“ An antidote to chaos ”

by Jordan B. Peterson

Book Cover

I read this book following Derek Sivers’ list of books. I probably didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have because I thought it’d be either more practical, or more scientific. This is philosophy. It draws from various sources, for the most part the Bible, and some philosophers.

Some of the points this book makes are interesting. Some are borderline misogynistic and retrograde. Edit 2020-08-15: I just learned that Peterson is a figure of the anti-feminists and other similar movements. I don’t like judging work on character but a) This would explain that and b) that guy is a donkey, let me state that I don’t endorse his general opinions.


The world is chaos and order. We are happy when in order. Chaos happens. Don’t blame the world. Get better, be proactive. Be kind and remain an agent of truth and good. Live and let live. Don’t be a hero. Seize the little things.

Reading notes

  1. Stand straight with your shoulders back
    • Humans are animals that value hierarchy.
    • Confidence is given by serotonin
    • Being at the bottom brings stress, being at the top brings confidence, allows delayed gratification, stability. You want to be at the top
    • Body language gets people to make assumptions
    • Smiling makes you happy
    • Create a positive feedback loop
  2. Treat yourself as if you were someone you were responsible for helping
    • We like order and fear chaos
    • Order is masculine, and chaos is feminine1. This has been reflected as such in folklore since the dawn of time. Somehow that’s relevant to that point? It must be important because that’s mostly what you get in this chapter. (Honestly I almost stopped there).
    • Chaos will appear
    • We can make order out of chaos
  3. Make friends with people who want the best for you
    • You can’t save people
    • Stop being loyal to people who drag you down
    • Be with people who want to synergize
  4. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not who someone is today
    • Continuous improvement
    • The bible is a foundational document for the ethics of western world
    • Opposes old god from old testament who is harsh and unforgiving (so, unattractive), and new God from new testament who is but love and forgiveness (so, not credible)
    • Faith is believing in love and tenderness despite state of the world (so, new god)
    • Get better one step at a time, small increments, all that
  5. Dont let your kids do things that makes you dislike them
    • If you spend 1h a day hating your kid, you will end up resenting them
    • Kids are feral by nature and need discipline
    • No grudge after victory
    • Discipline and punishment. Proportionate physical violence is ok to prevent dangerous behaviours
    • Letting them do whatever is not making them a favor to adapt to society
    • Principles
      1. Have few rules
      2. Use minimal disciplinary force when necessary
      3. Have 2 parents (jump in)
      4. Be conscious about your own anger, frustration, etc.
  6. Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world
    • Even for things that are caused by nature you can get prepared
    • You can blame the world and make it pay
    • Beaten kids don’t have to become beating parents
  7. Do the meaningful, not the expedient
    • Sacrificing now to get more later
    • In the bible god asks for sacrifices
    • Differentiate good from evil
    • Evil is what increases suffering in the world
    • Good is what’s opposite
    • Expediency is acting on impulse
  8. Tell the truth, or at least don’t lie
    • Especially to yourself
    • Truth is the only way to challenge your knowledge and goals
    • Lies spoil the entirety
  9. Assume the person you’re listening knows at least something you don’t
    • Help people synthesize
    • Discussion is not a competition
    • It’s very easy to present a version of facts that fit your reality
  10. Be precise in your speech
    • World is chaos and order
    • Systems combine the parts into a whole
    • People see the function before the detail
    • Imprecision and avoided/omitted topics brake the order and bring chaos
    • Non determinism is blocking people. Instead, be precise and now what is against you.

    What you hear in the forest but cannot see might be a tiger. It might even be a conspiracy of tigers, each hungrier and more vicious than the other, led by a crocodile. But it might not be, too. If you turn and look, perhaps you’ll see that it’s just a squirrel. (I know someone who was actually chased by a squirrel.) Something is out there in the woods. You know that with certainty. But often it’s only a squirrel. If you refuse to look, however, then it’s a dragon, and you’re no knight: you’re a mouse confronting a lion; a rabbit, paralyzed by the gaze of a wolf. And I am not saying that it’s always a squirrel. Often it’s something truly terrible. But even what is terrible in actuality often pales in significance compared to what is terrible in imagination.

    ~ Jordan B. Peterson

  11. Don’t bother children when they are skateboarding kids
    • (title is about skateblocks that prevent kids from skateboarding on urban features)
    • Don’t be jealous
    • Some people tend to self-proclaim themselves judges of humanity
    • Culture gives and takes. It certainly is imperfect but condemning it as a whole is a mistake
    • People taking risks and testing limits fulfill a use for society by getting better at it
    • Nelson in the Simpsons is there to make sure the classroom is not just Milhouses
    • Live and let live
    • Some more stuff around “boys will be boys” and “girls love brutes”1.
  12. Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street
    • Things can go terribly bad
    • Things can go bad for very long
    • The only way to go through terrible events is to carry on enjoying life
    • Allow yourself to admit your suffering at fixed moments, but not 100% of the time
    • Seize the little happinesses
    • Cats are not tamed. They choose to be around humans. That they be pet is a wonder
    • –> Pet a cat when you see one

The pen of light

  • Knowledge is great
  • You need to define what to do with the knowledge
  • There’s no bottom to hell: things can always get worse.
  • Put it in service to good


  1. This is what the book says, this does not reflect my views at all.  2

About Reading Notes

These are my takes on this book. See other reading notes. Most of the time I stop taking notes on books I don't enjoy, and these end up not being in the list. This is why average ratings tend to be high.