Questioning the Timeless Wisdom of Bruce Lee?

In my quest to be a superstar, it became obvious from the start that I need help.  This is evidenced by the fact that I am not a superstar, or even moderately successful.  I’ve been looking everywhere for inspiration, ideas, advice, anything.

I embarrassingly subscribe to “The Daily Love” which is a daily email with inspirational quotes geared towards women who are trying to find love in their life.  Shut up, ok?  I’ve been subscribing for a while now, and it feels liberating to own up to it.

Anyway, I recently read a quote that freaked me out:
“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.”
– Bruce Lee, the late and great martial artist and icon.

This little bit of Lee wisdom illustrates the importance of mastery versus lots of different, smaller efforts. That sucks.  I’m all over the map with my endeavors.  Bruce Lee is saying that he does not fear me.  And who am I to question Bruce Lee?  He’s gotta be right on this one too, right?

I’m not as bad as practicing 10,000 kicks once, but it’s probably closer to 10 kicks 1000 times.  I spent my life learning to play drums, guitar, bass, piano, learning how to sing, writing fiction stories, earning a degree in biology, as well as the development of a bunch of other random (worthless) skills.  And now I’m trying to add acting and non-fiction blog writing into the mix.

I will be the first to say, I have mastered nothing.  I’m competent (debatably) in all of my skills, but nowhere near mastery.

If this piece of Bruce Lee gold contradicts my own lifestyle, than I only have one choice: over-analyze it to show that he’s not talking about me.

Right off the bat, he’s talking about kicks.  The goal of a kick is to destroy your opponent and it is obvious that the mastery of a single kick will accomplish this goal.  But my kicks are all based in the arts…well, mostly…and the goal of the arts is not destruction, it’s beauty.  Beauty, yeah.  I’m sensitive, I subscribe to The Daily Love, remember?

Creating beauty is not the result of mastery.  It can be, don’t get me wrong: Mozart, Beethoven, Vaughn Williams, Van Gogh, Miles Davis, Keanu Reeves…the list goes on.  But mastery is not guaranteed to create beauty.  It’s harder for me to come up with examples because most go under the radar, but guitar god Yngwie Malmsteen pops into my head.

I’ve seen people that are truly masters of their craft and I end up uninterested somehow.  I’m not sure if it’s a lack of style, creativity or just that I can’t relate to that type of mastery, but it takes more than skill to really create timeless beauty, sorry Yngwie.  (But Yngwie has tons of fans, so he’s doing something right, I guess)

Then we have the other end of the spectrum: Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Picasso, this list goes on for ages.  There are musicians that can run circles around McCartney and Lennon and painters that can paint Picasso into a corner, but there’s something else.  There is some type of understanding that they have that I just don’t get.  If I did get it, I wouldn’t be writing this right now, I’d be sipping on a glass of Cognac scoffing at my latest album, which barely went platinum.  “They just don’t get it yet.  Soon it will be regarded as the greatest musical achievement of all time…” I would confidently say, with my newly acquired British accent.

Maybe the real key lies in mastering my own voice; learning how to take what I think and feel and turn it into some sort of tangible art form.  And maybe that’s what I’m actually working on.  I’m working towards finding a seamless transition from the nonsense I have inside to a work of art in the world.  And maybe if I keep at it, at some point, I’ll capture some real beauty.

Ok, so Bruce Lee is right and maybe he wouldn’t be afraid of me.  Unless he fears beauty…Then maybe…No, Bruce Lee would never be afraid of me.

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3 thoughts on “Questioning the Timeless Wisdom of Bruce Lee?

  1. I argued with a beautiful south american woman about the ‘artist’. She said a good artist was someone with a unique/insightful vision who was capable of capturing skillfully/craftily that vision in some form of medium: painting, music, dance, etc. To draw parallels to your talk of Lennon/McCartney I would say that McCartney was a musician, that was his calling. Where as Lennon was an artist. If the guy didn’t do music he would have painted. And if he didn’t paint he would have wrote verse. Yet I still take it one further step. It seems to me, the fact that you think so much about these things, and explore so many avenues is because you are an artist. I would argue that even if you do not master a craft, even if you are terrible at every craft, it is your mindset and inquisitive and reflective mind that make you an artist. Simply living a life is an act of art. The Guggenheim may not do a retrospective on your life’s work, but Hey, who the fuck are they?

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  2. This is a well written point. Bruce lee wrote quite a lot about beauty and the self expression through the bodies movement, but for reasons I have not quite understood, that part gets left out. Maybe because you can throw a kick 1000 times and it will be hard but its still may lack style. If there is an island of expert ninjas, all deadly, its the one who can murder like Grace Kelly dances in the rain, that is the cool guy of ninja island.

    Fundamental craft seems to be less and less of a standard for any artist. A well ground out understanding of the chosen craft and also a self expression that draws out, with authority, the desire of the on looker to maybe shake a leg. To participate in what is beautiful is a humdinger

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