Jordan B Peterson: Psychology as a Career

my notes

When planning a career, it is important to understand and learn how to tolerate never being done. No matter how much you work, it is not enough.

Humans are not happy generally speaking unless we are carrying a burden of responsibility, as it makes you worth something.

When you do your applications, specify who you are, sell them on you - not what you want to do, as that will probably change by the time you complete your degree.

You need to be able to distinguish between costs and investments. If you get your acceptance letter, it is worth $7,000,000 dollars over your life.

What does success mean? What if you want to have a good life?

  1. Do what other people do, unless you have a really good reason not to, so what do other people do:

  2. Have friends, and really good friends

  3. Have an intimate relationship that is stable over time - without that, you are kind of chaotic and lost, plus without that, you only have your brain - with that, you now have two brains, you are twice as wise - when you pair up, you should pair up where your strengths cover their weaknesses and their strengthens cover your weaknesses, so you become a complete strong unit - and you are foolish not to have children, women may not want children when they are in their 20s, but they become desperate for children at 30, and it kicks in about 28, so expect that and plan for that - daycare doesn’t work, nannies may work - you have design your life to accomplish both of those two difficult things (career and family)

What to get yourself the edge?

  1. IQ - physical exercise is the best way to maintain your IQ, it starts to diminish after 24 - get your drug and alcohol use under control, as that will deteriorate your IQ quicker

  2. Think about your typical day, how much time is wasted? Wasted time is when the time you spent is the time you haven’t planned to do. It is distractions.

  3. What is your time worth? Apply money to it, it is how we measure worth. Your time is worth your earning potential. Because what you do now should contribute to what you earn in the future. So it is compounded interest.

  4. Half your time trying to concentrate and double your discipline.

  5. How hard would you be working if someone pulled out a gun to your head?

  6. What effort % are you working at? Think of what you can do to do this task faster, with more effort, with more discipline, with more reward.

  7. Got to be ruthless to be efficient. And efficient people win.

  8. A profitable company generally increases at 5% per year, which means 95% goes to just existing

  9. In most creative industries, nearly everyone does nothing, and a few people do everything

  10. You can’t do much about your intelligence, but you can learn to work. Conscientious and industrious people, when they put their mind to something, they do it. They are the most successful people. (These are traits, there are aptitudes, but you can work on them). In 5 minutes, they do what most people do in one week, this is not an exaggeration, they are incredibly efficient. Discipline really matters - if you are wasting time, you need to learn how to get that under control. The best way to get that under control, is to pick something difficult that may take a couple of years, that way there is a big payoff and it is motivating - you want it, and you attend to it, and if you do that, you get discipline.

  11. What matters if you study something, you study it hard. Studying it hard is what matters, more than what you study. As it builds discipline and gets results. It also makes your life more enjoyable, not less.

  12. The best thing to do, is to learn to stop wasting time. It may require completely rewiring yourself to get that under control. If you want to be successful in your career, you really have to do that.

  13. Everything you do as an academic will get rejected, and you will be told to quit, no matter how much work you put in, you will get those letters through your whole careers. Address the concerns, and keep going. Rejection rates in journals at 95-98%. Your paper may get rejected because it bad, and it may get rejected because it is too good and it scares people.

Why would you want to be a Professor?

  1. When you are talking to people, do you tend to turn the conversation to ideas? If so, that is the openness trait. Then you are an intellectual. That is a good reason to be a Professor, as you like ideas!

  2. If you talk about people or events or chit chat, probably an extrovert. If you talk about relationships, probably agreeable. Those are not the kind of temperament that is good for an intellectual pursuit. You have to like ideas!

  3. The second thing is, do you like to teach? Teaching is brutal for those who don’t like it. If you are terrified of students, do not become a professor.

  4. A lecture is a performance. It takes a tremendous amount of energy. It is like spontaneous jazz for 90 minutes. You have to want that and like that.

  5. When you get rejected, don’t take it personally. They don’t hate you, they hate everybody! So you learn to tolerate that.

Should you also be a clinical psychologist?

  1. That depends what you are inclined towards. For me (Jordan), life is better when I do many different things. I do clinics, I do consulting, I am a professor, I run a testing company that evaluates employees, and I have other jobs. I have 5-7 jobs. I learned how to do things flat-out all the time. For me that is better. I am wired for that.

  2. You have to be insane to be a social worker. When you are a clinical psychologist, you are dealing with people who don’t want their problems. When you are a social worker, you are dealing with people who don’t care about their problems.

There are three types of programs:

  1. Ones that train you as a scientist and a clinician

  2. Those that train you as a clinician ($40,000 a year)

  3. And those that train you with clinical training and less on experimental work, they don’t produce academics

Classes don’t matter. The only thing that matters is publishing papers. That is what you should be doing. If you publish enough papers, you’ll get a job.

Graduate classes require an A to pass. Undergraduate classes it doesn’t matter. No one cares for your undergraduate degrees.

You will need 5 papers published. Two where you are the first author. And two in top journals.

Do you want freedom? People float and drift with too much freedom - then you get hit on the head!

Most of Social Psychology is nonsense. So learn your psychometrics and statistics, and that will do you well.

About 90% of your classes will be a waste. Read the great clinicians instead. All systems are flawed. (referring that universities are included in that)

Most businesses fail. Only the good businesses generate 5% profit. Bad businesses suck time from what’s important. Most systems don’t work, and a lot of them are murderous.

If you educate yourself, and you become useful. Then it doesn’t matter your qualifications. As you have the testimonials that say you appear useful. Or you can go to an institution, pay a lot of money, where 90% of the courses won’t be useful.

Your job is to discriminate between things that are worthwhile and things that are not.

(ben: you get what you put in, and most people do not put in that much, or even care to)

You can’t be a good clinician unless you are also a scientist. If you are a foolish clinician, you can cause a lot of pain and grief. Confused troubled people open up to you, it is your responsibility to help you. You must think critically. A good critical thinker gets rid of what is not necessary, and keeping what is necessary.

Listen to a person, and if you don’t understand what they are saying, ask them. If you walk people through the process of clearly articulating their situation, the order enhances their brain. And you can do that even as a junior clinician, providing you are listening.

There are 2 things required to be motivated:

  1. Imagine that you were charged with taking care of yourself. Now you are responsible to take care of yourself. Most people are ambivalent about taking care of yourself. You have to think what will be best for yourself - not what you want or what will make you happy - but what will be best for yourself.

  2. You need to have a clear conception of what your life could be like, if it was really good. 3 or 5 years down the road, what would the best life be like? Think about friends, family, how you spend your time day to day. Think about it hard, clarify it, and then optimise around that.

  3. What was my life be like if I let it really fall apart. If you meditate on it properly, it should really scare you. And you promise yourself, whatever happens, I will never do that.

  4. You then weigh up your life, and your relationship to those two things, and you pick which ones you want. And if your life gets out of control, you make it worse, and that is hell - so as stay as far away from there as you can.

  5. If you do this exercise regularly it will change your life. Sit on the edge of your bed when you wake up, and ask yourself as if you were asking your friend, asking someone you have positive feelings towards, ask yourself what you need to do to make the day progress in the best possible manner. Then ask yourself what you could do? Then ask yourself what you actually would do? Then you’ll get an answer, the answer will drift up from the depth of your unconscious. You could do this and that, perhaps there’s things you’ve been avoiding, and you could do this little thing, without getting all resentful about it. Then tonight, my life could be 1/10th of 1% better, which is a lot over 1000 days, is 100% better.

  6. Life is hard. Life is basically tragic in its essence. And if you don’t carry that burden properly, it will make you resentful and cruel. And if you don’t want to be resentful and cruel, then you will pull yourself together, so you can be a force for good rather than evil. Which is a lot better. There is almost no limit to how much someone can suffer. — Which is why I like being a clinical psychologist, it keeps you in touch with the plight of human nature. You cannot do anything more valuable for possibly informing you on how to improve your own life.

  7. You have to think about about who you are, where did you come from, how did it shape you. That is psychoanalysis. Then you have to think, well what do I want from this life? What sort of person do you want to be? We can be the most wretched of people, but a person who has their act together can be like a force of nature! You have the opportunity, you are smart, you are young. Hammer yourself together and see what you can do. Make your life way better. Unimaginably better. If that’s what you want…

  8. As you step through your life, you’ll see there are certain things that call out to you, that grab your attention, involuntarily. That’s a very interesting thing, because people like to think that they are their own masters of their own destiny. There’s reasons this is not true. You are governed by forces you don’t understand, which is what psychoanalysts have deemed to be the unconscious. And unconscious forces are what makes you interested in things, and you can’t control that! If you are reading a dam boring paper, someone else may think that is the most interesting thing they’ve ever found, when you, you can’t even concentrate on it, you wander, you say you have to focus on it, there’s a test tomorrow, but your unconscious doesn’t care. But another paper you get, it sticks to you like glue, you are compelled by it, you remember it right away. Why is that? Why is one thing so interesting for you and another isn’t, and why can’t you control that? So if isn’t you who decide who you are interested in, well you gotta ask yourself, who controls that, if it is not you. By asking that, that’s when you become a clinical psychologist, because that’s a hell of a question.

  9. So one of the things you can learn, is how to follow the things that can compel you. And you have to be careful when you are doing that, because you have to balance that with a certain degree of honesty, because if you are dishonest and deceitful then you corrupt the workings of your internal mechanisms, and the light will be shining from places you don’t want it to shine from. So if you are going to pursue the things that compel you, which is a good thing to do, that’s a quest by the way, you also have to straighten yourself out ethically and you can take some bad times. And you will get ridiculously motivated if you do that because you’ll end up living in a world where everything is so interesting to you all the time that you can hardly stand it, and that’s a good place to be.

If an experience will foster your independence and discipline, and broaden your experience, then no one with any sense will look at that but anything than positive.

The things that make people successful are:

  1. Learning to work, and learning to socialise

  2. Intelligence

  3. Conscientiousness, that’s discipline

  4. Creativity, that is hard to develop if you don’t already have it

  5. A gradual social network, learning to socialise to develop a large social connection, that’s unbelievably useful

  6. Always better to do something than nothing, if you don’t know what to do, then take a guess, and do it hard, and as you do it, you’ll learn what’s good about it and what isn’t, and it’ll bring you closer to what you want.

  7. If you pay attention and you focus, you’ll eventually figure out what you want.

If you want a career, you gotta figure out who you want to be.

It is a good idea to get a broad philosophical understanding, so you can figure out the difference between a great person and a trivial person. You should think about what makes a great person, and learn from culture’s great thinkers, because they’ve thought about why that matters.

Master degrees are useless fundamentally. You can’t practice with a masters degree anymore. For an academic career, a PhD is what you want.

If you are a experimental psychologist, generally you are heading to an academic career, although there are areas in business for that too. Juniors will start at a salary of $250,000. Businesses are now hiring psychologists rather than economists, because they are finding out psych models work whereas theirs don’t.

On the clinical side, there is nothing more valuable than a clinical degree - as it will let you work anywhere, hospitals, clinics, business, etc.

If you want to set yourself up for this, learn not to waste time as you can control that. And think how you want your life to be and not to be, as that will increase you motivation.

You are not there to take on clients burdens. You are there to help them live properly. You can’t do that if you are damaged by what you hear.

(Applause at the end - seems if you are a lecturer, and you are not getting applause, you have taught wrong.)

The reason you get screwed is because you put up with it. If you get ripped off, take responsibility, change your actions, and complain.