#88 Artist of Life

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Most people know Bruce Lee as an actor and martial artist, but he defined himself as an Artist of Life.

This term comes from a series of drafts of his essay “In My Own Process” which we discussed in Episode 29 "In My Own Process."

In Bruce’s essays on “In My Own Process” he stated that being an Artist of Life was his overall goal and how he identified himself. It is because he was an artist of life that we still know about Bruce Lee today. He was intentional about cultivating his life and who Bruce Lee was.

“I am a martial artist by choice, an actor by profession, and I am actualizing myself daily to be an Artist of Life.”

This definition was both concise and broad enough to allow Bruce to grow and expand. Bruce wrote often about how he is an ever expanding person and that there is no end or limit to this process and that he is discovering and growing exponentially all the time.

Bruce put his identity in the context of humanity, not a profession or trade. This is applicable to everyone.

If you are the artist and your canvas is the body that you are in, what do you want to do with it?

In order to pursue being an artist of life, you have to have done some self-work already. In order to cultivate who you are, you have to start with the premise that you know who you are.

There is a quote we use around Bruce Lee that is not actually one of his quotes, but it is: “The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.”

This is not about trying to create a legacy by which people will remember you, but instead living a life of value to yourself.

Anyone can identify themselves as an Artist of Life, you do not have to be creative or a painter or a musician.

Bruce starts off his “In My Own Process” writings by saying:

“It is most difficult to write about oneself because each of us is such a complexity. In an attempt to really write something about oneself demands an honesty toward oneself, to be able to take responsibility to be what we actually are.”

Bruce said that, “Being honest is one of the least things a human being can do.”

Honesty can be one of the hardest things that human beings can do. We can hide our true self from different people in our lives because we fear rejection of our self as an Artist of Life.

“To be what I term, a quality human being, one has to be transparently real and have the courage to be what he is.”

When you see Bruce Lee on screen, you can see transparently through the image on the screen straight to the energy that is Bruce Lee. When people ask Shannon’s mom Linda what Bruce was like, she says that you see on the screen is what he was like.

To be an Artist of Life you have to lead with feeling. For a lot of people our feelings are a source of discomfort because we do not know what to do with them. Our feelings are our body’s clue to us about how we feel about the world around us, how we feel about ourselves, and how we feel about the people we are in relationship with.

“Don’t think, feel.”

You have to live it, feel it, not just analyze intellectually from a distance.

“In this world there are many people who cannot touch the heart of a matter, but talk merely intellectually and not emotionally about this or that.”

It is uncomfortable sometimes to let your feelings show, but if you just say words and do not feel them, it is difficult to act on your words.

If you are pursuing being an Artist of Life, then you are operating from your truest essence. If you do not know your truest essence then it is hard to operate from there.

Knowing yourself is key to being an Artist of Life. It is a process, and along the way you grow, discovery, and develop.

This takes a lot of work. It takes introspection, honesty, awareness, a willingness to examine yourself, and a willingness to make changes.

Bruce Lee talked about how people would waste their vital creative energy on projecting themselves as something outside of themselves, rather than working on who they truly are. This vital creative energy is a resource for yourself, but you have to feed it to grow and expand.

Being an Artist of Life is not a temporary project it is a lifelong endeavor.

Through all the work that Bruce did in his life he came to realize as he has grown and worked through things in his life that the only kind of help there is, is self-help. Even if through the self-help you have to ask someone else for help, you still have to ask for that help. You have to help yourself move to the next step.

“Self-help comes in many forms: daily discoveries through choiceless awareness, honestly as well as wholeheartedly doing one’s best, indomitable dedication, and realizing that there is no end or limit to this.”

If you are in exploration like Bruce Lee, the constant learning and curiosity becomes like breathing.

“Discovery is one of the means to uncovering our potentiality.”

Discovering something you did not know before is a way to uncover your potential and to help you know yourself.

Bruce Lee knew himself early and was able to act on it at a young age. Some of us take longer to know ourselves.

If you really want to know yourself, start your self-inquiry. What do you love? What makes you angry? What makes your heart sing? What don’t you like?

You have to be committed and curious about yourself. You have to be in relationship with yourself to know yourself. Know that with exploring your curiosity you might be uncomfortable, bored, or find things you do not like. All this is important information.

When you find something that you love you can feel your cells rise and when you encounter something you do not like it will make you feel heavy. The things that bring you joy give you energy.

“I feel best when I am showing my skill. Why? Because baby I have worked my ass off to be able to do just that. And that means dedication, constant hard work, constant learning and discovering, and lots of sacrifices.” It is not about showing off, it is about shining your light.

In his essays Bruce wrote:

“I would just love it if someday somebody said, ‘Oh look at that guy, now there is something real.’”

How would you fill out Bruce’s Artist of Life statement?

“I am a martial artist by choice, an actor by profession, and I am actualizing myself daily to be an Artist of Life.”

“What it boils down to is my sincere and honest revelation of a man called Bruce Lee. Some significant traits of him are his honesty to himself, quality over quantity, and he is hardworking. But, just who is Bruce Lee? Where is he heading? What does he hope to discover? To do this a person has to stand on his own two feet and find out his cause of ignorance. Bruce Lee is a changing person because he is always learning, discovering, and expanding. And at best, Bruce Lee represents a possible direction and nothing more. You must let your inner light guide you out of the darkness.”

“Our duty is to become real and simply be.”

If this speaks to you, embrace the Artist of Life philosophy. Shine your light and we would love to hear about your experience. Write to us at hello@brucelee.com or tag us @brucelee on social media with #bruceleepodcast.

Interested in reading "Artist of Life"? You can purchase it through our affiliate link:

We are experimenting with the formatting for the podcast so we do not have an #AAHA or #BruceLeeMoment this week, but we would still love to hear from you!

We get many emails requesting advice with “What would Bruce Lee do?” and would like to start a “What would Bruce Lee do?” section of the podcast where Shannon and Sharon respond to your emails for advice. If you need advice and are wondering, “What would Bruce Lee do?” write to us at hello@brucelee.com

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