Be Like Water: Setting Goals Like Bruce Lee

I think it’s pretty safe to say that each and every one of us would like to be better off now than we were a year ago. Fitter…happier…more productive. More money wouldn’t hurt, either. Throw in true love and a happily ever after and you’re halfway to what everyone wants.

Something about a fresh start makes us want to be our best selves. If December is a time for reflection, January is a time for renewal. In the spirit of the new year, we’ll be discussing a powerful goal setting strategy for life and business. Take some time to think about what is possible – then aim higher.

Get obnoxiously specific. Outlining clearly defined goals for your personal life and for your business will allow you to measure, refine, and adjust as the year progresses.

The aim of this post is to illustrate a powerful visualization technique used by none other than Bruce Lee, who in a few short years managed to become an immortal icon of 20th-century popular culture. He’s one of those rare figures that transcends his vocation (he had several) and grew to the status of legend.

Enter the Dragon: Who Was Bruce Lee?

For those uninitiated with the different ways this cultural juggernaut impacted the world, here’s a brief overview. Bruce Lee was an actor, director, martial artist, teacher, and philosopher.

He created a hybrid form of martial arts called, Jeet Kune Do. He is arguably the most famous martial arts movie star who ever lived. He broke down barriers for Asians in the movie business and paved a path for future stars like Jackie Chan and Jet Li in the process. He is largely credited as the single driving force behind changing the ways that Asians are presented in American films.

In the decades following his untimely death, Lee’s legend has continued to take on a life of its own. Not unlike Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, or James Dean.

How did he do this?

He got specific. He clearly laid out his intentions and backed them up with a discipline and focus worthy of examination. He understood that everything is a trade off. That for everything he wanted, he had to give something arguably more valuable.

Anyone can make a laundry list of amazing things they want for themselves. But very few understand that for every item checked off the list, something precious has to be given.

Way of the Dragon: Visualizing Like Bruce Lee

This month marks the 50 year anniversary of the beginning of Bruce Lee’s journey towards immortality. In January of 1969, he was a complete unknown. But he made a decision to act on his towering ambition. More importantly, he fully dedicated his mind and body to the service of his ambition.

It undoubtedly took discipline, focus, and a level of confidence that I’d be lying if I said I could relate to. On a fateful January day in 1969, Bruce Lee issued himself the following letter of intent:

My Definite Chief Aim

“I, Bruce Lee, will be the first highest paid Oriental super star in the United States. In return I will give the most exciting performances and render the best of quality in the capacity of an actor. Starting 1970 I will achieve world fame and from then onward till the end of 1980 I will have in my possession $10,000,000. I will live the way I please and achieve inner harmony and happiness.”

Bruce Lee – Jan. 1969

This is powerful stuff. It shows rare wisdom and understanding. He didn’t just write a list of what he wanted – he was hyper-specific in all the right ways. Bruce Lee’s letter includes:

  1. Specific high-level goals
  2. Unique value proposition
  3. Due date

In just four sentences, Bruce Lee made a clearly defined deal with himself. It’s safe to say that he held up his end of the bargain. Sadly, he died just three years later. But his place in history was already sealed. He managed to reach every goal in this letter (and more) way ahead of schedule.

His net worth at his time of death?

$10 million.

Bruce Lee achieved a lot in a short amount of time. More impressively, if the philosophical writings he left behind are any indicator of the state of his internal landscape, he lived a harmonious and happy life while enjoying the freedom to indulge his interests.

That’s the power of visualization. When you set crystal clear goals for yourself that include a tradeoff and a deadline, the sky’s the limit. But you have to back it up. Bruce Lee didn’t write himself a letter and then wait for the world to embrace him. He worked for it. Hard. But if you truly want something, what could be more fulfilling than pouring yourself into it every day?

So do it. Write down your goals – for life and business. Get clear. Visualize the outcome and reverse engineer the process. Then do the needful to make it happen.

Bruce Lee Quotes

Much inspiration can derived from Bruce Lee’s writings, so let’s kickstart the new year with some thoughtful motivation. The following quotes are just a handful of the golden nuggets of wisdom that Bruce lee left behind. Take a moment to consider each one. Think about how it can be applied to your personal or business goals in the coming year.

These quotes address the importance of patience, focus, adaptability, practice, and diligence. That’s what it takes to accomplish anything of value. Bruce Lee embodied his ideas. Strive to do the same. Because talk is cheap and no one likes a person who doesn’t practice what they preach.

“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.”

“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.”

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

“Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”

Be Like Water: What’s Your Goal?

Water is an adaptable and powerful force of nature. Nothing can stop it. Its persistence and fluidity enable it to find its destination one way or another. Be like water.

Bruce Lee woke up every morning with a crystal clear image of what success meant to him. Furthermore, he constantly refined his process and pushed himself to do what he needed to do get a little closer.

Write down your grand vision in precise detail. Include a deadline as well as your value proposition. Having an exact idea of what you’re going to accomplish will create the right mindset.

Place your goal in high contact places where you’re most likely to encounter it on a regular basis. For example, you could set it as your desktop wallpaper or tape it to your bathroom mirror. The point is to keep the goal at the forefront of your mind.

Let the goal act as a compass, guiding you towards what you want most. Now follow it. Your actions are the vehicle that will get you there.