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Why “Being Like Water” Makes Us Stronger: Bruce Lee’s Martial Arts Philosophy

Why “Being Like Water” Makes Us Stronger: Bruce Lee’s Martial Arts Philosophy

“Don’t make a plan of fighting; that is a very good way to lose your teeth. If you try to remember you will lose. Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless, like water” ― Bruce Lee

Voted as one of the most influential people of the 20th century by Time magazine, Bruce Lee was an actor, teacher, father, and philosopher. Among his many contributions in the field of martial arts, what stands out the most is his famous quote on “being like water”. From kung fu apprentices to muay thai students, people from all walks of life want to embody Lee’s teaching and incorporate it into their lives to become more productive, successful, and balanced.

What does “being like water” really mean? And how can you adapt this thinking into everyday situations? Continue reading to learn more.

You Will Become Fearless

One of water’s most notable characteristics is its fluidity. If you spill your drink, it will scatter on the floor, filling every crevice or crack. It is unafraid to explore what lies beyond. It doesn’t have a plan; it will simply spread where it can. Bruce Lee was not the first to admire this fascinating ability of water. Ancient philosopher and founder of Tao principles, Lao Tzu, also believed in water’s amazing ability to find its way around anything without care or anxiety.

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Are there things you always dreamed of doing but were always too afraid to try? Have you thought about quitting something only to back out of your decision for fear of what comes next? Timing is certainly important, but if you always wait for that “opportune moment”, it might never come.

Want to switch careers but you’re already in your late 30’s? Interested in starting a business but you don’t have a budget? Instead of over-thinking, learn to let go and simply flow. Be like water – it’s not scared to venture into the unknown because it will simply make the rules as it goes. The minute you realize that there’s nothing in your way but yourself, it will open doors to possibilities you didn’t even know existed.

You’ll Be Adaptable To Change

A lot of people mistake Bruce Lee’s famous quote to being a conformist. However, there’s a difference: adapting means “to change or be changed to fit or work better in particular scenarios”; whereas conforming means “having the same behavior as most people in a group”. Water adapts – it changes based on where it is placed. If you pour it into a bowl, it will take the shape of a bowl. Its components do not change.

If you are faced with a situation that you’re not familiar with (like being a new employee at a company), adapt – but DO NOT conform! Conforming means you will obey or copy the behavior of others to gain social acceptance. Although it’s going to be difficult at first, aim to gain people’s respect above their approval. Respect is objective; even if folks around you may not like you as much, if they respect you, this isn’t likely to change even if circumstances become different.

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Once you master the art of adaptability, you’ll have nothing to fear wherever you are. Traveling alone? Facing new responsibilities at the office? Starting a family? If you’re like water, you’ll simply find better ways to adjust to your new environment. Your condition will not change you. In fact, you might be the one to change things around you!

You Can Maneuver Through Any Problem

What does water do when faced with a wall? It finds a way through it. Water will crash, erode, or seep into crevices until it can find its way again. For example, the famous Grand Canyon in Arizona was carved from a great river that once flowed through it. Water is one of the most powerful elements on earth, capable of moving boulders, shaping coastlines, and carving massive caves.

Sometimes, your problems become a huge mountain that blocks your path. It seems too tall, too big, and too powerful to overcome. So what do you do? Instead of trying to climb it, why not go through it? Often, the challenges you face have multiple solutions – but you can’t see it because you keep looking above. Answers can lurk in the most unexpected yet obvious of places. If you’re too busy viewing just one angle, you won’t be able to get through it.

Once when Lee was under the instruction of his teacher, Yip Man, he became frustrated because he couldn’t master what Yip wanted him to learn. Thus, Yip gave him a week to meditate and reflect upon his situation. Lee surprisingly found the answer to his dilemma not from something supernatural, but rather, when he went sailing alone. It was when he looked at the water that he realized what he has to do in order to be great.

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Not only was he able to overcome his problem, he also came up with his own ideology that would serve to become one of the greatest sources of inspiration today.

You are Gentle, Yet Powerful

“Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water, my friend.”

Power doesn’t mean having great muscles, being able to hold the highest position in office, or putting people down into submission. To be powerful means to stay standing despite the odds. Commanding authority means having people willingly follow you because they find you wise and inspiring. Like water that can bore through stones, you should be strong enough to break away at life’s challenges. At the same time, you should be gentle enough to respect life around you.

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Conclusion

Bruce Lee was like water: he displayed strength whenever he fought; however, he was always kind when he dealt with those around him. People tried to put him down, but he simply found other ways to follow his dreams and succeed. Water is an amazing element. Learn its ways and it will lead you to become the best person you can be.

Featured photo credit: Alex Wong via stocksnap.io

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Last Updated on April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

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Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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