By October 8, 2011 35 Comments Read More →

Bruce Lee Quotes

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Here is my collection of Bruce Lee quotes.  It’s organized by art, goals, growth, life, mistakes, positive thinking, personal development, power, self-awareness, simplicity, time, and truth.

You don’t have to be a martial artist to appreciate Bruce Lee’s quotes.  Aside from a martial artist, and actor,  Bruce Lee was a philosopher.  His words of wisdom will make you think, and you’ll find he used precision in the way he phrases his ideas.  If you’re not already a Bruce Lee fan, you just might be by the time you’ve read his quotes.  He was a leader in the personal development arena, and a true continuous learner.

Enjoy …

Top 10 Bruce Lee Quotes

Here is a short-list of some of Bruce Lee’s most popular and insightful quotes:

  1. “Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own.”
  2. “Choose the positive. You have choice, you are master of your attitude, choose the positive, the constructive. Optimism is a faith that leads to success.”
  3. “Don’t fear failure.  Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.”
  4. “Empty your mind; be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
  5. “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.”
  6. “It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”
  7. “Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.”
  8. “To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.”
  9. “What is” is more important than ‘what should be.’ Too many people are looking at ‘what is’ from a position of thinking ‘what should be’.”
  10. “When one has reached maturity in the art, one will have a formless form. It is like ice dissolving in water. When one has no form, one can be all forms; when one has no style, he can fit in with any style.”

Art / Artistry

Bruce Lee quotes on art and artistry:

  • “Art calls for complete mastery of techniques, developed by reflection within the soul.”
  • “Art is the way to the absolute and to the essence of human life. The aim of art is not the one-sided promotion of spirit, soul and senses, but the opening of all human capacities – thought, feeling, will – to the life rhythm of the world of nature. So will the voiceless voice be heard and the self be brought into harmony with it.”
  • “The second-hand artist blindly following his sensei or sifu accepts his pattern. As a result, his action is and , more importantly, his thinking become mechanical. His responses become automatic, according to set patterns, making him narrow and limited.”

Goals

Bruce Lee quotes on goals and goal setting:

  • “A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”
  • “If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.  Make at least one definite move daily toward your goal.”

Growth / Learning

Bruce Lee quotes on growth and learning:

  • “A quick temper will make a fool of you soon enough.”
  • “As you think, so shall you become.”
  • “A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer.”
  • “Don’t fear failure.  Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.”
  • “Empty your mind; be formless, shapeless – like water. Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup, you put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle, you put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
  • “Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.”
  • “I am not teaching you anything. I just help you to explore yourself.”
  • “If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”
  • “If you want to learn to swim jump into the water. On dry land no frame of mind is ever going to help you.”
  • “In order to taste my cup of water you must first empty your cup.”
  • “Knowing is not enough, you must apply; willing is not enough, you must do.”
  • “The knowledge and skills you have achieved are meant to be forgotten so you can float comfortably in emptiness, without obstruction.”

Life

Bruce Lee quotes on life:

  • “Life is better lived than conceptualized. — This writing can be less demanding should I allow myself to indulge in the usual manipulating game of role creation. Fortunately for me, my self-knowledge has transcended that and I’ve come to understand that life is best to be lived — not to be conceptualized. If you have to think, you still do not understand.”
  • “Life is never stagnation. It is constant movement, un-rhythmic movement, as we as constant change. Things live by moving and gain strength as they go.”
  • “Life is wide, limitless. There is no border, no frontier.”
  • “Life itself is your teacher, and you are in a state of constant learning.”
  • “Man, the living creature, the creating individual, is always more important than any established style or system.”
  • “Real living is living for others.”
  • “Reality is apparent when one ceases to compare. — There is “what is” only when there is no comparison at all, and to live with what is, is to be peaceful.”
  • “The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.”

Mistakes

Bruce Lee quotes on mistakes:

  • “Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.”
  • “The great mistake is to anticipate the outcome of the engagement; you ought not to be thinking of whether it ends in victory or defeat. Let nature take its course, and your tools will strike at the right moment.”

Positive Thinking

Bruce Lee quotes on positive thinking:

  • “Choose the positive. You have choice, you are master of your attitude, choose the positive, the constructive. Optimism is a faith that leads to success.”
  • “If you think a thing is impossible, you’ll make it impossible.”
  • “To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.”

Personal Development

Bruce Lee quotes on personal development:

  • “Absorb what is useful, Discard what is not, Add what is uniquely your own.”
  • “Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.”
  • “I am learning to understand rather than immediately judge or to be judged. I cannot blindly follow the crowd and accept their approach. I will not allow myself to indulge in the usual manipulating game of role creation. Fortunately for me, my self-knowledge has transcended that and I have come to understand that life is best to be lived and not to be conceptualized. I am happy because I am growing daily and I am honestly not knowing where the limit lies. To be certain, every day there can be a revelation or a new discovery. I treasure the memory of the past misfortunes. It has added more to my bank of fortitude.”
  • “I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.”
  • “The spirit of the individual is determined by his dominating thought habits.”
  • “What you habitually think largely determines what you will ultimately become.”

Power / Speed / Flexibility

 Bruce Lee quotes on power, speed, and flexibility:

  • “A powerful athlete is not a strong athlete, but one who can exert his strength quickly. Since power equals force times speed, if the athlete learns to make faster movements he increases his power, even though the contractile pulling strength of his muscles remains unchanged. Thus, a smaller man who can swing faster may hit as hard or as far as the heavier man who swings slowly.”
  • “Do not be tense, just be ready, not thinking but not dreaming, not being set but being flexible. It is being “wholly” and quietly alive, aware and alert, ready for whatever may come.”
  • “Endurance is lost rapidly if one ceases to work at its maximum.”
  • “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.”
  • “Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”
  • “One should be in harmony with, not in opposition to, the strength and force of the opposition. This means that one should do nothing that is not natural or spontaneous; the important thing is not to strain in any way.”
  • “The athlete who is building muscles though weight training should be very sure to work adequately on speed and flexibility at the same time. In combat, without the prior attributes, a strong man will be like the bull with its colossal strength futilely pursuing the matador or like a low-geared truck chasing a rabbit.”
  • “The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.”
  • “When one has reached maturity in the art, one will have a formless form. It is like ice dissolving in water. When one has no form, one can be all forms; when one has no style, he can fit in with any style.”

Self-Awareness

 Bruce Lee quotes on self-awareness:

  • “After all, all knowledge simply means self-knowledge.”
  • “Fear comes from uncertainty; we can eliminate the fear within us when we know ourselves better. As the great Sun Tzu said: “When you know yourself and your opponent, you will win every time. When you know yourself but not your opponent, you will win one and lose one. However, when you do not know yourself or your opponent, you will be imperiled every time.”
  • “Knowledge will give you power, but character respect.”
  • “The biggest adversary in our life is ourselves. We are what we are, in a sense, because of the dominating thoughts we allow to gather in our head. All concepts of self-improvement, all actions and paths we take, relate solely to our abstract image of ourselves. Life is limited only by how we really see ourselves and feel about our being. A great deal of pure self-knowledge and inner understanding allows us to lay an all-important foundation for the structure of our life from which we can perceive and take the right avenues.”
  • “To become different from what we are, we must have some awareness of what we are.”
  • “To know oneself is to study oneself in action with another person.”
  • “Understanding comes about through feeling, from moment to moment in the mirror of relationship.”
  • “When we hold to the core, the opposite sides are the same if they are seen from the center of the moving circle. I do not experience; I am experience. I am not the subject of experience; I am that experience. I am awareness. Nothing else can be I or can exist.”

Simplicity

Bruce Lee quotes on simplicity:

  • “It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.”
  • “Simplicity is the key to brilliance.”
  • “To spend time is to pass it in a specified manner. To waste time is to expend it thoughtlessly or carelessly. We all have time to spend or waste, and it is our decision what to do with it. But once passed, it is gone forever.”
  • “When there is freedom from mechanical conditioning, there is simplicity. The classical man is just a bundle of routine, ideas and tradition. If you follow the classical pattern, you are understanding the routine, the tradition, the shadow – you are not understanding yourself.”

Time

Bruce Lee quotes on time and time management:

  • “Flow in the living moment. — We are always in a process of becoming and nothing is fixed. Have no rigid system in you, and you’ll be flexible to change with the ever changing. Open yourself and flow, my friend. Flow in the total openness of the living moment. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond like an echo.”
  • “If you love life, don’t waste time, for time is what life is made up of.”
  • “The moment is freedom. — I couldn’t live by a rigid schedule. I try to live freely from moment to moment, letting things happen and adjusting to them.”
  • “The timeless moment. — The “moment” has no yesterday or tomorrow. It is not the result of thought and therefore has no time.”

Truth

Bruce Lee quotes on truth:

  • “All fixed set patterns are incapable of adaptability or pliability. The truth is outside of all fixed patterns.”
  • “Truth has no path. Truth is living and, therefore, changing. Awareness is without choice, without demand, without anxiety; in that state of mind, there is perception. To know oneself is to study oneself in action with another person. Awareness has no frontier; it is giving of your whole being, without exclusion.”
  • “It’s not what you give, it’s the way you give it.
  • “Know the difference between a catastrophe and an inconvenience. — To realize that it’s just an inconvenience, that it is not a catastrophe, but just an unpleasantness, is part of coming into your own, part of waking up.
  • “Love is like a friendship caught on fire. In the beginning a flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love becomes as coals, deep-burning and unquenchable.
  • “Obey the principles without being bound by them.”
  • “Showing off is the fool’s idea of glory.
  • “Take no thought of who is right or wrong or who is better than. Be not for or against.
  • “Take things as they are. Punch when you have to punch. Kick when you have to kick.
  • “’What is’ is more important than ‘what should be.’ Too many people are looking at ‘what is’ from a position of thinking ‘what should be’.”

If you have a favorite Bruce Lee quote that I missed, please share it with me so that I can update my collection.

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35 Comments on "Bruce Lee Quotes"

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  1. alik levin says:

    JD,
    Too many gems here. My favorites are:
    * “Not failure, but low aim, is the crime”
    * “A quick temper will make a fool of you soon enough.”

    But my personal winner is this:
    “Simplicity is the key to brilliance.”

    Which resonates with Einstein’s “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and mroe complex. It takes atouch of genioius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction”

    Good stuff, partner!

  2. Ekaterina says:

    I really enjoyed it. His wisdom can be applied to so many fields!

  3. rob says:

    “It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.” Unconscious smugness must be decreased daily if we are to develop the skills we desire to demonstrate. Bruce Lee understood well that excellence does not tolerate human smugness. Smugness is absoutely UNessential. We walk with new nimbleness when we stop pretending that we already know when it is clear that we don’t; now the quality of our endeavor is raised exponentially (as Bruce Lee demonstrated). I suspect you are very aware of this truth already, J.D. blessings

  4. JD says:

    @ Alik — Thank you.

    I almost stuck that one in the top 10 … simplicity is elegance in action.

    @ Ekaterina — He really was a great philosopher, with such wise words.

    @ Rob — I was thinking today about our formative years. Then I realized the main reason our formative years are formative, is because we’re curious and making sense.

    If we don’t give up our curiosity … if we stay curious, then our formative years last a lifetime.

  5. I love Bruce Lee! Glad to see the book reference list too. I haven’t read all of them and you’ve given me a great reminder to pick up a new book.

    This is such a great collection of his words/quotes!!!
    ““Choose the positive. You have choice, you are master of your attitude, choose the positive, the constructive. Optimism is a faith that leads to success.”
    “If you think a thing is impossible, you’ll make it impossible.”
    “To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.”

    :)

  6. Hilary says:

    Hi JD .. add to it? Impossible .. I’ve only seen a couple of films and possibly not even that number …. others are not as remiss as I am in catching up! Cheers Hilary

  7. JD says:

    @ Aileen — Whenever I forget just how insightful Bruce was with his words, I just whip out his quotes. His collection is stunning.

    @ Hilary — Bruce really set the bar in terms of personal development. He pushed his body, mind, and spirit to the max. I think the most interesting thing is how much he focused on flexibility, not just in body, but in mind.

  8. along says:

    Having no limitation as limitation

  9. Azerya says:

    I have always loved bruce lee and with his inspirational quotes, he made a difference to the world that many may not see. So don’t hold anything against people in the future for they may be your friend tomorrow.

  10. Zach man says:

    Truly awesome JD. Many people do not realize how intellectual Bruce Lee was. Thank you for putting this together. Bruce is still so far ahead of our time, he is a Legend…

  11. Branden Reyes says:

    You left out one of my favorites by Bruce “what is defeat? Nothing but education: nothing but the first step to something better”

  12. Jay Maddox says:

    ?”True friends are like diamonds, precious and rare. False friends are like autumn leaves, found everywhere.” Bruce Lee

  13. Alan Yin says:

    What a great collection of quotes. The best I’ve ever seen compiled into one web page. Here is one of my favorites:

    “Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man, but sooner or later, the man who wins is the one who thinks he can”

  14. Doug H says:

    Any problem can be solved and its solution found by examining the problem as the existence of a problem must also require its solution to exist close by.

    Acknowledging your disease and limitation is to remove its power and become limitless, no longer bound by it and thus free from it.

    Both loosely recalled from “The Tao of Jeet Kune Do” and life changing.

  15. Shelley says:

    So many great ones, the one that speaks to me the most right now; “As you think, so shall you become.”

    It’s between you and you. ;)

  16. Badger J says:

    I like these quotes, but if you look at them carefully you’ll see that BL actually failed to heed many of them n his personal life.

    He was bound by his aspirations, fixed by his concept of ‘interception’, hampered by his quick temper.

    He did not let his students find their best path, but hid the truth of his methods after he left Oakland.

    He did not truly ‘dive into the water’, i.e. spar with the best, but set things up to make himself look invincible due to his own insecurities.

    He did a lot, though, to go beyond his limitations, and showed us a great path to take.

  17. Doug H says:

    Badjer J: Good stuff..
    Sounds like a human hero to me – his Tao of JKD I thought was plenty inspiring and served me an equal number of wins and losses – I still feel the works placed the freestyle of it all into a book that was more functional than any other Martial Arts work comparable. He transcended the limit of learning from a book in thought-action-spirit-intent.

    Watch Brandon Lee in Rapid Fire giving the best example of JKD I have seen in its good and bad (the near end laundry/chain link area fight), He did pass something down – a Son and system – my age to identify with – Brandon seemed to be a good guy. Saw the morning news when he died.

    Jason Scott Lee – likely not true to a huge degree about the portrayal in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story – man the mere possibility of it having been close was fascinating – the wicked fight leading to the writing of the book. Most inspirational overall “package” mentioned above, as in my path in life and Martial Arts wise – Now Donnie Yen taking it backwards in time aka Ip Man. Thanks.

  18. gary bellish says:

    The quotes are excellant. bruce lee’s “art” does translate into anything and evrything you do in life if you take the time to examine them properly

  19. Keith says:

    To be formless like water. Then you will master everything. I never really knew I was still following Bruce Lee’s advice all my life.

  20. David Cordtz says:

    A friend of mine was a huge fan of Bruce Lee his name Jonathan Laile he watched all his films had all his books was an artist as well as a martial artist he died last Monday lung failure at 26years of age I googled Bruce Lee quotes and started posting his quotes along with his pictures on Facebook in memory of him he loved The Lord and one day he was hoping to go see Bruce Lees grave in Seattle unfortunately he didn’t so I will one day for him I smirked Bruce too since childhood now I admire Jesus and my brother Jonathan who was a Hod fearing humble servant who loved just as He loved.Will miss you Jonny until we meet again in Paradise love you brother R.I.P Dave & M.E.F Church

  21. Anthony says:

    A favorite of mine is :

    “Forget about winning and losing; forget about pride and pain. Let your opponent graze your skin and you smash into his flesh; let him smash into your flesh and you fracture his bones; let him fracture your bones and you take his life! Do not be concerned with escaping safely- lay your life before him!!”
    ~ Bruce Lee

    To me this quote is not only about combat but about striving to reach any kind of goal. And at the same time the quote seems to indicate that for anything there is a cost involved and that if one is overly worried about getting away without paying one’s dues, one will never achieve anything.

  22. Kevin says:

    Master the self and you have mastered all.Believing you have the power,without delusion,gives it to you.The Buddha is the “higher self” of which there is nothing else.One must practice until one can achieve the balance in any situation,thereby creating harmony,the ultimate goal.

  23. Ondina says:

    I really took in all of bruce Lee’s quotes, but one that I really loved is “I am not teaching you anything. I just help you to explore yourself.”

  24. Su Latt says:

    Bruce Lee is so cool!!!!
    A lot of quotes!!!
    I really like him.
    His quotes are very inspiring…..

  25. Nate says:

    Great quotes but you missed my favorite; “Do not pray for an easy life, but for the strength to endure a difficult one.”

  26. Kevin says:

    The favorable beginning is to have little pre-conceived ideas. Then the confusion of different attacks and defences for time and practise.When one has journeyed long and hard,he should return to the beginning mind or Mu-shin.When an old man has arrived at this stage,he will become a young man,each day adding to the transformation.Amida Butsu.

  27. lex dempsey says:

    “I am not teaching you anything. I just help you to explore yourself.”

    i believe that this can be considered a core value.a valueable ideal…for if i teach, you only mirror; if you mirror, you are not expressing…it is only when one is willing to question himself that he finds the invisible teacher.you find that expression is the teacher.in this way continue to explore yourself.only in this way can one “improve”…and even when you “improve”, you will remain unchanged…limitless… thanks Bruce…..-Lex Dempsey, Maui HI.

  28. Brian Spigel says:

    Awesome collection! Thank you for that. Bruce understood that “the key to immortality is to lead a life worth remembering”. His life was most memorable indeed. How could someone so young have so much wisdom?

    • JD says:

      Bruce Lee had true vision and drive. He was a seeker of truth and a follower of his own path. I wonder if that’s part of the fast track to inner-wisdom that resonates with the world.

      Disney taught me dreams and Bruce Lee taught me drive.

  29. Mikeparker says:

    My favorite quote in all of time:Patience is not passive.It is concentrated strength.Bruce Lee

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