The Dude Abides: 5 Life Lessons from Jeff Bridges

The Dude Abides: 5 Life Lessons from Jeff Bridges April 6, 2023

Jeff Bridges
Jeff Bridges, The Big Lebowski, courtesy Grammercy Pictures.

We just passed the 25th anniversary of the release of one of my all-time favorite movies, The Big Lebowski. The lead character is a guy named Jeffrey “The Dude” Lebowski and is played by the actor Jeff Bridges. It’s a crazy story of mistaken identity and the mayhem that ensues once The Dude tries to clear his name—and get his precious soiled rug replaced.

While Bridges has acted in dozens of roles over his storied career and won a Best Actor Academy Award for Crazy Heart, this may be the part he is most associated with. He was so convincing as a live-and-let-live philosopher/stoner that The Dude seemed to be an extension of Bridges himself. And in some ways, it was.

Bridges truly is a chill dude and a few years ago, he added to the legacy of this now iconic character by putting out a book titled The Dude and the Zen Master. It’s co-written with his good friend Zen Master Bernie Glassman, and it’s written as a dialogue between the two men.

Like two veteran jazz musicians, Bridges and Glassman jam on a variety of subjects. They offer keen insights on everything from the reasons we’re here on this planet, to the ups and downs of personal relationships, to overcoming the inevitable bumps on the road of life.

I’ve compiled five of my favorite passages from The Dude and the Zen Master and provided some color commentary. As a guide, the quotes that start with “J” are from Jeff Bridges, while those starting with “B” are from Bernie Glassman.

5 Life Lessons from Jeff Bridges

#1. The answers are closer than you think.

You need to look within yourself to find many of the answers that you need, including the big ones like your purpose in life. It’s all within us. These two wise men have a similar point-of-view.

B: What we’re really looking for—the meaning of life, happiness, peace—is right here. The question is no longer, how do I get from here to there? The question is: How do I get from here to here.

J: People talk about being seekers, searching for meaning, happiness, whatever. I think of myself as a finder, because I find all these things right around me.

B: We think that what we’re looking for is somewhere over the rainbow, till we realize that it’s all just this.


#2. Live in this moment, not the next one.

Our minds can sometimes find a way to hijack our thoughts from the present. This can cause us to dwell on a past event or to start anticipating a future one, thinking about what’s next and not what’s in front of us. To combat this, Jeff has some simple advice.

J: Be here in this moment. Don’t torture yourself with all the shit that has to be accomplished.

#3. Loving others starts with loving yourself.

You’ve heard the Golden Rule “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12). But the rule works both ways. Bridges addresses this issue in two different passages in the book.

J: There are a number of spiritual traditions that say you should treat the other person as God, or divine. Turning that around, you should treat yourself the same way.

J: I notice that when I’m generous, accepting, and loving toward myself, all that’s reflected out into the world. The more I cut myself slack, the more I don’t judge myself for not being other than I am. The more I’m aware of who I am, see it, honor it, and respect it, the more I do all these things for others.

#4. Sometimes you’ve got to go with your gut.

If you’ve ever had to make a really important decision, you know how agonizing it can be to sort out the pros and cons. I’ve always found it best to soak up all the information you can, for as long as you can, and then go with your gut. Here’s what Bridges and Glassman think:

J: If you’re going to wait to get all the information you think you need before you act, you’ll never act because there’s an infinite amount of information out there.

B: Have faith that the right thing to do will naturally arise.


#5. If you want to grow something, go slow.

In our instant-gratification society, the tendency is to rush things and go for the gusto immediately. But anything worth doing or having, is also worthy of your time and commitment. Whether it’s love or a new hobby, be in it for the long haul. As Jeff puts it:

J: Sometimes I feel you’re out there pulling on the grass to make it grow faster…the things that I really want to nurture are slow-growing; they need space and time so that they can flower and mature.

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