child so that the worst of me doesn’t come out. And then that gives you enough intelligence to make a disciplinary framework that’s minimal and enforce it properly and carefully. And then you can have an unbelievably good relationship with your kids.
DISCIPLINE AND KIDS PSYCHOLOGY.
JOCKO WILLINK: And this idea of discipline, obviously, I talk about discipline a lot. And one of the things you were talking about earlier with regards to veterans and people that have listened to your lectures, and it’s the same thing with me, people that listen to this podcast or read the books. And one of the things that I’ve noticed and I’ve talked about and I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on is, you know, when you’re in the military, you have this discipline. And beyond the discipline that’s imposed on you, you also have a lot that you have to just hold the line yourself. I mean, when you’re in the military, sure, you go through boot camp where there’s a drill instructor that’s yelling at you and all that. But once you’re in the military, you’re doing what you have to do. It’s self-discipline, that you learn that and you become self-disciplined. And what happens is guys get out, and that’s gone, and that hurts them.
And the other thing that hurts them is they don’t know what their mission is anymore. And my big thing with people that I’ve been telling vets now is find what your next mission is. Go find whatever your next mission is. And I don’t care what it is, but it has to be something. And I was listening to you talk on something the other day, and you were talking about how not doing anything, when people are not going anywhere, when they’re failing, when they don’t have the drive, it’s because they’re not accepting responsibility for anything. And so my way of saying that is like, you need a new mission. You need to be responsible for something, and you need to go and move toward some new mission. And do you encounter people that, or you see people, that’s very problematic in the civilian side as well, where people, they just don’t know what they’re doing. They don’t take responsibility for anything.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: That’s part of this nihilism, is that because, first of all, you learn that truth is relative, and that there’s no real moral order. And that alleviates you of responsibility, and that’s why that’s such an attractive message to people. But the problem is that it kills you. It kills your soul, so to speak, because, well, we can talk about this technically.
So there are systems, neurological systems, that underlie your experience of negative emotion, and there are neurological systems that underlie your experience of positive emotion, and they’re separate systems. They obviously interact, but they’re separate systems. But the positive emotion system, well, there’s two of them, but one of them sort of kicks in when you get something that you want. So you’re hungry, and you eat, and that feels good. And so that’s kind of the simple one.
But there’s a more sophisticated one that I think is even more active in people, and it’s the one that tells you that you’re moving forward toward something worthwhile. And that’s actually the one that gives people that sense of meaningful engagement in their life on a moment-to-moment basis. And it’s also something that doesn’t have to go away. Like, if you’re hungry and you eat, well, that’s good, but it’s over, and then you’re on to the next thing, right? It’s not exactly sustaining, it’s just necessary. That’s called consummatory reward, by the way.
This other reward system is incentive reward. And the incentive reward system works on dopamine, this neurochemical dopamine, which is also the neurochemical tracks that opiates and cocaine and amphetamines, the drugs that people really like to abuse, alcohol often, for some people, activate. And so you might say, if you don’t have enough meaning in your life, then you’re more prone to addiction. And that’s definitely the case, even with rats. If you take a rat, you put him in a cage by himself, and he has nothing to do, and then you give him access to cocaine, he’ll get addicted to the point where he won’t do anything but take cocaine. But if you throw the rat back in with a bunch of other rats, and he gets to do rat things, then it’s very hard to get him addicted to cocaine.
And so the purposeless rat is prone to addiction. Well, it’s the same with human beings. Now, here’s a corollary to that, which is really cool. So the magnitude of the reward you experience as you’re moving towards a goal is proportionate to the importance of the goal. So that means the more important the goal you pick, the more possibility there is for the kind of reward, let’s say, it’s really a state of being that is life affirming. And it is directly life affirming in that, you know, like, if you’re in a football game, and it’s an important football game, and maybe you break a finger. And, you know, normally, that’s a problem, it hurts, and you’re going to stop doing whatever you’re doing. But if you’re right in the middle of the game, then you’ll be so amped up on this reward system that it’s analgesic, it stops the pain, it also suppresses anxiety.
HOW TO BE SUCCESSFUL. BREAKING THE LOOP.
So if you have a purpose, then it’s analgesic, it takes some of the pain out of life. It’s very positive in that it motivates and energizes you and focuses you and makes you able to remember and pay attention. And it quells fear. And so those things are all direct. And so then you might think, well, what’s the best possible goal? Well, and that’s the purpose, I would say, of religious training and philosophical training. It’s like, just what the hell are you doing in the world?
You know, and I would say, well, that’s actually fairly easy to also lay out. And this is why nihilism is a much weaker philosophical position than it might appear to be. It’s like, well, there are lots of terrible things happening in the world. I don’t care if you’re a believer, an atheist, or a cynic of the highest sort. You listen to a story like the one that you read at the beginning of this podcast, and no one says, well, in 100,000 years, who the hell cares? So why does it matter? No one says that. They listen to that. Not if they’re human. They listen to that story and they think, that’s not good. It’s like, that’s right. That’s not good. It’s not good. You should do something about that.
Because it’s self-evidently not good. So you might say, well, at least you can start your self-organization by improving those things around you that are self-evidently not good. And that’s easy, man. Anybody can do this. You can sit down for 10 minutes, say, well, I’m going to be honest with myself. That’s a horrible thing to do. I’m going to be honest with myself.
Okay, I’m probably doing a dozen stupid things that I could quit doing that are making my life less, more wretched, and also the people around me. And so you think, okay, what are those things? And you know, if you really want to know, you have to want to know. And you’re going to get a bunch of information that you don’t want to hear. But you’ll know it’s true. And you already knew it in some sense. And then you can ask yourself, okay, that sucks. And it’s miserable. And it’s not very self-affirming.
Is there one of those things I would be willing to do something about that I would actually do something about, you know, that I couldn’t do something about that I would do something about? Which is also another horrible question. Because as soon as you get an answer to that, then you have a responsibility, right? It’s like, oh, God, I have to go do that. And it’s something you don’t want to do. You don’t want to do it. That’s why you’ve been avoiding it.
And so then it’s right in front of you. And it’s like, it’s some little trivial, horrible thing that you’re not going to get a pat on the back for. No one’s going to give you an award for it. And most people would just say, you should have done that a long time ago, you moron. But then you go do it. That’s kind of humility, I would say. And then you keep doing that. And it’s like, there’s this injunction in the New Testament against praying in public, you know, and it’s like virtue signaling. It’s like, you don’t pray in public, because then you go out and you show everybody just what a great believer you are and how good you are. It’s like, well, that’s what you’re doing. You’re not trying to get your act together. That’s something you do in private at home.
You think, okay, what kind of moron am I? And what stupid things am I doing? And then what could I possibly do to get rid of one of those a little bit now? Well, anybody can do that. And that’s associated with these great evils, you know, in this way that we’ve already described. It’s like, you’re constraining, you’re improving your character, and you’re constraining the kinds of actions and perceptions that you have that are going to make you sick of life and work against it. Because failure does that. That’s the Cain story. It’s like, keep screwing up, man. See what happens. If you think that isn’t going to make you bitter, and if that isn’t going to make you vengeful, and if that isn’t going to make you work to hurt people around you, or at least not to help them, which is the same thing, then you’re just not paying attention. Everyone knows that’s true.
So, well, that’s responsibility, right? And then, so you take on this great task of putting yourself together. It gives you life meaning. And that also helps you be buttressed against the fact that there’s lots of suffering in life, and there’s lots of malevolence. It’s like, yeah, true, man. Absolutely. It’s worse than you think, even. But you can do more about it than you think. And there’s nothing in it except good, but you also have to take responsibility. So that’s the thing. You’ve got to decide if that’s what you’re going to do. But you don’t get to whine about it if you don’t, because you haven’t tested it.
JOCKO WILLINK: So people don’t even have to look for some grand goal in the sky, some elevated goal of what they’re going to do, whether it’s a financial goal, whether it’s a non-profit goal. They can look around their bedroom and figure out what they’re going to do right now to improve things.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: One of the things I learned from reading Solzhenitsyn is he talked about his moral transformation in the camps. And he said the first thing that transformed him to some degree was looking at people in the camps who did refuse to do immoral things no matter what. He said he ran into people like that, and that just blew him away. Because he already laid that out. He said they were continually choosing between their life and their conscience, and they chose their conscience. And he tells some amazing stories in the Gulag Archipelago about dozens of people he met like that. And they’re stories of moral heroism under absolutely vicious conditions there. You just can’t believe them, you know. So that’s pretty amazing.
But he said that once he kind of figured out that there was a difference between attending to your conscience and doing whatever was necessary to prolong your miserable existence, that he started to think about that deeply. And that he went over his life with a fine-tooth comb and tried to figure out everything he did that he knew was wrong. And then to try to figure out what he could do in the present to rectify that. You know, you wouldn’t necessarily be able to atone. That’s the right way of thinking about it. You know, you do something wrong, and well, maybe you can’t even fix it with the person you did the wrong to. But maybe there’s something else you could do that would be good enough so that, you know, you can think, okay, well, at least those balance out, and maybe I’m a little bit on the side of the positive.
So he did that, you know. And he said that straightened him out a lot. And then he wrote this book, this amazing book that, you know, cut the communist intellectuals off at their knees and changed the world, really. And that’s a hell of a thing for someone to do who’s a, you know, miserable zeck in a concentration camp. That’s a hell of a story, man. And it’s not the only one like it. So you don’t know how much power you have where you stand, even if you look weak. And if what’s around you is terrible, well, then you’ve got lots of things to do, that’s for sure. And they’re announcing themselves right there.
So, and, well, and it’s tying it in with evil and suffering that is best for me, because it’s so real. You know, it’s like, you can be skeptical about the existence of the good. But if you open your eyes, and you do any amount of studying, and even any amount of self-examination, you can’t be skeptical about the existence of evil. I don’t believe that you can. There are things that, read about UNIT 731, and then see how skeptical you are about evil. I wouldn’t recommend that, by the way, because that is so horrible that you can’t really read it without being traumatized. It is unbelievably horrible. You read that, and then you say, well, morality is relative. It’s like, see if you can utter those words after reading that.
And then if morality isn’t relative, and there is evil, then there is good. At least whatever isn’t evil, right, you can, whatever doesn’t cause that is good. It’s sort of defining it by its opposite, but that’s okay. It doesn’t matter. It’s good enough.
JOCKO WILLINK: And so how do guys, going back to the PTSD conversation a little bit, how do guys that sort of experienced this evil part of, not only of the world, but of themselves, because they had to do some things that they didn’t want to do, or they didn’t like doing, and things that made them feel like, there’s a dark part of me that I don’t really like too much. What’s the, you know, from what I’ve said is, you’ve got to embrace that. The fact that there’s darkness in the world, and that there’s darkness in you, you’ve got to embrace that and get a hold of it, not try and disguise it, not try and make it seem like it’s not there. That’s the same thing you’re saying, right?
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah, well, you know, when you’re in really, they say there’s no atheists in foxholes, you know, and that’s, you know, it’s a bit of a cliche, but there’s a deep truth in that, which is, there’s some circumstances that you find yourself in for which only religious language works. And if you happen to observe yourself doing something that’s highness enough to damage you psychologically, then you’re in the realm of good and evil, archetypal good and evil. And unless you can start to conceptualize the world in that manner, you’re never going to make sense out of it.
And so, partly it depersonalizes it. You know, it’s you that did this, but it’s like the capacity for evil isn’t just you, it’s part of humanity. Maybe it’s part of the structure of the cosmos, and you happen to stumble over it naively, and so it hurt you. You know, there’s this old Egyptian story about a god named Horus, and he’s the god of attention, so he’s represented by the Egyptian eye, so he pays attention. He’s also a falcon, and falcon has great vision and flies above everything, right? And he’s also the force that revitalizes the dead father in Egyptian mythology. But he has a fight with his evil uncle, Seth, who’s a precursor to the idea of Satan, and you can tell partly because the words are quite similar. And he has a terrible battle with Seth, who’s taken over the kingdom and is a terrible tyrant and is killing everyone and everything’s going to hell, and he has a battle with him to regain control of his kingdom. And that’s fine, and he’s a god, and so is Seth. And they have a fight, and it’s a terrible fight, and during the fight, Seth tears out one of his eyes.
When you think, well, that’s a god, right? And nonetheless, he ends up with his vision damaged, his consciousness damaged. Now, he gains a different kind of sight. He gains insight, right? Because now he knows the nature of evil, but he pays a big price for it. And so you think, well, if that’s the case for a god, how much more is it the case for a man to be damaged? It’s absolutely right. It’s no joke to encounter malevolence. I’ve seen that in my clinical clients, too. I had a client who was terrified into nightly convulsions for four years by the look on her boyfriend’s face when he attacked her. It took me a long time to unpack that. It was like a three-month process. But she was very naive, very, very, very naive, because her parents had raised her in a world where the evil queen was not allowed to visit, like the parents in Sleeping Beauty. So she was way too sheltered.
And she thought that human beings were only good. And then she saw the look on his face that indicated that he was out to consciously harm her. And he couldn’t. They had a fight, a physical fight, and she was strong enough to prevail. He wasn’t that big. But that wasn’t the point. It shattered her world, because she didn’t understand until that point that someone could actually consciously want to hurt you. They weren’t just in a bad mood, and it wasn’t just because of the way they were raised and all those excuses that people come up with, that he was not only going to hurt her, but he was going to enjoy it. And if you don’t understand the part of you that’s capable of that, then, well, you’re dangerously, dangerously naive, and dangerous as well, because you don’t know what you’re capable of.
JOCKO WILLINK: A lot of these things that you bring up are about LEADERSHIP. And I talk about leadership all the time. And one of the things that I heard you say, and you’ve talked about with chimpanzees and other hierarchies that are out there, including lobsters, which I know you like quite a bit. And even lobsters have a dominance hierarchy, which is definitely incredible. Since how big is their brain?
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Oh, it’s mostly distributed through their body. I mean, it’s not that big. And yeah, it is absolutely unbelievable to know that the hierarchical arrangement, the reason it’s a symbolic reality, so that would be the great father, let’s say, the reason that’s a symbolic reality is because you can’t see a hierarchy. If you look at the world, you don’t see a hierarchy. But chimps know exactly where each chimp is in the hierarchy.
So, for example, a low-ranking mature chimp won’t attack a high-ranking juvenile, even though he could tear him apart, because he knows that that juvenile is actually an illusion. The juvenile is the juvenile, plus all the other chimps that will come to his rescue. Right, so he can’t perceive the hierarchy with his eyes, but he can perceive the hierarchy with his emotions.
Okay, so that hierarchy is essentially eternal. It’s at least 350 million years old, and we perceive that all the time. We look at hierarchical posturing, and we live in hierarchies of competence, mostly. So that’s a universal truth. And the fact that you have to struggle with the fact of the hierarchy is also a universal truth. You actually see this being played out to some degree in the leftist feminist arena, because really what’s happening is they look at the hierarchy, let’s say the male hierarchy. They don’t attribute to it competence. They attribute to it power. And they make the presupposition that you get to the top by being the meanest, most exploitive creature possible. And so these are often damaged women who’ve never had a good relationship with a man, and who can’t distinguish between competence and power.
There’s a big difference, because a hierarchy that’s only based on power is a tyranny. But a hierarchy based on competence is something that gets things done. That’s exactly what you want in a hierarchy, is that the competent people climb the hierarchy, so you can tell who’s competent at the top. And you made reference to the chimpanzee work. I mean, Frans de Waal has showed quite clearly that unstable chimp power hierarchies are based on tyranny. So it is that the ugliest, meanest brute of a chimp gets to the top. But like, as soon as he has a bad day, then two, three quarter as strong chimps tear him into pieces. And the chimps that manage to maintain power at the top, or let’s say authority, because that’s a better word, because we got to get our words right. That’s a chimp that has friends, and that engages in reciprocal grooming, and that pays reasonable attention to the females.
And so it’s so interesting to see that because it shows that even at that level of biological organization, there’s already a morality of leadership.
JOCKO WILLINK: Yeah, and that what where that strikes me is so interesting. And I try to explain this to people all the time, because, well, in the SEAL teams, again, you might think the same thing. Well, the biggest, toughest SEAL that can destroy everyone else is going to be the leader that everyone looks to. And it’s just not true. And in fact, a lot of times, those guys that might be the biggest and the strongest and the fastest, they’re actually arrogant as well, because they think they can beat everyone. And no one wants to work for those people.
And so it happened when I first started my consulting business. And I would have, you know, a CEO say, I can’t wait till you come in and just whip my people into shape. And I’d say, well, you need to find somebody else that’s going to whip people into shape, because I don’t do that. And they couldn’t quite put together that me wasn’t into whipping people into shape. And what I wanted to actually do is teach people to lead, and to lead people myself. And when you’re leading, you’re not having to whip people.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: In fact, that’s an indication that you’re not leading.
JOCKO WILLINK: Exactly. As a leader, the place where I usually found myself was, I’m actually having to pull the reins back on people, because they’re going far and away above what I actually would even want and expect them to do. They want to go even more and do more to accomplish the mission. And that’s where you want to get. And I find it interesting that, you know, you talk about that all the time, that it’s not the person with the biggest club. It’s not the person that’s the meanest and the most aggressive. Sure, they might rise for a minute. They might get some control. And that happens in any organization. Oh, if you’ve got a CEO that really he’s just a tyrant and everyone’s scared of him, he can make some things happen for a little while. And then all of a sudden, someone says, oh, he wants us to do it that way. I’m going to do a little sabotage. Just a little sabotage. Your project that you want us to get done by October 31st, oh, it got delayed, boss. And you can go nuts and you can yell and scream, but you should have listened to me when I said we needed more time. And now guess where we are. We didn’t deliver the product we’re supposed to deliver.
So you can yell and scream all you want. It’s not going to get that product delivered.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah, well, and if you tyrannize people badly enough, they’ll actually hurt themselves to hurt you. So, you know, they’re willing to take a hit to reclaim justice, let’s say. So, yeah, that’s really worth knowing. And so one of the things that Jean Piaget pointed out, because he’s a very interesting psychologist, and he’s never taught properly, because, you know, most of these great thinkers were very strange people, and the strangeness gets edited out of their stories. And it’s really too bad, because they’re way more interesting when you know how strange they were.
And so Piaget was obsessed with the disjunction between religion and science. And his goal as a thinker was to reconcile the two. And so to some degree, he was looking for a biological basis of morality. That might be one way of thinking about it, or at least to reconcile the idea of a biological substrate with an emergent morality. And one of the things he said is, okay, imagine two systems. All right, so both systems are moving towards a goal, any old arbitrary goal. And in one system, the people within it are acting under compulsion. And in the other system, the people within it are acting voluntarily. He said, the people who are acting voluntarily will defeat the people acting under compulsion, because in order to use compulsion, you have to spend a fair bit of time and energy on force. And so it makes you inefficient.
Whereas if everybody is together on the project, then you don’t have to spend any time on compulsion, because people are compelling themselves. And so that’s what he called an equilibrated state. So an equilibrated state was, well, we sit down and we have a negotiation. It’s a real negotiation. So it has to be honest. And we say, okay, well, what are we doing? And everyone hashes that out. And we decide what we’re doing. And then we decide how that would be good for all of us, but each of us singularly as well. So if you got your family put together properly, then the whole family moves together, but everybody inside moves ahead as well. And so then everybody’s pushing in the same, you know, you know how it is within a negotiation, you actually want your interests to align with the interests of the other person, because then you don’t have to worry about the integrity of the deal. It’s like everybody has reasons to keep it thriving.
And the idea that capitalism somehow was predicated on the tyranny of the people at the pinnacle, that happens when it gets corrupt. But it doesn’t happen at all when it’s working properly, because deals that aren’t based on mutual self-interest and group interest simultaneously have to be enforced, usually with lawyers, and then you’re done, right? You’re done at that point.
JOCKO WILLINK: That’s actually incredible. So I would, when I work with companies, I was working with a company, it was a couple of years ago, maybe even three or four years ago. And, you know, they were talking about how they needed to hold their salespeople accountable. And that’s what they needed to do. And they needed more accountability. And the sales leadership underneath them needed to hold all their frontline sales leaders accountable for everything and follow these rules and make these numbers of calls and do these follow-up things and send the follow-up emails. And they needed to get this accountability thing going.
And this was when I heard this guy saying this is the first time I said, because I’ve heard this a lot, this is word accountability and leadership. You hear, oh, well, we just need better accountability, better accountability. And it’s a trick because you think about it. And you say to yourself, well, if I’m in charge of you guys, and I’m going to hold you accountable to make sure you do everything you’re supposed to do, well, then we will successfully do what it is you will do because I held you accountable. I made you do it.
The problem is in any organization, there’s too many people to hold everyone accountable to everything that they’re supposed to be doing. So it just doesn’t work. And so you could take one group. And this is what I said. I said, if you’ve got one group where you have to hold them accountable for each and everything that you do and you try and do that versus a group where people know what they’re supposed to do and they want to go and do it, I go, which team is going to win? And he said, well, a group that wants to do themselves. I go, that’s what you need to do is get them to want to do it themselves. That’s leadership.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Well, exactly. Well, that’s exactly right. I mean, look, if you get people to track everything they do, it takes them longer to track it than to do it. Plus, they hate it. They hate it because they’re not being trusted. And it’s the most terrible, dull administrative work. And it just kills people who are actually productive because they’re driven crazy by that. It’s like, leave me the hell alone so I can do my work, you know?
And so, yeah, so there’s something that — here’s an interesting little fact that I think is really cool. I found this out. This is from the psychological literature. So I’ve been interested in how to increase people’s motivation for a long time, you know? And there’s a nice literature on that. And part of it was as was created by Latham and Locke, Gary Latham and Edwin Locke. And they’re looking at goal setting. That’s how they described it as a means to improve business productivity. And so, what they imagine that you have two teams and you get them to set goals. And one team sets goals for their corporate productivity. And another team sets goals for their life. And then you match them head to head over some period of time and see which one comes ahead.
And what happens is people who set goals for their life beat the people who set goals for the company. And then there’s a variety of other literatures that support that kind of hypothesis. But it’s very, very worthwhile thinking that through. Because what you want, if your company is structured properly, you want people in it who have a life, right? So they’re aiming at things that they think are valuable because they’re just not going to be motivated, period, unless they’re aiming at things they think are valuable.
And then you want their loyalty to the company to be nested inside that. So they have to see that working there, no matter what it is that they’re doing. And, you know, often jobs are repetitive and dull and difficult and challenging and all of that, or you wouldn’t be paid to do them, right? They’re not all fun and games. But if you can see that the less intrinsically interesting things that you’re required to do are related in some directly intelligible way to goals that you regard as valuable, then that tags those activities with this dopaminergic kick that we were talking about earlier. So you need this hierarchy of values, right? Just like, here’s what I’m doing with my life. Here’s why my job is important to that. Or maybe it isn’t, and then you have to quit and go find a new job. But that’s fine. But, you know, because you might discover that too.
And so we started trying to formalize this when, at the same time that I also realized something that I’ve never recovered from realizing, I think. So I teach students usually, for this class, it was third and fourth year students. And so this is at the University of Toronto. They’re pretty smart kids. It’s a hard university to get into. And they’re pretty disciplined. And they’re actually quite conservative, all things considered. And I was teaching them about stories, and about the fact that our life is a story with a goal and a purpose and a beginning point.
And I was encouraging them to develop their own stories. So I had them write an autobiography. And they really got into that. That was quite amazing. To identify, you know, to break their life into epochs, and then to describe the important episodes in each epoch, both positive and negative, and what they might do to reduce the possibility of the negative in the future and to capitalize on the positive, which is the purpose of memory, by the way. And then also to write a plan for the future.
And so we formalized that. So the plan is, okay, first of all, you have to get yourself in the right mindset. And the mindset is, you’re trying to take care of yourself like you would care for someone that you cared for. That’s a hard mindset to get into, because people like their pets better than they like themselves often. And then you have to have a vision. And so the vision would be, well, okay, three to five years down the road, if your friendship networks were configured properly, what would that look like? If you were pursuing the career that would be appropriate for you and sustaining for you, what would that look like? How are you going to educate yourself? How are you going to take care of yourself mentally and physically? What do you want for an intimate relationship? And how are you going to handle temptations like alcohol and drug abuse? Because they take people down pretty frequently.
So all you have to do is think about, okay, what could that be like if you had what you needed? Not some wild fantasy, but realistic in what you needed. So that’s the first part. And then, okay, now write for 20 minutes about what your life could be like three to five years down the road if all this came together.
And then now do the opposite. So imagine all your weaknesses, and all the ways that you can go down the wrong path. And then imagine that gets the upper hand. Then imagine where you are in three to five years. So then you get a polarity. It’s like, not this, and yes, this. So you can run away from the things you don’t want. And you can run towards the things you do want. That gets your anxiety behind you instead of in front of you, right? Because maybe you’re going to go do something difficult, and you’re afraid of it. And then you think, well, if I don’t do this, I’m going to end up there. It’s like, oh, okay, that’s so terrible that this little terrible is nothing.
And then in the next part of the exercise, you turn that into an implementable plan. And you write about why your life would be better, and why your family’s life would be better, and why your community’s life would be better. So it’s like fully articulated. And we’ve tested about 10,000 university students with that now in three different locales. And we’ve increased the probability that they’ll stay in university by about 30% and raised their grade point average about the same. And it’s worked best for men who are doing the least well. So in Holland, those were non-Western ethnic minority men. And they improved their performance enough to actually slightly exceed the Dutch national women who were at the top otherwise over two years. Yeah, it was unbelievable. It just blew us away, a psychological intervention to cure what’s hypothetically a sociological problem.
And so that’s a good example of how. And what blew me away when I was first considering this is I had all these students, 21 years old, and I realized that no one had ever sat them down, not even once in their entire career in education, and said, okay, who do you want to be? Like, what sort of person is it that you want to be? Not job, it’s like character. What do you want your life to be like? What should it be like? And what shouldn’t it be like? And like, write about that seriously, like your life depends on it, because it does.
And then I thought, well, that’s so weird. Why in the world isn’t our education system set up to help people with that? Because it’s like, that’s kind of obvious, you know? It’s like, what are you doing? And why? And then I did some reading, partly from John Gatto, who’s done some interesting work looking at the history of the education system. And it was a derivation of the Prussian education system back in the late 1800s. And it was designed to produce obedient, well, it was partly soldiers, but it was partly workers.
JOCKO WILLINK: I was going to say it definitely was soldiers, because that was the transition when they had the transition take place at that time as well, where they had the transition take place at that time as well, where they moved away from centralized command after they got beat by Napoleon. And they never, they were constantly trying to fight towards that direction where the soldiers would not just be obedient, because they realized that that is not what they actually wanted. They finally started to do at the end of World War I. And if they would have done it earlier, it might have turned the tide of the war. But that was what, you know, that’s what World War II, the Blitzkrieg and total decentralized command and elements just going out and making things happen and finding gaps in the defenses and attacking them, as opposed to you’re just going to wait until you’re told what to do, right? And that was the German way and decentralized command.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah, well, competence beats obedience. Right? So you unite people under a goal. And then you let them act autonomously, you got to get them, you got to not sell them the goal. That’s not right. You know, what you have to do is, you have to go in and talk to them and discover what the goal is of the enterprise and what it is that fires people up. And that really does work. You know, and the idea that capitalism is essentially crooked, and it’s the people who are pulling the wool over other people’s eyes who win is like, well, you know, now and then there’s a criminal action. And the person gets away with it, so to speak, although people get away with a lot less than they think. But most of the time within a functional company, you better have your people on board, or they will do exactly what you said, they’ll do, they’ll spend 80% of their time sabotaging the company.
JOCKO WILLINK: Yeah. And I, again, something I learned working with a corporate world, and it was working with a corporate world where I reflected on what I did. And was talking to a elite of business leader at some point, as we know, your people got to understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. And so then he’s, you know, absorbs that and says, Okay, that’s makes sense. And so then he gets up in front of his team. And he says, you know, well, the reason why we’re doing this is we want to improve our profitability as a company.
And, you know, he sat down, and we talked afterwards. And he said, Did I did I do a good job? Because now they understand this? Oh, no, actually, you missed it. And then I started explaining to them better, because I learned that what you have to explain, there has to be a thread of why that goes all the way through the corporate reason, but that why has to come back down to the individual contributor. So they realize that when we do better as a company, when we’re more profitable as a company, we can put more money in marketing, and we can produce stuff cheaper, because we’ll do it on a more mass scale, then we can lower prices, and then we can actually hire more people that’s going to make you move up in this command here, and you’re going to make more money, we’re gonna sell more stuff, and you’re gonna get a bigger bonus. So you doing this, the reason why you’re doing it is because then you can achieve those goals, because you want to buy that house and that car and send your kid to school.
So there’s a big difference, you need to make sure that the people understand why they’re doing it, not for the corporate reason, not for the mission reason, but for why it’s going to help them the exact same thing you just said.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah, well, it’s also really helpful to if you you know, your corporation has, I hate to use the word vision, because that’s, you know, turned into a buzzword. But, you know, it’s often that you’re working in a company where worthwhile things are happening, exciting and worthwhile things, you know, and you’re trying to, well, make something better at a lower price, let’s say. And so there’s the heroism, let’s say, of producing a product that’s going to have a positive impact on the world. And you need to know how your small actions are tied with that greater goal. And then there’s this financial self interest as well.
And the thing is, if you don’t, if you can’t tell your workers that story, then either your company is fundamentally corrupt, because that isn’t the true story. It’s like you’re actually working so that I can rape and pillage the company over the next four years and take all the value out of it and run. Because, you know, CEOs do that from time to time. Yes. Or you don’t understand how the company works. And you can’t tell the story, which means you’re basically incompetent.
So but, well, people are not wired up so that they will work without knowing why, unless you beat them. And then if you beat them, you don’t don’t be thinking that that’s victory.
JOCKO WILLINK: So the temporary victory.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: That’s also something really good to know about marriage. It’s like, you can never win an argument with your wife. Like you could if you only lived with her for one day. Right? It’s like I won. See you later. Yeah, it’s like no, no, she’s there the next day.
JOCKO WILLINK: And then she remembers that.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: She does. She does remember that. Yeah, maybe even more than you remember it. You know, and it also might be that she was right, and you just out argued her. So, you know, and that’s something that’s really worth knowing, too, because sometimes, you know, you’ll have an argument with, well, let’s say with your wife, and she’s got something to say, and it’s not very well articulated. Same could be true for you. And so you can just brush it aside. But you don’t want to brush it aside, because maybe there’s something there. And if you don’t address it, then it’s not like it’s going to go away, man, it’s going to grow. So maybe you have to help her formulate her argument, which is really annoying, you know, because you want to win, you have in this dispute, it’s like, I want to win. It’s like, well, you’re not winning that game, you’re winning the game.
Well, I think about it as the game of games, you want to win the set of games that stretch across the line…
JOCKO WILLINK: The long war.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah, that’s right. Exactly.
JOCKO WILLINK: The long war, that little battle is not going to matter. And in fact, I don’t, you should not try and be right. If you’re right, everybody knows it’s fine. But the worst thing to do is rub it in. And yeah, I’m right. And you’re wrong.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: You do that 100 times. And then like, well, you’re the winner, and she’s the loser. And then that’s great, because now you’re married to a loser. I mean, you know, that’s, if you do that 100,000 times, then your marriage is over. And then they’ll be hell to pay. You can be sure of that.
JOCKO WILLINK: I got asked the other day, what is the biggest problem in America? And I thought about it. I hadn’t been asked that question lately. I’ve been getting some good questions. A lot of times, like you, I get the same questions over and over and over again. But I got asked, what’s the biggest problem in America? And I thought about it for a second. And this may or may not be right. But I thought it was at least thought provoking.
I said that the biggest problem that we have in America is that we don’t have any big problems. And if you look at us in World War II, during the Depression, during times where we’ve got major, major problems, the country kind of unifies and it gets behind itself and joins together. And, you know, I talked about, you know, that we live in a bubble here. I kind of opened up with that as well. And that’s good. Like, I want there to be a bubble, just like I want my family to live in a bubble. And I almost want — I almost want my daughter to really, really think it’s a real problem that there’s not a strong Wi-Fi signal in her bedroom. And so sometimes it takes longer to do. I’ve kind of succeeded as a dad. If that’s her problem, if she sees that as a problem that, you know, it takes a little extra, there’s a longer buffering time on some of her Netflix. Right. I’ve done a good job if that’s a problem, because, you know, God can only imagine what kind of problems people really have.
But sometimes I feel like in America and really in the West as a whole, the problem is, is that we don’t have any major problems. So now it’s the Wi-Fi in our bedroom that we’re getting crazy about and wanting to lash out about. And I guess my point here is that do we as individuals, do we need struggle there to keep us focused on the right things? And as a country or as a culture, do we need to have some level of struggle before we start looking at things that don’t matter and turning them into things that we perceive as actually mattering?
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah. Well, you know, a couple of things about that. Kierkegaard wrote about that back in the late 1850s, thereabouts. And he said there will come a time when the best thing that you could do for people would be to make things more difficult. Right. And that’s the thing, because everyone’s working so hard on making things easier. There will come a time when there’s a felt sense for difficulty. And I think we’re at that point now. And I think that’s why this message of responsibility and truth is echoing so nicely among, particularly among young men, because every time I talk about that in my public talks, the room goes silent. And that’s really interesting. And, you know, people are dead focused on it.
And so like enough rights and freedom, it’s like time for truth and responsibility. And there’s something noble about that. And we haven’t been able to talk about nobility for God only knows how long, you know. So I do think that’s the case. And I think William James said that what we need is a moral equivalent to war. So something that’s as serious, but that is hopefully not as destructive. And so I really like that idea as well. And so but I think that we are at that point, if people would open their eyes a little bit, because we have this unbelievable culture, this technological culture that does provide the degree of protection that you described, that’s an ongoing miracle, right? It’s absolutely unbelievable that any of this works at all. And it could easily not work. And if it didn’t work, there would be hell to pay.
And to keep it working and to keep it moving forward, especially with what’s going to come over the next 10 years, with artificial intelligence and the sorts of things that we’re learning and inventing, we better have our acts together. And so I think that you can get that war like sense, if you start to, if you start to understand that you can take on your life like that. That’s also why I think it’s so necessary to see the world as a battleground, in some sense, between good and evil. But you don’t put the evil outside, like some of its outside, obviously, but that’s not your initial concern. Your initial concern is to get your act together. To take on the burden of being, to bear the suffering.
Like you said, you found that when you went out into combat, that you might have been wary of death, which is perfectly reasonable, but that you weren’t afraid of it to the point where it would paralyze you. Well, that’s a useful thing to know. Because it means that you’re different than you thought you were. Because people are afraid of suffering and death, especially if they’ve been completely and constantly sheltered from it. But you can discover, and lots of people do, that if they actually confront it, that they can tolerate it far better than they thought. I mean, think about all the people who work in like palliative care wards, you know, or in funeral parlors, for that matter. Like they’re confronting death on an ongoing basis, and yet every day they go to work. So people are tough.
And so I think there is a responsibility that everybody can take up. And I think the responsibility is something like, well, we need to decide if we’re going to collectively and individually tilt the world towards heaven or tilt it towards hell. We saw what hell was like in the 20th century. That could be back at our doorstep in no time flat. We should have learned that. And it’s necessary for people to understand the relationship between their individual actions and the direction of culture as a whole. You know, look at that guy in Charlottesville. You know, that was one guy. And he probably increased polarization in the United States by like 5% or something, you know. It doesn’t take very many individual actions of that pathological sort to tip things in a very terrible direction.
So, I mean, one of the things I’ve been telling the people who’ve been watching my videos and in the live conversations is that you have to take yourself seriously. You have to know that you’re a monster and that you’re capable of terrible things and that you have a responsibility to understand that, to incorporate it, to constrain it, and to discipline it, and then to work for the alleviation of suffering and the constraint of malevolence. And if you understand that, then it can turn your life into a noble enterprise. And then you have some self-respect, which beats the hell out of self-esteem in my estimation.
So, and I don’t think that that’s a difficult message for people to understand. I think they know that at a fundamental level. And I think at the moment, they’re starving to death for it.
JOCKO WILLINK: The subordinate principle. So, the thing, when you talk about this elevated state, this elevated thing, I think I’ve figured out that what you’re talking about is essentially truth. Is that to you sort of the, what we need to do is deal in truth on a daily basis in our own lives and in the lives with people around us?
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Well, I think it’s two things, like in sort of classical Christian morality, and I bring it up because it’s sort of at this substructure of Western ethics. There’s two things. There’s truth and love. And both of those words are even hard to say because they’d be mouthed to death. But they have, in some sense, they have a deep technical meaning. And if you know that, then it kind of reignites their power. And love is the decision that being is worthwhile and that you should struggle to support and improve it. And that’s not a trivial thing, because being is rife with suffering. Everyone dies. Everyone gets sick. It’s brutal. It’s brutal. And it’s easy to turn against it.
And so, the idea that you’re going to voluntarily accept responsibility for that, assume that it’s good, or act as if it’s good, and try to improve it, is no trivial matter. And that means you have to scour out the resentment and the arrogance and the deceit, primarily. And it’s sort of based on this idea, I would say, is like, well, life is very hard, obviously. But we’re not doing everything we could to make it better. And we’re often doing things to make it worse. So even if it is suffering, which is true, we have no idea how much we could ameliorate that if we all put our efforts into it. And so, that’s a genuine question. It’s like, yeah, there’s reasons to shake your fist and curse God. I mean, everyone ends up in a situation like that. Someone they love gets a terrible illness and disintegrates before their eyes. And maybe they’re a really good person, and they’ve done nothing you would think of to deserve that. And that terrible fate is visited upon them. It’s very difficult not to get cynical and angry under such circumstances.
But then, well, that takes you down a very bad road if you do that. But it doesn’t change the fundamental question. It’s like, if your life isn’t everything you think it should be, you have to ask yourself if you’re doing everything you can. Because you actually don’t get to make a judgment about the structure of being until you do everything you can. And I would say that’s love, essentially. That’s the decision.
And then truth is the best strategy with regards to that attainment. And how could it be otherwise? If you’re going to contend with reality, you well better know what it is. And truth isn’t your two tight-laced grandmothers’ moral finger wagging. It’s like the truth of existence is brutal and bitter. And so, to be able to face that, and to admit to the things that you are, and to communicate them with other people, especially in an intimate relationship, it’s like, that’s no cowardly morality. That’s not the morality of cowardice. Quite the contrary. You know, Nietzsche said you could assess the spirit of a man by determining how much truth he could tolerate. It’s like, that’s the right way of thinking about truth.
Well, you opened this whole podcast with some truth. It’s like, who wants to hear that? You know, and people think, oh, that’s so terrible. And they don’t think, well, could I be one of those ISIS guys? It’s like, I can tell you, if you’re bitter enough, especially if you hate women, you know, because they’ve rejected you because you’re so goddamn useless that no woman in their right mind would look at you twice, you know, that’ll generate plenty of bitterness in your soul. And if you don’t think that you could act like that under those conditions, then you’re not even watching your own fantasies.
So truth in the service of the betterment of being, it’s something like that. And that’s enough to give your life meaning. I don’t care where you start. Like, I had this kid come and visit me a while back, and he’d never left his home state. And he was, I think he was 19, and he was overprotected and oversheltered. And he was a smart kid. And so of course, he also thought that the world really hadn’t appreciated his gifts, which is a very common feeling for smart kids who aren’t getting anywhere, right? They get really angry about that. And then he decided that he was going to move out of his house. And he took a job as a dishwasher. And he said he tried to do a good job as a dishwasher. It’s like, good, that’s some humility. It’s just a dishwashing job.
But you know, you can be a good dishwasher. And then the restaurant runs better. And then it’s kind of fun. As long as the people you’re working with are half decent, you can make good social relationships. And then you can learn to be social, which was happening to him. And then maybe they let you be a short order cook, you know, and you got a bit of a clue, and then you have a bit of money, and you have a little independence. And it’s a lot better than being at home and being bitter and resentful and immature, you know, it’s just a dishwashing job.
Well, that’s the wrong way of thinking about it. It’s like, it’s, it’s the first door that’s open to you. You know, and then he came up to Toronto, he’d never been out of his home state. So it was a big deal for him to come to another city. When he first came to talk to me, he was outside of one of my lectures, he couldn’t even speak, he was so nervous, because he had pretty high levels of social anxiety. So he was tongue tied. And I invited him to come over to my house to talk to him, because I knew there was something up with him. And he told me the story, you know, and I thought, well, you know, that’s the beginnings of a heroic journey. He was able to humble himself enough so that, you know, if you’re low, if you’re in a low place, it’s a low door that’s going to open. And you might think I’m too high to crawl through that low door.
Jung said, Carl Jung said, modern people don’t see God because they don’t look low enough. I really like that idea. But that’s it. If you’re in a low place, the opportunity that presents itself to you is going to be low. And it’s going to be very tempting to you because you’re arrogant, resentful to say, well, that’s not good enough for me. It’s like, well, do you have an alternative? If you don’t have an alternative, then an in shop is up. And it’s the right trajectory, you know, and so that’s humility. That’s humility. It’s like, you’re low. You take what’s given to you. And you see if you can make it work. And the thing is, that works way faster than people think.
Because I worked as a dishwasher when I was a kid, you know, for a year or so. And it was really hard to begin with, because I didn’t know what I was doing. And the German chef, who’s kind of a tough guy, just let me flounder around for two weeks to see if I would quit. So I was there till like three in the morning. And I was 13, I think. I couldn’t wash all these damn dishes. I thought it was impossible. I told my dad at one point, I said, I don’t know if I can do this. It’s like I’m working as hard as I can. And they keep piling up, you know, but I didn’t stop. And then the German cook, you know, who had been treating me pretty harshly at one day, he said, Okay, I’ll show you how to do this. And then he showed me how to organize the dishes and everything. It was like, that was no problem. I could do it in like 10% of the time. So then I cleaned up the rest of the kitchen, I had a good time mucking about with the chefs. And we played around a lot back there. And I ended up working as a short order cook. And I learned to cook and all of that. And that was a good part of my adolescence.
But, but the thing is — so the thing is, is that those trivial jobs, it’s the conception of their triviality that makes them trivial. They’re not trivial, not if you do them right. And if you’re around people who have any sense, you know, sensible people are always looking around for other people who can do things right. And if they see you trying to do things right, the probability that they’ll open a door for you is virtually 100%. Because it’s kind of rare, you know, so they’re going to be skeptical to begin with to see you got to prove your mettle, let’s say, but as soon as you do, they’ll think, okay, well, we’ll give this kid a little bit more opportunity and see what happens.
And you know, to not think that’s how the world works is to be extraordinarily cynical, because that is how it works in a functioning society.
JOCKO WILLINK: Yeah, I mean, I work with businesses all the time. And there is — anybody that is just above normal competency in anything, even that’s going to try and even that’s going to put effort in. They love those people. And those people are going to do well. And you’re absolutely right that doors are absolutely going to open for them if they do what they’re trying to do to the best of their ability and doing a competent job at it.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Well, the other thing that’s interesting is what happens to people who aren’t trying. Because what happens to them is like, they’re in a place where there’s 1000 doors in front of them that are invisible, they don’t know the doors are there. And they could either be opened or closed. And so if they’re one of these people who is going above and beyond the call of duty, unless the organization is entirely corrupt, right, and that happens sometimes, then there are people who are watching, and they’ll start to open these invisible doors. And then all of a sudden, the person has opportunities in front of them. And they don’t even know why some of the time, right?
Because someone said, you know, gave a positive word to someone else and said, well, you could take a look at this kid. And so these doors open. And then the people who are in there grudgingly, and bitterly, it’s like, people watch that. And they’re the people who are the gatekeepers, and they just close the doors. And then the person looks up, and there’s nothing in front of them. There’s no open doors at all. And then they curse God, you know, for making such a miserable cosmos. It’s like, no, you just don’t understand what happened is like, the fruits of your bitterness, your bitterness manifested fruit, you don’t even know it. You’ve delimited your options in a terrible way. And you’ve closed, you know, you’re walking down, you’re walking between cliff walls, and they’re getting closer and closer and closer together. And then you’ll be stuck. And you’ll think, how the hell did this happen?
And it happened because you didn’t, you didn’t avail yourself of the opportunities that presented themselves to you. So, you know, that’s horrible. But that’s how it is.
JOCKO WILLINK: I get asked quite often, you know, this guy got promoted, and I should have gotten promoted, what should I do now? Or this person isn’t carrying their load, and they think I should do their work, what should I do now? And you know, the answer is, yeah, someone wants to do their work, do their work, do their work. I’ll do that all day long. Yeah, you want to do your job, that’s fine. I’ll do it. And actually, I got, I just answered a question where somebody said, the guy’s a friend of mine, and he’s not carrying his load, what should I do? And I said, well, how about you help him? What’s going on at home? Is he going through a divorce? Has he got issues? Kid sick? How about you help him and say, hey, let me take that off your plate right now. Because in two months, or six months, you might be the person that needs help. You might be the person with a sick child. But regardless of that, maybe he’s just as lazy. And maybe he shouldn’t be your friend. And maybe eventually, he won’t be your friend. But nonetheless, the solution is the same. If you don’t want to do your work, that’s fine. I’ll do it.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah, that’s such a funny thing. That’s exactly right. Because, you know, what you want to do in in your job is make yourself indispensable. Right? And the way you make yourself indispensable is by being indispensable. And the way you do that is by doing a bunch of things that if they’re not done, catastrophe occurs. And that’s exactly right. So if there’s someone around you, and they’re abdicating their responsibility, and you can pick it up, it’s like, what an opportunity, you know, it’s, you think, well, I’m not going to get credit for it. It’s like, well, first of all, there’s lots of different forms of credit, but you learn.
And then when the company shrinks, and they’re looking at who to keep, you know, they think, oh, it turns out, you’re doing all sorts of things we can’t do without you. That’s not what we expected. We can’t do without you. Here’s some more things you could do, you know, and then you’re also in a position to bargain, you can say, well, look, you know, in order for me to keep doing this level of responsibility, you know, I need to be paid more, because I have other options, or because it’s just or because that will make me more efficient. But then you’ve got some power to because they need you. And so indispensability, and that’s power, indispensability is power, not tyranny.
JOCKO WILLINK: So now, obviously, we started off talking about some very negative stuff with ISIS. And you’ve touched on this a little bit already. But I want to make sure we hit this hard enough. And that is for people to live a better life, to live a life that they’re proud of to live a life that they that when they die, they don’t regret the life that they lived. And for me, I mean, I tell people, discipline equals freedom, that the hard work, the doing the right thing. You know, I tell people to write down what you’re supposed to do the next day before you go to bed, and then you wake up and you do the things that you’re supposed to do. The things that you said you were supposed to do the things that you actually know, are going to make you healthier and faster and smarter and stronger and, and make you more money and move you forward and help your family, you just write those things down. And then you go do them. And that’s essentially you’ve drawn that out on a large scale with, and you’ve described this somewhat what the experiment that you did with people writing down what they’re supposed to do, not just tomorrow, but with their life. That’s the future authoring program. And that’s, that’s really been immensely beneficial for people.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: It certainly seems to have been. It’s at selfauthoring.com. And we put up a discount code for your listeners, it’s a WILLINK. And so they can get 20% off it. And the system allows you to write an autobiography and to analyze your personality flaws and virtues and to write a future plan. And you can do all of those or one of them. But yeah, it’s extremely useful. Because one of the things you can be virtually certain of in life is that you don’t get something you don’t aim at. And one of the things that’s interesting about that is, often people will keep their goals fuzzy. Because one of the problems with specifying your goals is you specify your failures, right? If the goal is really fuzzy, you’re not sure when you fail and that then you can fool yourself, you know, really, but you can kind of keep it foggy. But you make your goals sharp and clear.
Then well, first of all, then you know what to aim at. And what’s interesting is, you know, your brain is set up so that it reorganizes the world around your aims. And that’s not I’ve also written about this in 12 RULES FOR LIFE quite extensively. And that’s not a metaphor. Like we don’t see much of the world, because there’s a lot of the world and there isn’t much of us. And so we see what we aim at, we aim with our eyes. And here’s an example. So a great apes don’t really have much of a white in their eyes. But human beings do. And the reason for that is that we’ve evolved to detect where everyone else is looking.
And so if I can’t tell where you’re looking, I don’t know what you’re up to. And then, well, over time, that means I can’t read you as well. And we’re more likely to get in a dispute and one or the other of us is more likely to get killed. But it also means that your probability of finding a successful mate decreases. So we’ve evolved to have this very, very visually evident eye. And so when we’re looking at each other, we’re always looking at our eyes, because then we can tell where someone is pointed. And then we can tell what they’re up to.
And so we’re hunting creatures, like we’re aiming at a moving target and trying to track it all the time. And so you have to specify your aim. And the Future Authoring Program helps people specify their aim. And it’s more than one aim. It’s like you have a highest aim, which you might say is to be a good person. And then I would say, well, there’s a more elaborated aim than that. It’s like you want to be able to constrain malevolence and work to decrease suffering. It’s something like that. That’s the highest aim.
And then you have to decompose that into the things you do each day, so that there’s a definite connection between all the micro actions and the macro aim. And then that gives dignity to what you’re doing. So if you’re at home with your kids, what are you trying to do? Well, you’re trying to raise them to be the kind of moral agents that will work to constrain the evil in the world and to reduce suffering. And so that’s what you’re doing when you’re changing a diaper, if you’re doing it carefully and with some respect and some love. It’s a major deal to be doing that. And God knows who your kid’s going to be. He could be the kid that shoots up Columbine, or could be Stalin. That wouldn’t be so good. Or he could be someone, or she could be someone who is a positive benefit to the world.
And so every child is a whole new realm of possibilities. And so there’s dignity in that, if you understand that. So the Future Authoring Program, in many ways, helps people lay out a plan. And I always suggest to people that they do it badly, because you’re not going to do it perfectly. And if you get perfectionistic, it’s going to stop you. You know, when you first start to plan, you’re probably only going to be about 20% right. But zero, the difference between zero and 20% is immense. And we found with our research that even people who only spend an hour on it, benefit substantially in their ability to stick to what their next plan is.
Now, you mentioned something earlier, too, just a bit ago, yes, about scheduling. Yeah, so one of the things I tell people, so you say, write down what you’re going to do the next day before you go to bed. That’s good, because then you’ve got a direction set when you wake up in the morning. But I’ve told people to learn to use a schedule. And people often hate schedules, because they act as their own tyrants, right? They say, well, you have to do this unpleasant thing. And then here’s another unpleasant thing you have to do. And then you have to do this unpleasant thing. And you do that for about three days. And you think, to hell with this, I’m not doing that, you know, and you fall off the wagon. That isn’t what you’re supposed to do with a schedule.
You’re supposed to use it to design the days that you would like to have if you were taking care of yourself. And so some of that is, you know, you wake up in the morning, and you think, here’s five things I have to do that if I don’t do, my life will be worse. It’s like paying bills, for example, or taking out the garbage. It’s like, you have to do those, because otherwise things degenerate. So you got to put some of those in the schedule, because otherwise, tomorrow is worse than today. And that’s a bad trajectory. But you also want to build in things, you know, you got to act in some sense, like you’re dealing with a relatively recalcitrant nine year old.
It’s like, so well, here’s some things you have to do. But here’s some things that if you do, you could reward yourself with. And if you get the balance there between obligation and reward, right, then you’ll find that you’re motivated to do the things. And that’s what you want to do. You want to do that. So it’s sustainable across days and weeks and months. And so you got to treat yourself like a good boss would treat a valued employee, and not like a tyrant would treat a slave, because the slave will rebel. And you know, people say, well, I don’t follow through on my plans. It’s like, well, A, they’re probably not very well formulated. And maybe you’re doing them because of an external moral obligation or something, not really your plans, right? And B, you’re acting like a tyrant and a slave. And that’s a bad relationship to have with yourself.
So you want to treat yourself with some, well, the same way, that’s the golden rule, right? Treat other people as you would like to be treated. It works both ways. You also treat yourself like you treat other people properly. So that’s a necessary thing. And often people don’t do that. But the scheduling is really important.
JOCKO WILLINK: Yeah, actually, when I tell people, because when I first started talking about this, people would start scheduling their day, and they would just go minute by minute, everything would be scheduled. And you can’t maintain that for multiple reasons. Number one is no one wants to have a day like that, where everything that you do throughout the day, minute to minute, sucks. It’s things you don’t want to do. So guess what? After three days, you say, I’m not doing this anymore. It sucks. It’s not fun.
And the same thing with the task list, people would push those off if they’re not on the schedule. So yes, they put it on the schedule. But then the thing I ended up telling people is, you need to, number one, schedule empty space in there, because things are going to take longer, and then you’re going to be off schedule, and then you’ll be frustrated. So you schedule that things are going to be just empty. You’re not going to do anything. For this hour before lunch, you don’t schedule anything. You’re not going to do anything. You’re not going to do anything there. And the other thing is, you schedule things that you actually want to do in there, and then you go and execute the things that you want to do. You want to work out every day. You know you should. Or maybe if it’s something you enjoy, then you schedule it in there. If you enjoy going picking your kids up from school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, because that’s when they do their running club, then you schedule that in there so you can go and do that thing that you want to do. So you don’t just schedule the things that suck. You schedule the good things too. And discipline equals freedom. I say this all the time. If you want to have more free time, which is what people want, then you need to have more disciplined time management. You will end up with more free time. I promise you. I promise you you will.
The other thing I was thinking about, and I just kind of occurred to me now, is people always tell people, you know, come up with a goal and then write it down, and then you’re going to get there. And I was, you know, as you were talking about future authoring, what you had said earlier when you were describing the program in its infancy, what became future authoring, is I was saying, well, how do you get people to actually do this? Well, what you’ve embedded in the program is the fear of what happens if you don’t do these things and where you’re going to end up. And people forget that. People forget where they end up if they don’t do what they’re supposed to do in life. And I’ve explained this to my kids, that when you look around and you see people that are doing things which are self-evidently not desirable things to be doing in life, whether you’re a bum or whether you’re doing a, you know, I was a dishwasher as well, and I have an interesting story about that. And I’ll tell that at some point about a Scottish girl named Rosalind. She was older than me. I was 13.
And after, you know, several weeks of washing dishes, and she was like maybe 17 or 18. And anyways, to make a long story short, eventually I said, hey, do you want to like go to a movie or something with me? Because I’d like to go to a movie with you. And she looked at me and she said, Jocko, you have a serious mental problem. So, Rosalind, I know you’re out there somewhere. You broke my heart, sister. But I wash dishes. And that’s a good thing for a 13-year-old to do. But when you’re 18, okay, now it’s a little bit, you want to have moved up to be the short order cook. And by the time you’re 25, you want to be in charge of the whole kitchen. And by the time you’re 30, you want to maybe run the nighttime shift. And that’s a good progression. And that’s good. But you don’t want to be 35 and 40 years old out at the dishwashing stage. You don’t want to be there.
And I explained to my kids, because you can see people that are at that stage in their life. And sure, there’s a chance that maybe they had some hardship that came along that hit them and it put them in this position. And now they have to build back up again. And they’re waiting for those doors of opportunity to open up. And that’s okay. But a lot of times, it’s because they didn’t work. They didn’t make good decisions. They didn’t do the best job that they could. And so, they end up in these positions that they shouldn’t be in. And I tell my kids that those are real people that are in those positions. Like we’re going to leave this restaurant and we’re going to go home and we’re going to do what we do. That guy is going to be there for five more hours. Because it’s nine o’clock. He’s got to clean everything when they get done. He’s going to be there for five more hours. Then he’s got to mop the floor. And you know what he’s doing tomorrow? The same thing. You know what he’s doing the night after that? The same thing. It’s a real person. And I hope it’s a 14-year-old. I hope it’s a 16-year-old. I hope it’s even an 18-year-old. But I hope it’s not a 48-year-old. But there are 48-year-olds that end up in that position.
And what you do in this program is you explain that you can end up there. And actually, being a 48-year-old dishwasher is actually pretty positive to where some people can end up. Oh, definitely. Which is addicted to drugs, addicted to alcohol, or whatever.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Well, and everybody kind of has a sense of where they would end up if they let things auger down. And everybody has their specific weaknesses that their faults would exploit. And some people would end up homeless and some people would end up with a physical illness or a psychiatric illness. And some people would end up addicted and some people would end up cruel. But everybody kind of knows where they would head. Because they’ve seen it. They’ve seen it rise up. And it’s really useful to be terrified of that as if it’s a possibility.
You know, that’s a heaven and hell thing, essentially. It’s like, okay, well…
JOCKO WILLINK: It’s not even as if it’s a possibility.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: It’s a possibility. Oh, yeah, definitely.
JOCKO WILLINK: It’s an absolute possibility.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, and all you have to do to get there is do nothing. Like, you’ll just drift there all by yourself. So not only is it a possibility, it’s actually a rather high possibility. And so you have to make that realistic enough, which means that you have to take an inventory of your weaknesses, let’s say. You have to make that realistically enough so you’re actually terrified of it. Because then that’s a great motivation. And in my clinical practice, people are often faced with tough decisions like, well, you know, I’m not happy at my job and I’m afraid to leave it. It’s like, fair enough, you know, that’s a big deal.
Okay. How afraid are you of not leaving it? Let’s lay that out. Because, you know, one of the peculiarities of human thought is that you do get used to the devil you know, and then you downplay him. But it’s very often that staying in the same place will do you in. It’s much worse than the risk that you’ll take. You know, and I mean, I’m practical with this. I say, look, if you’re going to stop your job, let’s have a clue about this, right? Get your CV together, right? Start seeing what other options you have because you don’t want to just step off a cliff. That’s not helpful. Organize yourself so that you’ve got enough strength to go through the process of finding a new job. You know, you’re going to have to get used to being interviewed. You got to think that through. Maybe we can practice that. So you got to set yourself up for it. But you really want to think through the cost of inaction. And that’s something people generally don’t do.
And this is also one of the useful features of having a tragic view of life, let’s say. Because most of the time, often, you’re screwed either way. But you get to pick which one. And that’s a big deal. It’s like there’s risks on both paths, and they’re major risks. And that’s actually freeing because you know, well, there’s trouble both ways. So that frees you up. Because if you think, well, this is the safe path, and this is the dangerous path, well, then you’re not going to take the dangerous path. But if you think, well, I’ve got danger A or danger B, and this is where I would rather bet my future. Well, that’s way better. And I’ve had like many, many clients that I’ve helped with their careers. And we do exactly that. It’s like, you know, okay, what’s our goal? Our goal is to triple your salary in four years. They think, well, that’s not possible.
It’s like, well, we’ll try for doubling. But you don’t know, it’s possible, you got to, let’s get it together. And you got to get over being afraid of looking for a job, you got to get over being afraid of being interviewed, you have to put yourself together so that you’ve got options. And then you got to start to push, you don’t know, you might be able to do it. Well, it’s quite surprising how frequently that works. You know, and that assumes that people are trying, right? They’re competent. You know, this isn’t waving a magic wand or anything like that. And it takes a lot of work, you know, like, if you’re going to switch jobs, you might have to, I figure 50 to one failure to success, it’s something like that. And it’s useful to know the baselines as well, right? Because looking for a job can be very disheartening, unless you know the baselines. It’s like, well, yeah, 50 resumes for one interview, don’t take it personally. It’s just how it is.
So it’s not that you’re a screw up. It’s that there are way more resumes than there are jobs. And that can also and then, you know, don’t look for a job for eight hours a day, because you only be able to do that for three days, and then you’ll die. You look for a job an hour a day, if you already have one for an hour a day, or half an hour a day for three months, two resumes a day, three resumes a day, you’ll find a job, it’ll take a while. One of my clients took like three years, you know, to get her first break. But then right after that, she got another one. And then right after that, she got another one, but she stuck it out. And, you know, it was brutal, because she had interviews, and they didn’t go, you know,
JOCKO WILLINK: She worked in a job that she didn’t like at the time.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah. But I also say to people like, you know, generally, stay in your job, because you’re way more likely to get a new job when you have a job.
JOCKO WILLINK: So I always tell people, yeah, because I get the same exact thing. Hey, I’m in this job. It’s miserable. I don’t like it. Want to leave tomorrow. But I don’t have the courage. And I’ve said, actually, it’s going to take you more courage to stay in your current job, formulate an exit strategy, save up money, start putting together a better resume, get some technical skills that you might not have right now, do all that while you’re suffering in this job that you don’t like, so that when you make the transition, which will come, it’ll be the right way. And you won’t end up, like you said, jumping off of a cliff.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Well, it also makes you hopeful, even in the terrible job. Because, you know, then you’ve got some hope. And like, hope is a big deal. You can put up with a lot of misery, if you’ve got hope. But if you think, I’m miserable today, and I’m going to be miserable tomorrow. And next year, I’m going to be older and just as miserable. It’s like, that’s not good. But if you think, well, I’ve got a plan, you know, that’s a whole different story.
JOCKO WILLINK: Yeah. And it’s a good idea for those veterans that are out there. Don’t just get out. Formulate a plan, figure out where you’re going to go, and have that in place. And then you get out, you step into…
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah, well, I’d really like to see the military use this future authoring program for people who are decommissioning. Because you need, you know, your idea that you need the next mission is that that’s exactly right. You know, life is like a series of missions forward, you know, and nested in something greater than that, I think. But you need to have a plan. And you know, you’ve got to hold the plan loosely, you know, because you’re going to make mistakes formulating it. But the way it works, basically, is you aim at something in the future. And so then you start moving forward.
And as you move forward, you accrue more experience and more information. Sometimes that’s through failure. It doesn’t matter. But you’re not staying in the same place. So you’re actually growing, even if you’re doing badly, if you learn from those mistakes. And so then you move towards the goal, and your perspective shifts. And then you might have to modify the goal a bit, because now you’re a little smarter. You think, well, that other goal wasn’t helpful. It’s like, yes, it was, because it moved you an inch farther ahead.
And so, you know, you kind of approach the final goal in a zigzag manner. And the zigs and the zags get less extreme as you get closer to the final goal. But you have to do a lot of zigzagging to begin with. So you’ve got to give yourself that space for error. That’s why there’s an archetypal idea that the fool is the precursor to the savior. And you see that with comedians, you know, comedians are fools, and they tell the truth, right? So in the court, Jester is the only person who gets to tell the truth. And a fool will take a risk as well. And you need to take risks in order to progress. So that’s the idea.
But it also means that you have to allow yourself to make the mistakes that are necessary while you progress, and not beat yourself to death about it. And so that’s also really helpful, because it means that when you’re formulating your plans, you can say, well, this is the best I can do now, subject to revision. It’s like, great, that’s good enough. Really, it’s good enough. It just has to move you to the next place.
JOCKO WILLINK: That’s interesting, because obviously, I’ve done a ton of military planning. And I would see guys that would get so wrapped around trying to make the perfect plan. And it would take them so long to plan that by the time they’re ready to execute the plan, the whole target had shifted and things had moved in the battlefield change, they’re not ready to do this anymore. So you need to come up with, like you said, you need to come up with a good idea of what you’re going to do, and how you’re going to do it. And then you start to move.
And as you move, you start to see things from a different angle, and you gain more intelligence, and you get another report, and all of a sudden, the target shifts a little bit, but you’re adapting, and you’re closer to the target anyways. Very, very interesting.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah, exactly. Well, it’s also the idea that you’re gaining information, because you might say, well, I don’t know what to do with my life. So maybe I should just stay here and figure it out. It’s like, no, no, if you stay there, then all you know is what you know, while you’re there, and you don’t know enough, because you can’t make a plan. So make a bad plan. Even if it’s actually a plan that works out so that it’s opposite of what you want, if you move towards that plan, you’re going to know more clearly that it’s opposite of what you want. And as soon as you know that it’s opposite, you know, oh, I should be going in the other direction. So that’s not a retreat. That’s an advance.
And the thing is, people, we’re active creatures, and we’re always navigating through territory, right? We can’t be sitting in one place and waiting. Well, you can’t, because you get old. So even if you’re sitting in one place, the place is changing on you. And that’s just, well, you said that when you said, you know, people make a detailed plan, and then the environment will shift on them.
JOCKO WILLINK: And on future authoring, do you go back in and adjust your goals? So it’s something that you continually update?
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah. And I would say, don’t update it too often, right? Because then you end up in the situation you were just describing. But the idea would probably, it’s something like, make your damn plan, implement it for four months or six months, and then go back and see what needs to be updated. And you’ll find that you’ve done a lot of what you said you would, and so then it’ll need to be reformulated. And that’s also very self-affirming, I suppose, is the right… It helps you understand that there’s more to you than you think, which is actually the case. There is more to people than they think. That’s one thing that’s interesting about human beings.
And so you can put yourself, you can stand up to things you’re afraid of, you know, in measured doses, and you’ll find that you grow to be larger than the thing that you’re afraid of. And, you know, that’s like one of the basic rules of clinical therapy, is like, if people are afraid of something, you break it down into pieces, and you have them encounter the things they’re afraid of, and they don’t get less afraid, they get braver, and more competent, which is way better, because there’s plenty of things to be afraid of.
JOCKO WILLINK: So once again, here’s just a total alignment. I wrote this kid’s book, it’s called Way of the Warrior Kid. Okay, so I didn’t know about this, but I knew what I did with my kids. And in the book, you know, the kid’s scared of water, and he doesn’t know how to swim. So he starts off wading in the water, and then eventually he dunks his head in the water, and then eventually he covers up to his neck in the water, and then eventually he swims a little bit, and then he finally jumps off the bridge.
But when I heard you describing that process in some interview that you were on, or one of your podcasts, I said, ah, I put that in my book, and I didn’t even know it.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yes, progressive exposure. And so what you want to do, what you want to do is, you can do this for yourself. You think, okay, here’s something I’m afraid of doing. Okay, and so I won’t do it, because I’m actually afraid of it. Okay, fine, decompose it. Like, let’s say you’re afraid to go on a subway, you have agoraphobia. It’s like, okay, go online and look at a bunch of pictures of a subway. Can you do that? Go to the subway station, and look at the subway station, and then go home. Or go into the subway station, and open the doors, and go in, and then go home. But don’t play tricks on yourself, right?
If you say that you’re going to go and just look, then just go and look, and then go home, you know, because otherwise you won’t trust yourself the next time you do it. So you have to keep the bargain intact. And what you want to do is, you want to push yourself a little farther than you want to go, but so that you would go. That’s all you have to do. And that’s kind of a rule for learning in life. So this happens, the reason it works is because this is actually how human beings learn.
And so if you watch a kid, maybe let’s say a kid that’s a little inhibited, because some kids will just take off, but we’ll use the kid that’s a little inhibited. So they’re around their mom, and they’re in the playground, and there’s strange kids there. Maybe they’re like four years old, something like that. And so they’re thinking about maybe that they’ll go out and play. And so they hang around mom for a while, and they check out the situation. And then they’ll go out a little bit, and check it out a bit more, and then they come back. And maybe they need a little pat or something like that, you know, because they’re coming back to home territory.
Then the next time they go out a little farther, then they’ll come back. And the next time they go out a little farther, and then they’ll come back. Because they want to know they can come back. And they’re checking to see how far out they can go. And if you’re patient, and encouraging, even with kids that are quite nervous, you know, you encourage them to keep going out, and exploring. Then they’ll habituate, and well, what they do is learn they’re competent, and away they go. And so it’s not surprising that graduated exposure works, because that is actually how human beings learn to confront the world. But it’s a great technique.
JOCKO WILLINK: And the story in the book, it wasn’t — my daughter had stage fright, but she wanted to be in the school musical. And so it was started with her in her room singing by herself, but I was outside the door with the door shut. And then it was, okay, you sing, but the door was open. And this happened over, you know, a couple of weeks. Now the door is open. Now I’m going to stand in the doorway. Now mom and I are going to stand in the doorway. Now we’re actually going to come in and sit down and watch you sing. And then it was the family’s going to watch you sing. And then the neighbors are going to come watch you sing. And eventually, she has no issues whatsoever right now, very confident kid. But that was — I translated it into the water for the story, for whatever reason.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Well, that also means that see what I like about that story, too, is that you established an individual relationship with your daughter, you know, because kids have different temperaments. So like some kids, if you take them to the playground, it’s like they’re like pup, you put them down on the ground, they’re like puppies over water, their feet will be going before they hit the ground, and they’re just gone, right? They’re out there playing with the kids. Those are extroverted kids who don’t have very high levels of negative emotion.
And your problem is going to be that they’ll run off too far, you know, so but then other kids are more, they’re more inhibited. And often, they’re a little more introverted, they’re a little higher negative emotion. So then what you want to do is calibrate and you have to watch. It’s like, okay, how much can this kid tolerate? It’s like, we’ll push it. And you can figure that out. It’s like it, it has to be you have to push them enough so that if they accomplish it, they feel that that’s an accomplishment. It can’t be too easy. But it can’t be too hard. You want to put them right on that edge. That’s the edge between order and chaos, right? Fundamentally, you want to put them on that edge and let them experience what it’s like to be there. And then they also learn that they can be there.
Because you know, you taught her two things. You taught her that she could sing in front of a group. But you also taught her that she could learn to do something she was afraid of doing. And that’s a way better lesson, right? That’s a killer lesson. So that’s good. That means and you can do that with kids too, with graduated reward, like you can watch them. And if they do something, well, I’ll tell you how I did this with my daughter. So my daughter had arthritis, and it was really bad. And she had to learn to give herself and well, she had to take injections every day. And so and I think that started when she was like seven.
And so we could give her the injections, but she was pretty skittish about that. And no wonder, because they hurt and everything. So I thought, all right, to hell with this. We’ll get her to do her own injections. And so I sat her down. And I said, she was pretty motivated by money. She’s always been kind of a capitalist kid. So we found her outside once when she was four selling all her child books on the street, which was quite funny. I think she was maybe five, but whatever. I said, Look, kiddo, I’m going to give you this needle. And if you can give you — if you can inject this yourself in 45 minutes, I’ll give you 50 bucks. And so I let her sit and she like struggled with that. She struggled with that day. And but by about 30 minutes, she did it. And I thought that good work, man, good work.
So then the next time I said, Okay, this time, it’s 30 bucks, but you got 10 minutes to do it. And so she did it. And you know, soon we got it down so that because I wanted to get it down. So there was no hesitation, right? Because actually, the anticipatory anxiety is worse than the needle. So you want to push it. So it’s like, okay, now and we got to the point where it was, if you can do it in five seconds, I’ll give you 10 bucks. And so she got to the point took about a week, where she could do it in five seconds. And I kept paying her because, well, for obvious reasons, you know, I mean, it was kind of unfortunate. She was very sick. And she had these needles. And we had to do some things that would sort of perk her up, you know, to some degree, but that was a hard thing for a kid to learn. You know, it’s not an easy thing to give yourself a needle. But you can use that graduated exposure and careful reward, you can get kids to do very brave things.
And then they also learn how tough they are. It’s like I — and she was proud of that, man, you know, she that she could go and do it by herself, because that was a big deal. It also gave her some control over her illness. So competence, that’s what you want to instill in your kids, unless you’re jealous of them.
DETERMINING PERSONALITY TRAITS.
JOCKO WILLINK: Now you also talked about — you started talking about some various personality traits and how those come through. And you just released what a month ago, a new program, understand yourself –
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: understandmyself.com. Yeah. And I also put up a discount code for your people for that, too. So it’s Willink again, and 20%. That would make it about $7.95. So it’s pretty cheap. What you do is if you answer 100 questions, the questions are pretty standard, like they’ve been derived from the standard scientific literature, partly from a test that I designed, that my students designed about in 2007, Colin DeYoung, who’s now a professor at the University of Minnesota. And we statistically analyzed this question set, so we could break out five major personality traits. And those are the standard traits that psychologists believe are reliable and valid. And they’ve been working on that since about 1960. And so that’s extroversion. And it breaks into two aspects.
So extroverted people are assertive and enthusiastic. It’s the positive emotion dimension. They’re talkative, and they like to be in social groups. They like to plan parties. They like to talk. And they’re smiley and so forth. And then there’s a negative emotion dimension, neuroticism. And people who are high in neuroticism, that can be broken into withdrawal and volatility. And people who withdraw have a lot of anticipatory anxiety, so they might shy away from doing something. And volatile people are kind of touchy. They’re easily set off.
So agreeableness, agreeable people are compassionate and polite. Disagreeable people are tough and blunt. And so women are higher in agreeableness than men, and they’re higher in negative emotion as well. Conscientiousness, which is the best long-term predictor of life success after intelligence. Conscientious people are dutiful, and so they’re industrious and orderly. And orderliness is a good predictor of conservative political philosophy, by the way, or political affiliation, along with low.
The last dimension is openness. And open people are interested in ideas, so that’s intellect, and creative. And we call that openness. It’s openness to experience is the main trait, and the creativity trait is openness proper. So this report gives you a comparative description, so you compared to other people on all five of those dimensions, plus all of those 10 aspects. And that can help you understand who you are. And that’s very useful, because one of the things you want to do in life is figure out what your temperament is, so that you can find a niche in the economy or in the social world that you’re suited to.
So like if you’re an introvert, well, computer programming is not a bad idea, or accounting, or something like that. But if you’re extroverted, you’ve got to be out with people. You know, and if you’re high and negative emotion, you’re going to want a job that’s not too stressful, and it’s fairly secure. And if you’re open, then you’re an entrepreneurial or creative type. And if you’re agreeable, you should be working with people. And if you’re disagreeable, you should be working with things. And so anyways, the reports detail all of that.
JOCKO WILLINK: And so then once people see where they fall out, they can kind of put themselves into a better position, like you said, a job that suits them. And that’s going to be –
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Well, that’s it, you know, you do have a temperament. And there’s a place for each temperament in the economy in the world, because otherwise, they wouldn’t exist. And so the issue is, what is your temperament? So if you’re high in openness, you need to engage in something creative, because you won’t be healthy if you don’t, because it’s like a major, if you’re like a tree with different trunks, it’s like, that’s one of the trunks, it might be the major one, you can’t let that thing die, because it’ll take a big part of it with you. And if you’re disagreeable, say, you’re a competitive type. And so you’re going to need some of that in your life.
And if you’re conscientiousness, if you’re conscientious, that’s a really good predictor of military performance, by the way, then you need a routine and you need to be locked on to some task, you know, because otherwise, you’ll consume yourself with guilt. So it’s very important to understand who you are in that way. And it’s also important.
JOCKO WILLINK: That’s interesting, because that’s, I can tell you that that’s sort of the middle of the bell curve. And even like towards the higher end of the bell curve of military performers are, you know, people that can concentrate on the task, they’re going to be relatively obedient. But when you get to either end, either high end, either the low end of bad performance, but also the high end are the people that know when to break the rules that are slightly rebellious, that will rebel that will tell you know, one of the big ones, you know, I don’t want to be surrounded by people that are telling me that I’m right all the time. I don’t want my subordinates, I don’t have people that are working for me that are gonna when I say go charge that machine gun, that’s they say, okay, and they go do it. You might think that that’s what I want. And that might be the overall perception of people in the military, I want a robot that’s going to follow my orders. I actually don’t.
If I tell you to go charge that machine gun nest, and it’s not and it’s going to get you and your men killed, I actually want you to say, hey, Jocko, that doesn’t sound like a good plan to me. Let’s do something else. Let’s come around to the flank. So it’s interesting that yeah, you’ll be good in that middle part, and you might even get towards the higher end. But the guys that are really valuable in the military, are the guys that also have that openness and that creativity. And at the same time are able to discipline it and harness it, right, they can conform when they need to which I actually had to do as I got older, the older — when I first got in, you know, I was the guy pushing the envelope by long hair. And so everything that I could do would max out to to stay within the bounds of what we were supposed to be doing. And and then as I got older, I realized I got that stuff’s not important. What’s important is that you’re able to do your job good, and you have creativity, not with how you have your stupid haircut, but in how you come up with a mission plan, right? That’s where I expressed my creativity, not through pushing the envelope of uniform standards, which is what a lot of immature young military guys do.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Right, right. Well, and the thing about the people who will stand up and tell you what they think is that they tend to be disagreeable types as well. And you know, you hear a lot about emotional intelligence in the business world these days. But emotional intelligence is really indistinguishable from trait agreeableness. And so agreeable people are polite and compassionate. And that’s great, especially if you’re taking care of people. But you want some disagreeable people around because they’ll tell you what they think. And they’re blunt.
JOCKO WILLINK: Well, there isn’t emotional intelligence, though. Can you be agreeable but not be able to read? I always think of it as me being able to read people like I understand, oh, that person’s got bits going on. That’s their agenda is in the background. So even though I might be agreeable, but I’m also understanding where you’re coming from.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Well, I think that’s what emotional intelligence is, if it’s anything valid. But the tests that tend to correlate very highly with agreeableness. And so actually agreeable managers don’t make better managers. Disagreeable managers make better managers. Well, they have to be conscientious as well, right? Because a disagreeable person who’s conscientious is actually relatively easy to work for because they’ll tell you what they think, but they’ll do what they say, you know, and they can make tough decisions. And you often have to make decisions that are somewhat harsh in order to move things ahead in the long term, right?
Because if you’re soft, it means you’ll sacrifice the long term for the short term. And if you’re tough, but have your head screwed on straight, it means you’ll make tough decisions in the present that might ruffle feathers and hurt people’s feelings, but they make the medium to long term better. And so –
JOCKO WILLINK: No, that’s absolutely true. I see all the time, especially with younger companies, they go through that expansion phase. And all of a sudden, they go through the retraction phase, and they got to fire people. And they wait, because the leader is too agreeable and too soft. And so they wait. And all of a sudden, they’re upside down financially. And it’s a real problem. Whereas if they would have been aggressive and said, you know what, here’s the decision we got to make. I know it’s going to hurt right now. But long term, it’s gonna be good for us. We got to get rid of this division or this department or these people. And if they don’t have the ability to do that, it really hurts them.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah, yeah. Well, that’s the sacrifice of the future for the present. And that’s generally a bad idea. The other thing with the Understand Myself system is that you can also use it to like if you do the program and get your results, and someone else does someone you’re close to say you can compare them. And that’s really useful. Because you think you understand people, but you don’t understand them as well as you think.
So for example, my daughter was fairly well, she was quite ill. So it was complicated. But she was touchy, let’s say when she was a teenager. And I thought it was because she was rebellious. But she did the personality test. And my son, by contrast, was very easy to get along with. But then we had them do the personality test. And it turned out she was very high in agreeableness and compassion, but also pretty high in negative emotion. Whereas he was the opposite. He was very disagreeable, but very low in negative emotion. So he wasn’t easy to get along with, he just never got upset. But if you ever tried to get him to do something he didn’t want to do, that was like impossible. And he was like that from the time he was two years old.
Whereas my daughter wasn’t rebelliousness, it was that she was easily made anxious and upset. And so I learned at least somewhat. So if she sort of flared up, instead of interpreting that as rebelliousness or conflict, I just saw it as nervousness. And that helped a lot. You know, it didn’t make me able to deal with it 100%. But it helped a lot. It was quite shocking to me because, you know, I thought I knew my kids. And I did, I think, but that was very useful. And then it was really funny because then as she started to date, she had every boyfriend she ever went out with take the personality test first. So I thought that was really comical. That actually worked out quite well.
Well, the thing is, you know, you want to be…
JOCKO WILLINK: Are the boys not smart enough to like manipulate the answers?
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Well, they don’t necessarily know what she wants. I would at least assume like, okay, I’m going to try and sound agreeable.
JOCKO WILLINK: And I’m going to try. I remember I had to take psychological tests too. And this was in the 90s. They give us ones, you’d think they had some big battery of psychological examinations and interviews to get in the SEAL teams. No, took like one test during bootcamp. And it was funny because I was really hungry when I was in bootcamp because the food sucks. And I just thought, man, I want to pass this test. And I knew I had some things in my brain that weren’t going to be smiled upon by whatever analyst was going to read these things.
So, and it was complete dissent. These are the things I remember. It was complete dissent. And so it said, for instance, I hate when my mom, and you fill in the blank. And obviously, it’s real easy to go sideways on that thing, right? I mean, if you’re a psychopath, but for me, every answer that I gave was, you know, for me, it was, I hate when my mom doesn’t cook enough noodles with the spaghetti. Everything I gave was just about food. They must have thought I was a food psychopath. They were getting nothing out of me. Nothing.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: I think the test that my daughter used was one I had designed that people couldn’t fake. So it wasn’t quite as accurate with regards to the individual personality traits, but it was more difficult to fake good on, which is better for hiring people, for example.
JOCKO WILLINK: What kind of question can you not fake in?
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Well, are you hardworking or are you easy to get along with? Right. Are you creative or disciplined? Yeah, exactly. Are you neurotic and anxious? Or are you inhibited and awkward with people?
JOCKO WILLINK: Can you go in between? Is it a one to 10? It’s either or.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah, with that particular pairing it is.
JOCKO WILLINK: And then you’ve paired all these questions that eventually you get.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: That’s right. That’s right. Well, or maybe here’s 10 negative statements. Which five apply to you most? People hate those particularly, but they’re quite accurate. So we use those for personnel selection for a while.
JOCKO WILLINK: So for me it would be, are you agreeable or disciplined? Hungry is my answer.
Now before we close out, you also have the book Maps of Meaning. And for those people that were expecting me to do the book Maps of Meaning on this podcast and review it in depth, there is literally no reason because you have already done that online on YouTube and on your podcast. You go through in great detail, better detail than I would have been able to in one podcast because you have a series of podcasts about Maps of Meaning. It’s fascinating. It’s awesome. Everything that you kind of touched on today is in there in great depth.
And there’s many worshipers of Marduk out there now thanks to you. And I’m sure that will expand. And if you want to get into that, the book is called Maps of Meaning, the Architecture of Belief. It’s very interesting. I also like that you talk about some of your clients, which by the way, I didn’t talk about you at all in the opening. I realized that about halfway through this podcast that I didn’t actually explain who you were.
So is there anything you need to say about yourself that I should have said?
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Well, there’s just the bare basics. Well, I’m a clinical psychologist. I’ve practiced for about two and a half decades. I’ve done a lot of business consulting as well as clinical work. I’m a professor at the University of Toronto in psychology. And my domains of expertise are personality assessment and neuroscience and the study of belief systems like religious belief systems. And I have a family. I’m married and have been for just about 30 years. And I’ve got two kids and a new grandchild. So that’s… And I’ve become somewhat notorious on YouTube over the last year, really. It’s been that. And so that’s been quite the bizarre trip, you might say.
JOCKO WILLINK: So everyone can go and explore that. Yeah, you’re pretty…
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: I guess the other thing I should say, because my publicist will be on my case if I don’t, is that I have another book coming out, which is much more straightforward than Maps of Meaning, which is quite a technical book.
JOCKO WILLINK: And that book is going to be called 12 Rules for Life.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah. An Antidote to Chaos. Yeah. And it’s available for pre-order on Amazon already.
JOCKO WILLINK: So January 23rd. That’s when it comes out.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yep. And I’m hoping that…
JOCKO WILLINK: Now, that one, maybe you come back on here and we could talk a little bit about that book.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: That’d be good.
JOCKO WILLINK: That would be good. That book will be right up. I mean, you’ve touched on it a little bit. You’ve mentioned a couple of the 12 rules today. I think you mentioned two of the 12 rules today. And that would be awesome to have you come back on. And again, I think people, after they hear this, if they didn’t already know who you are, they’ll go and research who you are. They’re going to want to get that book. And it’d be great to have you back on there. And then, obviously, you’ve got your own podcast. The Jordan B. Peterson Podcast. You’ve got your YouTube channel. Jordan Peterson Videos. And Jordan Peterson clips. You just put out.
Echo wasn’t that crafty to come out with a thing, like a separate thing.
ECHO CHARLES: Two channels.
JOCKO WILLINK: Yeah. So, he’s got two channels. He’s the one that’s supposed to make the clips.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah. Well, one of the things that’s been so strange, I mean, learning to use YouTube, people have been clipping my work like mad, which is not something I expected. Like, I would say, right now, there’s probably 40 new clips a day being put on by people, which is really good. I mean, I’ve got no problem with that at all. But I thought I might as well see what would happen if we also did it. And so, I put my son’s fiancé on that, and my daughter as well. So, they’ve been doing that clipping.
But yes, cool. The YouTube videos are so interesting, as well as the podcasts, because people can do their own thing with them to some degree. And that can be bad, depending on how they do the editing. But so far, people have been responding very positively to what I’ve been doing, which is quite a shock to me. But I think you’ve made reference to this, as well, in the fact that you’ve found a ready audience. It’s like people are ready for a message that’s not all freedom and rights. It’s like, Jesus, enough of that. Like, really, seriously.
We’ve been walking down that road for 60 years. It’s time to look at the alternative ethics and responsibility. That’s a big one, especially when it is the case that you think freedom gives your life more meaning. That’s true if you’re under a tyranny. But if you’re not, then it’s responsibility that gives your life meaning. And your life has to have meaning. It has negative meaning, whether you want it or not. You choose whether or not it has positive meaning, and you choose that by adopting responsibility. And there’s a ready market for that, because we’ve ignored that reality for too long.
JOCKO WILLINK: And eventually, people are now at the point where they realize that being free, free, free, free isn’t getting them anywhere.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah, well, I always think it’s like, okay, you want to be free. All right, I’ll take you out, drop you in the middle of the ocean. It’s like, you can swim in any direction you want. It’s like, that’s not helpful. You’ve got to be swimming. It’d be different if I dropped you near an island and said, well, swim to that. It’s like, yeah, I can do that. That’s got meaning. I won’t drown. I won’t die. But there’s no difference between too much freedom and chaos, right? And you drown in chaos. You need the right balance of freedom and order and discipline.
Well, as you said, also, which is a paradoxical thing, the more discipline you have, the more self-discipline, the more freedom, even putting in those hour breaks that you described. You know, sometimes when I’ve been too busy, which has been fairly frequent, I’ll take an hour break. And I can actually have a break because I’ve done the things that I was supposed to do. And so even though it’s an hour long, I can actually relax during that hour, not being plagued by my conscience. There aren’t things undone. And so that’s a really good thing to be able to attain when you feel that you’ve got the right things reasonably under control, and you’re moving uphill. That’s better than anything else, really.
JOCKO WILLINK: Yeah. Speaking of getting things under control, Echo, maybe could you tell people quickly how they could support this podcast? I’ll try to make it.
THE RISE OF JORDAN PETERSON.
ECHO CHARLES: I kind of feel like we should keep talking about what we’ve been talking about. Actually, I have a question, two questions. Okay. So with the recent kind of rise…
JOCKO WILLINK: This is what everyone waits for in the podcast, Echo’s questions.
ECHO CHARLES: A little bit more. With the rise of your exposure, we’ll call it, do people kind of flock to your class now?
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Well, no, not so much to my class, but they’re definitely flocking to public talks. Oh, yeah. And my class has generally been quite popular. Yeah. And I’m on sabbatical this year, so we’ll see what happens when I return.
JOCKO WILLINK: Was that luck, or did you pre-coordinate that?
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Well, it was actually the good grace of the university, because, well, I had to get my act back together after all these things happened. And I’ve also had some health problems over the last year that have been rather severe, which I think I have under control, maybe. But I told them that, look, I’m going to be much better if I take this year and do what’s necessary for this book that’s coming out and re-conceptualize what I’m going to be teaching.
Because the other thing is I have to do that. I’ve got all these lectures recorded now. They’re on YouTube. It’s like, it isn’t obvious to me why I should do them again. There’s three years of some of them online. So I have to rethink what I’m doing as a university lecturer. Because with YouTube, you can do something new, like this biblical series that I’ve been doing. You can do something new, and you can have it out in front of 150,000 people in one day. It’s like, well, you’ve got to think about that. That’s a whole different universe.
And I like doing lectures on things that I’m still learning about. It’s hard to do that at a university, because you have to have the evaluation structure. People have to know what to expect. And it has to be pre-planned. And that’s not so good if you want to do something that’s novel. So I’ve got a lot of thinking about that. And I don’t know what’s going to happen this next year in any case.
ECHO CHARLES: You find that like, let’s say you did a talk about something specific, and people saw it online. I think a lot of times people are more compelled to see that same one in person, like a concert. Like, oh, yeah, I listened to ZZ Top. And I have the CD or whatever. But they’re in town for a concert, or they’re in the next day for a concert. I want to go see the concert.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Well, I think that works out okay for me, because there are these underlying themes that permeate everything that I’m saying. And I would say those are the archetypal themes. So I have this sort of structured way of presenting information that’s based on, well, the work I did for Maps of Meaning. And so even if the lecture’s new, there’s echoes of the other ones always. I mean, one of the things about archetypal stories and images is that they’re very expansive. And so they’re multifaceted. And so you end up touching on the same themes over and over, but from different perspectives.
And one of the things people tell me all the time, which is really interesting, and this has really been the case for 30 years, is they come up to me after the lecture, and they say, you know, you were telling me things that I already knew, but I didn’t know I knew them. And that’s definitely an archetypal experience, because your experience does have a certain structure. And that doesn’t mean you can say what it is. But if you hear it being said, then you know that that’s what it is. And so it’s fun in front of a crowd, because I can watch that happen to people, because I’m always speaking to individuals within the crowd. And I’ll say something, and someone will go like this. Their eyes are open a little bit, or they’ll jerk back a little bit. And I think, yes, so that just clicked a couple of things together for you, which is really fun.
JOCKO WILLINK: I get the same thing with Extreme Ownership, the book. And you know, it’s about leadership principles. And we say in the book, these are not new. These have been around for hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of years of how militaries run organizations. And therefore, the military leadership principles are actually the same as all leadership principles, because you’re trying to get a bunch of crazy human beings to do something that’s going to be behind a mission and execute it in the most efficient way.
But people say, oh, you know, I kind of always thought that I should do that. I’ve always done that. But yeah, you captured it. And it’s a self-awareness, I think, when people, maybe they do have good, natural leadership judgment. And they’ve always taken responsibility for things. But they never really thought about it. They just kind of did it. Well, then once they know, hey, I need to take ownership of things, well, then they really can do it. And they also see it in their subordinate leadership. And they go, that guy’s not taking ownership of things. They’re not doing a good job. And it’s the same thing with keeping things simple or decentralized command or prioritize and execute. These are things that successful leaders do: prioritize and execute. If you get a leader that’s going to try and accomplish 37 different things at the same time, they’re not going to be successful.
So leaders, they know to prioritize and execute… good leaders. But when we say it to them, you know, they might still they might not do 37 things, but they might do try and do eight things at the same time. And they know that they should be doing one or two. And when they hear us say it and describe, they go, yeah, that’s what I think.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah. Well, one of the things that characterizes a leader is that he or she knows where they’re going. Right. I mean, that’s the fundamental principle to communicate it to. But that’s I worked for a U.N. committee at one point on economic sustainability, economic and environmental sustainability. And one of the problems with the first draft of the report, and I would say the final draft to some degree, is that, you know, it was all done by committees. So there are 100 priorities. It’s like, no, there aren’t 100 priorities. That’s a contradiction in terms. It’s like you start with one of these things and maybe you start with a small piece of it and see if it works. But it’s to have 100 priorities is to make no one dissatisfied.
But you’re not going to move because you can’t move in 100 directions at the same time. So it’s a real abdication. And people do that in a sneaky way, too, because they’re abdicating their responsibility. Right. Say, well, we’re going to move in 100 directions and everyone had input. It’s like, well, that’s not the issue. The issue is how you condense that down to an actual action plan. And that actually makes you accountable. That’s the thing. And that’s why people don’t do it. It’s like, well, if you’re going 100 directions, then it’s hard to see whether you’re doing it well. But if you’re going to one direction, that doesn’t work. It’s like, well, that’s pretty obvious. So people are afraid to do that. But if you don’t do it, it’s failure.
JOCKO WILLINK: Yeah. I get the same thing where I get people now. They ask me a question and I give them the answer. I know you’re going to say that. He does that from time to time.
ECHO CHARLES: Also, how you’re talking about kind of breaking the loop in your behavior, like, oh, I want to make a change to that one thing, you know, to break the loop. And then you start with something small and then it ends up affecting more things. And you mentioned sometimes it’s hard because you don’t get pats on the back for those little things, you know?
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah. Well, they’re often so small that it’s humiliating that you even have to do that.
ECHO CHARLES: Yeah. Yeah. But in a lot of time, like to yourself, it’s like kind of big, like, like, oh, I’m going to drink eight glasses of water a day now, you know, and then it’s almost like you’re seeking that pat on the back. Like, you want to tell your friend, like, hey, I drink eight, eight glass of water now. And they’re just like, yeah, so.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah. Right.
ECHO CHARLES: And you’re like, why do I even party? You kind of like, why do I even do it then if no one’s going to care?
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Yeah. Well, you know, there’s a lesson to be drawn from that, too, in terms of relationships, that’s really useful psychologically is and this is a big mistake that people won’t make. It’s like, if you want to have a good long term relationship with someone, then you watch them constantly. And when they do something that you like, you let them know, even if it’s a small thing, because they’re way more likely to do it again. You know, and so sometimes a person will have kind of an inkling about what they might do that’s good, or that would be good for their relationship with you, or that might even just be pleasing to you, but they won’t say anything. They’re like afraid because maybe they won’t get attention for it. But then they do it and you notice it’s like, man, that’s super powerful. Like, you have to be really attentive, though, because the good things that people do don’t stand out. The mistakes they make stand out.
And then you say, well, you made a mistake. It’s like, yeah, but to watch and to reward someone for doing something small, right, that’s a step in the right direction. That is a killer strategy.
ECHO CHARLES: I found that to be true with my daughter. She’s four and a half now.
USING PRAISE AND REWARDS CAREFULLY. PARTICIPATION TROPHIES?
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Oh, yeah. Well, some kids really, like some kids are tough and they don’t respond to punishment at all. You just can’t, you can’t, you can’t, you can’t intimidate them. My daughter, if I just pointed at her, she would stop. But my son, it was like, that was just round one. He just laughed. He just laughed and ran away. But he responded to reward like mad. If I watched him and he did something that was good and I told him that, it was like he was just, yes. Yeah. Reward is harder to use, but it’s more effective if you can manage it.
ECHO CHARLES: Yeah. And then that’s not like kind of how you say, where you’re like, be careful with the reward when you give like too much reward for these small things, you know, and then they come to expect it.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: That’s the problem with the self-esteem movement, you know. Every kid gets a trophy day. Yeah. No, it’s like inflating the currency. If everything is good, then nothing is good. Because there has to be a distinction. So yeah, you want to watch and you want to see when the person’s made an effort and you want to see when they’ve gone beyond the call of duty. And then you want to say, hey, I noticed that, that was really good. And it is. Scarcity really matters in those situations because otherwise it just turns into noise. Patronizing noise even, which is even worse. It’s like, oh, you’re doing well. Oh, you’re doing well. It’s like, leave me alone. It’s such a lie.
JOCKO WILLINK: Yeah. I have a fun time with that actually. Like if I have to judge all through my kids’ lives, if I had to judge them and their friends, and I have three daughters and one son, usually it was the daughters. I was being some kind of a judge. I’m going to judge the dance. I’m going to judge the little play that they put together. I’m going to judge the acrobatic routine that they’re doing in the backyard. And I always be judging these things. And I would have so much fun because I would say they do their little performance, their one minute performance, and they’d come out and say, well, how was it?
And I’d say, okay, first of all, presentation overall, I’m giving you a 4.2. I didn’t see one smile until you actually got on stage. That’s wrong. And I would just go through and give them this really strong critique point. And they loved it. They loved it. They didn’t get mad. They would be happy and they’d go try it again and try to raise that 4.3 to a 4.5. They’d be smiles like you could see them a mile away. I just got done. I was at a pool party with a bunch of little kids running around and I ended up judging the diving competition. And all the parents were watching and they were aghast at what I was doing.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: You treated them like someone who could improve, right? So that’s a big deal. That’s better than a pat on the back. It’s like, because everyone’s flawed and everyone needs to improve. Also, when my kids were little, I taught them how to speak in public. It took about an hour. That was it. So I had them, they had to read something, you know, and so they’d read it and I was across the room and say, well, that’s not loud enough. It’s like, I can’t hear you. Like belt it out. And then they get a little louder and said, no, no, no, that isn’t what I mean. Read it way louder than you think you should. And so they did that.
And I said, well, that’s about right because there’s nothing more appalling than listening to some speaker that you can’t hear. It’s like, there’s just no excuse for that. And then like, make it clearer, put some passion into it, you know? And it was unbelievable how quickly they would pick that up, you know? And that also made me sad because it took so little time to get them to do that. And then they had it, you know? And so a critic is your best friend if the critic isn’t destructive. Because what a critic does is say, look, you did 10 things. And like these five things, you need some work on those. They’re not good. And here’s some things you could do that would make them better. And here’s two things that you got all right. And here’s three things that you did pretty well at.
And so then, well, what’s the message? The message is, hey, you can handle some actual criticism. So you’re not some little, you know, useless, wimpy thing that’s going to die just because someone isn’t telling you that you’re already wonderful. Plus, you’re not nearly as wonderful as you could get. So let’s keep that in mind.
And then, you know, you lay out a pathway for improvement. And then you treat the kid with some respect. And you also show that being an adult means that you know more than being a kid. Because you know, the kid does something, you say, oh, that was really good. It’s like, what are you saying? Well, as an adult, I don’t know any better than you do. And that’s a pretty dismal message, because the kid is going to be an adult for a very long time. And one of the things we do really badly in our culture is model why being an adult is better than being a child. Because it is better. You have freedom, and you have responsibility, and you have autonomy. And so we’re always so concerned about making our kids feel good about themselves. It’s like, they should feel good about becoming responsible adults, because they’re going to be adults for like 80 years, and they’re going to be kids for like 20 years. So the adults, the goal.
ECHO CHARLES: So… Yeah, that was interesting when you started doing that. Because the kids are like seven years old and under, by the way. And he’s like, letting them have it. But you, it’s funny, you have this kind of tone about you, though, when you talk to kids that it’s like, it’s almost like, live that much over theatrical, you know, just that much. So you can tell he’s like playing a character. And the kids love it. It’s so funny. My daughter like loves him. And the kids are just scrambling around wanting to do it again. And like, let me do this. Let me do it. Your daughter’s all used to it. She’s like, okay, okay. So funny. So funny. Kids, though, you know, big Jocko, like ordering these kids around.
DR. JORDAN PETERSON: Kids love attention. It’s their currency. And they want attention because adults actually know more than they do. And so if you pay careful attention, like I get along really well with little kids. And it’s because I pay attention to them. And if they do something good, then we had this kid over at our house once, this is a sad story. I told it in my new book. So this kid was about four, really cute kid, really nice looking kid. And his nanny had been hurt in a car accident. So he was kind of being shuffled around the neighborhood for daycare for like a week or so. And I’d heard some rumors about this kid. And so I was kind of curious.
And so anyways, he came over to our house. My wife was also taking care of some other kids at this time. And I came home and he was standing, the other kids were playing in the living room. And he was standing in the porch sort of in the corner, you know, kind of just wandering around back and forth. And I looked at him and I thought, that’s not so good. So I kind of poked him a bit, you know, and I was poking him and trying to get him to play. And he had this like really mask of a face on, unhappy. And I poke him and he kind of jerk away and all that. And I couldn’t get him to smile. I couldn’t get him to play. And I thought, that’s not good. That’s not good. Because he’s four, like I, he should have, you know, acted unhappy for two or three pokes and then kind of laughed and then we would kind of get into it, you know. So that wasn’t so good.
So then we had lunch. And the rule at our house was, eat your damn lunch and say thank you to the person who made it, because otherwise they’ll cook you horrible things and you’ll die. So it’s hard to cook lunch for you. Have some gratitude, you little monsters. And so you ate what was there. And so his mother, when she dropped him off, said, he probably won’t eat anything all day, but that’s all right. And we thought, well, actually, no, that’s not all right, because he needs to eat. And it’s not all right that he doesn’t eat, wrong.
And so we’d learned how to feed recalcitrant children by that point. And so all the kids were at the table, and they were eating, and my wife had made some chicken stew, and he wasn’t eating. And so she was trying to feed him. And so we were watching him very carefully. And so she’d bring up the spoon to his mouth, and he’d move his head back and forth, you know, to refuse it. And it was just like, about a nine-month-old would do that, when you’re trying to feed, that’s their first trick. And so that’s a nine-month-old trick. And we thought, okay, well, something happened when he was nine months old, and he never really got beyond that.
And so, you know, my wife was fairly persistent with the spoon, and he’d get annoyed and, you know, squawk a bit, and she’d put some food in, and then he’d swallow it. And then as soon as he took a little bit of food, and she’d pat him and tell him that he was being a good kid. And she meant it. It was not a game. Like, she was really intent on getting this kid to have lunch. And so that’s fine. And he’s moving his head back and forth. But what was cool, as she kept patting him on the head and telling him he was a good kid, he was opening his mouth more often, even though he was still moving his head back and forth.
And so it took about 10 minutes or so, and she fed him the whole bowl of chicken stew. And she said, she showed him, and he said, look, you’re a good boy. You ate all of it. And that horrible mask that he was wearing, you know, that mask of unhappiness, it just fell off him. And he had this great smile. It was just, it just made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, because you could see that was the first damn thing that he’d been allowed to succeed at, you know. And so he was thrilled.
And then for the rest of the day, he followed my wife around like a puppy dog. Like, he was one step behind her. And then we went downstairs into the basement, and we were watching TV. And he climbed up in her lap, and he grabbed onto her, just like there’s this famous experiment that Harlow did with monkeys. And the monkeys could either have the wire mother that fed them milk, or the cuddly mother that they could cling to. They were both artificial. And the monkeys preferred the cuddly mother, you know. And that’s what it was like. He was just wrapped around her, you know.
And then his mother came home, and she came downstairs, and she took one look at this kid wrapped around my wife. And she said, oh, super mom, and grabbed him, and then, you know, walked out. And I thought, you, that was horrible. That was a horrible thing to see. Because one day with that kid, you’d fix him up, you know. It was one positive experience was enough to bring him out of his shell. And, you know, it’s okay that he doesn’t eat. It’s okay that he stands in the corner and doesn’t play with the other kids. You know, it’s okay that he’s miserable and unhappy. It’s like, hey, guess what? That’s not okay. It’s not even a little bit okay. So that’s a good example of the use of reward, you know. It just, it was something to see, I’ll tell you.
For Further Reading:
The Essence of Terrible Parenting: Stephanie Davies-Arai (Transcript)
At a Crossroads: Jordan B. Peterson 2022 Commencement Address (Transcript)
Billy Graham: Who is Jesus, Really? (Full Transcript)