“The times of drastic change are times of passions. We can never be fit and ready for that which is wholly new, we have to adjust ourselves and every radical adjustment is a crisis in self-esteem. We undergo a test, we have to prove ourselves. A population subjected to drastic change is thus a population of misfits and misfits live and breathe in an atmosphere of passion.”
When you hear the word “misfit” it usually has a negative connotation, but Bruce Lee recasts misfits as unique individuals who are moved by their passions as he was. These misfits are passionate about ideas which society hasn’t created space for yet, so the misfits are doing pioneering work by exploring their passion.
Bruce Lee was a misfit in many respects. No one knew what martial arts were in the west, no one had seen an Asian man represent masculinity like Bruce, he was mixed race, and he was in an interracial relationship when it was illegal. Bruce received much negative feedback for his misfit way of living life, but that didn’t discourage him from living in authenticity.
According to Bruce’s friend William Chung, Bruce was obsessed with martial arts. He would go through the streets of Hong Kong punching with dumbbells because Bruce was constantly developing himself. Now, we would refer to his passion as being a “total geek” about martial arts. But that is just how Bruce Lee lived his life.
People are guided by their passions, and we should have compassion for the misfits following their true path. Bruce Lee had a passion towards something constructive, instead of being passionately against something. Are your passions additive, positive for yourself and not doing harm to others? Is it positive change adding to your growth? Often a drastic change can feel like a major crisis, like a storm blowing through your life. We experience this personally and in our culture. It was during the 1960’s, a time of much cultural change and exploration, when Bruce conceived his ideas on the “Population of Misfits.”
“With adversity, you are shocked to higher levels, much like a rainstorm that is violent but yet afterwards all the plants grow.”
Sometimes there is tumult you must go through, unrest, dissatisfaction, but if you can stay true to your focus and your path, much growth can come from the turbulent time.
At some point, we all feel like the “other” and that we don’t fit in--which is why Bruce Lee, the misfit, continues to resonate with people.
“…Misfits live and breathe in an atmosphere of passion.”
Bruce was passionate about martial arts and about expressing himself and his experiences through his acting and teaching. Bruce was a renaissance man, creating himself through his body, his thoughts, his clothes, the stationary and jewelry he designed, and through his own martial art he created.
Misfits are pioneers, artists, and individuals who are committed to being individual. People who walk their own path and who are guided by their enthusiasm and curiosity have to be very strong because they invite criticism. Bruce was continually criticized throughout his life, for being too western, too Chinese, not following traditional martial arts programs and for marrying outside his race. You have to have a strong inner core and a strong connection to your passions to resist the urge to give up and fit into society. You must be strong to resist the criticism.
We should shift our perspective so that when we see an individual walking their own path, we approach their enthusiasm and passion with friendly curiosity rather than criticism for breaking with “the norm." Even if you don’t agree with someone, practice just letting them “be." When you listen to someone share their passion with an open heart, they can transfer some of their enthusiasm and passion to you. They can also help you discover what sparks your own enthusiasm.
“We tend to have more faith in what we imitate than what we originate.”
It is more comfortable to imitate than create something entirely new because what you’re imitating already has social approval. When you’re following your own path, “every radical adjustment is a crisis in self-esteem,” and change can be scary and you can question yourself. It is inevitable when following your own path that you will come up against an obstacle telling you to stop what you’re doing. Your reaction to the obstacle is more important than the obstacle itself. You much change with change and flow like water.
“My contribution will be the measure of my reward and my success."
Bruce and Linda weathered personal criticism and racism for being together during a time when the whole country, and their families, said that interracial relationships were wrong. Their relationship showed society that there was another way. If anyone started to give Bruce attitude based on his race, he would charm them with his humor and friendliness, and they would soften towards him. Showing up as himself was Bruce’s contribution. He was able to reveal his humanity to people who thought he was less than.
“Use daily activity to be a master of life and lay hold of the art of living.”
Put authentic energy and passion out into the world daily--that is really living. We need to connect with the world instead of isolating and criticizing.
“Great freedom equals great sensitivity.”
Freedom within oneself, it’s being able to navigate life’s situations with a sense of self that makes you feel free and at ease. You’re free because you’re not hiding yourself, and you have become sensitive to your true self and to your environment.
“With whatever is going on that is problematic for you, or that is an issue, or is bringing up some unpleasant discomfort in your life, decide to be cured. Put your attention to how do I proactively work with this and move through it rather than deny it or stuff it somewhere.”
There are people in the world who use rage to fuel them, but it is a toxic fuel and it will wear on your soul. Anger can be used to propel you into action, but you can’t rely on it as your constant source of motivation. Don’t deny your feelings, acknowledge them, and move through them using more than just anger to motivate you.
“Our own souls are what we must employ, to give new meaning and new form to the world.”
What kind of misfit are you? Where is your area of enthusiasm, curiosity, and passion?
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)
Daniel Dae Kim & Grace Park
Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park are on the TV series Hawaii Five-0. Recently, they decided to quit the show because they asked to be paid the same amount as their Caucasian co-stars. They were told no so they walked off the show. This was a bold move because as an Asian actor it’s really difficult to get roles, especially on a network tv show. It took a lot of courage to take a stand like that.
Daniel Dae Kim is a Korean American actor, voice actor, producer, and director. He’s known for his role as Jin-Soo Kwon on Lost, Jack Kang in The Divergent Series: Insurgent, and most recently Hawaii Five-0. Hi film and tv production company 3AD is currently producing the tv series The Good Doctor.
Grace Park is a Canadian-American actress of Korean heritage. She is known for her roles on Battlestar Galactica, Canadian teen soap opera Edgemont, and most recently Hawaii Five-0.
Daniel and Grace, we admire your courage in taking a stand and we think you’re awesome!
This week our #BruceLeeMoment comes from listener Maria from Bogota.
“I have been listening to the podcast for a while now and I have been thinking of writing to you. First of all Congratulations. I very rarely write or participate on social media, I remember someone writing to the show saying something like that. I don´t mean to say I´m special (I´m, as we all are) but honestly I think you deserve recognition and gratitude. I´m behind on my episodes, today April 5th 2017 I listen to the last episode of 2016... I live in Bogotá, Colombia, I am an artist and 32 years old, and to be honest I had heard the name Bruce Lee but did not know basically anything about him or his work, I knew he was supposed to be cool but had not confirmed that myself. I have now and I know that is just the surface of it. I found out about the podcast through Brainpickings and started listening to it. I felt, from the very first episode that Bruce Lee´s philosophy, he´s phrases and in general everything you discuss are very deep issues and least for me, it has taken time to digest, reflect, sink in and in time apply those ideas. I believe if I have had a Bruce Lee moment it has extended on time. I describe it as tiny lights lighting inside my brain, and for a moment I visualice their meaning briefly, then they disappear but leave a sort of indescribable trace of feeling. You are doing a great work spreading he´s ideas, you do it honestly and with love and that is all anyone can ask for. I hope what I feel for the work you do gets to you through these words, I´m not saying anything else. Sorry if there are any language / translation mistakes... Sincerely, M. Also I have spread the word...”