Wisdom from the Journals of Bruce Lee

“Above all, I am hoping to actualize myself to be an artist of life.” – Bruce Lee

You and I most likely know Bruce Lee (1940 to 1973) for his action filled martial arts’ films, however, he was also an unappreciated philosopher of his time who constantly articulated his thoughts in his many journals – to constantly grow through life.

In fact, many of his quotes that we know today, such as the one on the top of this page, truly came alive as a result of these deep philosophical reflections.

Unbeknownst to many audiences, Bruce Lee faced significant push back by the Hollywood which preferred white characters to play a lead role and use yellow faces or Asian characters for their stereotypical role.

Knowing that, it becomes easy to rationalize why such a man would turn to his daily journal or notebook to draw inspiration, reflection, and stay focused on his goals despite the setbacks. In this post I aim to closely study his journal routine and journal entries to draw insights and lessons from so we could all incorporate some of it in our journals.

Types of Journals and Notebooks Bruce Lee Kept

The Many Journals of Bruce Lee - day timers, daily journals, notebooks, and planners.
The Many Journals of Bruce Lee – day timers, daily journals, notebooks, and planners.

As I was searching the web for records of Bruce Lee’s journals and notebooks, I kept finding more and more types of journals that he maintained throughout his lifetime.

Near the end of my online research, my list included many different type of journals and notebooks that he maintained ranging from day timers, daily journals, workout logs, large sized notebooks, and even written drafts of a book in progress. This list also made me realize that if such a man who was swamped in his daily life could find time to write such neatly and meticulously in his journals, then why should an average person – or even I sometimes – ever complain or have excuses about not having time to write in our journals?

Despite the large variety of journals and notebooks, the most interesting parts of his journals were a collection of his affirmations which reflected his inner state of mind constantly trying to better itself from inside out. In these affirmations or notes to himself, Lee articulated his views on important psychological concepts such as willpower, emotion, or reason. Better yet, sometimes he would revisit these articulations and update them why I have posted insert or simply rewriting it.

The Journal Affirmations of Bruce Lee

The earliest record the public has about his affirmations date to 1968 when he was only 28 years old – a time in which he was a highly ambitious about what he wanted to accomplish personally and professionally. So much so that he penned the following page in 1969 at age 29 regarding his chief aim;

Journal Affirmation of Bruce Lee - My Definite Chief Aim
Journal Affirmation of Bruce Lee – My Definite Chief Aim

“I, Bruce Lee, will be the first highest-paid oriental superstar in the United States. In return I will give the most exciting performances and render the best quality in the capacity of an actor. Starting 1970 I will achieve for fame and from then onward till the end of 1980 I will have in my possession $10,000,000. I will live the way I please and achieve inner harmony and happiness.

Bruce Lee

January 1969”

The Journal Reflections of Bruce Lee

Leading up to this chief aim affirmation, were his many journal entries regarding other important daily psychological aspects of high performance. I was able to gather the following entries from the brain picking’s blog on Bruce Lee’s Notebook;

Source: Brain Pickings
Source: Brain Pickings

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.

His ability to breakdown complex ideas of emotion into well articulated sentences surely have had a significant impact in how he dealt with them on a day to day basis.

The Journal Routine of Bruce Lee

Lee always had a small 2 x 3″ daily journal with him wherever he went. From my online research, I quickly realized that he wrote in his journals whenever he deemed necessary – like a self-aware student constantly articulating his thoughts and ideas. Furthermore, his journals entries – which range from training routines, phone numbers, poems, affirmations, and philosophical reflections are proof of his holistic thinking mind.

Bruce Lee writing in his Journal. Location: Unknown.
Bruce Lee writing in his Journal. Location: Unknown.

Lessons Learned about Journals from Bruce Lee

Upon close observation of Bruce Lee’s journal, I was reminded of the simple – and hard to practice – principal off the discipline of keeping a daily journal. It was clear from his near obsession routine of journaling that he took very seriously the responsibility of transcribing his thoughts and continuously improve himself through the means of a pen and a paper.

More specifically, these are the lessons that we can learn about journaling from him;

  • Have a Burning Desire to Improve Yourself – as a martial artist, Bruce Lee, always pushed extended his physical and psychological boundaries. As a result, the journals became a natural way of him doing that for his mind and workouts for his body.
  • Articulate Your Mind on a Paper – often we like to think that our brains are smart and they can articulate and organize themselves. Unfortunately, that is not true and that wasn’t true for Bruce Lee either. He understood the importance of articulating his thoughts on paper and so should all of us who are trying to better articulate the many ideas we have in our brains.
  • Journal as an Extension of You – almost every page on his journal seems like an extension of what he lived, breathed, and strived for his pages were filled with training, martial arts, acting, and his specific goals. All of which reminded me that journals should be an extension of us – not a. Yes, we should just put ourselves on a paper and eventually find ourselves from our daily journals writing and reflections which we aim to be doing would be should become. Simply put, discover yourself to the art of daily journaling.

I hope this post gave you wisdom, motivation, and some actionable next steps that you could incorporate in your own journaling routine. As I continue to improve my own journaling routine, I aim to study a lot more journals of others. I hope to hear your stories about journals in the comments below.

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