Be Water, My Friend

Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless, like water. You put water into a cup; it becomes the cup. You put water into a teapot; it becomes the teapot. You put it into a bottle; it becomes the bottle. Now water can flow, or it can crash! Be water, my friend.

Chapter 1 - The Water Way

  • I've selected a few of water's attributes that stuck out to me
    • The few that I didn't include were no limitation, have appropriate tension
  • Shannon Lee brings up astrology in this chapter which seemed random and out of place but it made me laugh

Be Aware

  • Awareness is about living consciously, purposefully, and intentionally
  • Don't let life happen to you
    • Be fully involved in the creation of your life
  • Choose to respond, not react
    • Pure emotional reactions often come from a mind polluted with negativity
    • You can't choose a response if you can't even see there are choices to be made

Be Pliable

When man is living, he is soft and pliable; when he is dead, he becomes rigid. Pliability is life; rigidity is death, whether we are speaking of the body, the mind, or the spirit. Be pliable.

  • Remember the bamboo and the oak tree in a storm
    • The rigidity of the oak tree causes it to crack and fall over
    • The bamboo bends and thrives
  • Awareness allows us to see our options so that you can respond flexibly
  • Life is constantly changing and in flux, you should flow with it

Be Purposeful

  • What you do and who you are are not as important as how you express the what and who
  • What do you embody?
  • The pursuit of self-actualization
    • Make reality of who we want to be, the life we want to life, etc.
    • Know oneself and express the uniqueness of oneself in the world with skill and ease
  • Always engage in the process of discovering and embodying our most real and true selves

Be Whole

  • Yin and yang
    • Without hot, there is no cold, without sadness, there is no happiness, etc.
  • The is a duality within the world, embrace it
    • Seek the whole experience that is life

Chapter 2 - The Empty Cup

  • If we close ourselves to the world, we cannot learn the lessons in front of us
  • Approach every experience with a willingness to discover something new
  • What is the world like with no expectations?
  • Our judgements often create the positive/negative aspects of the world so what happens if we leave judgement at the door?

I must give up my desire to force, direct, strangle the world outside of me and within me in order to be completely open, responsible, aware, alive. This is often called "to make oneself empty," which does not mean something negative, but means the openness to receive.

  • In order to empty our cups we need to master awareness
    • The ability to notice our thoughts and let them go
  • +1 for meditation

Chapter 3 - The Eternal Student

  • Zen Beginner's Mind
  • Similar to closing ourselves off the the world, we close ourselves off to knowledge when we think we have all the answers
  • We have to find knowledge for ourselves
    • A good teacher simply points to truth but does not give it
  • If your decisions are being guided by should then they may be misguided
  • Weaknesses and strengths are connected
    • Duality
    • Life is about balance
  • Self-help is about ownership of our lives
    • The only help is the help we give to ourselves
    • We must work on ourselves every day

Chapter 4 - The Opponent

  • To compete is to be focused on what is happening outside yourself
    • Our potential can never be fully realized, we become too focused on winning
  • We should focus on ourselves
    • Bettering ourselves
    • Keeping ourselves accountable
  • Six diseases of life
    • Come from ego
    • Desires related to impressing others or upholding a certain image
    • The diseases
      • Desire for victory
      • Desire to resort to technical cunning
      • Desire to display all that has been learned
      • Desire to awe the enemy
      • Desire to play the passive role
        • Put things aside to appear likable and wonderful to others
      • Desire to rid oneself of whatever disease on is affected by
  • We need to be less obsessed with outcomes and commit to expressing ourselves fully
  • We should take responsibility for our actions

There is a powerful craving in most of us to see ourselves as instruments in the hands of others and thus free ourselves from the responsibility for actions, which are prompted by our own questionable impulses and inclinations.

  • Try to be objective

Chapter 5 - The Tools

  • Immense growth comes from persistence and dedication

Take Aim

  • Build a clear vision for yourself
  • If the vision is not clear, progress will be nearly impossible
  • A north star to guide you

Take Action

  • Having a vision isn't enough
  • Vision without action leads to stagnation

An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion. ~ Isaac Newton

  • We have to be optimistic too
    • Pessimism blunts the tools you need to succeed
  • Take whatever small step you can toward your vision, it is still action


  • Affirmations help reinforce your beliefs
  • It helps cultivate the optimism required to push through struggle
  • We are planting seeds in our subconscious mind

Be Symbolic

  • Use symbols to help remind yourself of important lessons
  • These symbols can help bring us back to our path when we have strayed
    • For example, when we lose our temper


  • Introspection helps us learn lessons we may not have noticed in the moment
  • A journal is a place to discover ourselves

Get Physical

  • We are physical beings
  • Staying in touch with our physical self is as important as the mental aspect if we want to be well rounded
  • It doesn't matter what form of activity we do, we should keep in touch with our body

Embrace the Process

  • Change takes time
  • Related to Chapter 4, we shouldn't be obsessed with outcomes
  • Goals give us something to lean into but aren't necessarily things that we must reach
  • Maximizing our potential isn't tallying accomplishments but the continual engagement in life as a process of growth

Chapter 6 - The Obstacle

  • The Obstacle is the Way
  • We will never avoid difficulties in life, so how can we embrace them?
  • The obstacle itself isn't important, how we react to it is
    • Our mental attitude determines how difficult obstacles are to overcome

Defeat is a state of mind; no one is defeated until defeat has been accepted as a reality.

  • When we are powerful enough to assign our own meaning to the world, we don't need to make up a story about what kind of person we will be seen as
    • Worrying too much about how others sees us holds us back
    • Don't let our obstacles define who we are

Chapter 7 - The Rainstorm

The medicine for my suffering I had within me from the very beginning, but I did not take it. My ailment came from within myself, but I did not observe it until this moment.

  • The hardest obstacles in life can only be overcome by us
    • Our attitudes, our actions, cannot be determined by anyone else
  • We should take healing into our own hands
  • The Eightfold Path of Buddhism

Chapter 8 - The Living Void

  • Living without attachment
    • No good/bad
    • No right/wrong
  • We must approach every experience without prejudice

Book Bruce Lee Memoir Self-Help Philosophy