Bruce Lee often carried around philosophical ideas written on small index cards as reminders throughout his day. One of these was: “Inwardly, psychologically, be a nobody.”
To him, this meant, get the ego out of the way, have some detachment, and be a blank slate--a human being first. That way you can approach each situation anew with fresh eyes. Be as neutral as you can be.
Bruce had many ideas about how to “be a nobody”: “Establish nothing in regard to oneself. Let things be what they are. Move like water, rest like a mirror, respond like and echo, pass quickly like the nonexistent, and be quiet as purity.”
As an active person with big goals, Bruce often encountered obstacles throughout his day and quotes like this helped center him and maintain his flow.
In those moments where you’re all fired up, remind yourself to be a nobody and return to the essential source of humanity in yourself. If you’re in conflict with someone, this centering can help you understand their experience and ultimately can help resolve your conflict.
“I must give up my desire to force, direct, strangle the world outside of me and the world within me in order to be completely open, responsible, aware, alive.”
This is so important because so many of us feel like we have to force our way through the world to get what we want or to achieve our goals. You don’t have to force or muscle your way through, you can catch a current and flow towards your goal and have way more fun doing it! If you find yourself being that forceful person, you’re going to start getting feedback from those around you and your environment that they don’t like that energy.
This is not to say you should not exercise your willpower, it’s to say that your willpower should be connected to your essence and your heart. “Use no way as way.”
So often our culture emphasizes the hustle or being aggressive to achieve what you want, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Being in flow is not weak or complacent. When you are clenched or tense in the water you sink, but when you relax and surrender you float and go where the stream is taking you. Whenever you have fear at the center of anything, it’s not going to work out. Sometimes our fears about life are instilled from our culture or our parents’ experiences, not our own.
When Bruce is talking about “being a nobody” he is talking about being detached.
“It is to see things as they are and not to become attached to anything – to be unconscious means to be innocent of the working of a relative mind – when there is no abiding of thought anywhere on anything – this is being unbound. This not abiding anywhere is the root of our life.”
Be in response to everything in the moment. Be free of masks and identities. If we get too attached to any identity, it takes us into a direction away from our essential humanity.
"The word "superstar" really turns me off...and I'll tell you why...the word "star" man, it's an illusion. It's something what the public calls you. You should look upon oneself as an actor, man. I mean you would be very pleased if somebody said "man, you are a super actor!" It is much better than, you know, superstar."
If you base your identity on external praises it can really mess you up, and you can come to rely on that external validation. What happens when that validation goes away? When you stop being a “star”?
“At one time I wanted all the indirect things – money, fame, the big opening nights. Now I have it, or am beginning to get it, the whole thing doesn’t seem important any more. I have found that doing a thing is more important. I am having fun doing it. Money comes second.”
We are so obsessed with money in our culture, and it has become the main measure of success. But there are so many people with a lot of money who are unhappy. Money itself is neutral, but if you are basing your happiness on it then you are basing your happiness on its whims.
“My only sure reward is “in” my actions and not “from” them.”
“You cannot hurt that which is formless. The softest thing cannot be snapped and emptiness be confined.”
When you’re in the posture of a nobody, you’re not as woundable. The nature of water is that you cannot hurt it. When you connect with someone as a nobody it is much more genuine since there is no ego involved.
As Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon often encounters people giving her praise for his actions and life, but that’s something she had no control over or part in. So she can’t tie her identity to that celebrity. Many children of celebrities have a hard time separating themselves from their parent’s fame, but Bruce’s philosophy has helped Shannon navigate life and find her own identity.
“To be consciously unconscious or to be unconsciously conscious is the secret of nirvana. The act is so direct and immediate that intellect finds no room here to insert itself and cut it to pieces.”
Be a nobody and go on a social media diet. What does it feel like to go on a break from your outward projection of identity? Another step is to write down this quote, “Inwardly, psychologically, be a nobody.” and carry it around for a week and use it to help you navigate situations without ego.
If you’d like to share how you’re doing with this action item you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Awesome Asians and Hapas)
This week our #AAHA shout-out goes to controversial Chinese contemporary artist and activist Ai Weiwei. He was the artistic consultant on the Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympics. From 1981 to 1993 he lived in the U.S. and studied briefly at Parsons School of Design in NYC. He dropped out and made a living drawing street portraits and working odd jobs. He began experimenting with art by altering ready-made objects. Ai befriended the poet Allen Ginsberg, and took many photos during this time, which later became known as “The New York Photographs.” In 1993, Ai returned to China after his father became ill. This is when he started doing his first architecture projects. In 2008, there was an 8.0-magnitude earthquake in the Sichuan province and Ai led a team to survey and film the post-quake conditions. Ai felt that the government lacked transparency in revealing the names of the students who perished in the earthquake and so he launched a “Citizens’ Investigation” to compile the names of the victims. He wrote: “To remember the departed, to show concern for life, to take responsibility, and for the potential happiness of the survivors, we are initiating a “Citizens’ Investigation.” We will seek out the names of each departed child, and we will remember them.” He has been viewed very harshly by he Chinese government because of his activism and was held for 81 days without any official charges being filed. We just want to applaud Ai Weiwei for his courage and for being a real artist in the world. If you want to learn more about Ai Weiwei, check out the documentary “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry.” We think you’re awesome Ai Weiwei!
This week’s #BruceLeeMoment comes from listener Carrie L. M.:
I have wanted to write for a while to commend you both on an exceptional podcast. I have listened regularly since the beginning and have found it to be nothing short of informative in a deep and compelling way. I think what moves me most, is the commitment to not just present Bruce Lee's material accurately, but that you both are very congruent and committed to your personal growth not only in the process of presenting this legacy, but in yourselves. This adds an element of integrity to the cast which makes it even more of a powerful force in passing forward the wisdom Bruce honed and mastered over the years. Clearly, anyone who is listening is undoubtedly a fan, and I would say that my appreciation is that of serious focus. There are many times his words and personal mastery have moved me through my own processes of spiritual and physical development. Just remembering his return to the mat after his injury is enough to keep me going when I am less than focused on my goals. I want to thank you sincerely for your work in sharing with us. The content is of the highest quality and I consider it time very well spent. To be truthful, some of the episodes have been so great I have passed them onto others and have listened to more than once, as to absorb as much as possible. This is a very valuable service you are providing. In greatest Appreciation, Carrie L. M.”