More MBA Lessons From Bruce Lee (Part 2)

Bruce Lee, the founder of Jeet Kune Do martial art

On Friday, I blogged about what Bruce Lee can teach you about marketing and business.

Today I am going to go even further with more business and marketing lessons from Bruce.

1. Good is never enough

If you think you are good, think again. It is never enough. Before you step into the ring to fight, make sure you are excel in your field. If you don’t excel, someone will topple you easily.

You want to know why there isn’t another Bruce Lee even after all these years?

Because no one can train like Bruce.

Bruce was relentless in his daily training, bicycling 10 miles per day apart from other physical feats. His abdominal muscles were rock solid. He did the below exercises daily:

Waist twists – four sets of 90 repetitions.

Sit-up twists – four sets of 20 repetitions.

Leg raises – four sets of 20 repetitions.

Leaning twists – four sets of 50 repetitions.

Frog kicks – four sets of 50 repetitions.

What he did, what he ate and more are documented. But without discipline or motivation, you cannot be Bruce Lee. Until today, he still is irreplaceable!

And in business too, this holds true. If you want to be good in what you do, pursue it relentlessly. If you need to read more books, take more courses, learn more, do more, then so be it. You won’t obtain greatness just by sitting around and hoping luck comes your way!

But when you are truly excellent in your field, you are on your way to making your opponent irrelevant as Bruce did. (Maybe Bruce could have been called the forerunner of blue ocean strategy because he truly eliminated his competition with his own brand of martial art.)

2. Reinvent rules (you don’t have to play by your opponent’s rules)

Bruce Lee did not play by anyone’s rules – he invented his own and he founded his own martial art, Jeet Kune Do, in 1967 because he wanted to free his followers from the predictated styles of fighting.

Bruce notes: On the contrary, I hope to free my followers from clinging to styles, patterns, or molds. Remember that Jeet Kune Do is merely a name used, a mirror in which to see “ourselves”.

Bruce’s methods were often controversial because he thought classical martial arts was really classical mess with too much emphasis on pre-arranged patterns and techniques and probably not very useful when used in real fights. His Jeet Kune Do was a hybrid of martial arts and paid honest tribute to the fact that fighting was dynamic while pre-arranged moves were too limiting.

By creating his pioneering hybrid martial art, he in fact created a new philosophy for understanding martial art. For instance, if your opponent uses his legs for kicking, then move in closer to him so he has no chance to use his legs!

In doing so, Bruce created a style that helped him win fights.

Likewise in business. If you want to free yourself from the pack, ensure you can create something new on your own and invent your own rules.

At Redbox Studio, we stick to the principle of simple, static design. It means we do not use Flash animation when we design for clients. In an industry where clients get what they want, most web designers will willingly say OK even if the client’s requests are idiotic! Usually the request is not in the best interest of the client but who’s telling them? As long as the client can pay, the general idea is to shut up and just do what the client wants.

We won’t. Not because we are stubborn but we know why we’re still in this industry 10 years on. If the client does not listen to you (and you are the expert of what you do) then you have to use reason and evidence. If still the client insists on his way, perhaps that client is not the kind of client you want. You don’t go to a doctor and insist on your own diagnosis, do you? So why do you go to a web designer (an expert at what he does) and tell him how you want your website to be? Leave it to the expert to help you.

3. Absorb what is useful

Bruce, despite his extremist training approach, was smart and humble enough to know that he could always learn from his opponents.

When he sparred with a Muay Thai boxer, he discovered that his opponent’s legs were as strong as steel. Curious, he asked this opponent how he managed to develop his leg muscles (and learnt that the Muay Thai boxer wore shoes as heavy as 10 kg each during practice to develop strong leg muscles!).Bruce posed the same type of questions to his opponents in taekwando, jujitsu and karate whenever he found a particular technique interesting or useful!

So can you. Whenever you have a chance to talk to others, especially those successful in their fields, be humble enough to ask, listen and learn.

In the same way, we’ve learnt so much from the successful businesspeople we meet. It may not be specific to your field but if you can learn the concept/idea, you can apply it to improve your own business. Everyone is basically your teacher if you open your eyes and ears!

4. Understand your opponent

Martial art is about understanding your opponent as Bruce Lee realized. It is about understanding another human being and knowing their behaviour/habit so you can win the fight. As Bruce demonstrated, fancy movements are not needed when you’re in the fighting ring. All you need is one good move and you’ve knocked the other guy out.

Likewise, marketing is about understanding humans too. A successful business is not about flashy gimmicks, fancy setups or clowning around. It’s not about your glitzy office or glitzier car (by the way, the only people I know who need a fancy car to impress others are usually MLM salesmen and insurance salesmen).

When everything is said and done, where is the true service that you’re rendering to your clients? Where is the fantastic product that helps your clients save time, save money, live well etc?

A successful business is not just about outdoing your competitors but serving your clients well. (Question time: What is the purpose of business? If you said ‘to make money’, you’re wrong. The right answer is ‘to help people’. Once you are able to do that, the money will come.)

It is about providing unbeatable service and understanding your clients needs (and often what they don’t need and having the balls to tell them that to their face. They may not like it but if they had any business sense, they will come around to your point of view.) We ask clients what they need first – note that there is a difference between NEEDS and WANTS.

And if you understood human behaviour well, you can even fight blindfolded! Watch the video below to see what I mean.

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