Bruce Lee’s Personal Writings on Willpower, Emotion, Behaviour, Memory, Imagination, and Confidence

“You will never get any more out of life than you expect.”

Bruce Lee (November 27, 1940–July 20, 1973) is best known for his performances in martial arts and films. But he was also one of the most underappreciated philosophers of our time.


Bruce Lee (Photograph courtesy of the Bruce Lee Foundation archive)
Bruce Lee (Photograph courtesy of the Bruce Lee Foundation archive)


Being an Asian actor in the 60’s and 70’s meant Lee experienced difficult issues because of his race. Even after eventually breaking through the Hollywood troubles and being cast in a lead role, the studios still treated him like a brainless robot who was only there to entertain the masses with his impressive kung-fu skills.

They even tried to cut out the philosophic parts from Enter the Dragon because they wanted an entertaining action flick. Lee refused to continue filming for 2 weeks, insisting that kung-fu and philosophy are inextricably entwined- each being the catalyst for the other. Lee ended up convincing the studios to relent, and it was good he did. It was precisely the philosophical element that rendered the movie a cultural icon.

Lee embraced philosophy and always carried a small 2×3″ pocketbook with him. It became filled with everything including training regimens, poems, affirmations, and philosophical reflections.


Bruce Lee (Photograph courtesy of the Bruce Lee Foundation archive)
Bruce Lee (Photograph courtesy of the Bruce Lee Foundation archive)

With exclusive permission from the Bruce Lee estate, here is a look at some pages from his 1968 notebook, written shortly before Lee’s 28th birthday:


Archival material with exclusive permission from the Bruce Lee Foundation archive
Archival material with exclusive permission from the Bruce Lee Foundation archive

WILL POWER: —
Recognizing that the power of will is the supreme court over all other departments of my mind, I will exercise it daily, when I need the urge to action for any purpose; and I will form HABIT designed to bring the power of my will into action at least once daily.

EMOTION: —
Realizing that my emotions are both POSITIVE and negative I will form daily HABITS which will encourage the development of the POSITIVE EMOTIONS, and aid me in converting the negative emotions into some form of useful action.

REASON: —
Recognizing that both my positive & negative emotions may be dangerous if they are not controlled and guided to desirable ends, I will submit all my desires, aims and purposes to my faculties of reason, and I will be guided by it in giving expression to these.

IMAGINATION: —
Recognizing the need for sound PLANS and IDEAS for the attainment of my desires, I will develop my imagination by calling upon it daily for help in the formation of my plans.

MEMORY: —
Recognizing the value of an alert memory, I will encourage mine to become alert by taking care to impress it clearly with all thoughts I wish to recall, and by associating those thoughts with related subjects which I may call to mind frequently.

SUBCONSCIOUS MIND: —
Recognizing the influence of my subconscious mind over my power of will, I shall take care to submit to it a clear and definite picture of my CLEAR PURPOSE in life and all minor purposes leading to my major purpose, and I shall keep this picture CONSTANTLY BEFORE my subconscious mind by REPEATING IT DAILY.

CONSCIENCE: —
Recognizing that my emotions often err in their over-enthusiasm, and my faculty of reason often is without the warmth of feeling that is necessary to enable me to combine justice with mercy in my judgments, I will encourage my conscience to guide me as to what is right & what is wrong, but I will never set aside the verdicts it renders, no matter what may be the cost of carrying them out.



Archival material with exclusive permission from the Bruce Lee Foundation archive
Archival material with exclusive permission from the Bruce Lee Foundation archive

You will never get any more out of life than you expect

Keep your mind on the things you want and off those you don’t

Things live by moving and gain strength as they go

Be a calm beholder of what is happening around you

There is a difference a) the world b) our reaction to it

Be aware of our conditioning! Drop and dissolve inner blockage

Inner to outer ~~~ we start by dissolving our attitude not by altering outer condition

See that there is no one to fight, only an illusion to see through

No one can hurt you unless you allow him to

Inwardly, psychologically, be a nobody


Archival material with exclusive permission from the Bruce Lee Foundation archive
Archival material with exclusive permission from the Bruce Lee Foundation archive

I know that I have the ability to ACHIEVE the object of my DEFINITE PURPOSE in life; therefore I DEMAND of myself persistent, continuous action toward its attainment, and I here and now promise to render such action.

I realize the DOMINATING THOUGHTS of my mind will eventually reproduce themselves in outward, physical action, and gradually transform themselves into physical reality; therefore I will CONCENTRATE my thoughts for 30 min. daily upon the task of thinking of the person I intend to become, thereby creating in my mind a clear MENTAL PICTURE.

I know through the principle of autosuggestion, any desire that I PERSISTENTLY hold will eventually seek expression through some practical means of attaining the object back of it; therefore, I will devote 10 min. daily to DEMANDING of myself the development of SELF-CONFIDENCE.

I have clearly written down a description of my DEFINITE CHIEF AIM in life, and I will never stop trying until I shall have developed sufficient self-confidence for its attainment.
You can help his legacy to live on by donating to the Bruce Lee Foundation.

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