12 Rules for Life

☯️ Overature

Humans need to walk a fine line between order (“yang”, certainty, totalitarianism, authoritarianism, habit, tradition, tribalism, goals) and chaos (“yin”, freedom, challenge, surprise, novelty, uncertainty, pain, anxiety, nihilism, meaninglessness) to live properly and flourish.

1. Stand up straight with your shoulders back

My mnemonic for remembering that rule 1 (January - the ball drop) is to strut like the top lobster

Evolutionarily, status can prevent fights (nobody wants to fight if they know they’ll lose), so status is hard-wired super far back with serotonin (high serotonin = high status) and (in lobsters) octopamine (high octopanine = low status).

Low status means more impulsive behavior, more danger, worse resources, low community aid, bad mating options, getting sick, and slouching.

High status means long term planning, comfort, safety, the best resources, lots of community wanting to do favors for you, the best prime ass, and strutting.

Status manifests in populations as the Pareto Principle, or Price’s law: distribution is unequally distributed to those of high status.

Pareto Distributions probably aren’t a human construct - they describe size distributions of sand particles, hard drive error rates, mass distributions of stars, and distributions of sizes of human settlements.

Your status is dictated by your environment, but you can also shape your environment! Increase your body’s perception of its status by waking up at the same time every day (“at approximately the same time a typical person wakes up”), eat a fat and protein heavy breakfast, and fight against oppression with a firm, certain, and constant “no!”

This behavior will trigger a positive feedback loop of serotonin.

2. Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping

My mnemonic for remembering that rule 2 (February - Valentine's day) is treating yourself like you would treat others

Humans are better at taking care of their pets than of themselves because they don’t think themselves worthy of care: you can see better than anyone else how worthy you are of contempt! How flawed you are! Why should anyone help you?

Male/Female and order/chaos are deeply rooted stories innately social humans use to personify (and therefore understand through a model) the world. Seek flow, balance, and meaning by having one foot in order (routine, security) and the other in novelty (creativity, challenge).

Being good doesn’t mean being nice; relationships are stronger when both parties are strong, self-interested, and honest about what they want.

Humans are deeply flawed, but they can still hold the world together, and for that they deserve respect.

What career would challenge me and render me productive and helpful so that I could shoulder my share of the load, and enjoy the consequences? What can I be doing to improve my health, expand my knowledge, and strengthen my body?

Decide where you’re going. That decision will give you meaning, direction, and purpose. That meaning - a “why” - could justify any obstacle of your miserable existence - the “hows”.

He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.

– Friedrich Nietzsche

3. Make Friends with people who want the best for you

My mnemonic for remembering that rule 3 (March - March Madness) is seeking friends that help you and separating from friends that hurt you

It’s easy to get drug down in toxic relationships trying to save another person and delude yourself with the narrative of being a selfless (and therefore “good”) person.

You can’t help people that don’t actually want to be helped, and they’ll drag you down if you start succeeding, because your success makes them look bad.

It’s harder and better for both parties to seek relationships that support each other’s improvements. Don’t have friendships you wouldn’t recommend to your sister.

4. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today

My mnemonic for remembering that rule 4 (April - shower) is to compare yourself with who you were yesterday

It’s “a cheap trick of the rational mind” to degrade yourself and your efforts as being meaningless (compared to the best people in the world, or the age of the universe).

Instead, find meaning in playing the games you enjoy getting better at (choose your own hierarchy!). Judge your success on growth across all of your games.

To stay motivated, entice yourself with temptation bundling fairly. Don’t be a tyrant to yourself: fairly and compassionately negotiate without judgment of what you really want (not just what you think you should want). Yes, the things you must do to better your life are hard and boring - what would you like as a fair reward?

You’re a bad employee, but a worse boss

Evolution has crafted you to aim for goals.

5. Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them

My mnemonic for remembering that rule 5 (May - mayfly) is to not let your children refuse to eat

Parents try to be liked by their children instead of enforcing the discipline that would make a child less shitty and better able to be valuable in society.

Discipline your children lest they are disciplined by the less caring world. Do this with minimal necessary rules and force for effectiveness.

A parent can defeat a two-year old. Old age and treachery can always overcome youth and skill.

Reward someone for doing what you are trying to get them to do: “no grudge after victory.” Also never punish someone for doing something good unless you’re trying to torture them (ex: carrying wet bags of salt back and forth in Auschwitz).

Anger is probably a common reason children cry.

The job of parenting isn’t to shelter - it’s to maximize learning and minimize cost.

6. Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world

My mnemonic for remembering that rule 6 (June - June Bug) is to make your bed before changing the world

The world is objectively shitty, but a lot of your experienced shit is under your control.

Before you blame the world (and go on a mass shooting/suicide like the Columbine kids), focus on improving your own shitty actions. Are you taking advantage of all of your opportunities? Are you actually working hard instead of just putting a show so you can throw pity parties?

You can, of course, define your own morality, but recognize that past surviving wisdom was hard earned and probably a useful default.

7. Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)

My mnemonic for remembering that rule 7 (July - 4th of July) is to defer gratification for a bigger explosion

The immediacy of Hedonism is easy to slip into, but society is based on human ability to sacrifice benefit now for more benefit later (that’s the basis of sacrificial stories, especially in the Bible).

Delayed gratification is the basis of trade, the belief that reality can be improved, society, and friendship.

The successful among us delay gratification and bargain with the future.

The ultimate goal of sacrifice is meaning. Meaning’s antithesis, caused by believing sacrifice is meaningless and cannot lead to positive outcomes, is intentional human infliction of suffering aka evil.

Evil is selfish, immediate, short-sighted, and irresponsible (sounds a lot like Narcissistic Personality Disorder).

How could I use my time to make things better instead of worse?

If you focus on making things better, you’ll be on a path to pay for the “insane and horrible miracle of your existence,” and to set up the preconditions to receive meaning (Meaning is harder to get than a quick trip to the Meaning Store™️).

Meaning is the feeling of being on the path that leads to a better universe.

8. Tell the truth - or, at least, don’t lie

My mnemonic to remember that rule 8 (August - school starting) is to not tell lies

If existence is good, then a clear understanding of reality is also good. This clear understanding will let you see when you’ve gone off track in achieving your goals. Goals of character and ability are better than goals of status and power.

Only the totalitarian liar believes they know The One True Way of Living™️, and that no further information is valuable.

The rational mind is exceptionally good at deception (especially self deception).

The liar has distorted their reality so it does not and cannot make sense, so they must blame reality when things don’t go their way. “People are too stupid to understand - it’s someone else’s fault!” is what inauthenticity sounds like. It’s an easy jump from that lie to “they must be stopped!”, which makes the world shitty.

Side note: finally, the definition of inauthenticity I was missing from WDS 2018!

Lying forces you to distort your thinking to handle the shame of your lies, which causes inaccurate predictions and ineffective actions, which makes you frustrated at the world for not following the rules you made up.

9. Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t

My mnemonic for remembering that rule 9 (September - birthday cake) is to listen

Thinking is having a conversation with yourself, which is taking two or more disagreeing positions and letting them argue as simulated avatars (not straw men).

A conversation is more about listening than talking, so if you can’t listen, you can’t listen to yourself, and you can’t think.

Memory is not an objective record of the past; it’s a tool to predict the highest probability choice for the best future. Memory can be distilled and reshaped through conversation (which is why the concept of “real” is kinda tricky).

When conversing with someone, don’t dismissively steal and solve their problems, just listen. Ask what they think. Stand in for an interested society. Talking is an easier way to think than simulating multiple non-straw-man viewpoints. What position should you take while listening? The position of wanting things to be better.

The woman in this “It’s not about the nail!” video was trying to formulate the problem, not have it solved for her.

Instead of reflexively disagreeing, build a habit of checking your understanding of what the other person means with them. This is scary to do, because restating someone else’s position more clearly digested than they have could change your own mind (!), but it makes your future arguments much stronger. In either case, you get closer to making things better.

Restating the other person’s ideas also helps both of you distill thoughts: “this is what happened, this is why, this is how to avoid it.”

Talking, thinking, and writing are more about discarding irrelevant details than remembering relevant ones. It’s much easier to ramble aimlessly.

Avoid dick measuring status hierarchy conversations.

Other conversation types are:

  • testing group strength (seeing who can be depended on if things go bad - who can take a joke)
  • using humor to handle serious issues
  • a group of people trying to creatively come to the truth (“thinking out loud” - multiple people listening and reporting what they feel as if they’re all having a conversation with themselves)

10. Be precise in your speech

My mnemonic to remember that rule 10 (October - Halloween) is to analyze your words

You don’t perceive things as objects, you perceive things as tools with specific uses. The more precise you can make your definitions, the more useful the world is.

If you’re not precise (“crispy” from Just Fucking Ship), you drown in complexity - you’re overwhelmed by meaningless details (“soggy”).

There is nothing too small in a marriage worth fighting about with peace (not dominance/tyranny) as the goal. Don’t take the easy, more immediate choice of being nice at the sacrifice of long-term truth and peace.

🎵 You’re not good, you’re not bad, you’re just nice 🎵

It’s much easier to let problems remain vague, but they’ll grow over time and be impossible to confront. Better to face the challenge head-on: define the problem and your fear precisely so you can slay the dragon before it gets bigger and worse.

Specifying is hard because you define what success and failure are, so you can fuel the sharper pain of objective failure. That’s better than a sense of vague disappointment, though.

Tragedy and terrifying things happen and exist, but they’re much worse if you don’t directly confront them.

When arguing, don’t let the conversation slip into arguing about everything. Speak about one precise thing at a time, and clearly state exactly what you want, and you have a chance of resolving it.

When W, I feel X, I want Y, or else Z.

–Conflict resolution strategy from “Stop Caretaking” and a marriage workshop I went to in Dallas

Say precisely what you mean so you can find out what you want!

11. Do not bother children when they are skateboarding

My mnemonic to remember that rule 11 (November - Thanksgiving turkey) is to let children skateboard.

Recklessness is practice for strength and competence.

Kids (and adults, who are just older kids) need enough danger to be challenged. Overprotection stifles growth. People seek to optimize risk with one foot in chaos and one in order. This state of balance of order and chaos is known as flow.

Diagram of Flow from [Badass: Making Users Awesome](/books/badass)

🎵 If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make that change. Hooo 🎵

– Batman

Males and female have objective difference - it’s not just socially constructed. Males are less agreeable, less neurotic, and tilt towards liking things over people (so there are more male engineers).

Females tend to be attracted to males who win status contests with other males over males that are their friends.

It’s not the patriarchy that defines success and keeps women oppressed, it’s the market (and most purchasing decisions are made by women).

If you think something is oppressive conspiratorially by the ruling class (ex: marriage, chemtrails), check if the ruling classes are also affected.

Culture is oppressive, but it forces group cohesion that enables lots of freedom and development.

If you value anything, you can make a value judgment between two of those things, which means you can sort those things into a hierarchy of winners and losers. If you want equality of outcome, you have to sacrifice being able to call things better or worse, and the ability to work to make that thing better. That work is what gives life meaning, which is probably why redistribution of wealth under Marxist Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, etc. didn’t work.

A good culture lets you play (and win/lose) in many different types of games, so there can be many winners of their own contexts.

Say what you want about the patriarchy, but it produced mass-market tampons in the 1930s.

All interpretations aren’t equally correct - some are better (ie: more useful).

All models are inaccurate, some are useful.

– probably Batman again

People rise to the top of hierarchies not because of oppressive power, but because of competence (conscientiousness - industriousness and orderliness - and intelligence in the big five personality traits framework).

When someone says they stand for X (ex: equality), ask what they must therefore be standing against (ex: being at the bottom?). If confused about someone’s motives, try looking at the result of their actions. They might have just wanted the result to happen. Social reconstructivists say they want to eliminate bias, which will reduce differences in outcome (ie: removing the gender bias will lead to removing the pay gap), but they actually want to remove difference in outcome so they can be top lobster.

Is gender a construct, or are trans-women actually women trapped in a man’s body? You can’t have both.

It’s impossibly hard to compare salaries (to do equal pay for equal work) - that’s what the market is for.

If you’re not assertive enough (which is related to deep aggressive parts of the brain, and was probably useful for mothers to forgo to keep the peace and keep babies alive), you don’t ask for or get what you want, so you become resentful.

If you feel resentful, and have determined you’re getting legitimately taken advantage of (and not just whining - try talking to people about it), ask directly for what you want and don’t be guilted into giving it up (“When W, I feel X. I want Y or else Z”). This genuine conflict isn’t pleasant or easy, but it will trade your bitterness for satisfaction.

The Oedipal mother makes a deal with her children: never abandon me, and you will never have responsibility. This overprotection stifles human independent strength. This is the evil Queen/Witch trope in Disney movies. A better, more effective mother fosters her children’s independence (“if it was too good at home, you’d never leave!”).

Men enforce a strict set of behavioral rules on each other when working together:

  • be independent
  • don’t whine or be needy
  • stand up for your friends
  • competently get your work done

If not, go away without sympathy.

This male behavior benefits women too: women (generally) care for children, and don’t have the bandwidth to also care for a dependent man. Effective, desirable men (generally) have the capacity to care for a woman and children.

If you think tough men are dangerous, wait until you see what weak men are capable of.

12. Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street

Minimal Group Identification: humans are tribalistic even when the distinction between tribes is arbitrary (like a coin flip) so they can increase their chances of rising to the top of a successful group.

Life is suffering, and it would be meaningless if it wasn’t. Superman is boring if he’s truly indestructible and all-powerful (like Dr. Manhattan, One Punch Man, and God). Video games aren’t fun if they’re not challenging (ex: if you can just instantly kill all the enemies).

What humans love is inseparable from limitations. Children and babies are beautiful because of their fragility. Flowers and sunsets are beautiful because of their impermanence.

Without limitations, a being is everything, and therefore nothing.

Being, therefore, must include adversarial suffering. Your choice, then, is existence and pain or no existence. Is it worth the pain? Well, you’re still alive aren’t you?

🎵 Who said that it’s better to have loved and lost? I wish that I had never loved at all. 🎵

Up Against the Wall, Boys like Girls

To deal with a crisis, set aside time early in every day to deal with it, and don’t think about it outside of that time or you’ll get exhausted. Humans are resilient if they still have a reason for being.

Find and enjoy the smallest and simplest nuggets in life, otherwise what’s the point? The true end of every story is that everyone dies, so make it a good story.

Coda

“Ask, and it shall be given to you. Seek, and ye shall find.” doesn’t mean God is a magic genie that will bend the laws of the universe to your every whim. It means that if you ask yourself honestly a question you’re willing to hear a painful answer to, you’ll probably think of the right answer.

No deus ex machina or lying allowed.

It’s much easier to be willfully blind to what you could be doing differently so you can blame the world for your woes.

Would you rather feel right, or have peace and a better life?

“What have I done wrong? What can I do now to set things a little bit right?” - that’s much preferable to waiting for Godot to fix your problems.

What shall I do with the fact of aging? Replace the potential of my youth with the accomplishments of my maturity.

Your life in weeks - use your mortality to awaken you

Aim for strength in adversity, not a life free of trouble.

Nothing is going to badly that it cannot be made worse. Hell is a bottomless pit.

Proper Being is a process, not a state; a journey, not a destination.