By Anubhav Srivastava ( Register for his Workshop – Build Super Confidence For Super Success!)
Bruce Lee attracted respect and appreciation from all over. His dynamic on screen presence and audience appreciation which transcended all cultural boundaries led to the creation of one of the most memorable movie legends of the 20th century.
We all know Bruce Lee as a major action star and one of the greatest martial artists in the world, but what we do not know was that was a great philosopher too and it is his philosophy on life that helped him battle tremendous odds to achieve his dream. While most people only begin to figure out life in their thirties, Bruce Lee accomplished his dream of being a great martial artist and a movie star in his early thirties just before his untimely death. Seek inspiration from one of the greatest movie legends of our generation.
Bruce Lee was born in San Franscisco to Chinese Parents who were theatre artists. After his birth the family moved back to Hong Kong where he grew up. He started taking martial arts seriously when he was beaten up by a local gang at the age of 13. He quickly became adept at martial arts and became one of the best street fighters in Hong Kong. On a downside, this got attention from the police as well. When Bruce Lee beat up one of the boys who was the son of a feared Chinese Mafia Member, they started fearing for his life and decided it was best for him to get away from Hong Kong and send him back to San Francisco.
When Bruce Lee reached San Francisco, for a while he did odd jobs, but then later enrolled in the University of Washington in Seattle to study philosophy. He also started holding martial arts classes. It is here he would meet Linda Emery, one of his students who would later become his wife. In a time when there was considerable opposition to inter racial relationships, Bruce Lee and Linda started a relationship and got married three years later.
It was clear that Bruce Lee was never concerned about race. In fact racism was not just practised by the majority against the minority but also the other way round. At the time most Chinese Martial arts schools refused to admit non Chinese students as they believed only Chinese students deserved to learn their martial arts secrets. Many of the Chinese Martial Artists at the time disliked Bruce Lee because they thought he was violating their code.
So a Martial Artist named Jack Man Wong challenged him. The conditions of the fight were that if Bruce Lee lost, he would close his schools or stop teaching non Chinese people. If Jack lost, he would quit teaching. Within one minute Bruce defeated Jack and thus continued to impart his knowledge to everyone who wished to learn.
Bruce Lee’s Goal to Become an Action Movie Star
Bruce Lee had two major career goals. The first one was to become one of the greatest martial artist in the world. He accomplished this goal very early on in life. By the time he was in his early twenties his martial arts skills had already become legendary. He had not only beaten the greatest Martial Arts masters but also won every real world street fight he took part in.
He exhibited his skills in many martial arts competitions where he demonstrated his incredible talent, A video of him demonstrating his skills at one of the competitions would help him land his first acting gig.
Bruce Lee’s second major goal was to become a major action movie star. Accomplishing this was much more difficult. His video at the competed led to him being invited for the audition of a TV series called the Green Hornet.
The show was very successful and Lee’s skills were so phenomenal that his character actually become more popular than the lead character of Green Hornet. When the show was aired in Hong Kong, the popularity of Bruce Lee’s character lead to the show being renamed “the Kato Show.”
Failure and Frustration
Even after the success of the Green Hornet, things would not come easy for Bruce. No matter where he tried to be a leading actor whether for a show or for a martial arts movie, they would turn him down because he was not white. This happened continuously. During this period he made many guest appearances in many television shows and taught martial arts to some of the leading movie stars of the time . They all were awed by his talent and believed he could be a great star but some how things never worked out for him.
In 1969, the television show, The Green Hornet, aired its final episode and Bruce was trying to find another television role. Bruce Lee pitched a Kung Fu series to Warner Brothers. Bruce worked very hard on the project, giving the screen writers and directors his input and believed that the new series would eventually have him as the lead actor. But then Warner Brothers announced that they had selected Caucasian actor, David Carradine who did not even have much martial arts background, for the role instead of Bruce Lee. It’s been speculated that Bruce was never considered for the main role because viewers might not be ready for Bruce’s “Oriental” looks.
Bruce felt cheated mentioned to his friend that if he hadn’t been Chinese, it would be him doing the Kung Fu Series because he was a recognized actor and probably the best martial artist among any of his contemporaries who were also actors. It was a clear case of Hollywood’s Xenophobia.
Angry after having been burnt by Warner Brothers and frustrated at the lack of opportunities in Hollywood for an Asian American actor, Bruce sat down one night and wrote a letter to himself.
“By 1980, I will be the best known oriental movie star in the United States and will have secured $10 million dollars… And in return, I will give the very best acting I could possibly give every single time I am in front of the camera and I will live in peace and harmony.”
Around this time when things couldn’t get any worse Bruce Lee injured his back and was bed ridden for 6 months. Doctors told Bruce he could never kick again . Bruce Lee of course refused to believe them and within 6 months had mostly recovered from his injury. Still acting opportunities eluded him. Frustrated, he decided to go to Hong Kong with his family for a short break.
The Struggle Finally Ends: Bruce Lee Becomes a Star
To his surprise, in Hong Kong he was recognized on the street by most people as the star of the Green Hornet which had been renamed The Kato Show due to Bruce’s immense popularity. Knowing that Bruce wanted to enter movies, one of the Hong Kong’s leading producers Raymond Chow approached Bruce and asked him whether he wanted to star in a motion picture he was making in Hong Kong, called the Big Boss. Bruce Lee accepted.
The Big Boss was a massive success and turned Bruce Lee into an overnight major movie star in Hong Kong. He followed it up with Fist of Fury which was an even bigger hit and Way of the Dragon co starring Chuck Norris which elevated Bruce Lee to an iconic status in East Asia.
Very soon what followed was what Bruce had desperately been trying for so many years but always eluded him. Warner Brothers came back to him and proposed making a movie that would be released in America as well. It was titled Enter the Dragon. This movie would make Bruce an International Star and one of the greatest movie legends of the 20th century. Unfortunately, just days before the release, Bruce Lee passed away of Cerebral Edema.
You might say, what’s the point of all that success if he was going to die and not enjoy his success. Well my argument is that we all will die someday anyway. Bruce Lee was surely unlucky that he did not get to enjoy success and enjoy his life with his family for as long as he wanted, but the kind of impact he was able to lead in his short life and inspire millions around the world, who still look up to him as their hero is a feat that is rarely matched by any human. At the end of the day the impact you leave on others matters more than how long you live.
Lessons to be learned from Bruce Lee’s Success.
What drove Bruce to do so much at such an early age? What was his mindset? Bruce never was one to remain idle. He never considered himself a master, but rather a student-master, who was always eager to learn more about his craft. Here are some lessons we can learn from Bruce Lee:
Bruce Lee became the greatest martial artist not just because of his incredible talent but also his great work ethic. He rarely ever missed a work out. If you desire to get better in your field you have to commit yourself to training and doing whatever you need to do to improve your skills in that field.
2) Always keep learning and trying to get better.
Bruce had a voracious appetite for books. His personal library contained some 2,500 books from all different fields. Besides martial arts books, Bruce read quite a few personal development books from authors such as Napoleon Hill, W. Clement Stone and Dale Carnegie. He never saw himself as a master of anything. He told people that he had skill in the martial arts, but he was still learning, and that was true with his own personal development as well. He continued to expand his knowledge and to grow himself personally.
Bruce had to overcome some major obstacles in his path on his rise towards personal success. He had to overcome poverty, racial prejudice, prejudice within the Chinese community, financial woes, injuries, and lost opportunities. Any one of these obstacles could have easily erased Bruce Lee from popular culture, but it was his die-hard commitment not to let himself give up that made him what he is today.
About the Author
The writer of this article, Anubhav Srivastava is an author, motivational speaker and the director of Carve Your Destiny, a first of its kind inspirational documentary featuring some of the most famous personalities from diverse fields, who teach the viewers how they too can make all of their dreams come true. The movie itself has been seen on Youtube by close to 800,000 people. Anubhav has also been featured in numerous International and India Media outlets such as BBC , The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Rediff.com, Leicester Mercury and many others.
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