For uncommon men, commentary & analysis in business, politics, & society to explore on-the-ground challenges in your life.

A Lesson from a Titan with Bruce Lee on Reactions

Dec 8, 2020 | Personal Development, Short-form

Reading Time: 2 minutes

This article is part of a regular feature on what we can learn from infamous thinkers and achievers. For each one, we dive into a simple observation, action, or policy that you can take, on-the-ground and in real life. As we explore, you’ll discover the reasoning and rewards for your own personal development.

What do you say when asked for one piece of timeless wisdom to give young people?

You can provide advice on how the world is changing more quickly. Or about being a continual learner. Or even advice on who to trust most for advice.

But me, when this question came up recently, I wanted to go with something that went straight to the point. And that bluntly captured the belief that many people have about success. You know, that it’s some secret formula that only the big shots know.


All those successful people you look up to, yeah, they’re making it up as they go half the time. And that’s because the world isn’t a textbook. And there are no secret formulas. Instead, you’ll find a disorderly and diverse set of circumstances that we’re all trying to deal with.

A wave of conflicting choices, ideas, and paths that we each have to ride.

And like we saw before, exactly like in leadership, there is no rulebook you get handed on Day #1. Or some clear set of instructions that come with your relationships, businesses, or whatever else.

Sure, there are proverbs and strategies. But even those come with a balance.

Still, truthfully though, this idea isn’t exactly new. More from Bruce Lee…


Most people are unaware, or at least I was, that Bruce Lee had an interest in philosophy in college. And his quote today, from an old interview, is a solid mix of abstract principles and real-world application.

In life, you’ll find that there is no clear point of when to go with the flow or when to mount an attack. Of course, Bruce Lee knew all about these. But this is just as true in martial arts as it is in business or personal development.

You can keep waiting for someone to give you that perfect strategy. Or that plan that applies exactly to your situation.

Or you can do what Bruce Lee suggested in his metaphor.

And that’s gain a wisdom about the human condition: every situation we deal with is a little different each time. Even if they weren’t, they still involve so many variables, subtle curves or jagged rises, that no one person can anticipate them all.

But we can all meet our circumstances where they find us.

So instead, you must craft your responses based on your own flexibility to meet the day where it is. And truthfully, too many people fight against their own lives trying to attain success. Or they submit to the will of others and sacrifice their individual drive. Or their own self-discipline.

Consequently, the trick to success is not in studying for a test with set answers.

It’s choosing for yourself where to crash and when to flow.


  1. I’ve found that its one of the hardest things to accept, that there isn’t going to be someone to tell you what to do.

    Being fluid isn’t encouraged. Rigid thinking, rigid routine, rigid expectations are all the norm in schools and employment. Corporations give lip service to “creativity”, but their very structure precludes it.

    A cubicle isn’t an art studio, and excel isn’t a canvas.

  2. I’ve found that its one of the hardest things to accept, that there isn’t going to be someone to tell you what to do.

    It’s such a straightforward metaphor but has such impact, doesn’t it? Not unlike Bruce Lee’s fighting career, all you have to realize is that you are the weapon. And mastering the balance between when to act and when not to can take us years, if not decades. This is especially the case, as you point out, Robert, when others prefer to make it difficult for us by refusing to accept that balance themselves.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.