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The martial arts require years of patience and discipline to master. Bruce Lee, conceivably the greatest martial artist of all time, dedicated his life to perfecting these methods of self-defense and built a global following for mastering his craft. Not only did he attain unprecedented levels of control of his body, but he also achieved a degree of mental discipline most thought impossible. Such were his levels of speed and prowess it is reported that during the filming of the 1970's classic "Enter the Dragon", Lee had to slow down the pace at which he moved, as the cameras could not capture his speed.

The entrepreneur can learn a lot from the discipline of the ancient combat systems - to develop an acute business instinct requires a similar mix of speed and patience. Here are some business lessons we can all learn from the master himself, Lee Jun-Fan, better known to the world as Bruce Lee:


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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 and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.
— Bruce Lee

Emotional intelligence allows you to adapt yourself to different situations and personality types. When Bruce Lee said "be water" he was advising people to adapt themselves to their situation. For example, managing a team of salespeople is strikingly different to leading a group of software engineers - these distinct individuals (there is a real person in flesh behind the title, after all) have different moral values, ethics, and motivations. This can all be traced back to the personal, cultural, and financial context of their early upbringing. There are many different styles in business: in order to inspire and build relationships with these disparate groups of individuals, one needs to understand what drives them, and then adapt and act accordingly.


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Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.
— Bruce Lee

There is an old adage that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over whilst expecting different results. The master businessman should very swiftly disband of the things that don't work and hold close the things that do. It is vital not to be stubborn with your ideas. Humbleness and humility are under-stated business virtues that are essential for self-preservation in a competitive business environment. If it is clear that one of your methods is ineffective - try a different approach, listen to your team, and eventually you will find something that . Adapt what is useful and reject what is useless is just as valuable a business lesson as it is a timeless martial arts principle.


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If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done. Make at least one definite move daily toward your goal.
— Bruce Lee

Brainstorming and strategic time can help in turning your business into an "idea engine". Businesses like Google, with initiatives such as its "pet projects" scheme, have proven the economic value that can be generated from an environment conducive to idea generation. However, the real skill is in hiring, incentivising, rewarding, and retaining both visionaries AND the executors, and maintaining the right balance between them. Put the two together in the right quantities in a setting where new ideas are nurtured, and you may just have a winning formula.

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To perfect the seemingly impossible one-inch punch took Bruce Lee countless hours of practice and self-discipline. He created his own martial arts philosophy, which he dubbed Jeet Kune Do (The Way of the Intercepting Fistmove) when he started moving with the fluidity and the speed that the cameras on the "Enter the Dragon" set couldn't capture. By pushing the boundaries on what had hitherto been considered possible, he immortalised himself in the eyes of the world. Amongst the many fragments of wisdom I take away from the Master, one stands out to me. And that is...in order to have real longevity and defensibility in business, sometimes we have to create our very own category.

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