#77 It's Not About What Happens


“It’s not about what happens; it’s about your reaction to what happens that matters.”

This is a big Bruce Lee concept and a big concept for moving through life. Sometimes we use what happens in a situation as justification for our extreme reaction. How you react to anything says more about you and where you are in that moment than any of the events that led to your response.

It could be that you had been having a bad day all day and then this one incident sparked a huge reaction from you. Or it could be that this event poked some small part of you where this fear, anger, or insecurity exists and that provoked a huge reaction from you that is not truly related to the situation. The truth is that it is never about the incident it is about the response.

Even with things that are inarguably tragic and sad, your response of grief and/or sadness is about where you are in your process and who you are in relationship with in that moment.

“I have learned that being challenged means one thing and that is what is your reaction to it? How does it affect you? If you are secure with yourself, you treat it lightly – just like today the rain is going on strong, but tomorrow, baby, the sun is going to come out again.”

The more rooted you are within yourself, the more you’re able to let things go. It is about noticing how you are reacting to a situation. You always have a choice with how you react to something, even though it can be difficult with an onslaught of emotions hitting you. A good practice is to not react right away. Take a beat to react to something.

There is a lot of information to be found in your initial reaction to a situation. Take a step back and look at how you’re reacting. Why are you reacting so irrationally? Why with such anger? With such sadness? If you’re able to take a step back to observe your reaction you can have a little space to choose your actual response. This could be as simple as taking a few deep breaths or walking around the block.

Even if your response is fully justified in a situation, it is still better to take a moment so you can express yourself without the full weight of your emotion. In this way you are more likely to be heard.

It is important to notice if your reaction to a situation is justified or if it’s a reaction from an old wound that has nothing to do with the current situation or person. You need to know where your wounds are buried and examining your responses to situations can reveal those wounds.

“To live is a constant process of relating, so come on out of that shell of isolation and conclusion and relate directly to what is being said. Bear in mind, seek neither approval or influence. Do not make up your mind as to “this is this” or “that is that.” I will be more satisfied if you begin to learn to investigate everything yourself from now on.” This is a posture of openness and taking things in as they occur.

In today’s online dating culture, we come armed with preconceived ideas based off of a dating profile and bearing our wounds from previous relationships. Then, if someone doesn’t act how we think they should, or doesn’t exactly match their profile, we can overreact.

Don’t take things personally, and don’t make assumptions.

“Eliminate all opportunities for rivalry.”

Bruce was not about competition and was not about putting someone down to “win.” If you’re always looking to be the “winner” and for someone to be the “loser”, then you will always be living in conflict.

“It is the ego that stands rigidly against things coming from the outside and it is this ego rigidity that makes it impossible for us to accept everything that confronts us.”

There is also the “ego boundary” which is everything that is outside of you. We keep this wall up to justify our existence, and protect us, but usually at the expense of yourself and others. This wall will prevent you from meaningful relationships and interactions with other humans.

“If you are secure with yourself, you treat it lightly.” You can handle these deep connections, emotions, because you know yourself and can be in inquiry. It takes a lot of honesty with yourself to be real about what is going on. If you are being bowled over with emotion at the slightest reason, then you are not rooted within yourself.

“A man is born to achieve great things if he has the strength to conquer himself.”

If you can be knocked over easily, then you need to work on self-love and self-worth. You need to look and see why you are being triggered. What is the pain that is being touched to set you off? You cannot push your fears and pain aside, they will continue to grow and fester. You have to look at them and learn about them. Face those fears and pain with the posture of “What do you have to teach me? What can I learn from you?” Then, it is not so scary to face your fears and your pain.

“The growth aim is to lose more and more of your “mind” and come more to your sense. To be more and more in touch with yourself and the world, instead of only in touch with fantasies and prejudices.”

The mind is a justifying machine; it will justify anything you want it to. The mind wants to be in control. The mind can be a negative thought generator, and the misinterpretation is that the mind is always right. Our minds can create these fantasies that aren’t based in the real world. If you stay in fantasy then you will not have fulfilling relationships in work, friendship, family or romance. Fantasy keeps us in isolation.

“I acquire no understanding of myself except as I take account of my surroundings. I do not think unless I think of things – and there I find myself.”

When we are in relationship with people and our surroundings then we can constantly ping ourselves off of these relationships and get feedback about ourselves. You have to truly engage with your actual relationships, not just the fantasy of what you think that relationship is.

The close relationships in your life, such as your best friend, family, or partner, are meant to push your buttons, they are meant to show you the things you need to work on.

“People have to grow by skillful frustrations, otherwise they have no incentive to develop their own means and ways of coping with the world.”

“Zen reveals that there is nowhere for man to go out of this world; no tavern in which he can overcome anxiety; no jail in which he can expiate his guilt. So, instead of telling us what the problem is, Zen insists that the whole trouble is just our failure to realize that there is no problem. And, of course, this means that there is no solution either.”

There is no escape; you have to be engaged in the process to grow. That’s not to say that there are not problems or solutions to problems, but there is not one solution for every problem. You’re in constant process of relating and flowing.

“Be a calm beholder of what is happening around you.”

Bruce had this list in his writings:

“One and the same thing: Living in the Now Maturity Authenticity Responsibility for one’s actions and one’s life Response—Ability Having the creativity of the Now available”

Take Action:

Pick one of these and try it out: eliminate judgements; eliminate rivalry and competition; eliminate needing approval from others; eliminate wanting to influence others; think of yourself as an equal part of a whole. What happens if you eliminate being in competition? A simple exercise: when you’re about to have a strong reaction, take a beat before reacting.

“Do what seems wise to be done, forget it and walk on.”

If you’d like to share how you’re doing with this action item you can email us at hello@brucelee.com.


(Awesome Asians and Hapas)

Grace Lee & Grace Lee Boggs

Grace Lee is an American director and producer. She grew up in Columbia, Missouri. Lee originally wanted to be a journalist, but after interviewing sex workers in South Korea she realized she could tell better stories through film and studied at UCLA. Her first short was “Girl Meets Boy” which was her response to “those who have questioned my ability to speak loudly and in English.” In 2005, she filmed “The Grace Lee Project,” a documentary about Asian-American women who share her name, Grace Lee. This film is about Lee’s attempt to define a common set of stereotypes associated with the name that she shares with the film’s subjects and how they break the mold. During this project she met Grace Lee Boggs, a Chinese-American philosopher and activist about whom she later made a documentary.

Grace Lee Boggs is a Chinese-American philosopher, author, feminist, and activist. Lee was born in 1915 in Providence, Rhode Island, and died at the age of 100 in 2015. On scholarship, Boggs studied at Barnard College and went on to receive her Ph.D. in philosophy from Bryn Mawr College. She began working as an activist for human rights. In 1953, she married African-American autoworker and political activist James Boggs, and they moved to Detroit where they continued to focus on Civil Rights and Black Power Movement activism. She founded Detroit Summer, a multicultural intergenerational youth program, and her home serves as headquarters for the Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership. At the age of 95, Boggs wrote The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century.

Grace Lee and Grace Lee Boggs, thank you for sharing your talents and your voices with the world, we think you’re awesome!


This week our #BruceLeeMoment is from listener Harry:

“Dear Sharon and Shannon Lee,

Firstly I just wanted to thank you for all your work on the Bruce Lee podcast. Bruce Lee's writing and philosophy have guided my life in countless ways and the breadth and depth to which you are exploring his legacy has really made me re-engage with his thinking in an even more profound way.

I have found listening to other people's 'Bruce Lee Moments' both reaffirming - and a relief! It is nice to know there are so many people out there who were also so impacted by Bruce.

You see I am an artist, and when I have expressed to people that the biggest influence on my thinking and approach to art making is Bruce Lee they can often look quite confused.

I am currently recording this in front of a live audience at Jerwood Space in London, and can see some pretty confused faces already.

Why Bruce Lee first appealed to me is not that complex - I was a very short, and rather self-righteous kid, I got picked on quite a bit and sometimes ended up in fights with groups of children much bigger than myself. So learning of Bruce's notion of fighting without fighting, of course, appealed to me. It didn't always work, as sometimes these things are unavoidable, but as Bruce would say, "are we not animals?" and I learnt to bite, and to claw - in fact I still keep my nails long to this day. Another thing he taught me - always use whatever tools are available to you.

But his teachings quickly went much further than that. His writings on love and relationships have helped me countless times in the twelve years since I first met my partner. And I'm very happy to say his writings on marriage have finally become relevant. In fact, as part of our honeymoon we went to Hong Kong, the one place I had always wanted to go, and was fortunate enough to visit the Bruce Lee exhibition at the Heritage Museum. Seeing him recognized in such a way literally brought tears to my eyes, and no art exhibition I've seen has ever achieved that - and I've been to a lot.

To those familiar with Jeet Kun Do, understanding how it could be applied to art, rather than just martial arts, is easy. The style of no style, of not being constrained by tradition, absorbing what is useful, rejecting what is useless, and adding what is essentially your own. The list goes on. Many people in this room may be unaware that Bruce referred to himself as an Artist of Life - and if I were to try and find a phrase to best explain what I am trying to do as an artist - I would be hard pushed to find a better one.

So this brings us to my Bruce Lee moment...

The one piece of advice of Bruce's I have always find most useful, and although it may not seem like one of his more profound statements, it is one I have always followed:

"Make at least one definite move daily toward your goal."

The other year at the age of 28, the same age as Bruce when he did, I wrote myself a definite chief aim. I won't reveal all of what I wrote, but the first part of it is this:

To reach the point of becoming a full-time artist. And in return, to fully dedicate myself to keeping it that way.

And so I wanted to share today's definite move with you - and one that actually achieves this goal - of sending my letter of resignation, right now.

All the very best, Harry”

Share your #AAHA and #BruceLeeMoment recommendations with us via social media @BruceLee or email us at hello@brucelee.com.


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