#129 Listener Wisdom


This week we share wisdom from our podcast listeners. We’ve selected a few stories to share about how listeners have incorporated Bruce Lee’s philosophy into their everyday lives and the impact that the philosophy has had on them. Thank you to all of our listeners who write to us sharing the impact that Bruce Lee and this podcast has had on their lives! We love reading how you all are living your lives authentically.

We wanted to share these pieces of listener wisdom because they are all interpreting Bruce Lee’s philosophy for themselves and using their own words. These pieces of wisdom resonated with us so we hope they resonate with you too. It is awesome and amazing that you all are taking the Bruce Lee’s philosophies and creating your own recipes for life.

Our first piece of listener wisdom comes from Henry who wrote to us about his coming to terms with and understanding through Bruce Lee’s philosophy about the concepts of persistence and human connection.

“Hi, I've really been enjoying the podcast. I felt compelled to share the impact Bruce Lee has had on my life.

I, as many others, discovered Bruce Lee through his movies. My dad is an actor, and when I was 14 I was visiting him on location overseas for a chunk of the summer. There was of course some down time for me on set, so we rented movies for me to watch. The local shop had a large selection of martial arts films, and I started going through them. I'd seen some of Jet Li's a few years before, so I started with his Shaolin movies (ironically I saw his Fist of Fury years before Bruce Lee's). A couple of my dad's co-stars found out I'd never seen any of bruce lee's films. "Oh man that's the real deal. You have to watch his films." One of them was training in JKD and explained some of Bruce Lee's process and philosophy. So I rented his movies and a couple documentaries the store had as well. Mind blown.

Immediately, Bruce Lee became a major influence in my life. Some might say I was obsessed with him. When I got back home, I went to the book store week after week bought as many books as I could afford with him listed as the author. My parents are both artists of various kinds, and had always raised me with an emphasis on self-expression and compassion. So Bruce Lee's philosophy felt like putting something into words that I never could before. I struggled with some concepts, but was eager to find a way to personalize them to make sense for me.

When I was five years old my dad did a Yakuza movie, and I was first exposed to nunchaku and katana in person. This was the time that ninja turtles and power rangers were on TV for the first time, and Three Ninjas and Little Dragons were in theaters. I started taking karate lessons, and later Japanese lessons starting in middle school. Peripherally through these, I was first exposed to Buddhist and Taoist concepts, which Bruce Lee inspired me to explore more fully. I eventually stopped taking karate out of a classic childhood "do I have to?" mindset. After about four years, I had a second degree brown belt, just two belts from black belt. What a shame. When I discovered Bruce Lee, I had rekindled my interest in combat arts, both their physical and spiritual sides, and I was taking fencing lessons. I tried to teach myself some Jun Fan and JKD through books, and of course the footwork made sense. I tried to give myself a Bruce Lee pixie haircut, with reasonable success. I got a custom-made Game of Death jumpsuit for halloween that year, and I even had some replica foam nunchucks a family friend had given me. Unfortunately, that same fall Kill Bill hit theaters and everyone thought I was going as a male Uma Thurman...

That spring I discovered that Dan Inosanto had a school that taught Jun Fan Gung Fu and JKD not only in my city, but on my side of town. I trained there through high school and for a couple years after college. I dropped off as I've been traveling a lot the past few years. Bruce Lee has reentered my conscious mind through discovering your podcast. I've binged the heck out of it while doing everything through my days the past few weeks. It gave me the push I needed to finally get back into training. I'm signing back up at the Inosanto Academy starting in November, and I'm planning on starting Taichi and Karate lessons from my childhood sensei as well.

I am certainly glad to have been able to study martial arts and expand my understanding of the body as a result of discovering Bruce Lee, but it's really his philosophy that has stuck with me through my life. One quotation in particular resonated with me: “Absorb what is useful. Discard what is not. Add what is uniquely your own.” I may have been influenced by the fact that it was a favorite of Dan Inosanto's and written on the walls at his academy. When I was applying to college, I struggled for a long time figuring out what to write my essay about. How to encapsulate all that is myself? As the deadline loomed, inspiration finally struck. "Absorb what is useful..." describes the process by which I came to understand myself an what in the world resonates me. I wrote the essay about this quotation and showed an example for each step: absorbing, rejecting, and uniqueness. My college application process was connected with other parts of Bruce Lee's philosophy as well. I ended up wait-listed at my first choice school, Columbia. I wrote letters to people in the admissions department and even made an in person visit, as a detour from visiting family in NY State. The deadline for being notified of acceptance came, and I still had no word. The next morning I checked my email and saw I'd been accepted. Getting in so late, they must have been on the fence. I knew that my effort had made a difference. I was persistent, but when faced with an obstacle, I found a way around it, to try and make a human connection, make them see me as a passionate individual rather than a statistic.

At many stages of my life, when I've hit a wall or been in a rut, somehow Bruce Lee appears and his philosophy brings me out of it. The world weighs heavy on my consciousness sometimes, and I can fall into the trap of apathy. For whatever reason, Bruce Lee's words and his presence on film are what inspire me to care enough about myself enough to refocus on actively participating in life.

Thank you so much for your podcast, it is truly an inspiration, Henry”

Our next listener wisdom comes from podcast listener Lennie. He wrote to us sharing his experience using Bruce Lee and his philosophy for troubled youths and giving back.

“Hi Shannon and Sharon. I’m Lennie, a long time admirer of Bruce Lee and also a psychotherapist. I was very pleased to find your BL podcast last week. I stumbled across it looking for Kamau Bell comedy. Thanks for doing this. As a Chinese-American male, Bruce Lee has been a strong positive influence on my life.

You both were asking for applications of Bruce Lee’s philosophy. I’ve been using some of his sayings for the past twenty years in my mental health work. Years ago, I worked at a probation camp, which is where I actually began using them. I was thinking about these guys, street gang bangers mostly, and how they have had/chosen to be raised by other kids, evolving only to the mentality of an early adolescent, void of any mature philosophy or way of understanding or making sense or contextualizing the events in their lives, especially those of loss, pain, threat, failure, etc. also, mainly focused on survival - fight and flight. I remember thinking that the traditional middle class American philosophy was already rejected by them as BS since it didn’t apply nor address their experiences. Traditional religion was not only irrelevant to them, but also presented often by people they could not relate to. I could begin to help them build a working way of thinking about life, but that would be like starting from scratch. They would get helpful advice, but not a systematic way of thinking about life.

I had been reading Jeet Kune Do, Vol 3 and thought that maybe the mature philosophy of Bruce Lee could be a way to help them begin to build a healthier life philosophy to cognitively organize their lives. So I tried it one day. A kid was telling me about his anger. So I read him the quote about positive and negative emotion: “… convert negative emotion into useful action”. I had to break it down for him as they don’t usually understand the work “convert”. Once he understood, he got it and talked about useful actions to direct his anger into – exercise, doing good to show up the staff he was pissed at, etc. I remember that he seemed calmer and focused now with his plan. I asked him, “do you know who wrote this” and he of course said no. I said, “Bruce Lee”. He responded, “Bruce Lee?...” then something like “that’s cool” or something along those lines. I figured that from a fighter to a fighter, Bruce Lee would have instant credibility and openness to his philosophy. That moment showed me that I was right and that was my start in using his work overtly in my work.

Years later, I wanted to encourage the guys to give back (instead of just being takers) and exercise their compassion and gratitude, and thought of asking them to give back to Bruce Lee’s family by sharing the value and impact of Bruce Lee’s words to them and their lives. So I collected their feedback. I’m attaching them so that these guys can share with you with some of the fruits of Bruce’s thoughts. I hope that this aids your own practice of “encouraging the development of [your] positive emotions.” In rereading them, it did for me.

Sincerely, Lennie”

Here are some excerpts from the letter that the teens Lennie works with wrote to the Bruce Lee Podcast:

From Joseph (16 years old):

“I read a piece from Bruce Lee where he talked about being in a restaurant and the waiter was a total asshole, real rude. And the people he was with asked him why he just didn’t beat him up or tell him off. And he said, “I came in here in a wonderful attitude and why should I let him change it.” It hit me that if someone does that to me that I don’t like, I can keep my good attitude and show him that it doesn’t affect me and he’ll probably stop.

Everything he said was positive, like even if you’re in the worst of times – if you break your legs or lose your best friend, he dies or goes to jail – of course it’s going to affect you, but take the negativeness and guide it into something positive. I thought about it a lot because my friend went to jail for attempted murder. I thought if I was with him, I’d probably be in the same position like him. But now I realize that all the stuff we used to do – get drunk and in trouble –I’d probably end up where he is. So I use all the negativeness to stay clean and out of trouble.

The other day, I was playing basketball and a guy was talking crap. I thought about going off on him, hitting him, slapping him, kicking him, cussing at him – but I decided to just go lift weights. Later he started trying to be cool with me. I felt good about the way I handled it. I felt more in control of my own life and my emotions… and it felt good.

There’s no negativeness unless you believe there is.”

From Manuel (16 years old):

“Thanks for getting the writings out because it helped me understand better ways to deal with my life. And it helped me and I know it’s helping other people.”

From Jose (16 years old):

“It made me think that I can do anything if I put my mind to it.

Bruce Lee put it in a way that makes it a clear message, so you can see what he’s talking about and feels. And makes you think.

Bruce Lee’s message about emotion helped me the most. It gave me self-control because if I got consequences, I wouldn’t blow up and it would motivate me to say, ”ok, I messed up but I can make up for my mistakes and try even harder.””

These are some of the Bruce Lee quotes that Lennie shared with the teens he worked with:

“Visualize success rather than failure, by believing “I can do it” rather than “I can’t.” Negative thoughts are overpowering only if you encourage them and allow yourself to be overpowered by them.” – Bruce Lee

"Defeat is…a state of mind; no one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as a reality. To me, defeat in anything is merely temporary, and its punishment is but an urge for me to greater effort to achieve my goal. Defeat simply tells me that something is wrong in my doing; it is a path leading to success and truth.” – Bruce Lee

“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.” – Bruce Lee

“Here I ask you, are you going to make your obstacles stepping stones to your dream or stumbling blocks—because unknowingly you let negativeness, worries, fear, etc. take over!” – Bruce Lee

This next listener wisdom is from podcast listener Brendan who shares about using fear as fuel. He suffered from anxiety and anxiety attacks growing up, but when he was in college he was the victim of a home-invasion which affected his life for years causing a lot of pain, anxiety, and mistrust in his life. He is now overcoming these fears using Bruce Lee’s philosophies. Below we share some excerpts from his email to us:

“My name is Brendan and I would like to start off by saying thank you for everything that you two do. I find myself resonating with just about every single one of the motivational and inspiring Bruce Lee podcasts. Before I was introduced to this I had no idea that Bruce Lee was a philosopher, poet, made his own jewelry/workout equipment among a myriad of other things. I have always had an interest in motivational and inspirational quotes, sayings, videos and just about anything I can get my hands on. I would like to share with you guys a part of my life story that I believe is a Bruce Lee moment.

I am from a very rural area and I was not exposed to many people early on. This fact along with being bullied at a young age, I believe, lead me down the treacherous road of socially anxiety. I never excelled well socially with my peers and more often than not, felt like an outsider in middle and high school. My first panic attack was in the summer after my senior year of high school and college. Despite my anxious tendencies, I concentrated and focused on school and my grades to where I was able to graduate in the top of my class and get accepted into a great school.

I feel like my high school did not prepare me well for college and how "massive" the school actually is. I recall my first lecture hall having approximately 1000 students which was more than my entire high school! Being out on my own, in an unfamiliar environment. Boy was I a nervous wreck, as are many first time college students. I was doing well with all of my classes until November 2nd, 2014 which was the day [of the home invasion] that would change my outlook on life forever.

[The home invasion] reduced any social confidence that I had conjured up over the previous three years. I had lost all trust in females and males alike and the panic attacks returned as I attempted to make do in my classes. I could not focus or concentrate in any of my classes and I had to drop out of college in spring of 2015. I was completely devastated as I was 22 credit hours away from being the first person in my family to obtain a bachelor's degree.

The next couple years were nightmarish. I was angry at the world. I had a very strong disgust for people and socially and emotionally shut myself down. I would not talk to anyone and had sleep problems to where I went over half of year getting at most an hour of sleep a night. I had lost hope that I would ever return to college and live a successful, happy life. Not saying that one must go to college to achieve that, but my goal was to be the first to get a bachelor's degree. I had let fear paralyze me. I laid around in bed most of the days not doing anything; laziness and preoccupation with myself were at there highest. I numbed myself from all feelings because all I felt were negative emotions. Numbing was my coping method. Just in early 2016 I was so afraid that I was not capable of getting gas at a gas station.

One day I decided that I was tired of feeling down on myself and that I needed to do something to get out of this rut or it was going to end badly. I was fed up with the fears controlling my life. I got a part time job at big lots in July of 2016. I would hide in aisles to avoid talking to people, especially if I recognized them. After two months in, I wanted to quit but I persevered. I have a strong passion for pool and I used this to venture into social situations. I would go to bars and focus on shooting pool and just being around people, which was very hard at first, but slowly it got easier and easier with time. My grandma was friends with the head person at a local credit union and she had an opening for a teller. I had many doubts and worries about this spot but I decided to apply and I landed a full time job in January of 2017 in an area that is very limited in job opportunities. I worked full time at the credit union and part time at Big Lots for most of that year. I had to consistently answer phone calls, take large amounts of cash in and deal with members of the credit union every day. This was terrifying at first and after a month I had to force myself to go into work because I wanted to give into my fears, doubts, worries and quit. I thought that I was not capable of concentrating enough on all the loan paperwork and I did not want to be responsible for messing up someone's bank account. I persevered and I finally realized that I could get out and succeed if I put my mind to it. For so long I thought to myself that I could not socialize and talk to people, yet I was doing this on a daily basis. I started getting my old self back and joking around and smiling more.

After working at Big Lots I knew that I was capable of so much more. These fears that once controlled me, were now being used as a fiery fuel inside of me, a drive, to finish what I had once started. I knew I wanted to go back to college and I knew that nothing and no one was going to get in my way. I took the plunge in fall of 2017 to re-apply and start back up. I knew the challenges I was up against: Re-learning very challenging concepts, lessons I had neglected for two years, Being a senior and having all of my past acquaintances and friends moving away, being out on my own again, being around a large amount of people constantly, finding a place to live and being back in the same area where everything had happened.

I have completed the last year while receiving the best grades that I had gotten out of all my semesters in the last two semesters! I am starting to get out and try new things, make friends and be social! Some days are hard, I still have a monster lurking inside of me and it gets the best of me at times. But all of the Bruce Lee's life philosophies resonates with me. "A man can achieve great things if he can conquer himself", "Each man binds himself, the fetters are ignorance, laziness, preoccupation with self, and fear. You must liberate yourself". I love all of your podcasts and they bring me closer to inner peace each day. I flew for the first time and traveled to the grand canyon this year, which was a big fear of mine: flying. I am crushing fears everyday. I was terrified of getting a tattoo and I got one of a phoenix to remind me that I have the strength to overcome all of my trials and tribulations. I might have burned down completely a few years ago, but I am rising in more self belief, confidence and strength than I ever have!

My next goal is to learn some form of self defense such as brazilian jiu jitsu to become even stronger. I will take Bruce Lee's philosophies that you two wonderful ladies have introduced to me and hopefully flow through the rest of my life like water.”

This next piece of listener wisdom comes from podcast listener Charles who shares with us how he’s applied Bruce Lee’s philosophy into three life steps for himself, The Finding, The Limitation, and The Truth. Below are excerpts from his email to us:

“The Finding We all know that the finding comes in difficult times. The everyday life obstacles, our relationships, the business, the choices of our relatives impacting our own decisions. Life would be easier if we could go straight to the point, but something seems to hold us back every time we try to do it. Then we stumble on that special thing - the finding. Finally, something not related to anything we are involved takes place, and suddenly it seems related to everything. We get rational, emotional, irrational and our loved ones find it not easy to follow us. The finding gives us energy in the beginning and drains it in the end. You know what I'm talking about, right? We experienced it countless times before.

The Limitation This is the boundaries we accept after putting the finding theories in practice. We create new names, idols, and targets to reach. This is the time when we are betting our life on it, facing problems and enemies with all the life energy we have. We become students, teachers, and masters of a life purpose. The limitation is seen as an infinite way until we hit that invisible wall. Then we get up and start walking in the opposite direction, just to hit on the other side wall of it. Most keep getting up and walking from one wall to another through all their life - this is the instinctive behavior we all are trapped in.

The Truth But for some of us, the miracle happens. It's not a miracle, but we can call it this way just for fun. Walking in the direction of a wall already beaten, we close our eyes and forget it exists. Suddenly there's no wall anymore, and you realize the obstacle is a mind purposely excuse created for safety. All the names, idols and targets disappear - there's only the way. Words become useless, once they only limit the experience. We stop to fear the world, but the world fear us back in reaction. We use this fear in our favor for survival, waiting for that careless moment to attack. But how can we attack if the attack or the world doesn't exist anymore? Inside the truth, there's no subject or predicate, only the unlimited way to walk through.”

This final piece of listener wisdom comes from Adrian and it has the theme of “Don’t seek yourself in the past.” He had an incident around five years ago when he was studying Muay Thai that was not teaching safe combat practices. He wasn’t taught how to hold the pads correctly so he was hit pretty hard. He ended up tearing his coronary artery and he suffered a major heart attack at 37. Below are some excerpts from his email to us.

“For the next few days, I lay in a hospital bed, not sure what was wrong, just waiting to die because I didn’t know what other chance I had. The experience resulted in post-tramautic stress disorder, and it’s taken me a long time to find a path again. Even a year or two after the attack, exercise terrorized me because my heart rate would go up and I thought the process would affect me all over again. I gained a lot of weight from inactivity, I experienced crippling panic attacks for the first time, I had become edgy and uncomfortable around people, and I knew things would have to change in order to save my life.

As someone interested in martial arts and as a composition teacher myself, I’ve always been an enormous fan of Bruce Lee, the actor, the martial artist, and his writings such as those in Striking Thoughts. His writings have been some of the most guiding on the principles of teaching for the last years. I was determined to conquer my fears, seek help, and find my old self all over again. I have found a great therapist, I have one of the best Muay Thai coaches in the entire state who’s encouraged me to not give up on training, but to train and be protected at the same time, and the experience brought me with the woman that has become my soul mate and has helped me every step of the way in embracing life again. In many ways, it reminds me of Bruce Lee’s injury and how much the recovery was a battle of will versus fear, and how that will became a determination to Walk On. I have taken those words and created my own affirmation from it: Walk On… Breathe…Learn…Grow. This helps in training and it helps with the rest of my life as well. I also learned that it was a mistake to seek myself in the past and re-kindle that persona because it is the absence of the present and of growth. No, instead of discovery I’ve learned to re-discover myself and grow into a more balanced person, that continues to Walk On.

I’ve just been accepted into a PhD program in Curriculum & Instruction, and I want to include the four stages of cultivation into academia, along with more of Bruce Lee’s philosophy into my own dissertation. Time and time again, I just use a small quote in academic settings, “The teacher cannot be fixed in a routine— A good teacher cannot be fixed in a routine. He must not impose his student to fit a lifeless pattern, a pre-formulation,” and teachers and professors are moved, and amazed when I tell them that the quote comes from Bruce Lee. I’ve encouraged both my students and colleagues to go out and read his writings, as it will improve our craft. I believe, with the greatest conviction, that these writings will help our students and new teachers in the field!

It took me about eighty-nine episodes to sit down and write this email, but I’m doing so because I hold the belief that others will find the same security, comfort, curiosity, and determined action of improvement; and how Bruce Lee’s teachings can help us all do so. Thank you so much for taking the time and the dedication not only to share this, but to share it with true discourse and reflection that has helped me be calm in the moments of reliving the creepings of old trauma, but to also help me grow as a person. I truly believe that this podcast, the labor in relating all of Bruce Lee’s teachings can help change people’s lives.”

Thank you all for listening and working with these philosophies in your own lives. Please continue to share your stories with us!

Write to us at hello@brucelee.com or tag us @brucelee on social media with #bruceleepodcast.

Have a question you’d like answered with Bruce Lee’s Philosophy?

Or do you have a story you’d like to share with us about how Bruce Lee’s Philosophy has changed your life?

We would love to hear from you! Please write to us at hello@brucelee.com.

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