Bruce Lee – Be Formless, Be Water


Bruce Lee, the most famous martial artist in the world said …

“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, it becomes the bottle.

You put it into a teapot, it becomes the teapot.

Water can flow, and it can crash.

Be like water, my friend…”

This is the famous philosophy Bruce Lee. According to him, there is no set technique, there is no fixed form or system that must be followed in combat. If the opponent expands, Bruce Lee contracts. If the opponent contracts, he expands.

Personally, I think Bruce Lee’s philosophy should be applied not just to martial arts, but to everything we do in life. There is no fixed way to live life. There are no set of rules to follow for a perfect life. It is not necessary to live life the exactly way that somebody tells us to.

“In Jeet Kune Do, it’s not how much you have learned, but how much you have absorbed from what you have learned. It is not how much fixed knowledge you can accumulate, but what you can apply livingly that counts. ‘Being’ is more valued than ‘doing’.”

Jeet Kune Do was Bruce Lee’s martial art. The above quote is the philosophy of Jeet Kune Do. It rejects all restrictions imposed by form and formality and emphasizes the clever use of the mind and body to defend and to attack.  Bruce Lee’s One Inch Punch (see Youtube) is an example of this.  Changing the game, pushing the possible further all the time.

The more rigid, fixed and set in your ways you are, the more vulnerable you are to getting taken down or knocked out. Just as this applies to martial arts, this applies equally to life. If you are not flexible or unable to adapt to new situations, you get left behind.

The only constant is change

The first time I heard this, it didn’t make sense to me. After thinking about it a little more, it is the most true thing in the world. Everything constantly changes (although many principles remain the same). You start as a helpless little baby, grow into a child, then into a young adult, then an adult, and finally become old and finish your journey on this planet. Friends come and go, problems come and go, good times come and go.

There will be periods in your life that are really good and that you never want to end. Sometimes they do end. For some people this is detrimental, and they spend the rest of their lives living in a shadow of themselves because they cannot get over the fact that that good time ended.

Personally I have adopted the philosophy that everything is temporary. Every moment I do something, could be the last time that I do something. It gives a much greater appreciation for life. This way, I do (almost) everything with much greater passion and interest.

Of course there are things that I do not want to end. In fact there are things I will fight for to remain the same and do everything I can to keep them the way they are (things like friendships and family). Up until I have no control over it anymore.

“Accept the things you cannot change, and change the things you cannot accept.”

If something happens that you have absolutely no control over, and it cannot be changed, you have to make peace with it. There is no sense in wasting your life wishing it will change, or that you could go back in time. We make decisions and don’t look back. That is life. Be thankful for the times that we had what we wanted, and if the time has come for it to end, have a sense of peace about it.

When we accept what we cannot change, we are water. We take the shape of the container we are placed in. We adapt and are ready to live life in the best way we can position ourselves in. This may not always be what we want, but sometimes we cannot choose the container we are placed in.

As for things that we have the power to change, that is exactly what we must do. Even if it will take enormous amounts of hard work and effort, if we cannot accept it, then we must change it. This can be things like your financial independence, your friends, your girlfriend, your freedom. If you are in a situation that you are not happy with you need to do everything in your power to change it. Don’t give up until you get to where you want to be.

“Do not deny the classical approach, simply as a reaction, or you will have created another pattern and trapped yourself there.”

This is very important. In the self improvement and personal development niche, many people speak about breaking away from social conditioning. Freeing yourself from the 9-5 wage slave. The thing is, if you do this just because these people tell you to, then you are not changing at all. You are just changing masters, but you are still a slave.

The whole idea behind what we (bloggers about self improvement) write about, is to get you to be truly free. To think for yourself and find out what YOU want with your life. To find your passions and dreams, follow them, and turn them into reality.

Be formless…be water, my friend.  Bruce Lee unlocked his passion and formed his reality, you can too.

Have a Rockin’ day


  • Diggy

    Thank you!

  • ELI

    wow- i LOVE this article:)) Be formless, be water..EXACTLY!

    great stuff xxx

  • Rocky | R O C K O N O V A.COM

    “Accept the things you cannot change, and change the things you cannot accept.”

    Bruce Lee has definitely been one of my biggest heroes and the water metaphor has been one of my favorites. It makes sense to just be. =)

    Thanks for the article, Diggy !
    .-= Rocky | R O C K O N O V A.COM´s last blog ..How To Use Your Words To Change Your World =-.

    • Diggy –

      Hey Rocky!
      Welcome to Upgrade Reality! Glad to have you as a reader :)

      THanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  • Vincent

    Hey Diggy! I love the quote by Bruce Lee on being shapeless and be like water. Now that I look back at it, I think we can really apply this into our life. There are no fix set of ways to do things and there are alternatives that we can choose to accomplish the same goal. It is also just like making money online. There are lots of methods such as using PPC, article marketing or blogging to earn money, but we need to find the “shape” that suits us best and plays our strength in order to earn the money.

    .-= Vincent´s last blog ..Interview #2: Interview With Celestine Chua From =-.

    • Diggy –

      Hey Vincent!

      Yeah it is a great way of looking at life. The more flexible we are, the easier it will be for us to find a niche that we can become successful in. Instead of being rigid and forcing our view on the world, rather shape our view to reality.


  • Mohankumar

    Hi Diggy,

    Awesome post. I feel energetic when reading your blog posts. In this one, the quote from Bruce Lee is thoughtful. I am going to apply this in my life.

    Thanks a lot.

    • Diggy –

      Hey Mohan!

      Welcome to Upgradereality :) Glad to have you as a reader!

      Nice to hear you enjoyed the post!
      Have a great day! :)

  • Adventures of The Fearless | Jon

    Bruce was a true free spirit. I grew up on his movies. Enjoyed his philosophy on life, there is much to be learned from him

    • Diggy –

      Hey Jon!

      Thanks for stopping by! Glad to have you as a reader!


    The whole idea behind what we (bloggers about self improvement) write about, is to get you to be truly free. To think for yourself and find out what YOU want with your life. To find your passions and dreams, follow them, and turn them into reality.

    Truely excellent. If I could help people fight like Bruce Lee that would also be a bonus.
    .-= JONNY

    • Diggy –

      Hey Jonny!

      It would be awesome to have Bruce Lee skills. It took him many years of hard and intense training, martial arts were his life. That is what he wanted to excel at and he achieved his goals.

      Thanks for stopping by :)

  • Tom Harvey

    Nice post Diggy. You seems to have a good understanding of the philosophy behind art. You don’t borrow techniques from others and piece them together. You develop a deep understanding of the fundamental laws that govern us and through this understanding you become formless and unbound.

    Again enjoyed reading your post.
    .-= Tom Harvey´s last blog ..Training with the Single Focus Mitt =-.

    • Diggy –

      Hey Tom!

      Welcome to Upgradereality! Glad to have you as a reader!

      I still have much to learn about life and the best way to live it. I enjoy reading and writing about it though!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      • Tom Harvey

        As do we all my friend.

  • Char (PSI Tutor:Menor)

    seems Bruce was a reader of Sun Tzu; be like water and flow to where the other is not.

    my friends, especially male, find me like water; elusive, calm, refreshing and able to wear down stone with my patient ever flowin’ attitude ~:-)

    • Diggy –

      Hiya Char :)

      That is indeed a great attitude to have. Maybe you should consider teaching it to people. I’m sure there are many who would like to learn it!

      Thanks for stopping by :)

  • Bud Hennekes

    Dude. Bruce Lee is my hero. :)
    .-= Bud Hennekes´s last blog ..5 Powerful Lessons I Learned From A Facebook Fast =-.

    • Diggy –

      Watch his videos, especially the one inch punch :)

  • brian papa

    Another great post, Diggy :) One, thing, I do too (regarding stuff being temporary) is to think while doing an unpleasant task “am i going to remember this one week from now?” No, of course not.
    Most times that’s a springboard to make me jump into action.
    Also, I think it was you who wrote awhile back that we have 3 seconds from the time we want something to jump and go get it (like a girl’s number or whatever).
    So true!

    Have a rockin’ day!!
    .-= brian papa´s last blog ..On the Look for “Kook” =-.

    • Diggy –

      Heya Brian!

      I hadn’t thought of it that way:

      “One, thing, I do too (regarding stuff being temporary) is to think while doing an unpleasant task “am i going to remember this one week from now?” No, of course not.”

      Very cool way to look at things! Thanks!!! :)

  • Dayne |

    Hey Diggy, awesome post and you just covered one of my favorite childhood hero’s…Mr. Bruce Lee. Once I read your post title, you had me. :)

    You hit on all kinds of goodness here with a lot of Bruce Lee’s quotes and philosophy. Spot on!

    .-= Dayne |´s last blog ..Face to Face With God : A Near Death Experience =-.

    • Diggy –

      Heya Dayne!

      It’s amazing how many people love Bruce Lee. The impact he had on this world is HUGE!

      Thanks for stopping by :)

  • Srinivas Rao

    Given that I’m someone who spends INSANE amounts of time in water (i.e. I’m an avid surfer), I think you hit the nail on the head. Water is a substance we can learn so much from because it has qualities that we should all aspire to. I think the only constant is change is a valuable lesson for all of us. Great martial arts analogies.


    p.s. Hope you’ll consider being part of the interviews with up and coming bloggers podcast.
    .-= Srinivas Rao´s last blog ..Interviews with up and coming bloggers: Kelly Diels =-.

    • Diggy –

      Hey Srinivas!

      Thanks for stopping by:)
      So cool that you surf! I never got into it, the beach is pretty far and its always the issue of wet clothes and sand in my car.:(

      Yeah I’d be honored to be in your podcast:) Let me know!

  • Clayton

    Good advice. I’ve always looked up to Bruce Lee. I actually live about half a mile from where Lee is buried. You’ve inspired me to visit and pay my respects. Would you like me to tell him anything for you?
    .-= Clayton´s last blog ..Fun with Rejection Letters =-.

    • Diggy –

      Heya Clayton!

      Wow. That is really cool. I would love to pay respects to Bruce Lee.

      I would say to him:

      “Your wisdom and philosophy will live on for generations to come. If only more people were like you. Thank you Bruce Lee”

      Thanks Clayton! :)
      I appreciate it! :)

  • Pat

    Diggy, this is a sweet post! Not only were you able to hit me with some great philosophy, you were able to incorporate one of my all time favorite heroes, Bruce Lee (I did karate for a number of years).

    Anyways, the water analogy is sooooo powerful, and in so many ways. I heard it once before, but didn’t get it right away and forgot about it. Thanks for bringing it back to light for me :)

    Cheers bud!

    .-= Pat´s last blog ..One Year After Getting Laid Off – My Annual Passive Income Report =-.

    • Diggy –

      Hey Pat!
      Thanks for stopping by and checking out Upgradereality :)

      You did karate? Totally cool! I did it for a year, and then some taekwando and aikido.

      The water philosophy is an awesome one. I think it’s prefect to turn to once things get difficult. Adapt. Be formless. Be water.


  • David Turnbull

    I actually own a copy of Bruce Lee’s book “Tao of Jeet Kune Do”, where many (all?) of these quotes come from and although the book is technically focused on the martial art he developed, there’s a lot of great philosophy within it that’s worth a read. :)
    .-= David Turnbull´s last blog ..10 Reasons You Should Love Criticism =-.

    • Diggy –


      Yeah indeed, most of these quotes come from that book.

      Have you seen Bruce Lee’s one inch punch? Totally awesome. Youtube it!

  • Ideas With A Kick

    I love it that you quoted Bruce Lee! I read a while back his book Tao of Jeet Kune Do and the part about being like water is what I remember the best.

    I think to be like water, wee need to let go of a lot of attachments. Our attachments make us depend on stuff and thus make us rigid. Get rid of some of those, and you experience the freedom and flexibility of water.

    .-= Ideas With A Kick´s last blog ..Enough with the mind reading: get a 360 feedback! =-.

    • Diggy –

      Hey Eduard!

      I’ve been wanting to do a post about Bruce Lee for a while now. Tao of Jeet Kune Do is indeed an awesome book.

      The ability to adapt to new situations is an important one. I think it means not being attatched to material possesions, so if you lose them, you can still be happy and adapt to your new situation :)

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Gordie Rogers

    It would be cool if we could remember this more often in our personal lives and at a collective level too. Humans seem to love to follow others blindly.
    .-= Gordie Rogers´s last blog ..Help! I’m At A Lifestyle Design Crossroads. =-.

    • Diggy –

      Hey Gordie!

      I agree, the herd mentality is not a good one. Then again, if everyone was a leader it would not work either :)

  • Oscar – freestyle mind

    Bruce lee was an artist of life, and is one of the people I most admire. I recently read a book about the philosophical view of Bruce and I was impressed.
    .-= Oscar – freestyle mind´s last blog ..Habit #5 – The Do Habit =-.

    • Diggy –

      Hey Oscar!

      I also read a book about Bruce Lee in a bookstore once, I was super impressed by it, wish I had bought it :)

  • Jen

    Awesome post! :) Really liked this, so much wisdom in here Diggy and as you said even in the ‘break free of your 9-5′ niche, we can still be slaves if we are just following someone else.
    Thank you.
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..Your Money or Your Life! =-.

    • Diggy –

      Hey Jen!

      Glad you enjoyed the post! I think it contains lots of wisdom that we can all (myself included) apply to our lives :)

  • Tristan Lee

    I agree that Bruce Lee’s philosophy should also be applied to our daily lives. It is how he was able to defeat most of his opponents – by seeing a weakness in them and figuring out a way to counter.

    When we face difficult moments, we can either let them consume us or find another way to flow around in order get to the destination of where we want to go.
    .-= Tristan Lee´s last blog ..The Illusion of Success =-.

    • Diggy –

      Heya Tristan!

      Well said . Finding another way around it to get to the destination you want to be.

      Thanks for stopping by man :)