Jordan Peterson on 12 Rules for Life (Transcript)

Full text of Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson’s talk titled ‘12 Rules for Life’.


(Unknown Speaker: So without further ado, please welcome one of the world’s great public intellectuals, Jordan Peterson.)

Jordan B Peterson – Canadian psychologist

Well, that was nice. So I thought I’d talk about my book tonight. I’ve given two talks now and I didn’t actually talk directly about it, I sort of talked around it, but so I thought, I don’t like to give the same talk twice. So I thought I’d actually walk through it and outline it a little bit.

So I had to spend most of the day memorizing the rules. You know, you’d think if you worked on something for three years, or it’s been five years I guess, you’d actually have it memorized, but memory is a very strange thing and it’s very particular and goal-oriented and I actually didn’t have the rules memorized and certainly not their numbers, so hopefully I do by now.

So I guess we’re going to find out, but I have a copy of the book here in case I forget. So I think we’ll go through them one by one and we’ll see how that goes.

Seven o’clock, so all right, good.


The first rule, which is kind of a comical rule, is stand up straight with your shoulders back. And it’s a meditation, among other things, on the habits of lobsters.

I read some papers on lobsters about, must be 10 years ago I guess, and they just absolutely blew me away. And one of the things I’ve really loved about being a psychologist, and there’s many things, but I’ve really loved psychoanalytic theory and the great clinicians, the behaviorists as well. I mean, Freud, Jung, Adler, Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, the behaviorists like Skinner and the cognitive behaviorists. I mean, I’ve learned a tremendous amount from reading the clinicians.

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And so if any of you are interested in psychology, I would really recommend reading the great clinicians. Because they know, you learn so much about life, it’s crazy, by reading them. So that’s been fun.

But then on the entirely other end of the spectrum where I’ve learned most about psychology is from the really low, what would you call them now, the really science-oriented animal behaviorists. That’s where, they turned into the neuroscientists, right? They were the animal behaviorists, first of all, and then they turned into the neuroscientists. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from them. They’re such clear thinkers.

The best of the bunch, I think, there’s two of them. One named Jeffrey Gray, who wrote a book called The Neuropsychology of Anxiety, which is just a deadly book. It’s impossible to read. It takes like six months to read it, because I think he read like 1800 papers to write it or something like that. And he actually read them. That’s the cool thing. And he understood them, which is really something.

Then there’s another guy named Jaak Panksepp, who wrote a book called Affective Neuroscience, which outlines his studies, for example, of rats. He was the guy who learned that rats laugh if you tickle them with the end of a pencil eraser, but they laugh ultrasonically like bats. So you have to slow down the ultrasonic vocalization before you can hear them giggle, and you’d think, why the hell would you spend your time tickling rats with a pencil and making them laugh?

But see, what he demonstrated there was that there was a play circuit in mammals, that there’s a psycho-biological basis for rough-and-tumble play, for example. It’s a bloody big deal, you know, discovering a whole new circuit in the brain. That’s like discovering a continent. It’s Nobel Prize-winning stuff.

And Panksepp’s Affective Neuroscience, I would highly recommend that. So there’s this other book I know about, too, which is 12 Rules for Life, which you could also look into if you want.

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