Derek Sivers

Beyond Order - by Jordan Peterson

Beyond Order - by Jordan Peterson

ISBN: 0593084640
Date read: 2022-02-10
How strongly I recommend it: 7/10
(See my list of 320+ books, for more.)

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

Deep philosophy. Interesting voice. Great uncommon insights. Jungian. Brings almost any topic back to stories. Story of Pinnochio, stories in the Bible, story of your life. Stresses the importance of convention and social norms. 1st chapter had me talking about this book with friends immediately, loving it. 2nd chapter onwards, it was a tougher read. Needs a ruthless editor.

my notes

People depend on constant communication with others to keep their minds organized.
We mostly think by talking.
We need to talk about the nature of the present and our plans for the future, so we know where we are, where we are going, and why we are going there.
We must submit our strategies and tactics to the judgments of others, to ensure their efficiency and resilience.
We need to listen to ourselves as we talk, so we can organize our otherwise inchoate bodily reactions, motivations, and emotions into something articulate and organized, and dispense with those concerns that are exaggerated and irrational.
We need to talk - both to remember and to forget.

Ego: the I, the personality proper, crushed between those two necessary tyrants: Id and superego.

Outsource the problem of sanity.
The social/outside world has plenty of wisdom and guidance.
Why try to orient ourselves in new territory, when we can rely on signs and guideposts placed there so effortfully by others?

You are reminded how to think, act, and speak by those around you.
If you begin to deviate from the straight and narrow path - if you begin to act improperly - people will react to your errors before they become too great, and cajole, laugh, tap, and criticize you back into place.

Appreciate your immersion in the world of other people - friends and foes alike - despite the anxiety and frustration.

We compete for attention, personally, socially, and economically.
No currency has a value that exceeds it.
Children, adults, and societies wither on the vine in its absence.
It validates you as a respected center of conscious experience and contributor to the collective world.

Pointing is a crucial precursor to the development of language.
To name something - to use the word for the thing - is essentially to point to it.
To name something is not only to make it shine forth against the infinite background of potentially nameable things, but to group or categorize it, simultaneously.
we had all agreed that there was something sufficiently important about floors to justify a word for them.

If you are not communicating about anything that engages other people, then the value of your communication - even the value of your very presence - risks falling to zero.

Social value:
If I value something, I must determine how to value it so that others potentially benefit.
It cannot just be good for me.

Universal constraints reduce the complexity of the world to something approximating a universally understandable domain of value.
There are a comparatively limited number of solutions that work practically, psychologically, and socially simultaneously.
This natural ethic makes thoughtless denigration of social institutions both wrong and dangerous.
I must take the complexity of the world, reduce it to a single point so that I can act, and take everyone else and their future selves into consideration while I am doing so.
How do I manage this?
By communicating and negotiating. By outsourcing the terribly complex cognitive problem to the resources of the broader world.

“How should you act?” is just “How should you survive?”
Look into the distant past - far down the evolutionary chain, right to the basics.

Play with others depends upon the collective establishment of a shared goal with the child’s play partners.
Games undertaken voluntarily will outcompete games imposed and played under threat of force, given that some of the energy that could be expended on the game itself, whatever its nature, has to be wasted on enforcement.

An ethic emerges from the bottom up, across the set of all games.
The best player is therefore not the winner of any given game but, among many other things, he or she who is invited by the largest number of others to play the most extensive series of games.
This is why: “It’s not whether you win or lose. It’s how you play the game!”

Better to presume ignorance and invite learning than to assume sufficient knowledge and risk the consequent blindness.
It is necessary and helpful to remain a beginner.

He had accepted, and therefore transcended, his role as a beginner.

To adopt authority is to learn that power requires concern and competence - and that it comes at a genuine cost.

Sanity is knowing the rules of the social game, internalizing them, and following them.
Refusal to conform when the social surround has become pathological - incomplete, archaic, willfully blind, or corrupt - is something of even higher value.
- as is the capacity to offer creative, valid alternatives.

The ideal personality cannot remain an unquestioning reflection of the current social state.

Conservatism: much of the time, they are correct, but sometimes they are wrong.
because the present and the future differ.
because even once-functional hierarchies fall prey to manipulation and the exercise of unjust power, corruption of power.

Distinguish between a hierarchy that is functional and productive, and the degenerate shell of a once-great institution.
Making that distinction requires the capacity and the willingness to observe and differentiate, rather than mindless reliance on ideological proclivity.

There is a bright side to the social hierarchies we necessarily inhabit, as well as a dark.
Concentrating on one to the exclusion of the other is dangerously biased.

I was speaking not with this young woman so much as with whatever or whomever took possession of her while in the grip of generic, impersonal, and cynical ideas.

A functional social institution can utilize:
the conservative types to carefully implement processes of tried-and-true value
the creative, liberal types to determine how what is old and out of date might be replaced by something new and more valuable.

Alongside the wisdom of true conservatism is the danger that the status quo might become corrupt and its corruption self-servingly exploited.
Alongside the brilliance of creative endeavor is the false heroism of the resentful ideologue, who wears the clothes of the original rebel while undeservedly rejecting all genuine responsibility.

Intelligent and cautious conservatism and careful and incisive change keep the world in order.

If it is true that a story has a point, then it is clear that it is pointing to something. But what, and how?

Harry Potter lesson:
“Follow rules except when doing so undermines the purpose of those selfsame rules - in which case take the risk of acting in a manner contrary to what has been agreed upon as moral.”
This is a lesson that seems more easily taught by representations of the behaviors that embody it than transmitted by, say, rote learning or a variant rule.

If you understand the rules - their necessity - but you are willing to fully shoulder the responsibility of making an exception, because you see that as serving a higher good, then you have served the spirit, rather than the mere law, and that is an elevated moral act.

Every rule was once a creative act, breaking other rules.

Imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that.

Your potential can be hidden by an unwillingness to take full advantage of the opportunities that life offers.
Failure of discipline, faith, imagination, and commitment.

Stories call to capacities that lie deep within our nature but might still never develop without that call.
We are dormant adventurers, lovers, leaders, artists, and rebels, but need to discover that we are all those things by seeing the reflection of such patterns in dramatic and literary form.

The true winner of any game is the person who plays fair.
A higher-order accomplishment than mere victory.
An indication of true personality development, predicated as it is on concern for true reciprocity.

The Seeker - in real life, as well as in Rowling’s Potter series and its Quidditch game - is he or she who takes that sense of significance more seriously than anything else.
The Seeker is therefore the person who is playing the game that everyone else is playing (and who is disciplined and expert at the game), but who is also playing an additional, higher-order game: the pursuit of what is of primary significance.

Each of us, when fortunate, is compelled forward by something that grips our attention:
Something that calls to us for reasons we can neither control nor understand.
(Try to make yourself interested in something you just do not care about and see how well that works).
Something moves us further down the road, to the next meaningful manifestation - and so it goes, as we continue to seek, develop, grow, and thrive.

You experience what is new.
Sometimes that is painful; sometimes it is better than anything else that has ever happened to you.
Either way, it is deeply informative.
It is all part of the potential of the world, calling you into Being, changing you forever - for better or worse - in consequence of your pursuit.
Both dangerous and promising, intense and irresistible.

Because our own experience is genuinely literary, narrative, embodied, and storylike, we are so attracted to fictional representations.

Everyone requires a story to structure their perceptions and actions.
Every story requires a starting place that is not good enough and an ending place that is better.
Nothing can be judged in the absence of that end place,

Aim at something.
Pick the best target you can currently conceptualize.
Stumble toward it.
Notice your errors and misconceptions along the way, face them, and correct them.
Get your story straight.
Past, present, future - they all matter.
Map your path.
Know where you were, so that you do not repeat the mistakes of the past.
Know where you are, or you will not be able to draw a line from your starting point to your destination.
Know where you are going, or you will drown in uncertainty, unpredictability, and chaos, and starve for hope and inspiration.
For better or worse, you are on a journey.
You are having an adventure - and your map better be accurate.
Voluntarily confront what stands in your way.

If something happens every day, it is important.
If there is something about it that is chronically bothersome, even in a minor sort of way, it needs to be attended to.
Do not pretend you are happy with something if you are not.
If a reasonable solution might be negotiated, have the fight, unpleasant as that might be in the moment, it is one less straw on the camel’s back.

What is outside can profoundly reflect what is inside.
Begin recovery by cleaning up and beautifying your room.

The human personality consists of a loose, fragmented cacophony of spirits, who do not always agree or even communicate.
We can think about things - we can simulate potential or alternative actions or events - without immediately having to act them out.
Dissociation of thought and action is necessary for abstract thought even to exist.
Thus, we can clearly think or say one thing and do another.
This is fine when merely thinking, prior to acting, but perhaps not so good when we promise or claim to believe something and then act in a manner indicating that we truly have faith in something else.
This is a form of deception, a disjunction in character, a contradiction between modes of being.

The meaning of what someone’s wife says to him today is dependent on everything both have ever said to each other, everything they have ever done together, and the contents of their mutual imaginations, and more.

Admit to your feelings.
Communicating feelings of anger or pain due to lonesomeness, or anxiety about something that might be trivial, or jealousy that is likely unwarranted is embarrassing.
The admission of such feelings is a revelation of ignorance, insufficiency, and vulnerability.

Trust based on courage, rather than naivete:
I will trust you - I will extend my hand to you - despite the risk of betrayal, because it is possible, through trust, to bring out the best in you, and perhaps in me.
So, I will accept substantial risk to open the door to cooperation and negotiation.
And even if you do betray me, in a not-too unforgivable manner, I will continue to extend my hand.
And part of the way I will do that is by telling you what I am feeling.

Willingness to change is almost always indistinguishable from the decision to leave something (or someone, or some idea) behind.
Part of you must die so that you can change.
The part that must die struggles for its existence, puts forward its rationale, and pleads its case.

Is something frightening, or am I afraid?
Is something beautiful, or am I imposing the idea of beauty upon it?
When I become angry with someone, is it because of something they have done, or my lack of control?

If you pile up enough junk in your closet, one day, when you are least prepared, the door will spring.

Opportunity lurks where responsibility has been abdicated.

People are more commonly upset by what they did not even try to do than by the errors they actively committed while engaging with the world.

We become stronger by voluntarily facing what impedes our necessary progress.

Take on challenges at precisely the rate that engages and compels alertness, and forces the development of courage, skill, and talent.
Does it grip your interest, without crushing you?
Does it eliminate the burden of time passing?

The mere fact that something makes you happy in the moment does not mean that it is in your best interest.

What is a truly reliable source of positive emotion?
Pursuit of a valuable goal.
You have a goal.
You aim at something.
You develop a strategy in relationship to that aim, and then you implement it.
And then, as you implement the strategy, you observe that it is working.
That is what produces the most reliable positive emotion.
This implies something crucial:
No valuable and valued goal, no positive emotion.

When you're not doing everything you should be doing, you are never satisfied.

Aim at the highest good you can possibly manage.

Your life becomes meaningful in proportion to the depths of the responsibility you are willing to shoulder, because you are now genuinely involved in making things better.

A bricklayer may question the utility of laying his bricks, monotonously, one after another.
But perhaps he is not merely laying bricks.
Maybe he is building a wall.
And the wall is part of a building.
And the building is a cathedral.
And the purpose of the cathedral is the glorification of the Highest Good.
And under such circumstances, every brick laid is an act that partakes of the divine.
If what you are doing in your day-to-day activity is not enough, then you are not aiming at the construction of a proper cathedral.
And that is because you are not aiming high enough.
If you were, then you would experience the sense of meaning in relationship to your sufficiently high goal.
If you have something meaningful to pursue, then you are engrossed in life. You are on a meaningful path.
The complexity that composes you is lined up within you.

What calls you out into the world, however - to your destiny - is not ease. It is struggle and strife.

The adventure of your life will frustrate and disappoint and unsettle you, as you heed the call.
That is where the life that is worth living is to be eternally found.

If a tiny minority of people even hypothetically finds some words offensive, then what? Do we continue to ban words endlessly?
We do the things we do because we think those things important.
When we are called upon to do things that we find hateful and stupid, such “action” makes a mockery of productive work itself.
Do not do what you hate.

Each retreat increases the possibility of the next retreat.
Those pushing forward delight in the power they have now acquired.

Work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens.

When coal is subjected to intense heat and pressure, its atoms rearrange themselves into the perfect alignment characterizing a diamond.
This is true for the person just as it is for the gem.

If you aim at nothing, you have nowhere to go, nothing to do, and nothing of high value in your life, as value requires the ranking of options and sacrifice of the lower to the higher.

Better to become something than to remain anything but become nothing.

Once the social world has forced the child to integrate his multiple subpersonalities, he can play with others.
After that, he should be ready to engage in the more serious games that make up jobs or professions, with their highly structured expectations, skills, and rules.
He must learn those, as well as - when older - the dance of the sexes.
He must integrate his socialized personality with that of another, so that the couple he makes with that other can exist together peacefully, productively, within society, over the long term - while maintaining voluntary willingness to do so.
This is the dual process of psychological and social integration that accompanies apprenticeship, all associated with the outsourcing of sanity.
Adherence to this process will make him a socially sophisticated, productive, and psychologically healthy adult, capable of true reciprocity.

Think of the Commandments as a minimum set of rules for a stable society - an iterable social game.

Subjugate yourself voluntarily to a set of socially determined rules - those with some tradition in their formulation - and a unity that transcends the rules will emerge.
That unity constitutes what you could be, if you concentrate on a particular goal and see it through.

If you work as hard as you can on one thing, you will change.
You will start to also become one thing, instead of the clamoring multitude you once were.

Study art so that you can familiarize yourself with the collected wisdom of our civilization.
Because people have been working out how to live for a long time. What they have produced is strange but also rich.
Use it as a guide.
Your vision will be grander and your plans more comprehensive.
You will consider other people more intelligently and completely.
You will take care of yourself more effectively.
You will understand the present more profoundly, rooted as it is in the past, and you will come to conclusions much more carefully.
You will come to treat the future, as well, as a more concrete reality (because you will have developed some true sense of time) and be less likely to sacrifice it to impulsive pleasure.
You will develop some depth, gravitas, and true thoughtfulness.
You will speak more precisely, and other people will become more likely to listen to and cooperate productively with you, as you will with them.
You will become more your own person, and less a dull and hapless tool of peer pressure, vogue, fad, and ideology.

Make a connection to the transcendent to prevail when the challenges of life become daunting.
Establish a link with what is beyond you.

Museums: Why cannot every small town have a shrine devoted to one great piece of art, instead of having every piece collected in a manner impossible for anyone ever to take in at once?
Ten great works of art, or a hundred, in a single room is absurd, given that each is a world in and of itself.

Consider the role that creative people play in cities.
In their poverty, they explore the city, and they discover some ratty, quasi-criminal area that has seen better days.
They visit, look, and poke about, and they think, “You know, with a little work, this area could be cool.” Then they move in, piece together some galleries, and put up some art.
They do not make any money, but they civilize the space a bit.
In doing so, they elevate and transform what is too dangerous into something cutting edge.
Then a coffee shop pops up, and maybe an unconventional clothing store.
The next thing you know, the gentrifiers move in.
They are creative types, too, but more conservative (less desperate, perhaps; more risk averse, at least - so they are not the first ones on the edge of the frontier).
Then the developers show up.
And then the chain stores appear, and the middle or upper class establishes itself.
Then the artists have to move, because they can no longer afford the rent.
That is a loss for the avant-garde, but it is okay, even though it is harsh, because with all that stability and predictability the artists should not be there anymore.
They need to rejuvenate some other area.
They need another vista to conquer.

Art bears the same relationship to society that the dream bears to mental life.

Artists do not understand full well what they are doing.
They cannot, if they are doing something genuinely new.
Otherwise, they could just say what they mean.
Artists must be contending with something they do not understand, or they are not artists.

Artists strive to bring something new into clear focus.
Otherwise they are mere propagandists, reversing the artistic process, attempting to transform something they can already articulate into image and art for the purpose of rhetorical and ideological victory.
That is a great sin, harnessing the higher for the purposes of the lower.

Make yourself colorful, stand out, and the lions will take you down.
And the lions are always there.
If you stick your neck out, then the sword will come.
Many, many cultures have a saying like that: poppy, nail.
Artistic, creative endeavor is high risk, while the probability of return is low.
But the probability of exceptionally high return does exist.

Artists teach people to see.

If old memories still upset you, write them down carefully and completely.

To decide, voluntarily and freely, is difficult and demanding.
We literally make the world what it is, from the many things we perceive it could be.
Doing so is perhaps the primary fact of our being.

We are so captivated by people who can tell a story - who can share their experiences concisely and precisely, and who get to the point.
That point - the moral of the story - is what they learned about who and where they were or are, and where they are going and why.
Such information is irresistible to us all.
It is how (and why) we derive wisdom from the risks taken by those before us, and who lived to tell the story.

An immature and too-often resentful whim and wish: “Oh, that I could have what I want, without doing what is necessary.”

When something does not go well, you should analyze the problem, resolve it, apologize, repent, and transform.

An unsolved problem grows new heads, like a hydra.
Inability to come to terms with the errors of the past expands the source of such error.

When you refuse to improve, you get weaker.
You are less than you could be because you did not change.

It is our destiny to transform chaos into order.
If the past has not been ordered, the chaos it still constitutes haunts us.
There is information - vital information - resting in the memories that affect us negatively.

Have, a romantic interlude twice a week: a hundred times a year. Married thirty more years, means three thousand times.

Something as complex as maintaining a marriage can't be managed without commitment, practice, and effort.

Each person is an unfathomable enigma.
Keep rediscovering.
Enough residual mystery to maintain the spirit that first brought you together.

Who is subordinate to whom in a marriage?
Both are subordinate to a principle, a higher-order principle, which constitutes their union in the spirit of illumination and truth.
Both should be oriented toward the most positive future possible.

You are a particular person, with particular attributes.
If you are on your own, you are inevitably lopsided, one-sided.
That is often not for the best.

Did you made the right choice in a life-partner? In all likelihood, you did not.
There are seven billion people in the world. At least a hundred million might have made good partners for you. You certainly did not have time to try them out.
The probability that you found the theoretically optimal person approaches zero.
But you do not find so much as make.

If you have an escape route, there will not be enough heat generated in the chamber you find yourself jointly trapped in to catalyze the change necessary in both of you - the maturation, the development of wisdom - because maturation and the development of wisdom require a certain degree of suffering, and suffering is escapable as long as there is an out.

You are not going to get along with your partner - not easily, unless you agree to be tyrannized and silent (and even then you will take your revenge) - because you are different people.
No one just simply gets along, precisely because of that.

Perhaps you ask your partner what he or she wants.
“I don’t know” means not only “Go away and leave me alone.”
It also frequently means “Why don’t you go away, do all the work necessary to figure out what is wrong, and come back and tell me - if you’re so smart.”

It takes a very determined interlocutor to avoid the insult and hurt generated by anger (defense one) and the pity and compassion evoked by tears (defense two).
It requires someone who has integrated their shadow (their stubbornness, harshness, and capacity for necessary emotionless implacability) and can use it for long-term benefit.

Aim for peace as if your soul depends upon it

A radically successful life: You could have a marriage that works.
You could make it work.
That is an achievement - a tangible, challenging, exceptional, and unlikely achievement.
There are not many genuine achievements of that magnitude in life.
A solid and reliable, honest and playful home into which you could dare bring children.
To live a full life, marriage and children and grandchildren and all the trouble and heartbreak that accompanies all of that is far more than half of life.

Traditional roles are far more helpful than modern people tend to realize.
To set up a household in peace you have to determine who is going to do what.
Two hundred things, perhaps, to run a household properly.

Talk to your partner for about ninety minutes a week, purely about practical and personal matters.
“What is going on, as far as you are concerned, with the kids?”
“What needs to be done around the house?”
“Is there anything bothering you that we can address?”
If you dip below ninety minutes a week, you generate a backlog, and your mutual story begins to unwind.

Daily routines are vital.
You wake up together, perhaps; you eat together. You do such things every day.
Maybe waking up, preparing for the day, and eating make up five hours a day.
That is a third of your waking time and, therefore, a third of your life.
It is thirty-five hours every seven days - a whole workweek; an entire career.
Get it right.
Ask yourself and each other: How do we want these times to be structured.
Come to a negotiated solution about every responsibility and opportunity you share as a couple - and about every obstacle you encounter.

Romance is play, and play requires peace, and peace requires negotiation.

She became tougher, harder, harsher - adjectives that are not always meant as compliments but are sometimes the precise antidote to too much sentimentality, which is dangerously infantilizing.

Much of what people believe politically is based on their inborn temperament.
Liberals, for example, are positively enthralled by new ideas.
The advantages to being attracted by new ideas are obvious.
Sometimes problems require new solutions, and it is people who take pleasure in novel conceptions who find them.
Such people also tend not to be particularly orderly.
Perhaps this is because if you are gripped and driven by new ideas, and are also inclined to test or implement them, you need to be able to tolerate the intermediary chaos produced between the time the old idea disintegrates and the new idea takes control.
If you are a conservative, you have the opposite advantage and problem.
You are wary of new ideas, and not particularly attracted to them, and that is in part because you are less sensitive to their possibilities and more concerned about their unpredicted consequences.
Just because a new idea fixes one problem, after all, does not mean that it will fail to generate another, or several others.
If you are conservative, you like things to be where they are supposed to be, when they are supposed to be there.
You are in the place you want to be when people act conventionally, responsibly, and predictably.
Conservatives are necessary for maintaining things the way they are when everything is working and change might be dangerous.
Liberals, by contrast, are necessary for changing things when they are no longer working.