Despite living only 32 years, Bruce Lee accomplished mastery and success in many disciplines, particularly as an entrepreneur and in his Zen practice of martial arts and mindfulness.
For me, Bruce Lee has inspired my life of zen in so many facets. In fact, he has contributed to the creation of this platform and continues to be a guiding light in my journey. I am eternally grateful for the dragon that is Bruce Lee and wish to express my deep thanks for his spirit that lives on through my spirit.
In dedication, this article serves to celebrate his life with 32 inspiring lessons from his journey as an actor, martial artist, business owner, philosopher, entertainer, luminary, and zen entrepreneur.
1. Be soft like water.
"Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: In the dynamic world of entrepreneurship, rigidity can lead to failure. Adaptability is key. How can you be like water in your business, adjusting and finding innovative ways to navigate challenges?
2. Express your love for life for making the most of your time.
"If you truly love life, don’t waste time because time is what life is made of." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Time is a precious resource for entrepreneurs. How can you maximize your time to create value and achieve your goals in both business and life?
3. Foster strength to endure a difficult life.
"Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Challenges are inevitable in entrepreneurship. Instead of wishing for an easy path, focus on developing the resilience and strength to overcome difficulties. How can you build the mental strength to navigate the challenges that come with entrepreneurship?
4. Life’s battles don’t always go to the strongest or fastest people, but to the ones who think they can.
"Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man. But sooner or later the man who wins is the man who thinks he can." ~ Bruce Lee "The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Confidence and focus play a crucial role in entrepreneurial success. How can you cultivate a mindset that believes in your ability to overcome obstacles and stay focused on your goals?
5. To specialize in ONE thing is more powerful than to try 10,000 other things.
"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." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Mastery in a specific area often outshines scattered efforts. How can you focus your energy on mastering one aspect of your business, becoming exceptional in that area?
6. There are no limits to what you can achieve. There are only plateaus, and you must go beyond them.
"If you always put a limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them."
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Growth requires pushing beyond limits. How can you identify and overcome plateaus in your business, ensuring continuous innovation and improvement?
7. Bring the mind into sharp focus and make it alert so that it can immediately intuit truth.
"Bring the mind into sharp focus and make it alert so that it can immediately intuit truth, which is everywhere. The mind must be emancipated from old habits, prejudices, restrictive thought processes and even ordinary thought itself." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Clarity of thought is vital for decision-making. How can you cultivate a focused and open mind in the fast-paced world of entrepreneurship?
8. The function and duty of a quality human being are the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.
"Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being are the sincere and honest development of one’s potential." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Personal development is foundational for success. How can you prioritize your own growth, recognizing that your personal development contributes to the success of your business?
9. A goal is not always meant to be reached; it often serves simply as something to aim at.
"A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Goals provide direction. How can you use your entrepreneurial goals as guiding principles, understanding that the journey toward them is as valuable as the destination?
10. Overthinking hinders progress.
"If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Action is essential in entrepreneurship. How can you strike a balance between thoughtful planning and decisive action to move your business forward?
11. We must not only know but also apply. We must not only be willing but also take action.
"Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Action transforms knowledge into results. How can you bridge the gap between knowing and doing in your entrepreneurial journey?
12. A foolish question teaches a wise man more than a wise answer teaches a fool.
"A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Embrace curiosity and continuous learning. How can you foster an environment where questions, regardless of their nature, contribute to the growth and innovation of your business?
13. Just be ordinary and nothing special.
"Just be ordinary and nothing special. Eat your food, move your bowels, pass water, and when you’re tired, go and lie down. The ignorant will laugh at me, but the wise will understand." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Simplicity and authenticity are powerful. How can you embrace the ordinary aspects of your business and use them as a foundation for authenticity and relatability?
14. Showing off is a foolish pursuit of glory.
"Showing off is the fool’s idea of glory." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Substance over spectacle is key in business. How can you shift the focus from showcasing to delivering real value in your entrepreneurial endeavors?
15. Do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it. Be yourself!
"Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Authenticity is a competitive advantage. How can you infuse your unique personality into your business, setting it apart from the competition?
16. To know yourself takes a lifetime.
"For it is easy to criticize and break down the spirit of others, but to know yourself takes a lifetime." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Self-awareness is the foundation of effective leadership. How can you continually strive to understand yourself, recognizing how your strengths and weaknesses impact your business?
17. There is a huge difference between self-actualization and self-image actualization.
"Many people dedicate their lives to actualizing a concept of what they should be like, rather than actualizing themselves. This difference between self-actualization and self-image actualization is very important. Most people live only for their image." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: True success is about being genuine, not just projecting an image. How can you align your actions with your authentic self, ensuring that your business reflects your true values?
18. Embrace emptiness for complete wholeness.
"It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials." ~ Bruce Lee "Empty your cup so that it may be filled; become devoid to gain totality."
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Simplify to amplify. How can you streamline your business by eliminating unnecessary complexities, and focusing on what truly matters for overall success?
19. Give up all expectations and let nature take its course.
"The great mistake is to anticipate the outcome of the engagement; you ought not to be thinking of whether it ends in victory or defeat. Let nature take its course, and your tools will strike at the right moment." ~ Bruce Lee "In order to control myself, I must first accept myself by going with and not against my nature."
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Embrace uncertainty and adaptability. How can you navigate the unpredictable nature of entrepreneurship by focusing on the process rather than fixating on specific outcomes?
20. Be self-aware, not a mindless automaton.
"Be self-aware, rather than a repetitious robot." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Innovation requires self-awareness. How can you break away from repetitive patterns and embrace a mindset of continuous improvement and creativity in your business?
21. The meaning of life is that it is to be lived.
"The meaning of life is that it is to be lived, and it is not to be traded and conceptualized and squeezed into a pattern of systems." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Entrepreneurship is a journey. How can you focus on living and experiencing each moment in your business, rather than getting bogged down by rigid systems and concepts?
22. To achieve immortality, live a memorable life.
"The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Leave a lasting impact. How can you build a business that not only achieves success but also contributes positively to the lives of others, leaving a memorable legacy?
23. To avoid tomorrow's slip-ups, speak the truth today. today.
"If you don’t want to slip up tomorrow, speak the truth today." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Honesty is a foundation of trust. How can you prioritize transparent communication in your business, fostering trust among your team and customers?
24. Everything you do, if not in a relaxed state will be done at a lesser level than you are proficient.
"Everything you do, if not in a relaxed state will be done at a lesser level than you are proficient. Thus the tensed expert marksman will aim at a level less than his/her student." ~ Bruce Lee "If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond like an echo."
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Find balance and operate from a relaxed state. How can you maintain a calm and focused mindset to enhance your proficiency in decision-making and problem-solving?
25. A quick temper will soon make a fool of you.
"A quick temper will make a fool of you soon enough." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Emotional intelligence is key in business. How can you develop the patience and composure necessary to navigate the challenges and setbacks that come with entrepreneurship?
26. Only when there is stillness in movement does the universal rhythm manifest.
"The stillness in stillness is not the real stillness; only when there is stillness in movement does the universal rhythm manifest." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Find calm within the chaos. How can you cultivate a sense of stillness and clarity of purpose, even in the midst of a fast-paced and dynamic business environment?
27. Every bit of knowledge leads to self-discovery.
"All knowledge leads to self-knowledge." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Continuous learning contributes to personal growth. How can you prioritize acquiring knowledge that not only enhances your business skills but also deepens your understanding of yourself?
28. The power of your thoughts is profound, for they shape the very essence of who you become.
"As you think, so shall you become." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: The power of mindset. How can you cultivate a positive and growth-oriented mindset in your entrepreneurial journey, recognizing that your thoughts shape your actions and outcomes?
29. Admitting mistakes requires courage, but they are always forgivable.
"Mistakes are always forgivable if one has the courage to admit them." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Embrace a culture of accountability. How can you foster an environment where mistakes are seen as opportunities for learning and growth, encouraging your team to admit and rectify errors?
30. God resides within.
"If there is a God, he is within. You don’t ask God to give you things, you depend on God for your inner theme." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Internal strength drives external success. How can you tap into your inner resources, relying on your intrinsic motivation and values to guide your entrepreneurial journey?
31. Those unaware of their darkness won't seek the light.
"Those who are unaware they are walking in darkness will never seek the light." ~ Bruce Lee "Now I see that I will never find the light unless, like the candle, I am my own fuel, Consuming myself."
Entrepreneurial Lesson: Awareness is the first step to improvement. How can you encourage a culture of self-reflection and continuous improvement within your business?
32. Relationships are the mirror in which you discover yourself.
"Self-knowledge involves a relationship. To know oneself is to study oneself in action with another person. A relationship is a process of self-evaluation and self-revelation. A relationship is a mirror in which you discover yourself – to be is to be related." ~ Bruce Lee
Entrepreneurial Lesson: The importance of interpersonal dynamics. How can you leverage relationships in your business as opportunities for self-discovery and growth?
Bruce Lee's philosophy extends far beyond martial arts, offering profound insights that resonate with the challenges and opportunities in the entrepreneurial journey. By internalizing these lessons, zen entrepreneurs can cultivate a mindset of continuous improvement, resilience, and authenticity, paving the way for meaningful and lasting success.
P.S. Memento mori is the thought that comes to mind as I am writing this at the age of 32 years. Born in Hong Kong, named after a dragon, remembering another dragon. With Bruce Lee’s teachings, one can navigate life as water does in nature.
I pray for you reading this strength in mind, discipline, commitment to mastery, and most of all for the one family in us. To recommit to all of humanity and beyond through the Zen we express to the world.