Bruce Lee On The Importance Of Being A Quality Human Being

You know how I like to think of myself? As a human being.

For Bruce Lee, it was important to identify himself as a human first before any race, gender or ethnicity. By emphasizing his humanity over anything else, it helped him transcend social and cultural barriers and at the same time, it allowed him to think broadly and to have his philosophy be attainable to any individual.

However, Bruce Lee’s goal wasn’t simply to be human. Rather, it was to be a human of “quality”.

The function and duty of a human being, a “quality” human being, that is, is the sincere and honest development of potential and self-actualization.

Self-actualization means to achieve one’s full potential through creativity, independence, spontaneity, and a grasp of the real world. Simply put, to become the best version of yourself.

In order to fulfill one’s own potential, it is important to hone the ability to self-reflect. Self-reflection can allow us to detach momentarily. To see our own flaws and limitations so we know the areas we need to improve or strengthen.

We can ask ourselves: What habits do we need to break? What habits do we need to start? Where do we lack knowledge? Are we too passive? What part of our life requires immediate action?

For Bruce Lee, his goal was to actualize himself and he believed that should be the goal of all humans.

To promote the growth process and develop human potential:

To get through social role playing

To fill in the holes in the personality to make [one] whole and complete again.

The social role-playing part is important as well. We are social creatures and we have to do well by our community. It’s not a selfish attitude that Bruce Lee advocated but rather he believed in actualizing ourselves by performing our social duties to the best of our ability while improving upon our flaws. Both can go hand in hand. If we become the best version of ourselves then the ripple effects of that are felt by our friends, families and the community we live in. At the same time, by dedicating ourselves to being a productive member of society, it can help move us closer to our ideal state.

What the hell; you are what you are, and self-honesty occupies a definite and vital part in the ever-growing process to become a “real” human being and not a plastic one. Somehow, one day, you will hear “hey, now that’s quality; here is someone REAL.” I’d like that.

The key to being a quality human being is self-honesty. If we lie to ourselves and run away from who we currently are then there can be no improvement. Other people can point out our flaws but it’s easy to rationalize that truth and act as if other people are wrong. It’s also important to understand that who we currently are isn’t what we have to be. Bruce Lee also advocated constant change and this change has to come from within. We can only improve and grow if we wish to and in order to do this, we need to be honest with ourselves. Brutally honest about somethings. It can be uncomfortable to pick at our own flaws but there really is no other way to inch towards self-actualization. There needs to be constant ownership and accountability of our own actions. Perhaps in this manner, one day, someone can look at us and say “here is someone real,” just as Bruce Lee was.

Book referenced: Bruce Lee Striking Thoughts: Bruce Lee’s Wisdom for Daily Living 

Poem: To Overcome The Self

Man is never alone,

Within him dwells another,

Someone who knows his desires, his weaknesses and dreams,

He sits with comfort,

Waiting to speak up,

The opportunity arises whenever a decision needs to be made,

Right or wrong,

The one who dwells always picks the wrong one,

And his choice rings in the head causing the limbs to obey,

Is that the devil?

Is that how religion came about?

To find a way to quiet this voice,

This resistance that devolves man from God to peasant,

Desire a doctrine to follow so it can drown this other voice,

So we can do good, be good, act good and become good,

Without such doctrine, the fight is lonely,

The worst realization is the everydayness of the struggle,

Each morning brings about the foe, renewed, energized, dangerous, without any hint of the previous day’s defeat,

If it was every defeated,

Each day the battle restarts and each day we must overcome that voice,

Otherwise, life is shortened,

The pleasure from the experience of life, the fulfillment of life, is lessened,

As if there was a cap on what you can get out of life,

As if the brilliance that life offers is only for those who resist,

As if the one that dwells in you is placed in you as an opportunity,

A ready-made obstacle for you to understand what life is about,

That is why the fight is important,

To resist and overcome, daily,

But some never win,

Others give in,

The rare few look forward to it,

Those few I seek,

To become like them, a warrior who resists his inner voice,

Who overcomes himself,

Who reclaims the Kingdom lost.

 

 

Reflections: Question Yourself

And most important: Question yourself. Question yourself everyday. (Jocko Willink)

Too often we mirror others in the hopes of finding something about ourselves. We may follow the plans set out for us by our parents or teachers or other advisors and hope that by doing so, we can navigate through life in a fulfilled manner. Or we act like the people we admire, taking on their habits, mannerisms, beliefs and opinions, all the while distancing ourselves from our true nature. When you don’t know what you want to be or what you want in life, it’s only natural to grasp on to something that gives you and your life a sense of stability.

But this stability is rarely long-lasting. The fulfillment we get from doing what we are told and by following rather than leading our own lives is illusionary. What we lack is self-understanding. We are too busy trying to fulfill the requirements of others which we come to believe are our own plans and ideas that we rarely question who we are, why are we acting the way we do and what is it that we truly want out of life.

Ask yourself: Who am I? What have I learned? What have I created? What forward progress have I made? Who have I helped? What am I doing to improve myself—today? To get better, faster, stronger, healthier, smarter?

The simple and straightforward questions. Sometimes, self-reflection comes with the baggage of spiritual or mystical. In the sense that when reflecting upon our needs and wants we jump straight to the meaning of our lives, the purpose of lives, the point of our lives and such questions can be difficult to answer and can leave us more confused rather than giving us clarity which self-reflection is supposed to. But by narrowing the search, by focusing on our immediate actions such as what have you done today to make yourself healthier or smarter or what have you done to make someone else’s life easier, it can provide a sense of direction especially if your actions were accompanied by positive emotions.

You may not know what you want to do with your life but you now know that helping others felt good. The meaning of your life may be still unclear but you do know that in your day-to-day living you enjoy going for a run or reading about Roman history or the new technological advances. These small puzzle pieces can come together to form a picture that can show you what you want to look like.

Ask yourself those questions, those hard questions and then answer them, truthfully. And realize that all of us—ALL OF US—can do better. We can be better.

Life is about change, it is about growth, about evolution. By unpacking what you want through relentless self-examination in the form of questioning oneself, we step closer to finding out who we want to be, what we can do and what we wish to do. However, even such an understanding isn’t permanent. What you find in your 20s may not be what you want in your 30s or 40s and so on. So, the answers that helped you at one stage of your life may not benefit you at a later stage which is why the constant need to reflection and question yourself and your behaviors, attitudes, and emotions is a necessary tool in life.

There is really only one permanence in life which is death. Everything else is liable to change, including ourselves. But that change only comes if we are willing to explore other possibilities. These possibilities include different versions of ourselves. However, to explore these possibilities, one needs to have a self-reflective mind, a mind that is always open and questioning.

Book Referenced: Discipline Equals Freedom by Jocko Willink

Stoic Lesson: The Importance of Journaling

Our current age is so fast-paced and there is so much information out there that it feels like you are just jumping from one thought to another without completely digesting the message. We get all this information which we never unpack and see if it’s useful or not.

For Marcus Aurelius, who was a Roman Emperor and a Stoic philosopher, this unpacking of information was done through his writing. He kept a journal that we now know as his book ‘Meditations‘. The book is essentially comprised of personal notes, each one reminding him of something that he considered to be important, some principle to remember and live-by. Rather than adding information, Marcus Aurelius refined what he knew and tried to live by it.

Which is the point of philosophy. Philosophy isn’t simply to contemplate whether we exist or not or what logic means but rather, philosophy is about how one lives and for Aurelius, he was able to embody his philosophy by constantly reminding himself of what was important.

From the point of view of the imminence of death, one thing counts, and one alone: to strive always to have the essential rules of life present in one’s mind, and to keep placing oneself in the fundamental disposition of the philosopher, which consists essentially in controlling one’s inner discourse, in doing only that which is of benefit to the human community, and in accepting the events brought to us by the course of the Nature of the All. (Pierre Hadot)

The essential reason why Aurelius wrote was to control his inner discourse. By that, it is meant his thoughts. If you allow your mind to be completely free, it is likely to fill your head with anxiety and fears or, it’ll distract you from the right action by leading you towards some immediate gratification. But by repeatedly reading and writing the principles that you want to live by, you bring those ideals to the forefront of your mind and then your action follows.

It is not enough to reread what has already been written. Written pages are already dead, and the Meditations were not made to be reread. What counts is the reformulation: the act of writing or talking to oneself, right now, in the very moment when one needs to write. (Pierre Hadot)

This is an important thing to understand. If one reads the ‘Meditations’ what they will find is that Marcus Aurelius is basically repeating the same handful of principles over and over again. The reason for this is that the book was never meant for public eyes. Rather it was his personal journal. But what we can understand from this action is that we need reminders. We need to remember to stay on the right path. This is done through daily practice. Every day you have to hammer it into your mind what you want to be, how you want to act, how you want to represent yourself. Writing is one way to do this. Because the act of writing alone causes you to concentrate on the thoughts which are formulating into the words in front of you.

Marcus writes only in order to have the dogmas and rules of life always present to his mind. He is thus following the advice of Epictetus, who, after having set forth the distinction between what does and does not depend on us —- the fundamental dogma of Stocisim —- adds:

It is about this that philosophers ought to meditate; this is what they should write down every day, and it should be the subject of their exercises (I, I, 25).

You must have these principles at hand both night and day; you must write them down; you must read them (III, 24, 103). (Pierre Hadot).

These principles depend on the individual. For the Stoics, the main principles were to understand how little control we have in life, how we do have control over our reason and attitude, how death can approach at any moment and how we must align ourselves with the universal purpose.

This may not be how you wish to live. But whatever you consider to be important, whatever principles you wish to follow require constant attention. You just have to remember to reinforce these principles on a consistent basis.

The practical nature of stoicism is one of the reasons why this philosophy is still relevant. It acknowledges how easy it is to be overwhelmed or to stray off the path but it also provides a solution in the form of journaling. Simply by writing for ten to fifteen minutes in the morning and maybe even in the afternoon, it can act as a reminder and help you to carry yourself with grace, to think of the right things and to act in the correct manner. The repetition of such can then slowly transform your character to the point that you begin to embody the philosophy by the way you live as it did for Marcus Aurelius.

Book referenced: The Inner Citadel by Pierre Hadot


Stoic Lesson: Aim For Internal Growth

Stoic Lesson: How To Keep Yourself Accountable

Stoic Lesson: The Right Mindset For A Happy Life

Stoic Lesson: Concentrate On What You Can Control

Stoic Lesson: You Have To Acknowledge Your Sickness Before You Can Be Cured

Stoic Lesson: Epictetus On Progress

Stoic Lesson: An Exercise In Being Grateful


Youtube: Learned Living

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/learned_living/

Poem: The Old Rebel

Article: Montaigne On How To Be A Well-Rounded Thinker

Short Story: The Bus

 

Why Read Mythology

The individual has to find an aspect of myth that relates to his own life. Myth basically serves four functions. The first is the mystical function—realizing what a wonder the universe is, and what a wonder you are, and experiencing awe before this mystery […] The second is a cosmological dimension, the dimension with which science is concerned—showing you what the shape of the universe is, but showing it in such a way that the mystery again comes through […] The third function is a sociological one—supporting and validating a certain social order […] But there is a fourth function of myth, and this is the one that I think everyone must try today to relate to—and that is pedagogical function, of how to live a human lifetime under any circumstances. Myth can teach you that. (Joseph Campbell)

It’s the ‘How to live’ function of the myth which interests me. Life can be difficult to navigate. It’s unknown and random at times which can bring about unexpected situations. How to deal with these hardships and struggles? Or what’s the best way to improve yourself? How to build a strong character? One which is courageous and active. Or how to get connected with your spiritual side, your feminine or masculine side? Questions like these and others like it are always at the forefront of my mind.

One way myths can set you down the right path is by understanding that you’re not unique in these thoughts. All of these questions and troubles have been thought of before you. The fact that other people have had them and have dealt with them and have immortalized possible solutions in the format of stories and myths is an important reason why these myths should be studied.

When the story is in your mind, then you see its relevance to something happening in your own life. It gives you perspective on what’s happening to you. With the loss of that, we’ve really lost something because we don’t have a comparable literature to take its place. These bits of information from ancient times, which have to do with the themes that have supported human life, built civilizations, and informed religions over the millennia, have to do with deep inner problems, inner mysteries, inner thresholds of passage, and if you don’t know what the guide-signs are along the way, you have to work it out yourself.

Instead of blindly trying to get through life and only relying on your own experiences to come up with some manageable way to solve your problems, you can instead lean on past stories for support.

You may find comfort in Odysseus‘ struggle to get home. The repeated obstacles that he has to somehow overcome in order to get back to his family. The story may give you hope that there is a possible way to achieve your goal if you keep facing your own obstacles with grace and a calm mind. In modern-day such a story is exemplified in Rocky where the character is repeatedly beaten down but refuses to stay down, each time he gets back up and it’s the value of that simple motif which can allow you to keep facing your own troubles, as it did for the former navy seal and ultramarathon competitor, David Goggins.

Or understand the negative effects of greed can have on a family through the story of King Midas. Or even see how the overabundance of fatherly love can be harmful to your children as shown in Balzac’s Old Goriot.

These simple stories can guide you into being a better parent, a more cohesive family unit or simply to accept the continuous struggles of life.

Additionally, mythology is littered with the idea of death and rebirth but in the sense that in order to move up in life, to transition from one phase of your life to the next, you must sacrifice something.

Mythology has a great deal to do with the stages of life, the initiation ceremonies as you move from childhood to adult responsibilities, from the unmarried state into the married state. All of those rituals are mythological rites. they have to do with your recognition of the new role that you’re in, the process of throwing off the old one and coming out in the new, and entering into a responsible profession.

The rituals of primitive initiation ceremonies are all mythologically grounded and have to do with killing the infantile ego and bringing forth an adult.

Once again we see the importance of initiation and sacrifice in the Odessey. Telemachus, the son of Odysseus, is a boy who is simply hoping that one day his father returns restores stability and order in his life. However, Athena comes and gives the boy advice in which she tells him to set out and seek his father. It’s action that Athena advices. And by undertaking this action, Telemachus has to sacrifice the comforts of his own home and by doing so, he beings his transition from boyhood to manhood.

Many of us cling on to things from our past as we attempt to grow into the individual we wish to be. It’s usually the things we enjoy the most, the ones which bring us the most comfort, that need to be abandoned in order to grow and enter the next phase in life. It’s this letting go that is hard which is why we may see grown adults behaving like children. Because these people haven’t made the right sacrifices. Unlike Bilbo, who gave up the comforts of the Shire in order to venture out into the world and face challenges, these people hold on to the comfort and in doing so, remain the same while their bodies grow older.

This theme of embracing what is uncomfortable runs throughout the myths. Of how long-lasting character growth only comes by facing hardship and struggle.

All these different mythologies give us the same essential quest. You leave the world that you’re in and go into a depth or into a distance or up to a height. There you come to what was missing in your consciousness in the world you formerly inhabited.

And what all the myths have to deal with is transformations of consciousness of one kind or another. You have been thinking one way, you now have to think a different way […] Either by trials themselves or by illuminating revelations. Trials and revelations are what it’s all about.

Think about Hercules’ 12 labors or Buddha’s revelations through stillness. It’s going beyond your comfort zone that myths embody. Self-growth and self-improvement is the goal of many people but it can be difficult to know how exactly how to go about achieving these aims. The myths tell us the embrace trials or to go into a depth or height which we are avoiding. It’s what we are consciously avoiding that may be the exact thing we need to get better.

Whether it be a relationship that we aren’t happy in, or a job that we dislike, or an opportunity that scares us or an activity that intimidates us, it’s only in facing these trials and figuring out how to overcome them do we experience transformation in our consciousness.

Our life evokes our character. You find out more about yourself as you go on. That’s why it’s good to be able to put yourself in situations that will evoke your higher nature rather than your lower.

Your higher nature is often revealed when you tackle something that is difficult. When you have to make difficult choices and decisions. While the lower nature is when you constantly expose yourself to immediate pleasure and comfort. At least that’s what the myths which have stood the test of time tell us. The heroic quest doesn’t start and end with you avoiding engagement with life. Rather, it starts when you begin to embrace of experience of life which includes failures and disappointments. Just understanding that life is full of obstacles may be enough reason why you should read the ancient Heroic tales. It can brace you for the inevitable and if you care enough, it can also guide you through these universal troubles.

Book referenced: The Power Of the Myth By Joseph Campbell


Youtube: Learned Living

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/learned_living/

Poem: The Many Yous

Article: Stoic Lesson: Aim For Internal Growth

Short Story: Everything Work’s Itself Out

 

 

Growth Through Hardship and Suffering

To those human beings who are of any concern to me I wish suffering, desolation, sickness, Ill-treatment, indignities–I wish that they should not remain unfamiliar with profound self-contempt, the torture of self-mistrust, the wretchedness of the vanquished.

This wish is of Fredrich Nietzsche, the great German philosopher who wrote extensively on the subject of suffering and hardships and how such things are the path to self-improvement and growth.

It was Nietzsche’s understanding that the most valuable experiences are those which we earn by enduring the struggle of life. It’s the struggle that gives meaning to any accomplishment. At least that’s what I believe to be true. There isn’t anything that has come easy in my life which I look upon with fondness. When you achieve something without having pushed past your perceived limitations that thing quickly becomes a distant memory, some lost thought. Graduating university is an example of that for me. It isn’t something I feel a sense of growth from because I went through those years coasting on minimal effort, satisfied with mediocre marks. It’s almost as if those four years didn’t even happen.

However, the simple act of being able to do 10 pull-ups is something I attach a sense of pride too because I know where I started from (unable to do a single one) and where I ended up. I know I got there by constantly attacking something I was weak at, something I disliked, something that was always a struggle and surely, over time, I improved, I got better and now it’s something that acts as a reminder of what I am able to do if I attack some hardship over and over again.

It’s strange how what should have been a life-changing experience like graduating university, felt like a blur where I was barely conscious while something like pull-ups sticks with me like some great teacher.

The teacher is the hardship, it’s suffering, it’s being uncomfortable. I understand this now. University wasn’t any of those things because I spent it being passive and not trying to grow.

Hidden in forests like shy deers.

That’s no way to live and that’s how I have been living for some time. That’s how a lot of people live.

What if pleasure and displeasure were so tied together that whoever wanted to have as much as possible of one must also have as much as possible of the other … you have the choice: either as little displeasure as possible, painlessness in brief … or as much displeasure as possible as the price for the growth of an abundance of subtle pleasures and joys that have rarely been relished yet? If you decide for the former and desire to diminish and lower the level of human pain, you also have diminish and lower the level of their capacity for joy.

I went with the former in my university days. Painlessness. Which was why I was satisfied with the pleasure of mediocre marks because I wanted to keep the displeasure as low as possible. Studying was hard so I rather cram before a test. Such a mindset keeps the displeasure low but also the pleasure is minimal.

On the other hand, the act of writing has displeasure as well but by forcing myself to stay in that displeasure, to write for a block of time or to write ‘x’ number of pages before I’m allowed to leave my study table, the pleasure I gain from finishing is much greater than the displeasure that had existed. The sense of accomplishment gained from writing, rewriting, editing and completing a story is almost incomparable to anything I’ve done. Even if no one reads that story, there is still a personal gain, a growth because I pushed past the struggle and was able to come out the other side. The limitations I thought I had were pushed back just slightly.

I know the displeasure, being uncomfortable, experiencing hardship, it’s all worth it if your willing to stay in it. Additionally, once you do push past such things to accomplish something, it almost has this addictive sensation where you want to seek out another thing that will require struggle and effort to achieve because you know what possibility lies on the other side.

Something like writing is great for this because once one story is finished, you have to start another one from scratch and the whole process begins again.

Once you understand that the humiliations, failures, disappointments are just part of the process then such setbacks don’t derail you from your path. Instead, there’s a shift in the mindset where such things are viewed more critically. Nietzsche cites the example of the painter Raphael who felt inferior to other great painters like Michelangelo and Da Vinci but instead accepting his inferiority at the moment and going a different way, Raphael chose to dedicate his time studying and learning from these painters and using them to correct his own paintings and eventually, he understood how to create what he wanted.

In modern times, the example of Kobe Bryant stands out. Famously, Kobe air-balled several shots against the Utah Jazz in a playoff eliminator game. There was a fear that such humiliation on this grand stage could have broken his confidence because Kobe was a young player with potential at this point. But for Kobe, this humiliation was just part of the process. Instead of wallowing in despair, he went and studied the game tape, noticed how flat his shot was at the end of the game, understood the reason for this was that his legs were tired which meant he needed to implement a new strength and conditioning workout routine which would keep his legs fresh for the duration of the season. In this calculating manner, Kobe came to be known as one of the most clutch, game-winning players in the history of the NBA.

Losing, failing, humiliations, disappointments, it’s all part of the process, it’s part of life.

If all you care about is pleasure or pain then you’ll never push past your perceived limitations. The first moment you feel pain or displeasure, you’ll quit. The moment you feel some pleasure you’ll stay in that and feel accomplished, not knowing what more you could have done.

Not everything which makes you feel better is good for us. Not everything which hurts may be bad.

Stoic Lesson: How To Keep Yourself Accountable

Seneca said:

We need to set our affections on some good man and keep him constantly before our eyes, so that we may live as if he were watching us and do everything as if he saw what we were doing.

It’s a simple practice. For example, before taking action, think ‘what would Seneca do?’ and then act in that manner. We know what we must do and what we shouldn’t. This is why we feel guilty and even ashamed when we practice a bad habit or when we fail to ingrain a good one. That feeling tells you all you need to know.

However, we still end up repeating the cycle we are trying to break.

But by having an idol we look up to, someone who encompasses the characteristics which we wish to possess, just thinking about them before taking an action can set us straight. We wouldn’t need to experience guilt or shame to change.

More often than not, we most likely have an ideal version of that idol. This is a good thing. All human beings are flawed in one way or another but the ideal version isn’t. So, if your aim is to live up to this ideal then it’ll result in more positive behavior and action.

Which is really all you can aim to do. To be good and to act right most of the time.

Choose someone whose way of life as well as words, and whose very face as mirroring the character that lies behind it, have won your approval. Be always pointing him out to yourself either as your guardian or as your model. There is a need, in my view, for someone as a standard against which our characters can measure themselves. Without a ruler to do it against you won’t make the crooked straight.