Legend. Icon. Fighter. Unparalleled. Irreplaceable. Greatest Ever. These are just some of the words that come to people’s minds when they think of the great Bruce Lee. Even though he died at a very young age, he is still remembered as one of the greatest martial artists and actors of all time. His legacy will always remain as the greatest ever.
Even though he was predominantly known for this martial arts skills and acting in movies, not many people know that he was also one of the most underappreciated and underrated philosophers of the 20th century, who played a huge part in establishing and advocating Eastern traditions to the Western world and audiences.
Bruce Lee was a philosophy major when he was in college, where he took his own ideas and thoughts and combined them with ancient philosophies. He never failed to emphasize the strength of resilience, and how important of an attribute it was to possess it. It is from here that he came up with his famous water metaphor for resilience.
When he initially stepped foot in Hollywood, he was subjected to a lot of racial bias and was constantly sidelined due to his Asian heritage. During that time, white actors used to practice yellowface to play Asian characters, which were based on many hurtful and narrow-minded stereotypes. Lee was constantly told that the audience (which was mostly white) would never come to watch a movie that had an Asian in the lead role.
Even after he was cast in a lead role, several film studios refused to take him, his skills and emotional and mental depth seriously, and simply saw him as someone who is there to entertain everyone with his Kung-Fu skills. When they planned to edit out all the philosophical parts from Enter the Dragon, because they wanted the movie to be entertaining, Lee stopped going to the sets for two straight weeks.
He insisted and emphasized the fact that philosophy and Kung-Fu were intricately related to each other, and there is no point of one without the other. The studio had to finally give in to his vision, and that was one of the biggest driving factors behind the success of Enter the Dragon. The perfect and now timeless combination of Kung-Fu and philosophy did not just make the movie a humongous success, it established Lee as a torch-bearer of racial empowerment, and a cultural icon.
For Bruce Lee, philosophy was an inseparable and integral part of daily life, just like the mind is inseparable from the body.
For him, his philosophical meditations and meticulous workout routines were equally important, and he never took any of it for granted. He always carried a small notebook with him wherever he went, which was filled with the phone numbers of his students (which included Steve McQueen and Chuck Norris), his workout regimens, affirmations, philosophical thoughts, and poems.
Lee’s handwriting was always very measured and neat which was the perfect reflection of his strict discipline and purposefulness.
The most interesting and notable parts of his tiny notebooks were the affirmations he wrote in them. He used to write these notes to himself by articulating his personal opinions and philosophies aimed at his own personal growth but were at the same time, universal in nature, providing insights into human psychology, nature, and behavior.
Here is a look at the contents of the pages of his 1968 notebook, which were written shortly before Bruce Lee’s 28th birthday. The contents are transcribed below, starting with Napoleon Hill’s ‘Daily Success Creed’, which Lee used to write down in his pocketbooks.
“Recognizing that the power of will is the supreme court over all other 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 faculty 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.”
“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 MAJOR 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.”
When Bruce Lee believed that he had an amazing idea, he instantly noted it down on the back of a plain lined yellow notecard, at the end of which he always put down his signature. It was almost like he signed a contract with himself, or maybe like a will.
Interestingly, Lee’s affirmations were always very notable and insightful and this was because he successfully managed to combine both spiritual traditions (especially Zen Buddhism’s ideas about the ego, the self, and character) and ancient philosophical traditions, along with questioning dubious New Age thinking.
“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
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”
“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 in my mind 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.”
Inspirational and motivational doesn’t even begin to describe Bruce Lee, and the more you read and know about him, the more amazed you will be.
Credits: Bruce Lee