Bruce Lee Teaches You How to Live Life

Bruce LeeBruce Lee (李小龍, 1940-11-27 to 1973-07-20 [32yrs]) is a Martial Arts icon known throughout the world as one of the best –if not THE best– martial artist to ever live. He changed the game not only for martial arts training in North America, but also for how Asians are represented in Hollywood, inspiring countless people all over the planet to become actors, fighters, and teachers. He was my idol when I was in high school and remains an influential figure to me today.

He was an absolute boss; he trained literally all the time, even while driving. More than a sensational fighter he was also a movie and TV star, a passionate husband and father, a deep philosophical thinker and devourer of books. He developed his own styles: Jun Fan Gung Fu and later Jeet Kune Do, which are filled with his thoughts on not conforming to the rigidity of a single style and the exploration of what is most effective for the individual in any given situation. Perhaps he is even the founder of the now ultra-popular MMA sport.

How does this all apply to Parenting? Well, his philosophies on living up to your potential are timeless, ageless, and we should be teaching them to our kids. Bruce Lee was not about kicking ass or building muscles. Bruce Lee was about reaching deep inside yourself and dragging a better you to the surface.

Below I show what Bruce said followed by my take on how it is valuable for parents. I repeatedly point out that parents must encourage their children because we want them to be in charge of their choices. If the choice to act comes from within the child, then the child can function without the parent, and that’s our job.

Choose to Push Yourself

“There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.”

How this is valuable to parents:

We must encourage our kids to see their successes as wins in that particular moment in time – not as the final resting spot; that they can continue choosing to push themselves further.

It’s important to note that the child must voluntarily choose to push their limits, rather than the parent pushing the child’s limits. This choice enables the lessons learned along the path and underlying principles to take root.

Bruce and son Brandon

Change Starts Inside

“The change is from inner to outer. — We start by dissolving our attitude not by altering outer conditions.”

How this is valuable to parents:

We must encourage our kids to understand that the only variable we control is ourselves – not the other person, not the environment, not reality. When we take ownership of our attitude and choices, then we are changing from within. We become adaptable and dynamic.

Bruce Lee

Choose Positivity

“Choose the positive. — You have choice — you are master of your attitude — choose the POSITIVE, the CONSTRUCTIVE. Optimism is a faith that leads to success.”

How this is valuable to parents:

We must encourage our kids to choose positive thoughts and speech. When we choose to speak in the positive or to be constructive we must first think it. The positivity that we express outwardly will be seen by others and we build a positive reputation. People want to be around positive people. Negativity closes doors; but positivity keeps them open.

Personally, I struggle with this one because I am always defending an unseen threat and so I want to find all the problems with things the moment I encounter them. This only serves to make me more negative in my mind and expression, so I have to consciously choose to think and speak more positively. I have inadvertently trained one of my kids in the art of being negative so I am facing the challenge of this lesson on a regular basis.

Bruce and son Brandon

Avoid Negativity

“Pessimism blunts the tools you need to succeed.”

How this is valuable to parents:

We must encourage our kids to recognize the fact that negativity can be seen by the people around us, even if we’re not dealing directly with them. If one of those people has an opportunity open, are they going to bring in the negative person? Also, a negative frame of mind is tuned to find problems, not solutions. The world looks different when your mind is on the lookout for what’s wrong – Bruce nails it here by saying is blunts the tools.

Bruce Lee

Be True To Yourself

“In life, what more can you ask for than to be real? To fulfill one’s potential instead of wasting energy on [attempting to] actualize one’s dissipating image, which is not real and an expenditure of one’s vital energy. We have great work ahead of us, and it needs devotion and much, much energy. To grow, to discover, we need involvement, which is something I experience every day — sometimes good, sometimes frustrating. No matter what, you must let your inner light guide you out of the darkness.”

How this is valuable to parents:

This is a big one. We must encourage our kids to act in ways that are true to who our child really is inside. For example: wearing certain clothes just to fit in – that’s not you, that’s the group. It is not really who you are and it will not help you fullfill your potential. Expend that energy on the work of becoming your true self.

Bruce and son Brandon 3

Keep Growing

“There is no such thing as maturity. There is instead an ever-evolving process of maturing. Because when there is a maturity, there is a conclusion and a cessation. That’s the end. That’s when the coffin is closed.”

How this is valuable to parents:

We must encourage our kids to look at maturity is a path that we are all walking along. Some are further, some are not. Don’t seek to BE mature, instead seek to continue maturing.

Bruce and Family

Learning is Boundless

“Faith makes it possible to achieve that which man’s mind can conceive and believe. Even today, I dare not say that I have reached a state of achievement. I’m still learning, for learning is boundless.”

How this is valuable to parents:

We must encourage our kids to believe in what has not yet happened. The reality is that our children only know what they’ve experienced, so if we’re telling them something brand new is possible, what frame of reference do they have to believe that? They need to be open to the idea that the unknown can be known, and we do that through faith. You can get there.

Bruce and Family 2

Time Moves On, Regardless

“We all have time to spend or waste, and it is our decision what to do with it. But once passed, it is gone forever.”

How this is valuable to parents:

We must encourage our kids the value of time. Not only their time, but the time of others as well. If you sleep the entire morning away, that means your afternoon will be spent doing what could have been done in the morning – something we’ve all had to deal with in ourselves and our children. But, if we think about it a little more we can see that if someone else was depending that lost morning time, we’ve wasted their morning and interrupted their afternoon as well. There is no getting that time back and we all will only live this life once.

Bruce and Brandon

Acceptance is the Starting Point

‘What IS’ is more important than ‘what SHOULD be.’

How this is valuable to parents:

We must encourage our kids to accept reality as it is. We can make more progress by saying, “ok, that’s how the [situation] is, now let’s focus on moving forward,” than by saying, “I want this [situation] to be different so that I can move forward.”

Bruce and son Brandon

Respect is Worth Earning

“Knowledge will give you power, but character respect.”

How this is valuable to parents:

We must encourage our kids the value of being respected. There is a lot of time and effort spent on not caring what other people think, but that advice is actually heavily based on context. It really does matter what (some) people think because they can open or close doors for us. So, go ahead and learn all that knowlegde, and while you’re at it make sure that you’re respectable.

Bruce and Linda

Failure is not the Problem

“Don’t fear failure. — Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.”

How this is valuable to parents:

We must encourage our kids to aim high, work hard to reach it, and allow the pains of failure to teach lessons. Failure will teach you where things went wrong, if you’re open to learning, and prepare you for the next time; success will not. Aim high, accept failure, learn, repeat.

Bruce and son Brandon

Know Your Limits

“Life is wide, limitless. There is no border, no frontier.”


Using no way as way; Having no limitation as limitation.

How this is valuable to parents:

We must encourage our kids to look at their personal limits and say, “this is not my limit – I can go further.” How can they go further? By standing on what they’ve built to reach their current limit, and reaching up one more time. In this way, there is no border.

Bruce and kids

The Meaning of Life

“The meaning of life is that it is to be lived, and it is not to be traded and conceptualized and squeezed into a pattern of systems.”

How this is valuable to parents:

We must encourage our kids to live their lives without trapping themselves into something that’s not suitable for them. Granted, this quote is speaking heavily to classical martial arts with their rigid systems and forms, but he is trying to break the reader out of that box and he goes so far outside that he is talking about life overall, too. You will live only one time – let’s not trap it inside something unworthy.

Bruce and Chuck

Stop and Reflect

“Life itself is your teacher, and you are in a state of constant learning.”

How this is valuable to parents:

We must encourage our kids to practice mindfulness. Stop, slow down, put your device down and direct your attention to what you’ve done, what you’re working on, where you’re headed… reflect on it all. When your child says “I’m bored,” reply, “that’s not what you want, and it will give you time to reflect/think/grow.”

Bruce and son Brandon

Balance Thinking & Doing

“Balance your thoughts with action. — If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.”

How this is valuable to parents:

We must encourage our kids to take action. Planning is great, and taking action is the next step to all that planning. For some, this is difficult and the good news is that you can get better at it.

Be Like Water

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.” 


“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.”

How this is valuable to parents:

We must encourage our kids to be flexible. Why? Because life is full of situations that do not go as planned which can lead kids to fear and anxiety. Let them know that things can go wrong or change directions and that’s ok. If something goes wrong, and you’ve anticipated it could, then you’re still in the game. If the direction changes and you go with it, you might finish further than expected. The point is to move adapt and move forward for you don’t know what awaits.

Bruce Lee

You Will Live Only Once

“The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.” 

How this is valuable to parents:

This one’s for us. We must be the example to our kids. We’re going to leave this Earth before they do (we hope), and once we’re gone they’re going to remember our lives like we remember our parents’ lives. Was it an example you want them to share with their kids?

Bruce and son Brandon


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