Practical Principles

— Inspired by the teachings of Bruce Lee

Lee Jun-fan (Chinese: 李振藩; November 27, 1940 — July 20, 1973)


Although, some of Bruce Lee’s quotes are derivatives of former philosophers, if you think about it, most great leader’s quote’s are inspired by others and adapted to their own field. As T.S. Eliot says:

“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different”.

Personally, I have not mastered thinking like Bruce. They are quotes which help with having a more positive yet realistic outlook on life.

In tribute to Bruce Lee here’s some more quotes by one of the most brilliant philosophers of our time.

I hope these words help you as much as it has helped me…

  • To master something isn’t a once off thing. It requires dedication and regular application/training/exercise. Be it Martial Arts or Fine Arts, anything. Practice makes perfect.

  • Apply this in meetings, collaboration & especially user testing. Be humble, be open to learn. Listen to seek truth, don’t wait for your turn to speak. Listen to your users and team, YOU DO NOT KNOW everything, be open and ask the right questions.
  • Yes, I know this contradicts Nielsen Group “First Rule of Usability? Don’t Listen to Users”…What I mean though is that although what users say and do differs, you can still learn more from them by listening without judgement and listening carefully before you decide whether anything they’ve said has contributed to disproving or proving your hypotheses. Watch them in action. Observe and be aware. When you observe with preconceived ideas, you’re closing yourself off from valuable insights, as your judgements will cloud your view. And you’ll only listen out for that which supports your ideas.

  • When choosing a team…find those who believe in your dream, your company. Find people who have the same values and goals as you do. Collaborate to accelerate with people who will compliment each others skill sets, share knowledge and push each other to grow.
  • You don’t always need people who agree with you to grow, but you do need to share the same vision. And have mutual respect for each other. And to trust in their abilities. You can learn more through healthy debate from those who think differently, but who have similar motives and ideals and values.

Not being tense but ready.
Not thinking but not dreaming.
Not being set but flexible.
Liberation from the uneasy sense of confinement.
It is being wholly and quietly alive, aware and alert, ready for whatever may come.

  • Success is when preparation meets opportunity. Know when to pivot and when to persevere…Be flexible. Don’t get stuck on one solution, always prepare for change and be ready to adapt. Accept that the only constant is change. I won’t go as far as saying don’t think or don’t dream. But I believe Bruce Lee was trying to make you realise that when you let go of all that you are attached to, like thoughts and ideas, you will be alert and open to new thoughts and ideas or dreams.

  • On social entrepreneurship/starting a business…you have that great idea, it’s time to make it happen. Stop this passive activism. We all have the ability and power to create a better tomorrow, starting now.
  • Personally, a lot of what I’ve learnt is in books. The real learning however is when theory is applied in practice. So I agree whole-heartedly with the above quote.

  • how to argue with business or with developers when they tell you, it can’t be done :)
  • on problem solving — there are no limits to what can be fixed. With the right motives, the best solution and the necessary skills, nothing is unsolvable.

  • Define your problem statement. Create solution/prototype. Experiment and test your assumptions, fail/learn to validate or disprove your solution. Repeat. Don’t assume you’ll know how it will end. The goal should be to seek truth in what users want, not to reaffirm only your truth/reality.

“Empty your cup so that it may be filled; become devoid to gain totality.”

  • Don’t assume you know everything. Start with your hypotheses, build, measure, test, analyse, learn. Don’t start in solution mode, rather explore many possible solutions. Be open.
  • The only way to really understand a problem is to remove judgement and to look at it with fresh eyes. To put yourself in anothers shoes and truly empathise, you need to feel the way they feel. Once you understand their problem, you can easily find solutions to resolve it.

“Take things as they are. Punch when you have to punch, kick when you have to kick.”

  • How to deal with bad clients :) That’s a joke.
  • Know when to listen, know when to fight for your ideas. Ensure you have done all your research, in preparation for justifying not just the how, but the why! Why is this idea better? Can you validate it. Always be tactful.

“Time means a lot to me because you see I am also a learner and am often lost in the joy of forever developing.”

  • The right attitude for anything.

“Flow in the living moment. — We are always in a process of becoming and nothing is fixed. Have no rigid system in you, and you’ll be flexible to change with the ever changing. Open yourself and flow, my friend. Flow in the total openness of the living moment. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond like an echo.”

  • Defining yourself as one thing limits you. You will be bound by the stereotype of that role. And you will begin to view the world only through one lens, in turn you will become uncompromising, rigid, fixed and you will be a really crappy person to collaborate with. Your capability for empathy will be diluted. We don’t have all the answers and we don’t know everything. This does not mean we can’t be resolute or stand firm in our beliefs, but it must be tested/proved. But in product design, especially when there are many conflicting ideas/assumptions, best for all to be present to experiment, validate, learn and repeat in an open, flexible manner.

Ideation to prototyping : problem-solving process from “Sprint” [ Written by Jake Knapp ]

“I am learning to understand rather than immediately judge or to be judged. I cannot blindly follow the crowd and accept their approach. I will not allow myself to indulge in the usual manipulating game of role creation. Fortunately for me, my self-knowledge has transcended that and I have come to understand that life is best to be lived and not to be conceptualized. I am happy because I am growing daily and I am honestly not knowing where the limit lies. To be certain, every day there can be a revelation or a new discovery. I treasure the memory of the past misfortunes. It has added more to my bank of fortitude.”

  • A way of life…I just love Bruce Lee…[ I hope you understand by now ]
  • Aim to understand before making assumptions. 80% of your work should be research — interviewing users, experts…getting all the facts before you move to solutions. The research phase is where the inspiration will come then move to ideation & iteration. Measuring progress first by failures and learnings and social impact instead of only by ROI. This ensures that you are able to make new discoveries daily. This is of far greater value than any financial factor.

  • Human Centred Design / Design Thinking / Social Entrepreneurship

“The second-hand artist blindly following his sensei or sifu accepts his pattern. As a result, his action is and , more importantly, his thinking become mechanical. His responses become automatic, according to set patterns, making him narrow and limited.”

  • Always ask WHY? Don’t just accept. Question everything.
  • Similar to Mark Twain’s quote: “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect” — This is another important insight from the above quote. If you view the world in this way, you leave yourself open to new ideas. Instead of being just like everyone else.

“Art is the way to the absolute and to the essence of human life. The aim of art is not the one-sided promotion of spirit, soul and senses, but the opening of all human capacities — thought, feeling, will — to the life rhythm of the world of nature. So will the voiceless voice be heard and the self be brought into harmony with it.”

  • Creativity & Social Entrepreneurship [ To create not for self indulgence, but with the purpose of advancing or empowering others ] ; or with the purpose to inspire change through the medium best suited for greater impact. With the aim of opening all human capacity externally for others.

“Showing off is the fool’s idea of glory.”

  • On modern society — Facebook [ the selfie generation ]

“The More we value things, the less we value ourselves”

  • on modern society — the world is made of 2 types of people…Consumers and Creators…you can choose at any moment which one of these fulfills your life. I can assure you it’s not the first.

“Real living is living for others.”

  • Social Entrepreneurship, Human Centered Design

“Obey the principles without being bound by them.”

  • On design principles…know the rules, then adapt them to suit your project. Not all methods work for all projects. Know when to break them…use what works, create your own method…don’t be a robot.
  • On business & value — don’t focus only on ROI [ instead seek to first create value, deliver & then capture it]

  • Not every bit of space is to be filled up. White space is there for a reason. Not every feature needs to be in your product in order to function. Start with the essentials. Hack away at the unessential in work and in your life. #MVP

I’ve saved the best for last…

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