I’m a big fan – I was going to say “huge,” but Donald Trump has commandeered that word for the time being – of a blog that you should know about if you don’t already: Brain Pickings Weekly. It’s a compendium of wonderful musings on love, life, and philosophy, and I learn something from it every week.

Well, last week I read in Brain Pickings, with real surprise, that Bruce Lee was quite the philosopher who kept a notebook full of his musings, in addition to being one of the greatest Kung Fu practitioners of all time. In particular, Lee had ten principles that he strove to live by and which he kept in his journal for handy reference. I was struck in reading them how helpful they are for public speakers, as well as for Kung Fu black belts, if that’s what they’re called. So here they are, annotated for speakers: the life lessons of Bruce Lee.

1.You will never get any more out of life than you expect. I took this to mean that you need to set your sights high. Just like in Kung Fu (I’m guessing), mastering the art of public speaking is always doomed to a personal sense of failure – but only if you’ve set your standards high enough. And that’s a good thing, because you only get better by pushing yourself.

2.Keep your mind on the things you want and off those you don’t. It’s incredibly important for speakers to focus on the positive aspects of their relationship with the audience, and with their material. If you’re excited to present and thrilled by your content, you’re going to do well. If you focus on all the things that could go wrong, most of them will.

3.Things live by moving and gain strength as they go. I took this in the metaphorical sense of embracing change as a speaker and keeping on tweaking your speech and material, learning new stuff, and constantly moving forward. I worked once with a client who had given the same speech for sixteen years, and that client did not start from a good place. Rather, the client was horribly stuck on material that had died long before. Don’t end up like him!

4.Be a calm beholder of what is happening around you. It’s vital for a speaker to maintain a separate little slice of the brain to watch the speaker, the speech, and the audience with a bit of detachment so that you can gauge how it’s going and perhaps even shift directions if the situation warrants. You can’t do that if you’re only focusing on being fully present, as powerful as that is.

5.There is a difference a) the world b) our reaction to it. So true – we speakers, our material, the audiences we speak to – we need to be clear on our role and how we react to events both good and bad. We are not our messages. We are human and deserve to be seen independently of our stories, our platforms, our thought leadership, and our messages.

6.Be aware of our conditioning! Drop and dissolve inner blockage. Inner conditioning for a speaker can be so deadly – our fears, our issues with rejection or performance, the things that are keeping us from showing up as strong and real as possible – all of that needs to be dissolved, as Lee says. You need to make room for your real voice and the real performer you are.

7.Inner to outer — we start by dissolving our attitude not by altering outer condition. Speakers, like everyone else, tend to blame the externals for things that go wrong. We complain about the room, the slides, the technology, the audience – when the focus should be on us and our failings.

8.See that there is no one to fight, only an illusion to see through. If a Kung Fu artist says that there is no one to fight, how can we speakers be afraid of our audiences? I love this insight.

9.No one can hurt you unless you allow him to. And of course, by extension, then, we only let ourselves be wounded by taking things personally or through the miasma of anxiety and insecurity we surround ourselves with. To get started on becoming a powerful speaker, let go of the need for approval and love and focus instead on your art: your message.

10.Inwardly, psychologically, be a nobody. I think this means letting go of ego and keeping on learning no matter how advanced you are. We are all always students of public speaking. We can learn from everyone, always, with the right attitude.

Transformational thinking from the master of Kung Fu, Bruce Lee. Speakers take note. Thanks again to Brain Pickings Weekly.

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1 Comment

  1. Great thoughts Nick. I have always been captivated by his intensity, discipline and focus. Then add in the fact he also wrote and directed several of his films you have an incredible person.

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