21 Life-Changing Bruce Lee Quotes On Happiness, Love, God, Truth, Failure, Death, & More
Bruce Lee was instrumental in creating awareness of Asian philosophy among Westerners. While at the University of Washington he studied both Asian and Western philosophy. Bruce Lee was constantly reading and developed an extensive library of the martial arts and other philosophical works. Bruce Lee was also a poet expressing some of his deeper truth about his life. Fans of Lee will be happy to know that while the man himself may no longer be with us, his accumulated knowledge and unique perspective remains.
Don’t fear failure. — Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail.”
Bruce Lee is a fantastic example of what we can achieve that we set goals for ourselves. From humble beginnings in Hong Kong Bruce Lee always dreamed big. No one ever before him, coming from his background had become a star with American film audiences. But, that didn’t stop Lee from achieving his ambitions. Lee’s point is that one of the reasons we fail to live the life that we dream of is because we set goals that are too small. Failure to live up to large ambitions is not our greatest problem, but rather our inability to think big enough for ourselves.
“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who had practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
Jeet Kune Do emphasises the importance of simplicity. In a real fight, you only need to be able to execute a handful of different moves. Merely knowing dozens of different kicks, throws and punches is not effective as being able to execute a small number of moves extremely well. Becoming proficient at executing a particular move takes dedication and practice. Maintaining focus is the secret to being an effective fighter.
“If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”
Bruce Lee was a man who loved learning. But he understood that there was a difference between learning and application. We see that often in life, people who have dreams for themselves, but fail to act to move towards those goals. It is through doing that we impact the world.
“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.”
It’s easy to think of Bruce Lee as some sort of demigod. This is not the truth though. Bruce Lee was a man like everyone else. What separated him from other people was his extreme level of focus. When we focus like Lee we can achieve what seems impossible.
“In the middle of chaos lies opportunity”
Your average person hopes for stability. Lee realised that there was opportunity in chaos Times of social change create opportunities for people who are willing to see. Bruce Lee who came to fame during the civil rights battles was an exemplar of this. He became an emblem of newly empowered minorities in Western culture.
“The more we value things, the less we value ourselves”
There is a popular saying that the things that we own end up owning us. In this quote, Bruce Lee was pointing out something very similar. That our true value lies within us not in the things that we possess. Focus on improving your character rather than attaining external possessions, is the path to real success.
“Those who are unaware they are walking in darkness will never seek the light.”
The first step to becoming an enlightened person is understanding that there is a different path. Bruce Lee went to great lengths to reach out to as many people as possible to share the wisdom of Eastern philosophy. Some in Lee’s community were reluctant to share this knowledge with the West. But Bruce Lee through has films and television opened many people’s eyes to a new set of beliefs.
“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”
Bruce Lee pushed to students to achieve ever bigger goals. An objection to such ambitious goal setting is that it is merely wishful thinking. But that misses the point. It’s the journey towards achieving those goals which is the aim in itself.
“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.”
It’s easy to blame lack of knowledge for our inability to achieve our goals. Bruce Lee points out that is not the knowledge that is wrong, but rather the person’s inability to absorb this knowledge. Even a poorly formed question can be useful if the person is open to learning from it.
“A fight is not won by one punch or kick. Either learn to endure or hire a bodyguard.”
At the time that Bruce Lee was practicing martial arts, many martial artists de-emphasised the importance of strength training and roadwork. Bruce Lee understood that endurance and strength training is critical to surviving a fight. Roadwork was an essential part of his martial arts training.
“If you want to learn to swim jump into the water. On dry land, no frame of mind is ever going to help you.”
The positive set of beliefs is no replacement for experience. We become fighters by fighting, not by reading about it. Lee understood the importance of knowledge, but he also emphasised the importance of applying that knowledge.
“Life is wide, limitless. There is no border, no frontier.”
Bruce Lee was constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible. As Lee pointed out to his students there are no plateaus, when we do reach a plateau it is an opportunity to move one step higher. If we stay in one place then we will inevitably begin to degrade.
“What you habitually think largely determines what you will ultimately become.”
Bruce Lee was an early advocate of the importance of good habits. That is what we do on a habitual basis that determines what we will become. Bruce Lee didn’t record in his notebook once or twice, rather he was constantly observing and making notes. The same is true of this exercise routine. Bruce Lee incorporated exercise into every element of the day. Through these habits, Lee became the man that we know today.
“Showing off is the fool’s idea of glory.”
Bruce Lee may have had a certain showman like quality as a movie star, but when he came to martial arts he understood that there was no room for showing off. One of the central principles of Jeet Kune Do is the idea that ornamentation needs to be stripped away from martial arts in order for them to be effective. Martial arts moves should be simple, direct and effective.
“The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.”
If anyone can claim the right to living a life worth remembering than Bruce Lee is it. Bruce Lee achieved stardom on television and film. He wrote books that have inspired millions. He established his own martial art system. And his dedication to the martial arts and staying in peak physical health are awe inspiring. While Bruce Lee died relatively a young man he has achieved immortality through his work and legacy.
“Empty your cup so that it may be filled; become devoid to gain totality.”
One of the most remarkable aspects of Bruce Lee was his willingness to learn from every quarter. He incorporated into its own philosophy teachings from the east and west as well as own practical experience. Bruce Lee was like the empty cup that allowed knowledge to be poured into him.
“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”
The concept of flexibility was integral to Bruce Lee’s philosophy. In the martial arts Bruce Lee uses an opponent’s own energy against himself. Lee, he knew when to give way and went to push forward.
“Boards don’t hit back.”
This quote is taken from “Enter the Dragon” sounds catchy but it does express a fundamental truth of martial arts. Training in the gymis good but it is no replacement for stepping into the ring. You learn to fight by fighting a real opponent.
“Life itself is your teacher, and you are in a state of constant learning.”
While Bruce Lee was a great reader he understood that one of the best source of knowledge was life itself. The people that he met and the experiences he had was his greatest teacher. What made Lee different to many people was that he recorded his experiences and then applied them.
“The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.”
When we think of someone who is an expert on the subject and compare them to a beginner, one differentiating factor is the effort that they put into performing their art. An expert has practiced their particular art countless times. The end result is that they perform it without effort. By being able to perform something naturally and intuitively they are much faster and more powerful than someone who needs to consciously think through the process. Likewise, Jeet Kune Do requires its practitioners to be fluid and intuitive when fighting.
“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”
Most of us have at some point wished when facing hardship that our life could be easier. Bruce Lee asked us to look at these problems differently. Instead of asking for an easier life, which is likely futile anyway, he suggests we ask of ourselves how we can be stronger. Like the philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, Bruce Lee believed that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Through hardship, we can become a better version of ourselves.