Stand up Straight Shoulders Back

In the first rule of his book “12 Rules for Life,” Jordan Peterson dives into the significance of adopting a posture that signals confidence and readiness to the world. “Stand Up Straight With Your Shoulders Back” is the title of his first rule and it is presented as a directive that transcends mere physical advice. It serves as a psychologically beneficial opener for facing life’s challenges head-on.

In the examples that Peterson provides he focuses on the behavior of lobsters, which are tethered neuro-chemically to a relentless social environment whereby their status in the lobster society is determined through their initiation of territorial conflict and their response to the same.

Success in lobster fights leads to ascent of the hierarchy and a very real physically measurable neurochemical positive feedback boost, but loss leads to a real neurochemical change and descent into submissive behaviour and indeed, the development the shrivelling of the bold mind and it’s replacement – actual measurable brain matter replacement, with a submissive mind.

Peterson then draws parallels to human social structures and psychological states; Adopting a positive posture is not just about physical alignment but symbolizes taking control of one’s life, accepting responsibility, and navigating social hierarchies with confidence and assertiveness. By adopting an upright posture, individuals can foster a more positive attitude, self-respect, and by extension, command respect from others.

Now I think Peterson’s book is excellent and his research meticulous. However, I do think it’s important to move beyond the lobster metaphor. The visual metaphors Peterson employs can perhaps be seen as too stark, painting a picture of life and social hierarchies that may be excessively reductive of the complexities of human behavior and interaction. However that does not mean the important aspects of lobster hierarchy has no bearing on human hierarchies.

Peterson, in his typical fashion, delivers his message with a blend of stark realism and narrative flair, and for me he is a kind of psychologist version of Roald Dahl. He sometimes almost seems to revel in delivering hard home truths. Don’t get me wrong. I think his hard headed approach is – in today’s society where where all too often we treat people with kid gloves – something of a breath of fresh air.

But I do think it’s important to emphasise a slightly more positive aspect to what he is saying.

Let me be clear: In my opinion Peterson is right to point out what we all really inside ourselves, know. The social hierarchy, is of greater importance than modern sentiment paints it as being.

He is right that we need to face up to taking responsibility in navigating it, for our own sake and for the sake of our family.

He is right that a good first-step is to stand-up straight with your shoulders back. There is no hiding from the value of confidence. There should be no shirking from facing up to how harsh the world can be and how cruel it can be too the meek.

He is also right to bring up the Pareto Principle.

The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, is the theory that 80% of outcomes (or outputs) result from 20% of all causes (or inputs) for any given event. In business, this principle is often used to highlight that 80% of a company’s profits typically come from 20% of its customers and 80% of productivity from 20% of the workers.

The concept was named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who in 1906 observed that 80% of Italy’s land was owned by 20% of the population.

The winners, those higher up the heirarchy take the spoils.

Peterson is also right to point out being bottom of the hierarchy is an inhospitable place to be, and involves one hell of a lot of wasted energy and effort just to stave off the most gross discomforts and iniquities of life.

So what then am I criticising?

Well in my opinion the Lobster metaphor and reference to the Paratto principle, can come across as more binary than it needs to be and can make it sound like we face something of a wall in life.

But reflect on this; We are before a pyramid. A pyramid has a slope or steps. So it is true that where we are in the pyramid is a reflection of social status and we can’t, instantly, expect to occupy a top spot. But, I urge you, reflect on the difference in meaning between status and stature. Holding a positive stature is always available to us. And the pyramid’s very slope means there is always right next to us, the next step up.

We can always, always by applying the principle of small steps, choose to carry ourselves upwards. We can’t demand others immediately see or acknowledge that rise in every case, but if we choose to work on ourselves, and keep taking steps, we will rise, and eventually it is inevitable our status will rise also. And Peterson is of course, in his inimitable way, telling us this in the title of the chapter.

Stand tall, shoulders back.


Please help me ensure Simple Focus is a success by clicking here to subscribe to the YouTube channel. This will help raise it’s profile outside of the app and your help in doing this will be very much appreciated.

[Subscribe to my channel here](