Bruce Lee was a martial arts expert on an epic scale. He lived and breathed Kung Fu and Zen. During his life and long after, Lee has served as an inspiration for many; not only for martial arts fighters, but also for those who fell on hard times but refused to give up on their dreams nonetheless.
Although Lee eventually became a superstar — and, after he died, a legend — life was far from easy for him. When he decided he wanted to become a martial arts actor, he often felt as if the whole world was conspiring against him.
Sadly, he was right about it: Hollywood had decided that the audience wasn’t ‘ready’ for an Asian superstar. As Maria Popova explains at the Brain Pickings website:
Early in his career, Lee was systematically sidelined by Hollywood’s studio system, which operated with extreme racial bias and still used white actors in yellowface to portray Asian characters based on flat stereotypes. Over and over, Lee was told in no uncertain terms that white audiences simply wouldn’t accept an Asian man as a lead character in a movie.
Hollywood’s producers even criticized him when he wanted to incorporate Asian philosophy into his blockbuster movie Enter the Dragon. They eventually relented only because Lee left the set for two weeks. Ironically enough, it was that philosophical dimension that made the movie as successful as it became. Without it, Enter the Dragon would have been ‘just one’ of many action movies.
Although Lee has many fans, what most don’t know is that he was a very contemplative guy who was truly obsessed with incorporating his philosophy (a mixture of Asian beliefs and Western [positive] psychology) into his every day life and his career.
In order to do so more effectively, Lee always carried a 2″×3″ pocketbook with him. This pocketbook didn’t only serve as an agenda, but also as his personal notebook. Lee wrote notes to and for himself. As a result, they are filled with his personal philosophy.
The aforementioned Brain Pickings website got special permission from the Bruce Lee Estate to publish some of the notes. That’s great in itself, but what’s even better is that these notes are extremely interesting and useful, not only for Lee’s most passionate fans, but for everybody who wants to make his or her life a successful one.
Here are some of the notes Lee wrote to himself:
WILL POWER: —
Recognizing that the power of will is the supreme court over all over departments of my mind, I will exercise it daily, when I need the urge to action for any purpose; and I will form HABIT designed to bring the power of my will into action at least once daily.
Realizing that my emotions are both POSITIVE and negative I will form daily HABITS which will encourage the development of the POSITIVE EMOTIONS, and aid me in converting the negative emotions into some form of useful action.
Recognizing that both my positive & negative emotions may be dangerous if they are not controlled and guided to desirable ends, I will submit all my desires, aims and purposes to my faculties of reason, and I will be guided by it in giving expression to these.
Recognizing the need for sound PLANS and IDEAS for the attainment of my desires, I will develop my imagination by calling upon it daily for help in the formation of my plans.
Recognizing the value of an alert memory, I will encourage mine to become alert by taking care to impress it clearly with all thoughts I wish to recall, and by associating those thoughts with related subjects which I may call to mind frequently.
SUBCONSCIOUS MIND: —
Recognizing the influence of my subconscious mind over my power of will, I shall take care to submit to it a clear and definite picture of my CLEAR PURPOSE in life and all minor purposes leading to my major purpose, and I shall keep this picture CONSTANTLY BEFORE my subconscious mind by REPEATING IT DAILY.
Recognizing that my emotions often err in their over-enthusiasm, and my faculty of reason often is without the warmth of feeling that is necessary to enable me to combine justice with mercy in my judgments, I will encourage my conscience to guide me as to what is right & what is wrong, but I will never set aside the verdicts it renders, no matter what may be the cost of carrying them out.
That’s not all. Check out more Bruce Lee wisdom on the next page!
And that’s not all. When a particular thought struck Lee as especially important, he copied it on a plain 3″×5″ lined yellow notecard. These special notes provide a glance into the mind and thoughts of a man who became bigger than life.
You will never get any more out of life than you expect
Keep your mind on the things you want and off those you don’t
Things live by moving and gain strength as they go
Be a calm beholder of what is happening around you
There is a difference a) the world b) our reaction to it
Be aware of our conditioning! Drop and dissolve inner blockage
Inner to outer — we start by dissolving our attitude not by altering outer condition
Anybody with basic knowledge of these subjects can clearly see that Lee based his personal philosophies on ancient Asian culture and philosophy, New Age thinking and positive psychology. Some of the notes seem to be almost copied from Think and Grow Rich, the famous bestseller by Napoleon Hill. From that book:
I know that I have the ability to ACHIEVE the object of my DEFINITE PURPOSE in life; therefore I DEMAND of myself persistent, continuous action toward its attainment, and I here and now promise to render such action.
I realize the DOMINATING THOUGHTS of my mind will eventually reproduce themselves in outward, physical action, and gradually transform themselves into physical reality; therefore I will CONCENTRATE my thoughts for 30 min. daily upon the task of thinking of the person I intend to become, thereby creating in my mind a clear MENTAL PICTURE.
I know through the principle of autosuggestion, any desire that I PERSISTENTLY hold will eventually seek expression through some practical means of attaining the object back of it; therefore, I will devote 10 min. daily to DEMANDING of myself the development of SELF-CONFIDENCE.
I have clearly written down a description of my DEFINITE CHIEF AIM in life, and I will never stop trying until I shall have developed sufficient self-confidence for its attainment.
Others appear to come straight out of a book on Zen Buddhism:
See that there is no one to fight, only an illusion to see through
No one can hurt you unless you allow him to
Inwardly, psychologically, be a nobody
Since I’m just about obsessed with becoming a better man, a better blogger, a better entrepreneur, a better husband, a better Christian and a better… everything, these notes are truly a goldmine of wisdom for me. I’m guessing that, if you’re still reading this piece, the same goes for you.
If so, I suggest you do the same as he did: take a small notebook with you, and write down your thoughts, philosophies and ideas on how to create a better you. What’s more, like Lee we need to have the understanding that the thoughts we think every day have a tendency to become our reality. What we sow, we reap. Think chaotic, fearful thoughts and our life will be filled with stress. Think positive, uplifting thoughts and connect them to clearly-worded goals, and our lives will take a turn for the better.
Lee understood that and became a legend because of it. Isn’t it time for us to do the same?