In 1969, nobody expected a skinny Asian man to become one of the most influential personalities in modern history.
Nobody, that is, except for Bruce Lee.
Named by TIME magazine as 1 of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, and the first person to ever be inducted into the martial arts hall of fame, Bruce Lee was a man light years ahead of his time. In fact, he was light years ahead of our time too.
Much more than just an actor, or a martial artist with charismatic personality, Bruce was a deep thinker, and a philosopher, worthy of the same recognition and praise, in my book, as a Plato, Nietzsche, and many other great minds in history. Not just for his profound outlook on life, but for his ability to apply his philosophy and demonstrate tangible results. It is extremely rare for anyone to be able to all but perfect their physical, mental and spiritual being. Bruce, accomplished them all, and did so at the young age of just 32.
How did he accomplish this great task, is the obvious question. Well, I recently became aware of some letters Bruce wrote, and had to share it with my followers.
I, Bruce Lee, will be the first highest paid Oriental super star in the United States. In return I will give the most exciting performances and render the best of quality in the capacity of an actor. Starting 1970 I will achieve world fame and from then onward till the end of 1980 I will have in my possession $10,000,000. I will live the way I please and achieve inner harmony and happiness.
Four years after penning this mysterious letter, this remarkable human being was found dead. But during those short four years, Bruce accomplished all of his stated goals and more. In fact, Bruce revolutionized martial arts, which is why the president of the UFC refers to him as the father of mixed martial arts. But even more impressive than this distinction, is the fact that Bruce helped change the world’s perception of the entire Chinese race.
You see, prior to Bruce’s entry into Hollywood, Chinese people were largely portrayed in a demeaning and degrading light. For decades China was considered the “sick man of Asia” because the Western powers, and Japanese elite, invaded and decimated the country during the Opium Wars. This had a terrible impact on the Chinese people, who were largely relegated to a position of servitude and helplessness. Bruce, however, helped to change that concept forever, and replaced this disempowering stereotype with one of martial arts and strength. A colossal feat that is often overlooked.
So How The Hell Did Bruce Lee Know He Was Going To Do This?
Bruce’s declaration to himself is undoubtedly intriguing. How could he know such a thing?? Well, reading another letter he wrote — this one when he was just 21 years old — provides us with the preceding insight;
This letter is hard to understand. It contains my dreams and my ways of thinking, as a whole, you can call it my way of life. It will be rather confusing as it is difficult to write down exactly how I feel. Yet I want to write and let you know about it. I’ll do my best to write it clearly and I hope that you, too, will keep an open mind in this letter, and don’t arrive at any conclusions till you are finished.
There are two ways of making a good living, one is the result of hard working, and the other, the result of the imagination (requires work, too, of course). It is a fact that labor and thrift produce a competence, but fortune, in the sense of wealth, is the reward of the man who can think of something that hasn’t been thought of before. In every industry, in every profession, ideas are what America is looking for. Ideas have made America what she is, and one good idea will make a man what he wants to be.
One part of my life is gung fu. This art influences me greatly in the formation of my character and ideas. I practice gung fu as a physical culture, a form of mental training, a method of self-defense, and a way of life. Gung fu is the best of all martial art; yet the Chinese derivatives of judo and karate, which are only basics of gung fu, are flourishing all over the US. This so happens because no one has heard of this supreme art; also there are no competent instructors… I believe my long years of practice back up my title to become the first instructor of this movement. There are yet long years ahead of me to polish my techniques and character. My aim, therefore, is to establish a first Gung Fu Institute that will later spread out all over the US (I have set up a time limit of 10 to 15 years to complete the whole project). My reason in doing this is not the sole objective of making money. The motives are many and among them are: I like to let the world know about the greatness of this Chinese art; I enjoy teaching and helping people; I like to have a well-to-do home for my family; I like to originate something; and the last but yet one of the important is because gung fu is part of myself.
I know my idea is right, and therefore the results would be satisfactory. I don’t really worry about the reward, but to set in motion the machinery to achieve it. My contribution will be the measure of my reward and success.
Before he passed away, some asked the late Dr Charles P. Steimetz, the electrical genius, in his opinion “What branch of science would make the most progress in the next twenty-five years?” He paused and thought for several minutes then like a flash replied, “spiritual realization.” When a man comes to a conscious vital realization of those great spiritual forces within himself and begins to use those forces in science, in business and in life, his progress in the future will be unparalleled.
I feel I have this great creative and spiritual force within me that is greater than faith, greater than ambition, greater than confidence, greater than determination, greater than vision. It is all these combined. My brain becomes magnetized with this dominant force which I hold in my hand.
When you drop a pebble into a pool of water, the pebble starts a series of ripples that expand until they encompass the whole pool. This is exactly what will happen when I give my ideas a definite plan of action. Right now, I can project my thoughts into the future, I can see ahead of me. I dream (remember that practical dreamers never quit). I may now own nothing but a little place down in basement, but once my imagination has got up to a full head of steam, I can see painted on a canvas of my mind a picture of a fine, big five or six story Gung Fu Institute with branches all over the States. I am not easily discouraged, readily visualize myself as overcoming obstacles, winning out over setbacks, achieving “impossible” objectives.
Whether it is the God-head or not, I feel this great force, this unstopped power, this dynamic something within me. This feeling defies description, and [there is] no experience with which this feeling may be compared. It is something like a strong emotion mixed with faith, but a lot stronger.
All in all, the goal of my planning and doing is to find the true meaning in life — peace of mind. I know that the sum of all the possessions I mentioned does not necessarily add up to peace of mind; however, it can be if I devote [my energy] to real accomplishment of self rather than neurotic combat. In order to achieve this peace of mind, the teaching of detachment of Taoism and Zen proved to be valuable….
Probably, people will say I’m too conscious of success. Well, I am not. You see, my will to do springs from the knowledge that I CAN DO. I’m only being natural, for there is no fear or doubt inside my mind.
Pearl, success comes to those who become success-conscious. If you don’t aim at an object, how the heck on earth do you think you can get it?
Considering that Bruce Lee was just 21 years old when he wrote this letter, it’s absolutely mind blowing. In fact, regardless of his age, the contents are incredibly profound.
What we learn here, is Bruce was actually living in a basement at the time, but had come to know that there was something within him infinitely more powerful than his current circumstances, which he referred to as a “great creative and spiritual force within” him. It is this force, along with the following principles, that culminated in his incredible accomplishments.
Bruce Lee’s 6 Principles
Know Your Why
As it has been said, if you can come up with a powerful reason why you want to achieve your goal in life — and then keep it in mind — you can endure almost any how.
For Bruce, he clearly laid out his reasons why; citing his passion for martial arts, his conviction to help other people, his desire to improve the lives of his loved ones, and his deep calling to share a part of himself with the world.
Do What You Are Passionate About
Bruce made it clear that he was not doing this for “the sole objective of making money,” but he was passionate about his goals.
You see, when we work for something that we are passionate about, something that truly makes us come alive; not only are we willing to work 7 days a week, 365 days a year for it (which dramatically improves our chances at becoming successful), but it also gives us a sense of great purpose, and this is deeply satisfying for us, something that money could never buy.
There Is A Power Within Us Greater Than Our Circumstances
So often we limit ourselves by thinking logically about our circumstances or situation, and this discourages us. I mean imagine you are living in a basement, like Bruce was, and then you make the claim that you are gonna change the world. It is one of the most irrational things you could do. But rather than thinking rationally, Bruce had come to learn that he had an incredible power within him that could lift him out of his circumstances.
You can call this force, willpower, spiritual force (as Bruce did), determination, or whatever you like, but it clearly exists and has actually been demonstrated time and time again by various personalities throughout history. Recognizing that you can access it, will help you overcome that which is seemingly “impossible”.
Any problem we may face in life, someone has already dealt with before us and written a book on it. If we want to start our own company, someone has written a book on that. If we want to overcome our depression, someone has written a book on that. If we want to overcome poverty, someone has written a book on that. If we want to understand the power of the mind, someone has written a book on that.
Bruce is a man who understood the power of reading and self education well. In fact, at age 32, his personal library is said to have contained well over 2,500 books. Amongst this impressive list, included famous readings on the power of the imagination, like Think and Grow Rich, The Power Of Positive Thinking, and As a Man Thinketh, amongst others. And judging by his impassioned letter regarding the use of his imagination to create a better life for himself, these certainly had a massive influence on him.
Uncompromising Self Confidence
Confidence is not what most people think. Confidence is the uncompromising belief — and commitment — that regardless of what obstacles we may face in life, and no matter how many times we might fail, nothing and no one is going to be able to stop us from achieving our goal.
Bruce had this uncompromising confidence in himself, and made up his mind, that even though he might be living in a basement right now, and even though he might meet with temporary failure, he will never quit. And he will do whatever is required to achieve his goals.
All the reading, self educating, and positive thinking in the world, means nothing without taking positive action. If you want to create change, get busy. As Bruce himself once said, “Balance your thoughts with action. — If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”
If you’d like to learn even more about Bruce Lee, and his personal philosophy in life, check out a blog I wrote HERE
H/T Better Humans
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