Be Like Water: Bruce Lee’s 3 Quotes for living a Limitless Life

by Joe Barnes


Mind Set


Date: Apr 23, 2014

Be Like Water: Bruce Lee’s 3 Quotes for living a Limitless Life

Bruce Lee personified all it means to Screw the System. Martial artist, movie star, teacher, visionary and self-made man, his was a truly extraordinary life. However, it’s not just his movies that he’s remembered for. He also gave the world some of the most insightful quotes about realising your dreams and potential. 

If I had to sum up his life and philosophy in a single word, the one I’d choose is ‘limitless.’ He couldn’t be confined by any notion of what was or wasn’t possible. Whether it was what he could do with his body or the outrageous dreams he had for spreading his art form through movies, he never saw any limits.

This is a place every person reading this blog should aim to be. Limitless Living’ is a motto for us all. However, getting there is not always easy. Presently, you may feel limited by the ‘necessity’ of earning money and the time this detracts from building your dream, a lack of contacts or experience, a health complaint that drains you of energy, personal hang ups, your age (believing you’re too young or too old to do something) or even just bad luck.

However, right now, it’s time to leave all that behind!


QUOTE 1: Don’t Limit Yourself 

“If you always put limits 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.”

Clearly, we had to start with this one. There are so many people talking about living a limitless life, yet so few who know what it really means.

Our limitations usually come from one of two sources. They’re either imposed on us by the system or created in our mind as a response to past failure or defeats.

The first – system limitations – are everywhere. Whether they come from the government, media, parents, friends, colleagues, bosses or religious figures, we hear and see them all the time.

‘Only the exceptionally talented or lucky get to live an exciting life.’ 

‘It’s not possible to be happy all the time.’

‘Don’t aim too high because you don’t want to get disappointed in the likely event that you’ll fail.’  

Messages like these are rife in our society. And guess what? If you hear them enough, you may start to believe them. 

Personal limitations are just as damaging as the ones created by the system. They seep into our subconscious from childhood and are usually based on erroneous assumptions from past experiences and failures about what we can and can’t do. For example, a harrowing school experience of speaking in front of the class may then develop into a limiting belief that the individual is hopeless at public speaking and presentations. 

Most people have their share of limitations like these and they can be based around anything – an inability to sleep, the belief that they’ll always be overweight or the notion that they can do well but never excel.

Whatever form your personal and system based limitations take, YOU MUST NOT ACCEPT THEM. Nothing will do more to shrink the horizons of your life. Instead, use Bruce Lee as an example of what IS possible. He had every reason to believe in limits and was told on a daily basis that his dream for Hollywood success would never happen. His struggle to break into the film industry was legendary as he went from bit parts, to TV series, to travelling back to Hong Kong to make his name, to finally making it in Hollywood. 

The problem was that he was a Chinese American wanting to make films about a fighting style that western audiences had never heard of. In short, the system said it wasn’t possible.

Did he listen though?

No, and herein lies the lesson.

Our limits aren’t real. They are simply a figment of our imagination. Humanity is ALWAYS evolving, getting faster, stronger, inventing new ways of making life easier and more enjoyable and finding ways to heal and regenerate our body. What was impossible yesterday, a child can do today.

It’s so important to remember this because if you accept limitations then you’re fighting against the flow of life.

So give yourself a chance and COMPLETELY IGNORE everything the system and your subconscious says you can’t do!  


QUOTE 2: Repetition is the Key

“I fear not the man who has practised 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practised 1 kick 10,000 times.”

Success principles aren’t complicated. We just tend to get awed by the masters and think there must be some secret they know that nobody else is aware of. There isn’t though. In fact, it’s all a bit mundane.

Repetition, repetition, repetition is the key and once you’ve done it 10,000 times, you have to do it 10,000 more. 

There is one caveat though. Make sure what you’re doing is efficient and effective. There’s no point in repeating a skill 10,000 times if you’re doing it incorrectly. Of course, efficiency and effectiveness grow the more you practise, but it’s worth consulting books, experts and on line sources to make sure you’re on the right track.  

Bruce Lee epitomised the 10,000 kick rule. He was known for training 4 hours daily on top of a hectic filming, writing and instructing schedule. Arnold Schwarzenegger also talks about the importance of repetition in his book Total Recall, ‘Whether you’re doing a bicep curl in a chilly gym or talking to world leaders, there are no shortcuts – everything is reps, reps, reps.’ 

Could both of these greats be onto something? I certainly believe so. My work as a tennis coach has confirmed to me that it’s not the most talented kids, or the richest, or the ones with access to the best facilities that succeed. It’s the ones who are obsessed enough to put in those 10,000 hours.  

You’ll need to remember this when training to become a champion in your field. The time it takes is huge. Get distracted, or focus too heavily on paying the bills, and your dream will remain forever out of reach. 


Quote 3: Master your Mind

‘What you habitually think largely determines what you will ultimately become.’

Not many people know this, but Bruce Lee was a huge personal development fan. A particular favourite of his was Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich and he was absolutely convinced by the mind’s ability to make a dream come true.

So much so, that he followed Napoleon Hill’s instructions to the letter and wrote out and repeated daily his Definite Chief Aim (DCA). As taken from Bruce Thomas’s biography on Lee, Fighting Spirit, it went like this,

‘I, Bruce Lee, will be the first highest paid Oriental superstar in the United States. In return I will give the most exciting performances and render the best quality in the capacity of an actor. Starting 1970, I will achieve world fame and from then onwards till the end of 1980 I will have in my possession $10,000,000. I will live the way I please and achieve inner harmony and happiness.’

At the time of writing this, Lee was suffering from a crippling back injury, unable to train, struggling to make payments on his house and facing rejection after rejection for film ideas. However, Thomas’s book recalls that the definiteness of purpose this DCA created transfused Lee with an energy that literally got him up off the couch and into our cinema screens.

You’d do well to follow Lee’s example. It’s been repeated again and again, but a wavering mind will sabotage any attempts at success. Instead, you must take control of your thoughts and channel them in the direction you want to go. Even if you’re not as clear on your goals as Lee, a firm conviction that you WILL find a path is enough. 

The problems begin when you start to go backwards and forwards on ideas and dreams, committing one minute and then retreating to the false security of your old life the next. This has to stop. Right now, make up your mind that you will live the greater life you crave and discipline your mind into accepting it as the truth.


Over to You . . . 

Do you know anyone who puts limits on their life? Do them (and me) a favour by emailing them this post.

And finally, I want to hear from YOU. Leave a comment in the section below on your favourite Bruce Lee (or any other inspirational figure) quote and the impact it’s had on you. 


 (Image taken from Lexinatrix photostream