12 Rules for Life
An Antidote to Chaos
There is an unspeakably primordial calculator, deep within you, at the very foundation of your brain, far below your thoughts and feelings. It monitors exactly where you are positioned in society—on a scale of one to ten, for the sake of argument.
RULE 1 STAND UP STRAIGHT WITH YOUR SHOULDERS BACK
RULE 2 TREAT YOURSELF LIKE SOMEONE YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR HELPING
People are better at filling and properly administering prescription medication to their pets than to themselves.
RULE 3 MAKE FRIENDS WITH PEOPLE WHO WANT THE BEST FOR YOU
When well-meaning counsellors place a delinquent teen among comparatively civilized peers. The delinquency spreads, not the stability. Down is a lot easier than up.
If I stay in an unhealthy relationship with you, perhaps it’s because I’m too weak-willed and indecisive to leave, but I don’t want to know it. Thus, I continue helping you, and console myself with my pointless martyrdom. Maybe I can then conclude, about myself, “Someone that self-sacrificing, that willing to help someone—that has to be a good person.” Not so. It might be just a person trying to look good pretending to solve what appears to be a difficult problem instead of actually being good and addressing something real.
When you dare aspire upward, you reveal the inadequacy of the present and the promise of the future. Then you disturb others, in the depths of their souls, where they understand that their cynicism and immobility are unjustifiable.
RULE 4 COMPARE YOURSELF TO WHO YOU WERE YESTERDAY, NOT TO WHO SOMEONE ELSE IS TODAY
As we mature we become, by contrast, increasingly individual and unique. The conditions of our lives become more and more personal and less and less comparable with those of others.
We live within a framework that defines the present as eternally lacking and the future as eternally better.
You cannot aim yourself at anything if you are completely undisciplined and untutored. You will not know what to target, and you won’t fly straight, even if you somehow get your aim right.
RULE 5 DO NOT LET YOUR CHILDREN DO ANYTHING THAT MAKES YOU DISLIKE THEM
It is not just wrong to attribute all the violent tendencies of human beings to the pathologies of social structure. It’s wrong enough to be virtually backward. The vital process of socialization prevents much harm and fosters much good. Children must be shaped and informed, or they cannot thrive.
Strict limitations facilitate rather than inhibit creative achievement.
Anger-crying and fear-or-sadness crying do not look the same. They also don’t sound the same, and can be distinguished with careful attention.
The judgmental and uncaring broader social world will mete out conflict and punishment far greater than that which would have been delivered by an awake parent. You can discipline your children, or you can turn that responsibility over to the harsh, uncaring judgmental world—and the motivation for the latter decision should never be confused with love.
If a child has not been taught to behave properly by the age of four, it will forever be difficult for him or her to make friends.
Limit the rules
Use minimum necessary force
Parents should come in pairs.
Better to let your little monsters know what is desirable and what is not, so they become sophisticated denizens of the world outside the family.
RULE 6 SET YOUR HOUSE IN PERFECT ORDER BEFORE YOU CRITICIZE THE WORLD
RULE 7 PURSUE WHAT IS MEANINGFUL (NOT WHAT IS EXPEDIENT)
If you cease to utter falsehoods and live according to the dictates of your conscience, you can maintain your nobility, even when facing the ultimate threat; if you abide, truthfully and courageously, by the highest of ideals, you will be provided with more security and strength than will be offered by any short-sighted concentration on your own safety; if you live properly, fully, you can discover meaning so profound that it protects you even from the fear of death.
The central problem of life—the dealing with its brute facts—is not merely what and how to sacrifice to diminish suffering, but what and how to sacrifice to diminish suffering and evil—the conscious and voluntary and vengeful source of the worst suffering.
Consider the murderousness of your own spirit before you dare accuse others, and before you attempt to repair the fabric of the world. Maybe it’s not the world that’s at fault. Maybe it’s you. You’ve failed to make the mark.
Expedience merely transfers the curse on your head to someone else, or to your future self, in a manner that will make your future, and the future generally, worse instead of better.
RULE 8 TELL THE TRUTH—OR, AT LEAST, DON’T LIE
What you are currently aiming at might not be worth attaining, just as what you are currently doing might be an error.
If you will not reveal yourself to others, you cannot reveal yourself to yourself. That does not only mean that you suppress who you are, although it also means that. It means that so much of what you could be will never be forced by necessity to come forward.
It was deceit that killed hundreds of millions of people in the twentieth century. It was deceit that almost doomed civilization itself. It is deceit that still threatens us, most profoundly, today.
You are by no means only what you already know. You are also all that which you could know, if you only would.
If you bend everything totally, blindly and willfully towards the attainment of a goal, and only that goal, you will never be able to discover if another goal would serve you, and the world, better. It is this that you sacrifice if you do not tell the truth.
Things fall apart: this is one of the great discoveries of humanity. And we speed the natural deterioration of great things through blindness, inaction and deceit. Without attention, culture degenerates and dies, and evil prevails.
RULE 9 ASSUME THAT THE PERSON YOU ARE LISTENING TO MIGHT KNOW SOMETHING YOU DON’T
RULE 10 BE PRECISE IN YOUR SPEECH
RULE 11 DO NOT BOTHER CHILDREN WHEN THEY ARE SKATEBOARDING
When someone claims to be acting from the highest principles, for the good of others, there is no reason to assume that the person’s motives are genuine. People motivated to make things better usually aren’t concerned with changing other people—or, if they are, they take responsibility for making the same changes to themselves (and first).
Children living with married biological parents are less anxious, depressed and delinquent than children living with one or more non-biological parent. Children in single-parent families are also twice as likely to commit suicide.
Fatherless children are at much greater risk for drug and alcohol abuse. Children living with married biological parents are less anxious, depressed and delinquent than children living with one or more non-biological parent. Children in single-parent families are also twice as likely to commit suicide.
RULE 12 PET A CAT WHEN YOU ENCOUNTER ONE ON THE STREET