#120 Letter to Pearl

This episode features a letter that Bruce Lee wrote to his good family friend Pearl Tso when he was 21. Pearl was around Bruce’s age, and her mother was Bruce’s favorite auntie who was a mentor and good friend to him. Bruce wrote this letter after he had left Hong Kong and had been living in the United States for around three years.

The reason we have this letter is because Bruce Lee liked to present a beautiful finished product and would create drafts of letters. This version of the letter that we have has cross-outs, corrections, and edited notes. After his practice draft, Bruce would write out a finished letter in his beautiful handwriting on nice paper.

This letter is phenomenal and packed with a lot of Bruce Lee’s ideas and philosophies. Bruce talks about his dreams, his practical approaches to these dreams, and his measure of success for himself. He sat down and thoughtfully expressed himself through this letter to his dear friend. We are lucky and thankful to have this letter because in the digital age the writing process would have been different and we would not have had a rough draft of this letter to Pearl. Below is the transcript of the letter as well as images from the original draft from the Bruce Lee Archive.

September 1962

Dear Pearl,

This letter is hard to understand. It contains my dreams and my ways of thinking. As a whole, you can call it my way of life. It will be rather confusing as it is difficult to write down exactly how I feel. Yet I want to write and let you know about it. I’ll do my best to write it clearly and I hope that you, too, will keep an open mind in this letter, and don’t arrive at any conclusions till you are finished.

There are two ways of making a good living. One is the result of hard working, and the other, the result of the imagination (requires work, too of course). It is a fact that labor and thrift produce a competence, but fortune, in the sense of wealth, is the reward of the man who can think of something that hasn’t been thought of before. In every industry, in every profession, ideas are what America is looking for. Ideas have made America what she is, an done good idea will make a mad what he wants to be.

One part of my life is gung fu. This art influences [me] greatly in the formation of my character and ideas. I practice gung fu as a physical culture, a form of mental training, a method of self-defense, and a way of life. Gung fu is the best of all martial art; yet the Chinese derivatives of judo and karate, which are only basics of gung fu, are flourishing all over the U.S. This so happens because no one has heard of this supreme art; also there are no competent instructors…I believe my long years of practice back up my title to become the first instructor of this movement. There are yet long years ahead of me to polish my techniques and character. My aim, therefore, is to establish a first Gung Fu Institute that will later spread out all over the U.S. (I have set a time limit of 10 to 15 years to complete the whole project.) My reason in doing this is not the sole objective of making money. The motives are many and among them are: I like to let the world know about the greatness of this Chinese art; I enjoy teaching and helping people; I like to have a well-to-do home for my family; I like to originate something; and the last but yet one of the most important is because gung fu is part of myself.

I know my idea is right, and therefore, the results would be satisfactory. I don’t really worry about the reward, but to set in motion the machinery to achieve it. My contribution will be the measure of my reward and success.

Before he passed away, some asked the late Dr. Charles P. Steinmetz, the electrical genius, in his opinion “What brand of science would make the most progress in the nest twenty-five years?” He paused and thought for several minutes then like a flash replied, “spiritual realization.” When man comes to a conscious vital realization of those great spiritual forces within himself and begins to use those forces in science, in business, and in life, his progress in the future will be unparalleled.

I feel I have this great creative and spiritual force within me that is greater than faith, greater than ambition, greater than vision. It is all these combined. My brain becomes magnetized with this dominating force which I hold in my hand.

When you drop a pebble into a pool of water, the pebble starts a series of ripples that expand until they encompass the whole pool. This is exactly what will happen when I give my ideas a definite plan of action. Right now, I can project my thoughts into the future, I can see ahead of me. I dream (remember that practical dreamers never quit.) I may now own nothing but a little place down in a basement, but once my imagination has got up a full head of steam, I can see painted on a canvas of my mind a picture of a fine, big five or six story Gung Fu Institute with branches all over the States. I am not easily discouraged, readily visualize myself as overcoming obstacles, winning out over setbacks, achieving “impossible” objectives.

Whether it is the God-head of not, I feel this great force, this untapped power, this dynamic something within me. This feeling defies description, and [there is] no experience with which this feeling may be compared. It is something like a strong emotion mixed with faith, but a lot stronger.

All in all, the goal of my planning and doing is to find the true meaning in life—peace of mind. I know that the sum of all possessions I mentioned does not necessarily add up to peace of mind; however, it can be if I devote [my energy] to real accomplishment of self rather than neurotic combat. In order to achieve this peace of mind, the teaching of detachment of Taoism and Zen proved to be valuable…

Probably, people will say I’m too conscious of success. Well, I am not. You see, my will to do springs from the knowledge that I CAN DO. I’m only being natural, for there is no fear or doubt inside my mind.

Pearl, success comes to those who become success-conscious. If you don’t aim at an object, how the heck on earth do you think you can get it?

Warm regards,
Bruce

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Rough Draft of the Letter to Pearl

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