15 Powerful Bruce Lee Quotes That Will Inspire a Change In You

Updated February 17, 2022
Portrait Of Bruce Lee With Quote
    Portrait Of Bruce Lee With Quote
    Bettmann / Bettmann / Getty Images editorial
    Used under Getty Images editorial license

Born Lee Jun-fan in Hong Kong, Bruce Lee would become an icon of martial arts and 20th-century philosophy. Although he was only 32 when he died, Lee’s legacy would only shine brighter to actors, martial artists and anyone who wishes to challenge themselves further.

Bruce Lee Quotes on Limits and Boundaries

As the founder of Jeet Kune Do, known as the predecessor of today’s mixed martial arts, Bruce Lee believed first and foremost in formlessness. His “Be water” quote from the show Longstreet summarizes his philosophy well, but it was a belief he held in every context.

  • “Don't get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow, be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless — like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle 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.” - “The Lost Interview,” The Pierre Berton Show, 1971 (lines from Longstreet television series)

  • “In order to taste my cup of water you must first empty your cup. My friend, drop all your preconceived and fixed ideas and be neutral. Do you know why this cup is useful? Because it is empty.” - Bruce Lee: Striking Thoughts

  • “Using no way as way; Having no limitation as limitation.” - The Warrior Within: The Philosophies of Bruce Lee

  • “Give up thinking as though not giving it up. Observe techniques as though not observing.” - Tao of Jeet Kune Do

  • “Here is the natural instinct, and here is control. You are to combine the two in harmony. If you have one to the extreme, you will be very unscientific. If you have another to the extreme, you become all of a sudden a mechanical man, no longer a human being. So it is a successful combination of both. Therefore, it is not pure naturalness, or unnaturalness. The ideal is unnatural naturalness, or natural unnaturalness.” - “The Lost Interview”

Bruce Lee Quotes on Strength and Competition

How did Bruce Lee become such a successful actor and competitor? His advice about facing opponents applies to any conflict in life: It all depends on determination and acting on your thoughts.

  • “You must have complete determination. The worst opponent you can come across is one whose aim has become an obsession. For instance, if a man has decided that he is going to bite off your nose no matter what happens to him in the process, the chances are he will succeed in doing it. He may be severely beaten up, too, but that will not stop him from carrying out his objective. That is the real fighter.” - The Warrior Within: The Philosophies of Bruce Lee

  • “Like everyone else you want to learn the way to win, but never to accept the way to lose — to accept defeat. To learn to die is to be liberated from it. So when tomorrow comes you must free your ambitious mind and learn the art of dying!” - Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey

  • “Balance your thoughts with action. If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you’ll never get it done.” - Bruce Lee: Striking Thoughts

  • “If you think a thing is impossible, you'll only make it impossible.” - Tao of Jeet Kune Do

  • “I'm moving and not moving at all. I'm like the moon underneath the waves that ever go on rolling and rocking. It is not, ‘I am doing this,’ but rather, an inner realization that ‘this is happening through me,’ or ‘it is doing this for me.’ The consciousness of self is the greatest hindrance to the proper execution of all physical action.” - Tao of Jeet Kune Do


Life Lessons From Bruce Lee

Even if you’re not a martial artist, Bruce Lee has guidance for you. His words are especially poignant in the context of his all-too-brief life.

  • “Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.” - Tao of Jeet Kune Do

  • “When I look around, I always learn something, and that is, to always be yourself and to express yourself. To have faith in yourself. Do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate him.” - The Warrior Within: The Philosophies of Bruce Lee

  • “To spend time is to pass it in a specific manner. To waste time is to expend it thoughtlessly or carelessly. We all have time to either spend or waste, and it is our decision what to do with it.” - Bruce Lee: Striking Thoughts

  • “To grow, to discover, we need involvement, which is something I experience every day — sometimes good, sometimes frustrating. No matter what, you must let your inner light guide you out of the darkness.” - The Warrior Within: The Philosophies of Bruce Lee

  • “Self-actualization is the important thing. And my personal message to people is that I hope they will go toward self-actualization rather than self-image actualization. I hope that they will search within themselves for honest self-expression.” - quoted in Bruce Lee: Striking Thoughts


Enter the Dragon

Reading Bruce Lee quotes can help you feel energized for your next steps in life. For more inspiring words, check out: