Whet Your Appetite


Bruce Lee's intense thirst for knowledge and understanding was the prime factor that led to his radical growth and evolutuion in martial arts. Lee had an insatiably curious approach to life and and unrelenting quest for learning. In his never-ending quest for personal development, Lee went to great lengths to gain insights and learning that would aid him in actualizing his full potential. He drew from all sources and absorbed what he felt was useful from all forms of combative arts, both Eastern and Western. He absorbed various training methods and ideas from other disciplines such as modern dance, body-building, exercise physiology, and kinesiology. He absorbed what he felt was useful from various philosophies such as Taoism, Confucianism, Zen, as well as great philosophers such as Spinoza, Krishnamurti; positive thinkers such as Maxwell Maltz, Napoleon Hill, and psychologists such as Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and Frederick Perls. When it came to cinema Lee studied all aspects of film-making; from writing to directing, from set design to lighting, camera angles, production, etc. When it came to gaining knowledge and understanding, Lee didn't say such things as, "I'm not going to look at that because it's Western." His credo was, "I don't care where it comes from, if you understand it and can use it, it belongs to no one; it's yours.

If we wish to be innovative and creative in thought and action, we, like Lee, need to maintain a thirst for knowledge and understanding that is unquenchable. I'm not talking simply about knowledge as it relates to the prescribed schooling the majority of people are subjected to , where oftentimes more importance is placed on the uniform and passive cramming of information down student's throats and the primary emphasis is given to the mere memorization and regurgitation of facts and figures. Rather, I am talking about knowledge and understanding that comes from informal education, provided and undertaken by those individuals who truly desire it, at a pace of their own choosing. In this type of learning there are no formal classes, no tests, and no grades. There are only opportunities for a person to learn of the ideas and experiences that have relevance to their own personal growth. In this form of education the student is encouraged to partake of what they find useful and develop their own views from there. It is the medicine inside the container, not the container itself that is important. As the great American author and humorist Mark Twain wrote, "I have never let my schooling interfere with my education."

Two fundamental elements are essential in maintaining our thirst for knowledge and growth. The first is curiosity. Curiosity is one of the most essential and important qualities we can possess, because when we are curious about something we explore it, study it, and find out about it. Whether it was martial art, fitness, nutrition, the human mind, or film-making, Bruce Lee always approached a subject with a high degree of curiosity, wanting to know as much about it as possible and with an open mind ready to absorb the new information. Revolutionary innovator and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs said, "Out of curiosity comes everything."

The second element is critical-thinking. Critical-thinking deals with our abilities to skillfully analyze, interpret, verify, assess, and even reconstruct or restructure the information we receive. It's about not merely accepting things at face value but rather asking questions such as: What do I really need to understand this? - What is the history of this? - What do other people think about this? - Can I prove the truth of this? - What are the root components of this problem? - Is there an alternative solution?

Critical-thinking will also help us to check our own beliefs, opinions, assumptions, etc., by asking questions such as: Where did this information come from? - Who put the information or idea out? - How did I acquire it? - What criteria am I using in determining the truth or validity of the information? - Do I currently hold any belief or frame of thinking that might interfere in my learning? Curiosity and critical-thinking fit together like the complementaries of Yin/Yang.

Bruce Lee understood that maintaining a thirst for knowledge and understanding was essential to his personal growth, not only as a martial artist but also as a human being. Lee sought knowledge not because he was told to, but because he wanted to, not for the sake of anyone else but for himself. How often do you seek knowledge simply for your own enjoyment?

There are so many ways a person can educate themselves today. For example, they can:

  • Surf the internet -- Google, Wikipedia, etc.

  • Go to the bookstore (or the library) -- read and look at all types of books and magazines -- make notes

  • Visit different places -- museums, vacation places, shopping malls, etc.

  • Carry a notebook and record thoughts, ideas, inspirations

  • Sign up for on-line educational courses

  • Take classes at a local community college or community center

Learning is a constant process of discovery, a process without end. And we need to take full responsibility for our own growth. We need to maintain a thirst for knowledge and understanding, an insatiably curious approach to life and an unrelenting quest for continious learning.


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