Top positive review
5.0 out of 5 starsBe Aqua, My Friend!
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on May 30, 2021
This book "Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee" by Shannon Lee has so much to offer whether or not you are a Bruce Lee fan. Prior to reading this book, I'm not a Bruce Lee fan. I've never watched his movies and I don't know much about his life as a martial artist, actor and philosopher. I've only heard of his famous saying "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." That's about it. After reading this book, I am in awe of Bruce Lee's teaching. In many ways, this book reads like a self-improvement or spiritual book but it is also a partial memoir of Shannon's life. Many of Bruce Lee's abstract ideas are explained through Shannon's personal experiences or grounded examples. This book is carefully written to deliver a good punch (pun intended) to the readers.
This book starts with the introduction of Bruce Lee's famous "Be Water" philosophy. This philosophy can be applied to both life and martial arts. The idea behind it is that you want to be like water as a person. Water has characteristics of readiness, and it is moving and flowing in all directions when it is not obstructed by something. To imbue water's characteristics into one's life, one needs to be "in the flow", in part, being present (by choosing to live life consciously, purposefully, and intentionally); be pliable (by not being rigid to one's circumstances and surroundings); have appropriate tension (so that one can be present, pliable, and engaged when the floodgates open); and be purposeful (by embodying an idea, practice, value, or concept into one's being). This forms the foundation of the "Be Water" philosophy. After learning the "Be Water" philosophy, Shannon takes a deep dive into other parts of Bruce Lee's philosophy - The Empty Cup (Chapter 2), The Eternal Student (Chapter 3) and Knowing the Opponent (Chapter 4) of which I won't go into any details but I found them to offer great paradigm shifts to my thinking. One of my favorite chapters is The Tools (Chapter 5), where Shannon shares the tools to integrate Bruce Lee's philosophy into our lives (It is important to note that the focus of this book is to become the best version of ourselves and not to become Bruce Lee-like). The six tools she described - Take Aim, Take Action, Affirm, By Symbolic, Journal and Get Physical, are prescriptive and practical. For instance, affirmation can be challenging because self-doubts will always creep in. However, Shannon suggested affirmations to be framed in a way such that they just aren't true yet. Along the same vein, she suggested that we write down our affirmations by framing them as something we're working on: instead of writing "I'm a good writer", write "I'm writing everyday to become a good writer." This way we're authentic with our affirmation, and it is something we can trust and fall back on - like faith. I dare to say all six tools can be applied to other philosophies and doctrines which makes this chapter incredible to read. The Rainstorm (Chapter 7) is another favorite of mine. I felt Shannon poured her heart into this chapter. Shannon was vulnerable by sharing her struggles and chronic depression after she found out her brother, Brandon Lee, died. Eventually, Shannon was able to pick up her feet when she found hope through her dad's writing. The last chapter, My Friend (Chapter 10), is a chapter where we learn about Bruce Lee, as a friend. I'm sure all citizens of this world can appreciate this chapter because Shannon goes in depth of Bruce Lee's teaching of friendship and inclusion. As Bruce Lee once said "If every man would help his neighbor, no man would be without help. I'm not one of those guys that can brush people off. Besides, I feel that I can just take a second to make someone happy, why not do it?" Shannon added "We hear the words “compassion” and “empathy” and “unconditional love” a lot, and they are good and noble words, but maybe if we start more simply and with something more common that we all have access to, like the word “friend,” it could be a path that would eventually lead us to those noble qualities more easily."
All in all, I highly recommend this book to everyone who wants to self improve and/or who wants to learn about Bruce Lee's legacy. Not everything you read in this book is applicable but I also believe all books speak to us differently in different seasons of our lives. For this reason, I will reread this book again in the future.