What Bruce Lee Taught Me About Money

Nov 3 / Peter Waitzman

Are you ready to move on from winter, to get outside, to get active again? For some of us, especially here in the Midwest, we’re eagerly waiting for the balmy 50 degree days. For some of us (me included) I’ve been thinking about getting more active again. And here locally, martial arts have been gaining popularity. Maybe the TV show Cobra Kai had something to do with it. I know it pressed the right nostalgia buttons for me. But either way, a record number of kids and adults have been enrolling in martial arts classes. I was intrigued, so I did some digging. And what I found were lessons that made me think of dealing with finances.

I’m sure you’ve heard of Kung Fu legend Bruce Lee. Bruce developed his own style of martial arts that he named Jeet Kune Do. Jeet Kune Do was built on his formal training of Wing Chun, taught to him by Master Ip. A key principle of both Jeet Kune Do and Wing Chun is that you can defend against much larger attackers. Despite having a size disadvantage, you survive by reacting by being flexible. 

Bruce Lee said, “You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.”

So, what does this have to do with finances? So much happens on a regular basis. Maybe it’s the macroeconomic events… like the economy or the stock market. Maybe it’s the personal challenges… like rearing kids or paying rising utility bills. On a day-to-day basis, these challenges can feel like a relentless, never-ending onslaught of attacks. The lesson for me is that you can’t brute force your way through them. You need to react, move, and adapt. A higher bill here may mean a cutback there. A reduction in your working hours may mean looking at earning more money in other places. Part of resilience is having a knowledge base of options to address challenges as they come up. Instead of just letting things happen, we need to have a creative, practical response. That’s where Life. Money. You. comes in. Right now, we’re focused on practical tips - things you can actually use in your daily life. You’re already busy. You could spend a lifetime sorting through financial education. That’s why we want to be a place you can go to for help. Sifu is the title used to refer to Kung Fu masters. In Cantonese, sifumeans someone who teaches you skills or techniques. We’re hoping to be your sifu as you face your life’s challenges.

So, it may be a stretch to think of martial arts as a solution for financial problems. And while it is about the physical nature of dealing with problems, it’s the philosophy that extends to life… to be like water, flexible, reactive… not rigid, ready to break.