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12 Rules for (a Stoic) Life

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Jordan Peterson, a former professor at Harvard and now a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, has become a sort of cult-celebrity for his calm, articulate dismantling of political correctness and reactionary politics on both sides. He is particularly popular with young men, in part because of his message of self-sufficiency and self-worth, which can be summarized as “Take responsibility for your own life.”

His book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos is an interesting read and has spurned a meme of interesting people giving their own 12 rules for life (you can read economist Russ Roberts’ rules or author Megan McArdle’s rules as well). But what would the Stoics say about this? What would their 12 rules be?

No one can say for sure, but here is a stab at it.

  1. Live as if you died, but were resuscitated and every minute was a gift.
  2. Every person you meet is an opportunity for kindness.
  3. Don’t read for show, read to be better.
  4. Be forgiving of others, but don’t demand forgiveness for yourself.
  5. Try to hold as few opinions as possible.
  6. Pick a “Cato” and judge each difficult decision with: “What Would ____ Do?”
  7. Practice good spending habits (keep in touch with poverty).
  8. Always consider the worst case scenario.
  9. Keep a list of what you’ve learned from other people (and remember to thank them often).
  10. Get up early every day—as early as you can.
  11. Take cold showers.
  12. If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.

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