“He who wants to succeed should learn how to fight, to strive and to suffer. You can acquire a lot in life, if you are prepared to give up a lot to get it.” – Bruce Lee
This week Bruce Lee made his HD debut on EA Sports UFC as a pre-order bonus—or, if you beat the game on Professional Difficulty, as an unlockable. The results, thankfully, are impressive. The developers have Bruce’s face and body structure down, but more importantly, they’ve captured his little mannerisms—the nervous tic where he rubs his nose, the stance when he lets loose with a signature punch or kick, and the scowl on his face when he approaches the Octagon.
UFC fighters, in their promotions of the game, have fallen over themselves to praise Bruce Lee. They speak reverently of him—he’s a childhood hero, an inspiration for how to lead one’s life, a warrior that all other fighters should aspire to. Dana White refers to him as the founder of mixed martial arts, and although this claim smacks of hyperbole, it has some merit. Bruce was someone who valued practicality over form—he disliked the traditional arts’ reliance on stances, believing that these things were too stiff, and thus, predictable. Instead, Bruce believed in Jeet Kune Do—the “Way of the Intercepting Fist.” It was a philosophy that encouraged formlessness—what was flexible and applicable in a ‘real life’ situation.
Why does Bruce continue to inspire us, over 40 years after his death? Imitators and heirs to the throne have come and gone, but no one has captured the public’s love, loyalty, or imagination in quite the same way. Every new martial arts actor, from Jackie Chan to Jet Li to Tony Jaa, is referred to as ‘the next Bruce Lee.’ Even in our quest to escape him, we still return to him, as the unreachable standard by which all others must be measured.
There’s a few reasons why Bruce Lee has endured, and they combine to create the legend we know today. There is, of course, his legendary athleticism and fitness. We’ve all heard those hyperbolic ‘Chuck Norris jokes,’ but Bruce Lee, scarily enough, was the real deal. From his two-finger pushups to his 1-inch punches, his physical abilities belied his actual size. He was only 5’7″ and 135 lbs—even physically, he was a model of economy and efficiency.
And of course, there was the pure lethality of his persona. Compare Bruce to his fellow action compatriots—most Hollywood fights are intricate, choreographed ordeals, with hundreds of punches, kicks, and counterattacks. Fights can last for twenty minutes or more, and the outcome can shift several times over their course. Bruce, on the other hand, extended his philosophy of efficiency to the fight scenes themselves. There were no wasted movements—every action was consequential. Take, for example, the O’Hara fight in Enter The Dragon. Bruce Lee decimated his opponent with 12 painful-looking, brutal moves. This was not a man to be playfully sparred with—this was a man to be feared.
As an Asian-American kid growing up in the suburbs, I was drawn to Bruce Lee. To many of us Asian boys, Bruce was more than a good fighter. He was a symbol of masculinity—he was an ethnically Asian male role model in a Western society where so few existed, before or since.
The Asian-American male undergoes a systemic humiliation in America, and it’s not always explicit. After all, the positive stereotype of the Asian male is that of an intelligent, bookish math nerd. Being considered smart is better than being considered stupid. There are, however, negative implications to this.
Acceptance of positive stereotypes is an implicit acceptance of negative stereotypes—although we Asian men are considered book smart, we are also said to lack passion, emotion, and raw sexuality. Our penises are rumored to be small, our social interactions are perceived as awkward, and any sexual interactions we do have must be bizarre or creepy. In the same way that black men are hyper-masculinized (and thus, are perceived as violent and threatening), Asian men are hyper-feminized (and thus, are perceived as no threat at all).
Is there a basis of truth to these stereotypes? My parents raised me to believe in the value of hard work above all else, including my social life, and that the key to success in this country was to study hard and get the best grades possible. I later learned (thankfully, in time) that hard work alone would make one an assistant to the leader, but never the leader himself. Success in America meant networking, socializing, and knowing the right people, in addition to working hard. It also meant assertiveness—that at some point, you had to fight back, protest, and disagree with those around you to earn respect. Our parents did the best with what they knew, but the result—a generation of young, Asian-Americans which, by and large, is politically disengaged and much too passive—is unfortunate.
Bruce Lee rectified the ‘deficiencies’ that America saddles upon Asian men. Physically, Bruce was classically handsome, and he exuded virile sexuality. He was all greased muscle and sinew—a coiled panther, ready to pounce. Bruce had several romantic scenes in his films, and that, by itself, was incredible to see. Bruce was a ‘desirable’ Asian man, and in a society where Asian men are considered eunuchs, this is a welcome change of pace.
Bruce was also an ‘angry’ Asian man. Although he came from an ethnic heritage that valued unity and the importance of immersion, Bruce knew how to scream, and holler, and challenge those who did him wrong. He was ‘Asian-American,’ in the truest, hybrid sense of the phrase. The film The Chinese Connection stirs the blood of any Asian man who watches it. Here, we see a liberated Chinese man who doesn’t take insults from anyone—a man who is real, and emotional, and uncompromising in his righteous anger. It was this unhinged emotion, this ability to cry manly tears, that thrilled us so. Not everything had to be calculated, and measured, and inscrutable—not everything had to be intelligent.
Sometimes, you just want to get mad and scream. I think of Bruce in my worst moments—when I am discriminated against, when I am underestimated, when I am wronged. I think of Bruce when I speak up for myself against my better interests—when standing out is more important than blending in. I think of Bruce when my sense of justice trumps my passivity. Bruce is the ‘id’ that whispers in my ear—that bigots treat me with disrespect, because they think they can. They think I’ll be passive, but I have a voice. I can use it to affect change. I can scream.
In his eulogy to Malcolm X, Ossie Davis referred to Malcolm as “our own black shining prince.” For Asian men, Bruce fulfills the same role—our own Asian shining prince, who told us to be vocal, proud, and outspoken for who we were, and for everything we could be.
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Global leader and mind-body medicine pioneer Dr. Deepak Chopra has transformed how the world perceives health, wellness, spirituality, and challenge. So it wasn’t a surprise to learn that the author of 75 books (22 New York Times bestsellers!), had plans to address and inspire older adults to redefine age and maximize their lives spiritually, psychologically, and physically. In collaboration with the popular lifestyle website and community Grandparents.com, Chopra recently launched Timeless You: The Biology of Youth & The Wisdom of Experience, a six-part interactive online course for the 45+ audience. Its mission: to help baby boomers boost their wellness and positively influence their biological age. Deepak Chopra recently met with me to discuss this enlightening program and to share details with Parade.com and my podcast audiences. You can listen to our conversation here or on iTunes.
“We are in a new phase with technology,” notes Chopra. “With online programs you can create interactivity and get people involved so that actually, as they’re participating in this program, which is called Timeless You, just the participation in the program will be influencing their biological age.”
Most will agree that the aging process isn’t universal. Being 40, 50, 60, and 70+ years of age doesn’t look or feel the same for everyone.
Says Chopra, “We now know, of course, that human aging, unlike the aging of other animals, is very flexible. You can have a person who is 40 and physically, mentally, emotionally burned out and their biological age could be 60 or even more. On the other hand, you could have somebody who’s 60 and they’re physically, mentally, spiritually fit, and their biological age could be 40.”
The good news is that perceptions have the ability to positively influence your biological age. Chopra himself may be the best testimony for that. Having recently been tested, the 66-year-old wellness guru happily confessed, “I’m like 40 years or less biologically—according to the metabolic rate.” And it shows.
Chopra’s six-part program, which can be done at your own pace and include one or all of the parts, features video instruction and interactive polls, quizzes, and games addressing perceptions (course 1), creativity and brain power (course 2), healthy relationships (course 3), the mind-body connection (course 4), mindful eating (course 5), and joyful exercise (course 6).
Does Deepak Chopra anticipate a ripple effect across generations by focusing on grandparents? He’s pretty confident about that. “I think there’s going to be a huge, positive ripple effect, but also I think, because again of the technology, you could have communities of well-being—communities of grandparents who share their experiences. There’s nothing that inspires people more than to understand and know that there are other people who are doing the same thing.” Adds Chopra, “I think grandparents will be creating their own communities here (on Grandparents.com) [and] their own social networks. And not only is the course going to help them, but their interaction with each other is going to help them.”
Find out more about the Timeless You online program here.
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Bruce Lee is one of history’s most productive people, which is pretty amazing considering he died at 32 years old. He was not only an action film star and martial artist, but also an instructor, screenwriter, director, and philosopher. Here’s just a small bit of what we can learn from him.
Get Rid of the Unessential
Bruce Lee created Jeet Kune Do as a system of martial arts and philosophy. The basic philosophy of this system was to reduce movement and thought to just the essential actions.
In Lee’s words, it’s to “Hack away at the unessential” because “the height of cultivation always runs on simplicity.”
Lee constantly talked about efficiency, directness, and simplicity as being the “economy of motion.” In his martial arts, it was about reaching the target as quickly as possible with maximum force-or to put it another way-doing it quickly, correctly, and without a lot effort.
From a productivity point of view this is one of the basic ideas Lifehacker is founded on. Lee talked a lot about what we talk about in simplicity, focusing on the essential, and minimalism. The easiest way to make something simple? Get rid of every extraneous parts until it’s just what you need. This isn’t just about what you already have either-Lee was fond of telling people to absorb what they found useful and discard everything else-which in a roundabout way is a good practice productivity systems, clutter, and life advice in general.
Pay Attention to How You Interact with Others
With any type of martial art, you need to pay attention to not only yourself, but what people are doing around you. For Lee, this awareness was a foundation for looking at yourself:
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.
The idea that you should pay attention to how you interact with others isn’t just about martial arts, of course. It’s about all types of communication. From the office to your relationships, having the ability to study yourself and how you communicate will make you better at it than someone who only looks at themselves.
Balance Your “Thinking Time” and Your “Doing Time”
Depending on the type of person you are, it’s often easy to go overboard with your preparation time or how much time you spend on actually doing a project. Of course, you can’t do one without the other, and Lee recommends a very careful balance between thoughts and action:
When our mind is tranquil, there will be an occasional pause to its feverish activities, there will be a let-go, and it is only then in the interval between two thoughts that a flash of UNDERSTANDING – understanding, which is not thought – can take place… Balance your thoughts with action. – If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.
We’ve talked plenty about the idea of thinking time in all forms, but it’s incredibly easy to get lost in that rabbit hole of preparation and forget to move yourself toward action. Thankfully, getting started is all it takes sometimes.
One of Lee’s main goals with Jeet Kun Do was to create a system that could adapt to situations and people. To a point, this was about fluidity. Lee thought that we should all be able to function in any situation we’re thrown in and that awareness of is about being able to adapt:
Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. That water can flow, or it can crash. Be water my friend.
Lee’s main point here, and with a lot of his ways for living, is that we need to remain flexible as often as possible. That means adapting to situations at work and in life. It’s also important tocultivate knowledge and try to see from another point of view so you can react to situations. For a lot of us, this is really about training ourselves so we’re more aware of our surroundings.
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