12 Rules for Life
12 Rules for Life

12 Rules for Life

When the aristocracy catches a cold, as it is said, the working class dies of pneumonia. (Location 591)

If the two lobsters are very close in size and apparent ability, however, or if the exchange of liquid has been insufficiently informative, they will proceed to dispute resolution Level 2. (Location 623)

It’s winner-take-all in the lobster world, just as it is in human societies, where the top 1 percent have as much loot as the bottom 50 percent11—and where the richest eighty-five people have as much as the bottom three and a half billion. (Location 662)

The basic principle had been discovered much earlier. Vilfredo Pareto (1848–1923), an Italian polymath, noticed its applicability to wealth distribution in the early twentieth century, and it appears true for every society ever studied, regardless of governmental form. (Location 676)

and once they have learned, the resultant hierarchy is exceedingly stable. (Location 684)

This is brilliant strategy, in my estimation. It’s also one used by females of many different species, including humans. (Location 692)

This is the pattern of behaviour continually represented in the sexually explicit literary fantasies that are as popular among women as provocative images of naked women are among men.) (Location 701)

grounds. He also gets all the girls. It is exponentially more worthwhile to be successful, if you are a lobster, and male. (Location 714)

It is a truism of biology that evolution is conservative. When something evolves, it must build upon what nature has already produced. (Location 723)

Fitness, roughly speaking, is the probability that a given organism will leave offspring (will propagate its genes through time). The “fit” in “fitness” is therefore the matching of organismal attribute to environmental demand. (Location 743)

“In my kingdom,” as the Red Queen tells Alice in Wonderland, “you have to run as fast as you can just to stay in the same place.” No one standing still can triumph, no matter how well constituted. (Location 753)

Some things change quickly, but they are nested within other things that change less quickly (music frequently models this, too). (Location 755)

If Mother Nature wasn’t so hell-bent on our destruction, it would be easier for us to exist in simple harmony with her dictates. (Location 768)

All that matters, from a Darwinian perspective, is permanence—and the dominance hierarchy, however social or cultural it might appear, has been around for some half a billion years. It’s permanent. It’s real. (Location 772)

It is instead a near-eternal aspect of the environment, and much of what is blamed on these more ephemeral manifestations is a consequence of its unchanging existence. (Location 776)

This is why, when we are defeated, we act very much like lobsters who have lost a fight. Our posture droops. (Location 783)

Low serotonin means decreased confidence. Low serotonin means more response to stress and costlier physical preparedness for emergency—as anything whatsoever may happen, at any time, at the bottom of the dominance hierarchy (and rarely something good). (Location 788)

If you’re a number one, the highest level of status, you’re an overwhelming success. If you’re male, you have preferential access to the best places to live and the highest-quality food. (Location 796)

Although you are less likely to use physical aggression to do so, there are many effective verbal tricks and strategies at your disposal, including the disparaging of opponents, and you may well be expert at their use. (Location 802)

The ancient part of your brain specialized for assessing dominance watches how you are treated by other people. On that evidence, it renders a determination of your value and assigns you a status. (Location 811)

Emergencies are common at the bottom, and you must be ready to survive. (Location 815)

If you have a high status, on the other hand, the counter’s cold, pre-reptilian mechanics assume that your niche is secure, productive and safe, and that you are well buttressed with social support. It thinks the chance that something will damage you is low and can be safely discounted. (Location 828)

This renders you confident and calm, standing tall and straight, and much less on constant alert. (Location 831)

It’s worthwhile to think in the long term and plan for a better tomorrow. You don’t need to grasp impulsively at whatever crumbs come your way, because you can realistically expect good things to remain available. (Location 832)

Do they wake up in the morning at approximately the time the typical person wakes up, and at the same time every day? If the answer is no, fixing that is the first thing I recommend. (Location 842)

the necessary elements whose interactions define drama and fiction. One of these is chaos. Another is order. The third (as there are three) is the process that mediates between the two, which appears identical to what modern people call consciousness. (Location 1099)

Chaos is the domain of ignorance itself. It’s unexplored territory. (Location 1103)

That’s the structure of society. It’s the structure provided by biology, too—particularly insofar as you are adapted, as you are, to the structure of society. (Location 1113)

Order is the public façade we’re called upon to wear, the politeness of a gathering of civilized strangers, and the thin ice on which we all skate. (Location 1117)

Where everything is certain, we’re in order. We’re there when things are going according to plan and nothing is new and disturbing. (Location 1121)

Chaos is that stability crumbling under your feet when you discover your partner’s infidelity. Chaos is the experience of reeling unbound and unsupported through space when your guiding routines and traditions collapse. (Location 1137)

Old and trusted friends can still deceive. New ideas can destroy old and comfortable certainties. Such things matter. They’re real. (Location 1146)

After that nigh-instantaneous, deeply reflexive bodily response comes the later-evolving, more complex but slower responses of emotions—and, after that, comes thinking, of the higher order, which can extend over seconds, minutes or years. (Location 1149)

psychologists have called “the hyperactive agency detector” within us.35 We evolved, over millennia, within intensely social circumstances. This means that the most significant elements of our environment of origin were personalities, not things, objects or situations. (Location 1166)

They have been male or female, for example, for a billion years. That’s a long time. The division of life into its twin sexes occurred before the evolution of multi-cellular animals. (Location 1169)

Thus, the category of “parent” and/or “child” has been around for 200 million years. That’s longer than birds have existed. (Location 1172)

From a Darwinian perspective, nature—reality itself; the environment, itself—is what selects. The environment cannot be defined in any more fundamental manner. (Location 1177)

And “outside” is not merely unexplored physical territory. Outside is outside of what we currently understand—and understanding is dealing with and coping with and not merely representing objectively. (Location 1182)

Order, the known, appears symbolically associated with masculinity (as illustrated in the aforementioned yang of the Taoist yin-yang symbol). (Location 1191)

This is partly because all the things we have come to know were born, originally, of the unknown, just as all beings we encounter were born of mothers. (Location 1201)

In its positive guise, chaos is possibility itself, the source of ideas, the mysterious realm of gestation and birth. As a negative force, it’s the impenetrable darkness of a cave and the accident by the side of the road. It’s the mother grizzly, all compassion to her cubs, who marks you as potential predator and tears you to pieces. (Location 1204)

Women are choosy maters (unlike female chimps, their closest animal counterparts39). (Location 1207)

For the men, that’s a direct encounter with chaos, and it occurs with devastating force every time they are turned down for a (Location 1213)

It is Nature as Woman who says, “Well, bucko, you’re good enough for a friend, but my experience of you so far has not indicated the suitability of your genetic material for continued propagation.” (Location 1217)

Everyone understands order and chaos, world and underworld, when it’s explained using these (Location 1237)

We eternally inhabit order, surrounded by chaos. We eternally occupy known territory, surrounded by the unknown. We experience meaningful engagement when we mediate appropriately between them. (Location 1249)

Thus, you need to place one foot in what you have mastered and understood and the other in what you are currently exploring and mastering. (Location 1268)

It just does not appear possible, even for God himself, to make a bounded space completely protected from the outside—not in the real world, with its necessary limitations, surrounded by the transcendent. The outside, chaos, always sneaks into the inside, because nothing can be completely walled off from the rest of reality. (Location 1296)

This is the great Freudian Oedipal nightmare.49 It is far better to render Beings in your care competent than to protect them. (Location 1318)

Maybe they were more likely, for example, to prey on her tree-dwelling infants. Perhaps it is for this reason that Eve’s daughters are more protective, self-conscious, fearful and nervous, to this day (even, and especially, in the most egalitarian of modern human societies51). (Location 1331)

But those who see into the future can also eternally see trouble coming, and must then prepare for all contingencies and possibilities. To do that, you will have to eternally sacrifice the present for the future. You must put aside pleasure for security. In short: you will have to work. And it’s going to be difficult. I hope you’re fond of thorns and thistles, because you’re going to grow a lot of them.” (Location 1410)

Why? They’re predators, but it’s just their nature. They do not bear responsibility for it. They’re hungry, not evil. They don’t have the presence of mind, the creativity—and, above all, the self-consciousness—necessary for the inspired cruelty of man. (Location 1437)

Unlike us, predators have no comprehension of their fundamental weakness, their fundamental vulnerability, their own subjugation to pain and death. (Location 1440)

If I fail to do so, I will end up a slave, and the other person a tyrant. What good is that? It is much better for any relationship when both partners are strong. (Location 1540)

All that complex machinery that protects us from freezing and starving and dying from lack of water tends unceasingly towards malfunction through entropy, and it is only the constant attention of careful people that keeps it working so unbelievably well. (Location 1566)

Despite his intelligence and curiosity he was angry, resentful and without hope. (Location 1661)

place? How exactly could I? Success: that’s the mystery. Virtue: that’s what’s inexplicable. To fail, you merely have to cultivate a few bad habits. (Location 1869)

Dare, instead, to be dangerous. Dare to be truthful. Dare to articulate yourself, and express (or at least become aware of) what would really justify your life. (Location 2006)

the world, as perceived, is maya—appearance or illusion. This means, in part, that people are blinded by their desires (as well as merely incapable of seeing things as they truly are). (Location 2146)

Start from the observation that we indeed desire things—even that we need them. That’s human nature. We share the experience of hunger, loneliness, thirst, sexual desire, aggression, fear and pain. (Location 2202)

It was realists who created, or noticed, Old Testament God. When the denizens of those ancient societies wandered carelessly down the wrong path, they ended up enslaved and miserable—sometimes for centuries— (Location 2263)

They were wise. He was a Force of Nature. Is a hungry lion reasonable, fair or just? What kind of nonsensical question is that? (Location 2267)

Maybe there is a stack of paper on your desk, and you have been avoiding it. You won’t even really look at it, when you walk into your room. There are terrible things lurking there: tax forms, and bills and letters from people wanting things you aren’t sure you can deliver. (Location 2321)

Start there. You will soon find that the entire pile shrinks in significance, merely because you have looked at part of it. And you’ll find that the whole thing is made of parts. (Location 2327)

Align yourself, in your soul, with Truth and the Highest Good. There is habitable order to establish and beauty to bring into existence. There is evil to overcome, suffering to ameliorate, and yourself to better. (Location 2341)

Because they did not dare to teach him what “No” means, he had no conception of the reasonable limits enabling maximal toddler autonomy. (Location 2387)

Spoiling a son might therefore work well from the standpoint of the “selfish gene” (allowing the favoured child’s genes to replicate themselves in innumerable offspring), to use the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins’ famous expression. (Location 2424)

The !Kung bushmen of Africa, romanticized in the 1950s by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas as “the harmless people,”92 had a yearly murder rate of 40 per 100,000, which declined by more than 30% once they became subject to state authority. (Location 2529)

Children are damaged when their “mercifully” inattentive parents fail to make them sharp and observant and awake and leave them, instead, in an unconscious and undifferentiated state. (Location 2546)

They are doughy and unfocused and vague. They are leaden and dull instead of golden and bright. They are uncarved blocks, trapped in a perpetual state of waiting-to-be. (Location 2549)

But more often than not, modern parents are simply paralyzed by the fear that they will no longer be liked or even loved by their children if they chastise them for any reason. They want their children’s friendship above all, and are willing to sacrifice respect to get it. (Location 2564)

Friends have very limited authority to correct. Every parent therefore needs to learn to tolerate the momentary anger or even hatred directed towards them by their children, after necessary corrective action has been taken, as the capacity of children to perceive or care about long-term consequences is very limited. (Location 2566)

Children are perfectly capable of attempting to subsist on hot dogs, chicken fingers and Froot Loops if doing so will attract attention, provide power, or shield them from trying anything new. (Location 2583)

while exploring the complex contours of the social environment, just like juvenile chimps harassing the adults in their troupes. (Location 2586)

Why would he do such a thing? It’s a stupid question. It’s unacceptably naive. The answer is obvious. To dominate his mother. To see if he can get away with (Location 2597)

Violence is the default. It’s easy. It’s peace that is difficult: learned, inculcated, earned. (People often get basic psychological questions backwards. (Location 2599)

Children hit first because aggression is innate, although more dominant in some individuals and less in others, and, second, because aggression facilitates desire. (Location 2605)

Two-year-olds, statistically speaking, are the most violent of people.99 They kick, hit and bite, and they steal the property of others. They do so to explore, to express outrage and frustration, and to gratify their impulsive desires. (Location 2607)

Its absence merely heightens curiosity—so the child will hit and bite and kick, if he is aggressive and dominant, until something indicates a limit. (Location 2613)

Correction also helps the child learn that hitting others is a sub-optimal social strategy. (Location 2615)

This was something I commonly observed when we went head to head—and not only with him. A little later we entered into a babysitting swap with another couple. (Location 2639)

Kids do this frequently. Scared parents think that a crying child is always sad or hurt. This is simply not true. Anger is one of the most common reasons for crying. (Location 2653)

Anger-crying is often an act of dominance, and should be dealt with as such. I lifted him up, and laid him down. (Location 2657)

Discipline and punish must be handled with care. The fear is unsurprising. But both are necessary. They can be applied unconsciously or consciously, badly or well, but there is no escaping their use. (Location 2674)

He also had to starve his animals down to three-quarters of their normal body weight before they would become interested enough in food reward to truly pay attention. But these are not the only shortcomings of the purely positive approach. (Location 2699)

Given this, the fundamental moral question is not how to shelter children completely from misadventure and failure, so they never experience any fear or pain, but how to maximize their learning so that useful knowledge may be gained with minimal cost. (Location 2719)

In doing so (again, symbolically speaking) she chooses unconsciousness over the terror of adult life. (Location 2734)

which they do not or will not understand and against which they have no defence. (Location 2737)

Poorly socialized children have terrible lives. Thus, it is better to socialize them optimally. Some of this can be done with reward, but not all of it. The issue is therefore not whether to use punishment and threat. (Location 2778)

They deeply want to please, but pay for that with a tendency to be conflict-averse and dependent. (Location 2781)

rules should not be multiplied beyond necessity. (Location 2789)

So, don’t encumber children—or their disciplinarians—with too many rules. That path leads to frustration. (Location 2791)

English common law allows you to defend your rights, but only in a reasonable manner. Someone breaks into your house. You have a loaded pistol. You have a right to defend yourself, but it’s better to do it in stages. (Location 2794)

Do not bite, kick or hit, except in self-defence. Do not torture and bully other children, so you don’t end up in jail. Eat in a civilized and thankful manner, so that people are happy to have you at their house, and pleased to feed you. (Location 2802)

share, so other kids will play with you. Pay attention when spoken to by adults, so they don’t hate you and might therefore deign to teach you something. Go to sleep properly, and peaceably, so that your parents can have a private life and not resent your existence. (Location 2804)

When our children were little and we took them to restaurants, they attracted smiles. They sat nicely and ate politely. They couldn’t keep it up for long, but we didn’t keep them there too long. (Location 2815)

But they were most of the time, and it was wonderful to see people responding so positively to their presence. It was truly good for the kids. They could see that people liked them. This also reinforced their good behaviour. That was the reward. (Location 2819)

To ensure that such things happen, you have to discipline your children carefully and effectively—and to do that, you have to know something about reward, and about punishment, instead of shying away from the knowledge. (Location 2825)

Deprivation of liberty causes pain in a manner essentially similar to that of physical trauma. (Location 2832)

The answer is simple: whatever will stop it fastest, within reason. Because the alternative could be fatal. (Location 2838)

To unthinkingly parrot the magic line “There is no excuse for physical punishment” is also to foster the delusion that teenage devils magically emerge from once-innocent little child-angels. You’re not doing your child any favors by overlooking any misbehavior (particularly if he or she is temperamentally more aggressive). (Location 2845)

up. A parent can only say no to a child who wants a third piece of cake because he or she is larger, stronger and more capable than the child (and is additionally backed up in his authority by law and state). (Location 2850)

Or, worse still, it means, “all adults are ineffectual and weak.” This is a particularly bad lesson, when every child’s destiny is to become an adult, and when most things that are learned without undue personal pain are modelled or explicitly taught by adults). (Location 2854)

A properly socialized three-year-old is polite and engaging. She’s also no pushover. She evokes interest from other children and appreciation from adults. She exists in a world where other kids welcome her and compete for her attention, and where adults are happy to see her, instead of hiding behind false smiles. She will be introduced to the world by people who are pleased to do so. This will do more for her eventual individuality than any cowardly parental attempt to avoid day-to-day conflict and discipline. (Location 2920)

greater gifts that a committed and courageous parent can bestow. Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them. (Location 2938)