It’s no secret – after over a decade of practicing and eventually teaching Jeet Kune Do and being involved in parkour for nearly as long Bruce Lee is a huge role model for me.
It’s not just his discipline, martial arts skill and fitness that inspire me though. Bruce Lee was fascinated by philosophy (it’s even an enduring legend he was a philosophy major, although technically he majored in drama) and it shows in his interviews and writing – he had a lot to say on how he best thought to live a good life.
In that spirit I’ve collected seven of his lessons here for you to make your life better.
I do my very best to be in the presence of people who are much smarter than myself as often as possible. One such person, Jonathan Fass, recently posted an interesting thought on Facebook.
Paraphrasing a bit, he asks whether you’d rather have a fingernail torn off or get an unexpected punch in the stomach. He surmises most people would choose the punch – something I agree with. The pain of a blow to the stomach seems mild and temporary compared to the shudder inducing thought of having a nail torn off.
This is extremely irrational though. Tearing a fingernail off, while painful, is not extremely threatening outside of the ever present risk of infection to exposed tissue. A strike to the stomach on the other hand can be deadly. Outside of Jonathan’s example of Harry Houdini there are plenty of other examples of punches to the stomach causing internal bleeding and ruptured organs which are easily fatal.
Even with that information, I think a lot of people would still chance death to avoid the pain of having a fingernail removed. Ask your followers and see. This kind of behavior isn’t just limited to physical pain though, and that’s where it starts to ruin your decision making.
Not only is thinking it probably false in relation to whatever it is you’re working toward, it’s probably directly sabotaging your progress.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking this way – stories of how every little bit helped someone in their endeavor are popular. You hear about candidates winning by a single vote, or people taking small, seemingly insignificant steps toward their goals which add up over time into something huge. People like to hear about these types of things.
The problem is it puts the focus on the wrong areas and leads people to make bad prioritization. Bad prioritization leads to failed goals.
I used to hate taking notes.
As more of an experiential learner sitting and taking notes did not come naturally to me. It was boring, tedious and seemed like a complete waste of time compared to other ways of studying – even in a traditional classroom / lecture environment where my other options were limited.
Other people in class could sit through one lecture, take fantastic notes and have everything learned inside and out. It was basically sorcery to me.
That is, until I learned a better way to take notes.
Everyone does it. Day in and day out, mostly subconsciously, and it sabotages everything you do. Worst of all it’s so ingrained into our basic natures that you do it all daylong without realizing how you’re shooting yourself in your own foot. You’re probably doing it right now.
No matter what you do you worry about what people think of you.
How do I look? Do they like me? Do they respect me? What do they say about me behind my back? Will they think this is a stupid thing to do? What if they find out about this, or that?
It’s exhausting. It’s crippling. It’s absolutely stupid too.
The fact is you don’t matter – and that’s a great thing.
I have what I like to call ADADD – Auto-Didactic Attention Deficit Disorder.
When it comes to learning things I have serious trouble picking one thing and sticking to it. I try to tell myself to focus on a single thing – learning / improving my Korean for example – but then I decide I’d also like to learn to play the ukulele, and I really need to work on my handstands, and it would be fun to learn to juggle, and I’d really like to learn more programming and so on and so forth.
In the past before long I would wind up stretched so thin between all my interests I looked like Lady Cassandra O’Brien. I’d be trying to learn ten things at once and in the end wouldn’t really do well at any of them.
While you could certainly take the moral of this story as ‘Focus on one thing at a time,’ I just couldn’t handle that.
So I figured out a way to make it work.
There are two general schools of thought when it comes to language learning and grammar. The first follows a strongly analytic model focused on explicit grammar learning. People in this group emphasize the primary importance of learning grammar before and above anything else. For them, grammar tends to take the central role as the most important aspect of learning a new language.
The second group holds the opposite views. That school of thought follows a strongly deductive model focused on implicit grammar learning. People in this group think the study of grammar essentially impedes language learning and that it should be ignored – as long as you can communicate you’ll pick it up eventually.
So which way is actually more effective for language learners?
There are a lot of books out there telling you how to become a master at this or that.
Some of them are good, others not so much, but what I’ve found is that so many stop short of where I’d consider actual mastery. On top of that, in the ones I’d consider more helpful anyway, I’ve found there’s a common theme of leading people through four distinct stages.
If you want to learn something from absolute beginner to master level it makes sense then to be as familiar with these stages as possible to not only ensure you’re on the right track, but also to know ahead of time where you’re going.
Procrastination is a huge problem for a lot of people.
It was also always a huge problem for me for the longest time. Enough so that I had a Pearls Before Swine comic tacked to my office door to remind me not behave that way (protip: turns out taping funny comics to your door doesn’t do much to help productivity).
Chances are good you’re even reading this while putting off work right now, in which case I apologize for the link to the comics. That probably didn’t help you much.
To make up for it, I’d like to share my personal favorite strategy for killing procrastination and ensuring that you get a good bit of productivity out of each and every day.
I play a lot of video games.
At least, I do when I don’t keep too close of an eye on myself. I, like many others who would self identify as ‘nerdy’, have that particular combination of addictive personality and attraction to escapism that leads to looking away from the screen for a moment and thinking, “4 a.m.? Wasn’t it just 10:00 a minute ago?”
Uncontrolled this can be a problem – my bank account and productivity levels both suffer when a bunch of new games come out all at once – but looked at the right way I’ve found it actually can be extremely helpful.
The same things that make you determined to do whatever it takes and burn up entire days to finish that level, get that new item or earn that really hard achievement can also make you finally get fit, learn a language or do whatever else it is you’ve always wanted to accomplish.