Bruce Lee has been, and still continues to be, one of the greatest thought leaders in modern Martial Arts even long after his passing. His lessons on life and living will always remain profound, and influential no matter in which era they are read.
Here are 3 of my favorite lessons from him on learning:
1) "Learning is never cumulative. - The additive process is merely a cultivation of memory, which becomes mechanical. Learning is never cumulative, it is a movement of knowing which has no beginning and no end."
We tend to think of our growth as a linear process. As if we keep stacking lessons on top of other lessons we've learned in the past. I find this quote particularly interesting because it says that "stacking" process is more about our memory, which is rigid and mechanical, something to be habituated. Whereas learning must be a continuing mindset that never ceases. I think this is fundamentally important to learning anything. With the mindset that learning is cumulative, anything we perceive to be beneath our current level of knowledge will be passed by, because we consider ourselves at a higher level than that of the lesson. Whereas if we view learning as continuous, we view every lesson as something that might be able to teach us and help us grow. Thereby giving ourselves more lessons to learn from and more opportunities for growth.
2) "On learning. - Learning is discovery, the discovery of the cause of our ignorance. However, the best way of learning is not the computation of information. Learning is discovering, uncovering what is there in us. When we discover, we are uncovering our own ability, our own eyes, in order to find our potential, to see what is going on, to discover how we can enlarge our lives, to find means at our disposal that will let us cope with a difficult situation. And all this, I maintain, is taking place in the here an now."
Lee's philosophies were focused on self-knowledge and self-mastery. This quote is interesting to me because it aims learning back towards us. It encourages us to focus our learning on ourselves in the pursuit of self discovery, rather that knowledge external to ourselves.
"Learning is discovery, the discovery of the cause of our ignorance." Is my favorite part of the quote for me. It reminds me of how little we focus our attention on seeking and shedding light on our blind spots. I remind our members all the time to devote a portion of the workouts to work on the things that they are weakest at. Lee reminds us that the first step is understanding where we lack, which is the reverse of how most of us approach our workout routines. Only then can we focus our attention on it and look for opportunities to learn lessons which help us grow strong where we are weak. It is far better to seek out our weaknesses on our own terms rather than having something unexpectedly happen that catches us unprepared.
3) "Emptiness the starting point. - In order to taste my cup of water you must first empty your cup. My friend, drop all of your preconcieved fixed ideas and be neutral. Do you know why a cup is useful? Because it is empty."
This quote goes along the same lines as the beginners mindset. Its the idea that in order to learn anything, you must first give up the idea that you know it all. Nothing accelerates the learning process that preparing yourself to be taught and to learn something new. Bruce Lee likens this to the idea that when a glass is full, nothing else can be put into it. Its just overflows and can retain nothing more. We fall into this trap all the time. Unfortunately, this mindset limits our ability to learn something new because we subconsciously deny ourselves the lesson due to our pride. Humility will always be our friend when we need to learn something new because it allows us to make room for it.
We have to go into the lesson with an open mind, even if it means re-learning some things that we thought ourselves to have mastered in the past. In allowing to be taught, we also open ourselves to growth. Therefore, this quote is a reminder that if you feel stuck, you need to ditch your pride in order open yourself up to be taught again.