“Be Water, My Friend,” ~ Bruce Lee 李小龙

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“Be water, my friend,” Bruce Lee 李小龙

On this day, 47 years ago (1973) Bruce Lee died. I was 14 years old, and the world stopped for me.

He read widely, practised yoga and meditation, was amazingly disciplined and deeply philosophical. To this day, I ‘summon’ his spirit, when I have a difficult yoga pose to do.

According to Bruce Lee, life is in constant change, and unless we learn to adapt to it, we’re bound to meet resistance. Bruce Lee likened the person who has learned to embrace change to water (Lao Tzu 老子).

One of my favourite Bruce Lee’s quote is “Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in 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.” 💦

I find this water metaphor highly relevant in the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world. My mental model of a business is that of a river flowing towards its destination, we need to understand the terrain, and pave the way for the water to flow. There will be many obstacles, rocks and hills but the water will go around them. We no longer need to be too wedded to road maps, KPIs and milestones. We must make sure there the slope is in the right direction.