Bruce Lee was one of the most fascinating individuals in both martial arts and film, yet we can also learn how to run a business like Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee’s philosophies and insights can be your secret weapon as you look to grow your business and provide even more value to your customers and audience. Read on to learn more.
The Fascinating Life of a Pop Culture Icon
Bruce Lee is one of the most fascinating and beloved pop culture icons from the 20th century. Bruce was introduced to the film industry in his early days (even appearing in several films as a child actor). At the University of Washington in Seattle, Bruce began teaching martial arts. Bruce was ultimately able to combine his passion for martial arts and film into a legendary career in Hollywood. He starred in five feature-length martial arts films, including The Big Boss, Fist of Fury, and Enter The Dragon. All the while, Bruce continued his training in the martial arts, eventually creating his own martial arts philosophy called Jeet Kune Do. Bruce died at an all too young age of 32.
In such a short life, Bruce was able to make a lasting mark on martial arts and the film industry. He is credited for laying down some of the foundations for modern-day mixed martial arts and is even considered one of the most influential pop culture icons who bridged the gap between East and West. Ultimately, Bruce died too young. I’m confident that he would have accomplished so much more if he had lived longer.
Yet while Bruce is a legend in both martial arts and film, his lessons and insights go beyond the canvas or the screen. Business owners can take Bruce’s insights and use them to grow their businesses and become better leaders.
I wish I could talk to Bruce Lee about so many things. That being said, I recently had an outstanding opportunity to speak with three people who have an advanced understanding of Bruce Lee, Jeet Kune Do, and Bruce’s lessons that we can apply to our lives.
First is Sifu Fran Joseph. She is the wife of the late Sifu Jerry Poteet, who was one of Bruce Lee’s five original students. Fran started martial arts when she was seven years old and has been training for decades. As she got older, she was able to train with several of Bruce Lee’s top students, including Jesse Glover and her future husband Jerry Poteet. Because of this, Fran has some unique insights on the Jeet Kune Do and how we can take Bruce Lee’s lessons and apply them to our business lives.
As if Fran’s insights weren’t enough, I also had the awesome chance to speak with Tony Blauer. Tony has been studying martial arts and has been teaching for more than 40 years. He has studied the Jeet Kune Do and uses those insights to help him run his firm called Blauer Tactical Systems.
Finally, there is Ed Monaghan. Ed is a professor at UCLA and specializes in kinesthetic learning as related to mindfulness-based practices. He has also studied Jeet Kune Do for many years, giving him an excellent perspective on Bruce Lee’s philosophies and how they are still applicable today.
Getting Control Over Your Mind
Even though we see Bruce Lee as this fierce fighter and martial arts expert, one of the most interesting things about Bruce is that he was as much a mental warrior as a physical warrior. Bruce intuitively understood that martial arts isn’t necessarily about physical fighting. In fact, most of us will never get into physical alterations.
Yes, martial arts is for self-defense, but it is also about controlling your mind. It is about training your mind to believe in yourself so that you can accomplish anything. As Fran says, by doing this, you learn that power rests within you, not outside of you. To access that power, you need to genuinely believe in yourself and your abilities.
This is especially true for entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs face many different challenges in their careers, ranging from hiring that first couple of employees to pitching investors at leading venture capital firms. It can be easy for them to get down on themselves or to compare themselves to other “more successful” entrepreneurs. While it may be difficult, Fran urges us to resist that temptation. Entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs need to have control over their emotions and not get discouraged. They must center themselves and continue to push forward. By recognizing that you have the power to control your own emotions, you will find it easier to navigate and overcome those seemingly-difficult moments.
As Sun Tzu says, “Know your enemy and know yourself, and you can win a thousand battles.” While it is easy to know your enemy, it is much harder to know yourself.
The Only Constant is Change
Fran told me many different things about Jerry’s life. That being said, one of the most striking is something that Bruce Lee told Jerry many years ago.
It was: “The only constant thing is change.”
You may have heard this quote before. That being said, Bruce’s life is representative of this mantra. He was able to adapt to changing circumstances, whether it was some initial rejections in the American film industry or dealing with the consequences of fame after The Big Boss or Enter the Dragon. When appearing on the Pierre Berton Show in 1971, Bruce said, “Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless, like water.”
Besides taxes, change is the one force that we cannot escape. This is true whether you are just starting your career or if you are one of the world’s richest people. That being said, it can be very difficult to adapt to change. It is human nature to prefer the way things are versus the unknown. Even considering that, we have to adapt to change. There is no other option.
The good news? Those that can best adapt to change are often the greatest winners. They’re able to capitalize on nascent trends and move quicker than their competition. While you may not be the most accepting of change at the moment, I encourage you to become more agile. Instead of resisting, see the change for what it is. Try to identify opportunities that result from that change. In all likelihood, some of these opportunities can go a long way in helping you accomplish your goals.
Create Your Own Circumstances
One of the most exciting and positive insights from Bruce Lee centers on creating your own circumstances. It is an empowering message. No matter your past or current circumstances in life, you can take action today to create the circumstances that you’ve always envisioned.
Again, we can look at Bruce Lee’s life for inspiration. In his early career, Bruce started getting rejected by Hollywood. He really wanted to be a movie star and bring his martial arts knowledge to the big screen, yet he kept receiving rejection letters.
While others may have given up, Bruce decided to persist. He wrote to himself, “To hell with my circumstances. I am going to create my own circumstances.”
The rest is history, as Bruce ultimately became the movie star that he always envisioned.
This passage about creating your own circumstances stuck out to Tony Blauer. As a teenager, that passage literally made his body stand up. He rewrote the passage to himself year after year. Anytime he comes across a certain frustration or roadblock in life, Tony reminds himself of his line.
Bruce’s idea of creating your own circumstances is certainly applicable in the business world. It can be applied to things like chasing investors, converting customers, finding product-market fit, and more. Therefore, if you are facing some struggles or obstacles in your professional life, don’t back down. Be persistent and create the circumstances that you dream of or envision. It is going to take some hard work, but as Bruce Lee showed, it is certainly possible.
Change Your Relationship with Fear
Bruce also provides us with some unique insights about fear. The bottom line? Fear is present throughout our lives. While we can’t eliminate it, we can change our relationship with it, thereby building up our courage muscles to accomplish our goals.
As Tony Blauer says, being a throttle is everything we do. This is true whether we are making pitches to investors, debating whether to quit or jobs to become entrepreneurs, or contemplating a new hire. At their core, these decisions consciously and unconsciously revolve around fear. You can’t separate the psychology of fear from the physiology of fear. Oftentimes, we misinterpret signals.
The good news, however, is that you can’t be brave if you’re not afraid. No one courageous is without fear.
Because of this, I recommend that you avoid trying to eliminate fear from your life. It just isn’t going to happen. Instead, the more important thing is to accept that fear is inevitable and get in the habit of being more courageous. Continue to take smart, calculated risks—even if you are nervous or fearful. Busting through inertia and becoming more action-oriented is a process, but it is absolutely attainable if you stick with it. Just accept that fear is part of the process and act anyway.
Embrace the Perspective of Limitless Growth
Bruce Lee was the type of person who expected much of himself. Even though he was young, he expected that he would become a movie star. Ultimately, his perspective was one of limitless growth. Even after he accomplished his initial goals, Bruce kept learning, implicitly understanding that he could continue growing as a martial artist, actor, intellectual, and human.
Even though some people may have thought that Bruce was arrogant, Ed believes that the most important part of him was this continuous improvement. He was constantly researching simplicity and economy in motion. He would adapt those ideas more to a business-based context, continuously learning more about these big questions and himself.
Following Bruce Lee’s lead here is a terrific idea. Believing that you have limitless growth potential is empowering. It can give you a boost of inspiration when you need it most. Before you know it, you will be substantially closer to your professional and personal goals.
The even better news is the fact that this philosophy of limitless growth has virtually no entry fee. You just have to adopt it in your day-to-day life. As just one simple example, think about how you can grow when pitching prospects on your company’s product or service. Envision all of the goals you want to accomplish in your sales life and work hard to make them a reality. Like many other insights in this post, the road may be rocky, but stick with it. Bruce showed that adopting the perspective of limitless growth can change the world. You can do the same.
Learning From a Special Individual
Whether you are a Bruce Lee fanatic like me or are hearing about him for the first time, I’m sure that you now recognize his talent and wisdom. Yes, he was a pioneer in martial arts and the film industry. But even looking beyond those two monumental accomplishments, Bruce’s insights can be applied to our professional and personal lives.
If you’d like to learn more about Bruce Lee, I recommend that you check out Be Water, which was an ESPN 30 For 30 documentary that recently aired. Even if you don’t want to learn more about him, I highly encourage you to incorporate his lessons into your life. Doing so, you’ll be happier, more successful, and much closer toward your personal and professional goals.
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