Simplicity, Complexity and the Yonder Shore

In this post, we explore Simplicity, Complexity, and the Yonder shore.   The quote below has been invaluable in my career and personal development.

“For the simplicity on this side of complexity, I wouldn’t give you a fig. But for the simplicity on the other side of complexity, for that, I would give you anything I have.”― Oliver Wendell Holmes

This statement is genius and provides us a rare clarification that there are different kinds of simplicity.  In my work career, keeping things simple is often cited as “preferable”.  Not many can argue with that.  The issue is that some simple solutions do not address the complexity of the problem they are trying to solve, and therefore do not work.  Simplicity on “this side” of complexity is not a solution at all.  The wisdom of the quote suggests we must understand complexity, and a simple solution is derived on the other side of that understanding,  This is extremely difficult to do.

In my personal development over the years, some authorities have delivered solutions that I would personally award the label of “simplicity on the far side of complexity”.  The nature of a concept that meets this condition is interesting.  It is a simple statement that summarizes complexity.  If you were to “squeeze” that simplicity, complexity will come pouring out of it.  You could use some of these concepts to be your standard for living your life and they would produce some results for you.

Here are some examples I consider being vehicles of “simplicity on the far side of complexity”:

    • Joseph Campbell’s “the hero’s journey” and “follow your bliss” concepts
    • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
    • Getting Things Done by David Allen
    • Bruce Lee’s martial art Jeet Kune Do (the way of the intercepting fist)

Many of these authorities have written multiple books trying to refine and clarify what they are trying to say.  It takes a very long time of persistent work, usually over a lifetime, to simplify and clarify their insights and test them out when possible.  When we apply these tools or concepts, they generally do give us a structure to work our way through real-world scenarios.  They offer us a way and work to some degree, thus helping us grow.

The Yonder Shore

Bruce Lee said of his martial art “Jeet Kune Do is merely a name used, a boat to get one across the river, and once across, it is to be discarded, and not be carried on one’s back”.  So the end goal is to reach the “Yonder Shore” of the river, then leave the boat behind.  Not to stay in the boat or carry the boat with you.  The idea is to subject oneself to training and understanding and then integrate that into a larger base, on the other side of the training.  Bruce then leaves us with two additional powerful statements.

    • “Use no way, as way”:
      • Our personal path is unique and is on the yonder shore of training and adventure.  If you are using someone else’s concept for yourself, you are still on the boat, limited by that concept.
      • Your style needs to be your own.
    • “Use no limitation as limitation”:
      • The human body is limited, you should transcend it.
      • Express yourself maximally.
      • The ultimate style is to have no style.

The training/concept/tool is the boat that takes us across the river of complexity.  The yonder shore is the simplicity on the far side of complexity and there are multiple ways of explaining it.  Boats that can take you across the river of complexity include The 7 Habits, Getting Things Done, Joseph Campbell, and JKD.  They are valid vehicles, each expressing characteristics of the grand mystery we find ourselves in.  What is super cool, is that each boat has commonality in the skill areas of spirituality, mental thinking, and taking action.  Each concept incorporates all three but prioritizes differently.

    • Spirituality
      • “Follow your Bliss” by Joseph Campbell represents his latest thinking in terms of personal development.  The spiritual message dominates.
    • Mental Thinking
      • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey encourages us to step back from the stimulus, think, and choose a better response.  Here we are trying to optimize, to strategically think about what our plans should be before executing.
    • Taking Action
      • Getting Things Done by David Allen emphasizes the next action management to real-time stimulus, fighting multiple enemies at once to keep your head above water.
      • JKD is about expressing your physical body with speed, power, and flexibility all while conserving as much energy as possible.

We need to be good at spirituality, mental thinking, and taking action

So which concept is best?  Which one do I need?  You need all three to be ready for deployment at any time.  These three critical competencies are interdependent.  Each one affects the other two positively or negatively.

Let me mention three other subjects we all need:  happiness, brain function, and survival.  All of these are incorporated in books that discuss these important topics and offer suggestions on how to overcome their respective challenge.   The suggestions on how to understand the challenge subjects are yet again, variations of the above methodologies.  Below I try to show how these three topics use the above critical skill areas.  What I am trying to show here is that each topic requires all three critical competencies.

  • What Happy People Know by Dan Baker Ph.D.
    • Fear is our #1 enemy of happiness and we are to overcome it with spirit and intellect.
    • Happiness tools are about taking action.
  • Your Brain at Work by Jacob Rock
    • We need a director to help control what gets loaded onto your mental stage and to not be stuck in our default “lost in thought” existence.  Otherwise, you are missing the needed information because you are not paying attention.
    • Five functions of understanding, deciding, recalling, memorizing, and inhibiting make up the majority of conscious thought.  These functions are re-combined to plan, problem-solve, communicate, and to perform other tasks.  They use the prefrontal cortex intensely and require a lot of resources to operate.
    • There are severe limitations to optimal brain function.
    • The brain requires everything to be just right for it to operate at peak performance.
    • No matter who you are you cannot sit and make brilliant decisions all day.
    • Once you take an action, an energetic loop commences that makes it harder to stop that action.
  • Deep Survival, Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales
    • Survivors go inside.
    • Some people update their mental models better than others, they are called survivors.
    • Take correct decisive action – transform thought into action, take risks, large jobs into small tasks, do each task well, deal with what is within your power and leave the rest behind.

Wow, this simplicity stuff is complex!

Exactly.  Simplicity and complexity are opposites.  One does not exist without the other.  As the Yin Yang symbol shows, there is a little bit of one in the other.  Simplicity has complexity in it.  Complexity has simplicity in it.  Squeeze one, and the other pops out of it.  Simplicity is order, complexity is chaos.  One begets the other. This is the cycle of change.

The “Yonder Shore” is the completion of the journey. The return.  Having completed the journey, crossing the threshold to the unknown (complexity) in a boat (adventure with certain gear, team, rules, concepts), battled against obstacles, finding treasure, and returning it back to the known (simple) world, we are bigger for the experience.  Saying no to the boat ride means stagnation and no growth.  Saying yes to the boat ride is saying yes to adventure, physically or in our mind. We should not carry our boat with us on our backs, we should find another one to adventure in the next time.

The “who we are today” in the simple known world, must adventure into the complex unknown world, overcome trials and tribulations (fight/wrestle with), obtain the treasure, and escape/return back to the known/simple world to grow the individual self into the “who we are after the adventure”.

OK, I need a boat to adventure in that is robust to ensure my safe return.

Luckily, we know that our survival/effectiveness/happiness kit is inside us.  We just need an efficient way to load massive complexity on our extremely limited mental stage, in a simple fast way.  The method must address spirituality, mental thinking abilities, and taking quick decisive action.  We roll this up into striving to be Radiant, Prepped and Frosty.

  • Radiant – spiritually alive
    • Lead with your strengths, they are your weapons of salvation to cultivate your personal power.
    • Trust in yourself and keep fear at bay.
    • In the end, security is an inside job.  Learn to live inside out, not outside in.
    • Align your inner-outer worlds for greater performance.
  • Prepped – strategic planning
    • Use your brain as much as possible, but it is extremely limited.
    • Your brain is powerful, but not sufficient.  You simply do not have all the necessary information and never will, even with a computer chip implanted in your skull.
    • Fear lives in the brain and will challenge us our entire lives.  It is the #1 enemy of our happiness and growth.  We must have the courage to adventure into the complex/unknown realms that are out of our comfort zone.
  • Frosty – tactical action
    • Be able to take quick action on instinct without thinking.
    • Hesitation can be deadly, you cannot afford to intellectualize every moment.

Simply saying the phrase: Radiant, Prepped and Frosty loads your mental stage rapidly with the tool-set needed for any and all situations known and unknown.  As the complexity of life oozes out of the Radiant, Prepped and Frosty mindset, you now have a flexible, adaptable, and powerful tool-set to deal with it competently.  They function independently when necessary, and complement each other into a balanced solution for the majority of life situations.  Make Radiant, Prepped and Frosty your core, then add your own needs on top of that.  The universe made you to be you.  Let’s make that happen!

Suggested Next Steps:

Lead With Your Strengths For Better Results

Leading with your strengths is a good idea and delivers better results for you.  Nobody is good at everything.  When we understand our strengths and lead with them, we gain not only confidence but competence.  Sophisticated, spontaneous, competent action comes from leading with your strengths.  Let’s explore why.

Your personality style has strengths and weaknesses

Do What You Are, Discover the perfect career for you through the secrets of Personality Type by Paul D. Tieger, Barbara Barron, And Kelly Tieger help us navigate our personality type and discover what occupations we may enjoy.  We each have 4 preferences that we use to comprehend and deal with the world around us. They consist of  1) the dominant function, 2) the auxiliary function, 3) the third function, and 4) the fourth function.  “As long as your dominant and auxiliary are in command, you are functioning well.  When your third and fourth functions take over, it’s as if the kids climbed over the seat and started driving the car (with predictably disastrous results). ” (pg. 65) This is an incredible reference to identify your personality type, then to understand what careers are suitable for your strengths.  “Do what you are” is therefore about finding a career that matches your strengths, your natural abilities, your preferences in life.

Your brain works better when utilizing your strengths

Your Brain at Work by David Rock is an absolute must-read.  When your strengths are engaged, a state of arousal is created which helps create a flow state, which further creates a positive spiral.  Positive spirals are created when you are focused and energized and are the main contribution to your happiness. You need to be interested in what you are doing to achieve optimal brain performance.   The upward spiral explains why people perform better when they are happy. Doing things that are significantly new can lead to a negative spiral of decreasing dopamine levels.

Happiness involves utilizing your strengths, they are your source of personal power

In his book What Happy People Know,  Dan Baker Ph.D.  informs us that Focusing on our strengths 1) works, 2) feels better, 3) creates the energy necessary for transformation, 4) Is self-sustaining because it is full of rewards and 5) encourages us to play to win because it works better.  Interestingly, our weakness’ can be disguised as strengths.  Workaholism, perfectionism, materialistic ambition, desire for domination, and status-seeking are all derived from fears.  Our individual character, our personal power lies in utilizing our strengths.  Without a feeling of personal power, than can be no happiness.  Leading with our strengths helps us to make our own rules and own our days.   Happiness tools are all about taking action.   Dr. Baker encourages us to shift our focus from our problems and weaknesses to our possibilities and strengths.  When we use our strengths and exercise them every day, we become increasingly intelligent and can turn those strengths into careers.  We are to not confuse what we wish we were good at with what we are actually good at.

First Things – the tip of your spear

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey enlightens us about what it takes to be effective in life.  The spiritual dimension is explored in Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind, to determine what is important to you to accomplish in your lifetime.  These important things are “first things”.  Habit 3: First Things First is about prioritizing these first things over everything else.  First things are the important things, your calling, your bliss, they resonate and excite you, they are your strengths.

Follow your Bliss – follow what excites you, lead with your strengths

I equate “leading with my strengths” with “following my bliss”.  Following your bliss is a mechanism of personal development offered by Joseph Campbell through his career evaluating myths and religions of the world.  When something resonates with you, it is a major hint of where your interests and associated strengths are hidden.  Follow that feeling of bliss.  Here are some concepts that I collected over the years from Joseph Campbell’s books noted on our resources page link below.

As we love ourselves, we move toward our own bliss, our highest enthusiasm.  Following your bliss is not self-indulgent, but vital, for your whole system knows this is how to be alive in this world, and the way to give to this world the very best you have to offer. The most heroic of all acts is the courage to discover who you are and what you would like to be, to slay the savage dragon of the ego, and to follow your bliss to the truth of your life.  There is a track just waiting there for each of us, and once upon it, doors will open that were not open before and would not open for anyone else. Everything does start clicking along and mother nature herself supports the journey (flow, magic).  The lion of self-discovery is meant to kill the dragon of thou shalt. Our job is to straighten out our own lives.

Martial Arts factors

Fighting has been said to be a good analogy for life.  I happen to agree with this.  In a way, we are all seeking a way to express ourselves and your strengths are your expression.  In the combative arts, there is considerable discussion and confusion as to which side should be lead with, the dominant or the weak.  Leading with your weaker side is an attempt to hold the dominant hand in reserve, ready to deliver a knockout blow when the opportunity presents itself.  It is a home run swing.  Leading with your dominant side; the aim is to prioritize timing and speed over power.

  • Jeet Kune Do (JKD):  Bruce Lee’s martial art puts your dominant side forward.  The leading weapons are the dominant hand and leg.   This allows for optimizing the priorities of a fight better:  distance, timing, speed, power.  JKD, a relatively new martial art, is the result of combining Wing Chun Kung Fu, fencing, and American boxing.  The on-guard stance of JKD is largely defined as placing your dominate side forward.
  • Fencing:  You hold your weapon in your dominant hand
  • Boxing:  Some famous boxers who place their dominant hand forward are Oscar De La Hoya and Victor Lomachenko.

Radiant, Prepped, and Frosty methodology:  leading with your strengths breakout

  • Be Radiant
    • Your survival, happiness, and effectiveness kits are inside you.  Re-frame your life to recognize your strengths and weakness’ and to lead with your strengths.  It was how you were made, it is why you exist.
    • The spiritual dimension is where you discover self authorization to be who you are.  Do what you are.  Do what you are good at.  Lead with your strengths.
    • There is only one spiritual message:  be who you are, follow your bliss and lead with your strengths.
  • Be Prepped
    • For strategic planning, your brain works better when you are doing work that interests you.
  • Be Frosty
    • For tactical execution, leading with your strengths allows you to rapidly adapt to emergency stimulus in the fastest way possible.  Your strengths are how you naturally approach problems, reducing the amount of thinking required, thus increasing your reaction speed.
    • If you are leading with your strengths, you can act spontaneously without hesitation.  Leading with your strengths increases both your speed and your competency.
    • In emergency situations, where you have no time to think, you must act spontaneously.

Suggested Next Steps:



Find Happiness – A Review of What Happy People Know by Dr. Dan Baker

How do we find Happiness in our lives?  Dr. Dan Baker gives us some major clues in his book What Happy People Know.

Here are some of his key points in his book that resonate with me:

  • Happiness is the whole aim and the end of human existence – Aristotle
  • Happiness is the art of responding well when trouble strikes.
  • One of the biggest problems there is is to build a full life without making yourself crazy.
  • Millions of people kill themselves by putting all of their energy into just one dimension of life – usually work.
  • Your life is better than you think.
    • Take the time to live it
    • Focus on the right things and contentment will settle over you
    • Multidimensional living is important
  • Work = survival = most primal instinct.  The things we do to survive are the things that end up killing us.
  • The greatest enemy of happiness is fear, which we are hardwired for, and which has allowed us to evolve.
  • The fabric of fear is woven into our brains.
  • The hardwired fear response is faster and more powerful than the process for rational thought.
  • Your neurological fear network is the single greatest enemy of your happiness.
  • What is good for survival is not good for happiness in modern life.
  • Fear can manifest itself as anger, perfectionism, obsession, insecurity, shyness, guilt, pessimism, low level anxiety, depression, or feelings of isolation.
  • Blame will not help, you must address your fear system.
  • Fear poisons each moment it touches.
  • The antidote to fear is appreciation:  Happiness is the art of responding well when trouble strikes.
  • To be happy, we need to be willing to charge headlong into the inferno of our most horrific fears, eyes open, intellect and spirit ready.
  • Reason and intellect can take you out of the darkness of fear and into the light.
  • The key to happiness is having the higher brain functions (Intellect, spirit, intuition) lead the lower brain functions (fear, fear hormones).
  • You must learn to override the lower brain functions (reptilian brain focused solely on survival) with the higher brain functions of thought and spirit.
  • The higher brain functions can receive lower brain functions and tell it to settle down, nothing is wrong, sending message of comfort and confidence.
  • The lesser life:  life is there but the living is gone (wasteland).
  • The better life:  put your life into perspective to the cancer ward (appreciation).
  • The 12 qualities of happiness: Happiness is profound but simple:
    • love
    • optimism
    • courage
    • a sense of freedom
    • pro-activity
    • security
    • health
    • spirituality
    • altruism
    • perspective
    • humor
    • purpose
  • Factors that ensure survival:
    • fear of not having enough
    • fear of not being enough
  • The reptilian brain is dedicated solely to fear, because fear keeps us alive.
  • Your biological fear system will challenge your happiness until the day you die.
  • Your mind, body, and spirit working together in concert can make you happy.
  • Your neurological fear network is the single greatest enemy of your happiness.
  • Faces of fear:  perfectionism, obsession, insecurity, shyness, guilt…
  • We try to find something to blame, but our chronic angst will only make sense when we understand the biology of the fear system.
  • Thriving is a much higher calling than just surviving.
  • There are happiness traps, which can hold you down forever, and tools to get out of them.

6 Happiness Tools and 5 Happiness Traps:

    • Happiness Tools (tools about taking action):
      • Appreciation
        • The first and most fundamental.  It is impossible to be in a state of appreciation and fear at the same time; thus appreciation is the antidote to fear.
        • Fear is strong, but love is stronger:  People huddle together at night.
      • Choice
        • The father of freedom.
        • Engage in choice and worry will be suspended.
        • Having no choices or options is like being in jail leading to depression, anxiety and learned helplessness.
        • Anyone can choose the course of their lives but only happy people do it.
        • Happy people turn away from fear and find that their intellects and spirits contain a vast warehouse of choices.
      • Personal Power
        • Proactive force is similar to character.
        • Gives you the power over feelings and fate.
        • 2 components
          • taking responsibility: it is your responsibility to make things happen, no excuses
          • taking action
        • Keeps you from becoming a victim.
        • When your personal power is at its peak, you are secure.
        • You don’t have to be popular, right, or have money.  You can handle whatever life dishes out.
      • Leading with your strengths
        • Intellect and spirit engage your strengths.
        • Fear engages your weaknesses.
      • The power of courage and stories
        • We see the world we describe, we don’t describe the world we see.
        • Language has the power to alter perception.
        • Words have the power to set us free or limit us.
        • The stories we tell ourselves become our lives (optimism vs. pessimism).
      • Multi-dimensional living
        • Happiness comes from a full life.
        • A uni-dimensional life is a killer.
        • 3 primary components that energy needs to be put into:
          • Relationships
          • Health
          • Purpose
    • Happiness Traps:
      • Trap 1. Trying to buy happiness:
        • Money only makes people significantly happier when it relieves abject poverty.
        • The primary way of gaining wealth is through sacrificing leisure and freedom and becoming frazzled.
        • Rich people were usually happier in the past even through the rich get richer everyday.
        • Some people enjoy ordering others around but they are just insecure people with no power.
        • Perfectionism and work-aholism are vices that masquerade as virtues; fear disguised as strength.
        • Control of other people is a myth, the more you demand it, the further it gets.
      • Trap 2. Trying to find happiness through pleasure:
        • Once we become accustomed to any pleasure, it no longer has the power to make us happy.
        • Back away from modern life’s banquet, so that pleasure will stay novel and refreshing.
        • Rough it to appreciate the comforts you have (water, bed,….).
      • Trap 3. Trying to be happy by resolving the past:
        • Past therapeutic practices of digging up the past do not work.
        • A better way is transcendence> transcend the amygdala (fear system) and put your energy into your mind (intellect), body, and soul (spirit).
        • Your powers of intellect and spirit can create new meaning out of old memories.
        • What once made you a victim, can become your greatest motivators and your richest sources of wisdom.
      • Trap 4. Trying to become happy by overcoming weakness:
        • Change your life by building on your strengths.
        • Attacking weakness is focusing on fears instead of being proactive and making life better.
        • Focusing on fear re-enforces fear and self destruction creating a downward spiral.
        • Weaknesses, disguised as strengths, derived from fear.
        • Work-aholism, perfectionism, stoicism, materialistic ambition, desire for domination, status seeking.
        • Obsessed with time, focused on doing rather than being.
        • Fears of not having enough will kill you.
        • Focusing on your strengths:
          • works
          • feels better
          • creates energy necessary for transformation
          • self-sustaining because it is full of rewards
          • play to win, it works better
      • Trap 5. Trying to force Happiness:
        • You cannot decide to be happy anymore than you can decide to be taller.
        • Happiness is hard work with a genetic component (40% inheritance).
        • Genetically handicapped people need to use the happiness tools.
        • A pleasant facial expression will lift your mood.
        • Happiness tools are about action.
  • Look for the good in life, not the best.  Best does not always happen but good, in one form or another, does.
  • As love increases, fear decreases.
  • Upward spirals heal (optimism, happiness, thrive, love). Downward spirals kill (pessimism, unhappiness, survival, fear).
  • When goals come from the heart, success begets success, and creates an upward spiral effect.
  • Change your life by building on your strengths, not overcoming your weaknesses.
  • What tragedy can teach:
    • Ironically you cannot learn optimism when things always go right.  That only teaches complacency (get confident not complacent).
    • We learn through suffering.
    • Complacency is a house of cards, problems and loss are inevitable.
    • Optimism is the realization that the more painful the event, the more profound the lesson.
    • Wisdom only comes the hard way and can prevent you from future suffering.
    • The greatest tragedy of all is to waltz through life unaware, unconnected, unfulfilled.
  • Stop being obsessed with time, focus on doing rather than being.
  • When we embrace choice, the reptile brain no longer rules.
  • Every choice has consequences and these consequences create our lives, for better or worse.
  • Epiphanies (insight) override the amygdala (the world melts away).
  • Appreciation and creative thinking also suspend fear.
  • The life changing quarter second:
    • There is a 1/4 second of lag between the urge to move and movement.
      • This 1/4 second is your ultimate power over perception.
      • You can choose how you perceive the world (optimism, pessimism).
      • You can alter your perception.
  • You can always rise above suffering.
  • Choose a perspective on reality that will enrich you instead of diminish you.
  • Fear hijacks the brain setting off a chain reaction that obliterates reason.
  • You have an opportunity to disengage from a fear driven urge; count to 10 before you allow yourself to become angry.
  • The more brain pathways are used, the easier they are to travel.
  • Your real self is centered in your spirit and intellect.
  • You can and need to control your perceptions.
  • Flow, getting in the zone is vital to happiness:
    • Lead from your spirit and reach flow at will
    • State of heightened consciousness, joyous and productive, nearly a spiritual experience
    • Totally absorbed in what you are doing
    • The zone also carries a curse (mania)
      • It is isolating and exhaustive
  • Never give away your personal power or there will be no happiness:
    • A poison for pro-activity, freedom, and courage
    • Personal power is your vital force
    • Maximize your personal power, create and accept your fate
    • Personal power is your power over your feelings, and your power over fate
    • Your personal power is the root, psychological source of your physical and emotional energies.  It lies at the core of your being and it makes you want to get up each morning and tackle the day
    • Personal power = character = strength = individuality = heart = charisma
    • Personal power is about doing:
      • taking responsibility
      • taking action
    • Your life belongs to you, do something about it:
      • not everyone gets it
      • nothing is harder than dumping false beliefs that destroy personal power; we think they are our allies but they are our enemies / deadly foes
  • Take responsibility for your feelings the way you do your behavior.
  • Your feelings are controllable.
  • Remove your buttons and you will no longer act automatically and people will stop pushing your buttons.
  • Self Reliance is on the decline > depression on the rise:
    • rescue – needs a hero
    • blame – needs a bad guy
  • Shift your focus from your problems and weaknesses (fears) to your possibilities and strengths.
  • Advertising and marketing industries are dedicated to making you think you have all kinds of problems that only their products can fix.
  • Ranting and raving does not fix your problems.
  • We are all walking wounded.
  • Feeling good is critical to our survival.
  • Each time a favored connection gets used in our brains, it gets stronger and easier to use by creating grooves of thought that ultimately become talents.
  • Talents are enduring and recurring patterns of thoughts feelings and behaviors.
  • Smartness and effectiveness depend on how much one capitalizes on talents:
    • Talents are unique, not common to all.
    • When you follow your strengths and exercise them everyday you become increasingly intelligent.
      • Well used cells can develop into ultimate / super brain cells providing additional insights. Super brain cells grow a 6th branch.
      • Wisdom almost always ushers in happiness and  has been determined to be the best single predictor for aging well.
      • To grow the 6th branch, be actively searching for knowledge; usually occurs in mid life or later.
  • Activity is usually to understand suffering in hopes of ending it.
    • suffering creates wisdom
    • he who learns must suffer
    • optimism comes from pain and suffering, the more painful the event , the more profound the lesson
    • complacency comes from things going well
    • when you realize that that which hurts the most, teaches the most, you have a shield against suffering; nothing  is bad
    • Response to suffering is key:
      • response with fear makes you weaker
      • response with spirit and intellect allows you to learn optimism and find meaning in your pain
  • Must lead with your strengths, you cannot overcome suffering with anything less than your best.
  • Figure out what things make your life work.
  • Language is an incredible primordial force in our development:
    • The better the language, the more constructive for emotional development
    • The kids who heard the most positive language tend to view the world in the most positive terms
    • We don’t use language to describe the world, we use it to create the world
    • We don’t describe the world we see, we see the world we describe
    • Change your language and change your life
    • To change your life, change your words
    • Language can alter your thoughts and perceptions; choose your words carefully because they are powerful
  • When you are happy, effort is easy, and energy spent is energy earned.
    • Unhappiness is chronic long term stress, shuts down the immune system and revs up the flight-fright-freeze reaction.
  • The three most important elements of life:
    • Sense of purpose
    • Health
    • Relationships
  • The key to fulfillment is to integrate all three elements into everyday and then let your passions take you where they may (health, passion/purpose, relationships).
  • Time is not the enemy, making bad decisions are; bad decisions squander time and make it scarce.
  • The biggest risk is taking no risks.
  • Do something you love everyday.
  • Hear the world of the heart.
  • Sometimes people need a crisis to blast them out of their false security and into the security of the inner self.
  • Heighten your appreciation and hone your priorities.
  • Appreciate the health you have and show your appreciation by doing as much with it as you can.
  • Learning to be happy:
    • Learned helplessness is a common phenomena where people give up and accept the pain even after circumstances change and pain could be avoided.
    • The flashy veneer of the American Dream:  money, status and power actually destroys happiness.
    • Happiness comes from inner qualities:
      • Courage
      • Altruism
      • Optimism
  • People are happier when they are able to make their own choices.
  • Satisfaction comes from:
    • autonomy and self-esteem
    • competence
    • pleasure
    • self-actualization
    • security
    • popularity
    • money
  • Climb the mountain everyday and eventually you will summit; the prize is uncomplicated ease and peace.
  • There is not much difference between happiness and sanity.
  • Find happiness by choosing love over fear.
  • Open up and let the spirit lead.
  • Transform bad events into meaningful experiences.

Suggested Next Steps:

  • Visit our adventure methodology page where these ideas are integrated
  • Read What Happy People Know by Dan Baker, Ph.D., link found on our resources page
  • Read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle: If you can’t be happy now, you can never be happy, link found on our resources page
  • Learn more about establishing good habits:
    • Read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey: making choices, work on your circle of influence, link found on our resources page
    • Read Atomic Habits by James Clear: make things easy to start, easy to do, 1% progress is sustainable

Bruce Lee’s JKD: Interpretation for Everyday Life

In this post I offer an interpretation of Bruce Lee’s symbol for his martial art Jeet Kune Do (JKD) and attempt to generalize his concepts for everyday life applications.

  • The derivation sequence was:
      1. Research the internet, breaking the symbol down, and accumulating interpretations of them.  Most findings were combat oriented.
      2. Begin generalizing away from combat and refining
      3. Attempting to remove combat altogether and simplifying for everyday use .

I present my conclusions in reverse order.  In each refinement, I strove to clarify and combine similar elements from the initial search findings, but attempted to add nothing of my own.

  • Personal Take Away’s from Bruce Lee’s JKD Emblem:  Combat removed
    • From a Wing Chun man, to a Gung Fu Man, to a JKD man, to an individual human being
    • Through his evolution of martial arts, to creating his own art – JKD, Bruce Lee sought continuous improvement on how to be himself and express himself.
    • Practicing in various styles revealed the limitations of any style, in the inability to properly address the dynamics of a fight, and constrained the ability to be fully spontaneous and express oneself.
    • Properly aligned and integrated best practice concepts (Wing Chun, Boxing, and Fencing) produced something new, that frees us to trust and follow our own path.
    • Recognizing that we are participants in the duality of yin yang, expansion / contraction, hard / soft, one must recognize the whole and its dynamics.
    • Recognizing the  “dynamic oneness” necessitates certain criteria.
      • Flexibility, adaptability, speed, economy of motion,……
    • Although JKD contains the chaotic forces present in an physical encounter (Arrows around Tai Chi symbol).
      • Utilizing No way is the way
        • Your “style” needs continuous improvement.
        • Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication, it’s a subtraction process.
        • Your way is the way. It must be created individually.  An existing way is somebody else’s way.
      • No limitation as limitation
        • There should be no style, no mind.
        • Sophisticated spontaneity is the goal.
        • Fully express yourself in combat, as in life to obtain victory.
        • Open your heart, trust your feelings.
  • Summary conclusions of Bruce Lee’s JKD Emblem:  Generalizing away from combat
    • Taijitu 
      • Represents the realization of the supreme ultimate undifferentiated oneness before duality which is an indivisible whole.
      • The indivisible whole contains two characteristic seemingly observable forces of Yin Yang.
      • The interplay between the forces is spontaneous, dynamic, alive, and every changing millisecond to millisecond.
      • You and your opponent are part of a oneness and complement each other.
    • Arrows: represent your personal style or approach to the  oneness represented by the Taijitu
      • The arrows around the Taijitu signify an awareness and  recognition of the Taijitu realization about our existence represented by the symbol.
      • The requirements of a solution are determined here as they must address the Taijitu model of existence.
      • The solution must address the ”dynamic oneness” of yin yang forces of which one is a participant in.
      • To address the dynamic interplay where every situation is varied, the solution must be flexible and adaptable.
      • This necessitates a flexible and adaptable approach to deal with varying conditions.
      • To obtain victory, therefore, it is essential not to be rigid, but to be fluid and able to adapt to any situation. He compared it to being like water: “Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water. Lee’s theory behind this was that one must be able to function in any scenario.
      • Economy of time and energy are needed.  Jeet Kune Do seeks to waste no time or movement, teaching that the simplest things work best, as in Wing Chun
        • Maximum expression/effect with minimal movement
          • Maximized force seeks to end the battle quickly due to the amount of damage inflicted.
        • Economy of motion is the principle by which JKD practitioners achieve
          • Efficiency: An attack which reaches its target in the least amount of time, with maximum force.
          • Directness: Doing what comes naturally in a disciplined way.
          • Simplicity: Thinking in an uncomplicated manner; without ornamentation
        • Interception
          • Simultaneous parrying & punching utilizes the principle of economy of motion by combining attack and defense into one movement, thus minimizing the “time” element and maximizing the “energy” element. Efficiency is gained by utilizing a parry rather than a block.
          • Redirection has two advantages over blocking,
            • First that it requires less energy to execute and
            • Second that it utilizes the opponent’s energy against them by creating an imbalance.
          • Efficiency is gained in that the opponent has less time to react to an incoming attack, since they are still nullifying the original attack.
    • Chinese characters indicate:  Your personal style needs continuous improvement:  Where you are has limits, and there are no limits.
      • No way is the way
        • There is no standing method or system that can deal with full spontaneity.
        • You must be flexible and adaptable with speed to be victorious.
      • No limitation as imitation
        • Continuous improvement is required, every method has limitations that need improved.  Its a subtraction process.
  • Background details / Research Notes: Combat oriented
    • Taijitu:  Symbol representing the yin yang forces of existence
      • A commonly used version of a symbol for Taiji.
      • Taiji is a Chinese cosmological term for the “Supreme Ultimate” state of undifferentiated absolute and infinite potential, the oneness before duality, from which Yin and Yang principles arise.
      • Yin and yang can be thought of as complementary (rather than opposing) forces that interact to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the assembled parts.[2]Everything has both yin and yang aspects (for instance, shadow cannot exist without light). Either of the two major aspects may manifest more strongly in a particular object, depending on the criterion of the observation. The yin yang (i.e. taijitu symbol) shows a balance between two opposites with a portion of the opposite element in each section.
      • In Taoist metaphysics, distinctions between good and bad, along with other dichotomous moral judgments, are perceptual, not real; so, the duality of yin and yang is an indivisible whole.
    • The arrows
      • Represent the endless interaction between Yin and Yang.
      • It is the awareness that both life and fighting can be shapeless and ever changing that allows one to be able to adapt to those changes instantaneously and bring forth the appropriate solution.
        • According to Dan Lee, “Bruce added two arrows around the Tai Chi circle to further emphasize that the JKD fighting techniques must contain the harmonious interplay of Yin (pliable, yielding) and Yang (firm, assertiveness) energies.” It is to emphasize the continuous, unceasing interplay between the two forces of the universe: Yin and Yang. “
        • Lee emphasized that every situation, in fighting or in everyday life, is varied. To obtain victory, therefore, it is essential not to be rigid, but to be fluid and able to adapt to any situation. He compared it to being like water: “Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water.” Lee’s theory behind this was that one must be able to function in any scenario.
        • Real combat is spontaneous, alive, and dynamic, with circumstances changing from millisecond to millisecond.  Be unpredictable placing emphasis on efficiency, speed, and adjust-ability.
      • Economy of motion
        • Maximum expression/effect with minimal movement
          • This is meant to help a practitioner conserve both energy and time, two crucial components in a physical confrontation. Maximized force seeks to end the battle quickly due to the amount of damage inflicted upon the opponent.
        • Jeet Kune Do seeks to waste no time or movement, teaching that the simplest things work best, as in Wing Chun. Economy of motion is the principle by which JKD practitioners achieve:
          • Efficiency: An attack which reaches its target in the least amount of time, with maximum force.
          • Directness: Doing what comes naturally in a disciplined way.
          • Simplicity: Thinking in an uncomplicated manner; without ornamentation
        • Interception
          • A concept originating in Wing Chun where one attacks while one’s opponent is attacking.  Interception may occur before, during or after the opponents attack.  The concept may be extended to include understanding your opponents’ thoughts and intercepting them to your advantage. Interception
          • An opponents attack offers me an opportunity to intercept it. This means intercepting an opponent’s attack with an attack of one’s own instead of simply blocking it.
          • Simultaneous parrying & punching utilizes the principle of economy of motion by combining attack and defense into one movement, thus minimizing the “time” element and maximizing the “energy” element. Efficiency is gained by utilizing a parry rather than a block. By definition a “block” stops an attack, whereas a parry merely re-directs it. Redirection has two advantages, first that it requires less energy to execute and second that it utilizes the opponent’s energy against them by creating an imbalance. Efficiency is gained in that the opponent has less time to react to an incoming attack, since they are still nullifying the original attack.
    • Chinese characters indicate
      • No way is the way
        • Lee did not believe in “styles” and felt that every person and every situation is different and not everyone fits into a mold; one must remain flexible in order to obtain new knowledge and victory in both life and combat.
        • Fight circumstances change from millisecond to millisecond, thus pre-arranged patterns and techniques are not adequate and can be described as a “classical mess”
        • One is to approach combat without any preconceived notions, and simply respond to “what is.” In this way, the martial artist is adaptable and pliable enough to fit in with the opponent and situation instantaneously. He is using no particular or set way that was preconditioned in him. “No-mindedness” is a term often used to describe this state of unconscious consciousness or conscious unconsciousness. And, indeed, it is an ideal state that is difficult to attain but which one aspires to.
        • In addition, one tries to be like water when using this “no-way” approach. Water automatically assumes the container that it is poured in, thereby constantly fitting in with and adapting to the situation.
        • “All out Sparring” provides the right environment to determine if a technique is worthy of adoption
      • No limitation as limitation
        • To fully express yourself, you can have no limitations.  Traditional or classical styles of martial arts are limiting due to rigid and non – flowing movements.
        • By having no limitation as the only limitation, one can transcend martial arts boundaries that are set by style, tradition, race, individual preferences
        • One must never become stagnant in the mind or method, but always evolving and moving towards improving oneself
      • Combined effect of these phrases
        • Lee wanted us to search deep within ourselves to find what works best for each one of us.
        • No longer are we dependent on the teachings of various styles or teachers.
        • But by taking an honest assessment of our own strengths and weaknesses, we can improve our martial skill as well as our daily living.
        • Like he said, “Knowledge… ultimately, means self-knowledge”.
        • ” With this freedom to improve our skill and life in any way that we like, one is able to honestly express one’s self”

Suggested Next steps: