#52 Hack Away the Unessentials


What does it mean to “hack away the unessentials?"

Bruce Lee said this: “It is not daily increase but daily decrease, hack away the unessential. The closer to the source, the less wastage there is.”

Bruce Lee applied this idea primarily to his martial art, but he also applied it in life—moving towards simplicity of movement, thought, and being. It’s about cutting away everything that isn’t essential, and restraining our impulse to keep adding on and accumulating.

Bruce started out studying Wing Chun, a martial art with very stylized movements. But through his personal experiences of fighting in real life, Bruce ultimately became very obsessed with the idea of “what actually works” in a fight. He studied boxing, and how to punch somebody or not to get punched by somebody, and how to fight someone who fights differently from him.

“Avoid the superficial, penetrate the complex, go to the heart of the problem, and pinpoint the key factors.”

Sometimes when you add so many “features” or “add-ons” to something, you lose focus and clarity. You can get off track of your task or mission when “shiny objects” distract you.

“Do not beat around the bush. Do not take winding detours. Follow a straight line to the objective; simplicity is the shortest distance between two points.”

This doesn’t mean take the shortest route, but asks what is unnecessary in REAL life.

This also applies to how we communicate. We can be verbose or use circuitous language to obscure the truth or to sound lofty. Sometimes there is a feeling that being too direct will cause offense or come off as rude. This can be a cultural thing in the west. However, you can be direct without attacking or being rude. It is cutting away the detritus to reveal the real work of art.

“Scratch away all the dirt your being has accumulated and reveal reality in its nakedness.”

We accumulate this dirt as protection and security, and it’s not easily shed, you have to want to get rid of it. There are so many distractions clothed as things to make your life easier, but they distract and clutter instead.

“It is not difficult to trim and hack off the nonessentials in outward, physical structure. However, to minimize inwardly, is another matter.” A way to practice minimizing inwardly is to do it from the outside, clearing your physical space (example: your bathroom or closet!) and then taking that practice inward and clearing your mind of negative thoughts or things you can let go of.

“The more aware you become, the more you can shed from day to day what you have learned so that your mind is always fresh and uncontaminated by previous conditioning.”

Here, Bruce is really talking about the dropping of habits. Not just bad habits, but also examining if your good habits are still working for you. You should meet the moment as it is, with immediacy, and in that context there is no space for habits. Ultimately, we are talking about being able to respond simply and honestly in the real moment.

“To obtain enlightenment means the extinction of everything which obscures the “real life.” At the same time it implies boundless expansion.”

So much of our current consumer culture is about obscuring this “real life.” You’re buying things to distract, numb, or entertain yourself for a moment. This keeps you away from that “real life.”

There is currently a shift in our culture from the older generation’s model of needing high priced things for status, like a luxury car, to the younger generation’s choice to use money for different life experiences rather than status objects.

“The height of cultivation runs to simplicity. Halfway cultivation runs to ornamentation. This is the problem of ripening. This ripening is the progressive integration of the individual with his being, his essence. This is possible only through self-exploration in free expression and not in imitative repetition of imposed patterns.”

Once you’re grounded, you no longer need to impress or validate, and you can drop so many of your habits and just operate from within. Take a moment to pause to look at ALL of it, from the thoughts in your head to your physical environment to how your approach living, and ask, “What of these things is essential to my real life?”

Sometimes we keep objects that clutter our physical space due to an imagined sentimental value, but if you never use it, do you need it?

“The tools, your natural weapons, have a double purpose. To destroy the opponent in front of you, or the annihilation of things that stand in the way of peace, justice and humanity, and to destroy your own impulses caused by the instinct of self-preservation, to destroy anything bothering your mind, not to hurt anyone, but to overcome your own greed, anger, and folly.”

“The spirit is by nature, formless, and no “objects” are to be harbored in it. When anything is harbored there, psychic energy loses its balance, its native activity becomes cramped, and it no longer flows with the stream. Where the energy is tipped, there is too much of it in one direction and a shortage of it in another direction. But when the spirit harbors nothing in it, nor is it tipped in one direction, it transcends.”

Take Action:

Take a look and examine your life and say, “Am I living the life I want to live? Am I having as much joy as I could? Where are areas where could I have more joy?” What can you let go of? How can you be more direct? How can you un-clutter your environment? How can you un-clutter your mind by letting go of a negative thought?

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

Accepting Entries until June 30, 2017

The challenge ended on Monday, and we are now accepting your #BruceLeePodcastChallenge entries until Friday evening, June 30th, 2017. A winner will be chosen by Shannon and Sharon and announced on the July 20th episode of the Bruce Lee Podcast. Please tell us about your experience applying Bruce Lee’s philosophy to your everyday life, and we look forward to reading your stories!

Enter your #BruceLeePodcastChallenge story here:


(Awesome Asians and Hapas)

Sumi Jo

Sumi Jo is a Grammy Award-winning South Korean lyric coloratura soprano. Jo was born Jo Su-gyeong in Changwon, South Korea. In 1983, Jo decided to leave SNU in order to study music in Italy at the Academia di Santa Cecilia in Rome. She had only $300 when she went to Italy to pursue further music study. While there, she slept only four hours a day to study Italian and music, and tutored to earn money to keep studying in Italy. Following graduation, Jo began to study voice with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and won several international competitions in Seul, Naples, Enna, Barcelona, and Pretoria. In August 1986, she was unanimously awarded first prize in the Carlo Alberto Cappelli International Competition in Verona, one of the most important contests, open only to first-prize winners of other major competitions. In 1986, Jo made her European operatic debut as Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto at the Teatro Comunale Giuseppe Verdi in Trieste. This performance drew the attention of Herbert von Karajan, who proceeded to cast her as Oscar in Unballo in Maschera opposite Placido Doming for the 1989 Salzburg Festival. She also performed in The Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute, The Tales of Hoffmann, Lucia di Lammermoor, Der Rosenkavalier, and La traviata. In addition, she appeared with numerous symphony orchestras in concert. In 2011 Jo provided the singing voice of Verda Pierce in the HBO miniseries Mildred Pierce. Simple Song Number 3, written by David Lang, performed by Jo, and featured in Paolo Sorrentino’s 2015 film Youth was nominated for an Academy Award in 2016 in the Best Song category. Although Jo was invited to the ceremony and attended, she was not invited to perform the song. Anohni, a transgendered singer, was similarly excluded and subsequently boycotted the ceremony. The other nominees, Jo and Lang voiced their disappointment with the producers’ decision to exclude the song, indirectly referencing the controversy relate to that year’s Academy Awards and its lack of racial diversity. Maestro Herbert von Karajan has called her as “a voice from above”. Jo is an advocate for animal rights and one of only five Asian celebrities to make People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Asia-Pacific’s (PETA) first-ever Best-Dressed 2008 list. Thank you for sharing your talent Sumi Jo, we think you’re awesome!


This week our #BruceLeeMoment comes all the way from Chile from listener Francisco:

“Hi Shannon and Sharon,

First of all I want to congratulate you for this beautiful project and hopefully, it can last as long as it can.

I’ve been a Bruce Lee fan for as along I can remember and my Bruce Lee moment was when I got tattooed "Be like water" in my arm. It was a time when I was going through a lot of things in my job, my relationships and my vision of the world that is very vicious and dangerous. Human beings are pretty rare and variable creatures that can have the ability to hurt and basically do wrong for other people that are more thoughtful and maybe we can say "quiet" than others.

This quote helped me to be flexible, adapt and not react but understand other’s people intentions and where they come from and build confidence and mindfulness in my relationships with the world that I used to see as harsh, but now I see it as an adventure and daily challenge that makes me better.

Thank you very much and keep it up!

Best regards, Francisco”

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


Lydy Walker30