Bruce Lee on Glory, Defeat, and the Art of Dying

Bruce Lee on Glory, Defeat, and the Art of Dying September 24, 2022

Bruce Lee’s genius truly inspires me. I’ve written on his Jeet Kune Do which goes way beyond a martial arts style to a life philosophy and epistemology – finding a style without a style and being open-minded to what works – often summated by his famous urging to “absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own.”

For Lee, “success is a journey, not a destination” and “success means doing something sincerely and wholeheartedly.” The depth of his philosophy is evident when we further examine his definitions of success, failure, and growth. The ultimate tragedy is low effort, not failure:

“Don’t fear failure. — Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.”

Defeat, he believes, is a “state of mind”:

To me, defeat in anything is merely temporary, and its punishment is but an urge for me to exert greater effort to achieve my goal. Defeat simply tells me that something is wrong in my doing; it is a path leading to success and truth.

Failure, with the right mindset, is truly an opportunity:

“When I have listened to my mistakes, I have grown”.

This sounds eerily familiar to what I penned on Mandela’s Stoic wisdom on losing as learning and his thought provoking positions that I never lose. I either win or learnand “the greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

Defeat, then, if given full effort is glorious, as it’s part of the journey.

“Like everyone else, you want to learn the way to win, but never to accept the way to lose, to accept defeat, to learn to die is to be liberated from it. So when tomorrow comes, you must free your ambitious mind, and learn the art of dying.”

We truly don’t lose if we give our all and allow ourselves to learn. In the art of dying to previous ideas, attempts, and campaigns – we are growing, evolving, and stronger – we are on the journey to glory. In this journey, with this mindset, there is no defeat.

Photo by Yaopey Yong on Unsplash


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