Then Die

Bruce-Lee-Then-Die-Quote

From the Art of Expressing The Human Body, there’s this little story about Bruce Lee, arguably the greatest martial artist that ever lived, during a training run told by John Little, a close friend of Bruce:

“Bruce had me up to three miles a day, really at a good pace. We’d run the three miles in twenty-one or twenty-two minutes. Just under eight minutes a mile [Note: when running on his own in 1968, Lee would get his time down to six-and-a half minutes per mile]. So this morning he said to me “We’re going to go five.” I said, “Bruce, I can’t go five. I’m a helluva lot older than you are, and I can’t do five.” He said, “When we get to three, we’ll shift gears and it’s only two more and you’ll do it.” I said “Okay, hell, I’ll go for it.” So we get to three, we go into the fourth mile and I’m okay for three or four minutes, and then I really begin to give out. I’m tired, my heart’s pounding, I can’t go any more and so I say to him, “Bruce if I run any more,” –and we’re still running-”if I run any more I’m liable to have a heart attack and die.” He said, “Then die.” It made me so mad that I went the full five miles. Afterward I went to the shower and then I wanted to talk to him about it. I said, you know, “Why did you say that?” He said, “Because you might as well be dead. Seriously, if you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.”

Either push your limits or die. If you’re going to allow yourself to be bound by arbitrary, artificial and anonymous limits, why even bother? One more time (you know you should read it). If you stop at your “limits”…

…you might as well be dead. Seriously, if you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.”

What’s your level? Are you exceeding it or are you dying? Because if you let limits define what’s possible in your life, you’re not growing, you’re dying.

***

The Impossible Manifesto launches next week. Get excited :).

Comments

  1. says

    What a powerful message! In all honesty, I’m not sure what I can add to this. Until recently, I have always been a person who did put limits on what I could accomplish. I’ve been realizing lately that I can do this thing or that, that I didn’t believe I could. Or I did something I thought would be possible, but turned out easier than I thought, meaning I can do more. Until you try, you’ll never know what you can accomplish.

  2. Patrick Hitches says

    F**k YES!!!! One of my favorites to date Joel!

    Was thinking right in line with this concept all morning… And then here’s your post. #Boom!

  3. Denise says

    Exactly what I needed to hear today. I’m struggling training for my first 1/2 marathon and with the 100 push-up/squat/200 crunch challenges. Thanks

  4. Ryan says

    I started reading this post not knowing what to expect, then BAM! The lesson hit me right in the face. Great advice. If we’re not doing everything we can everyday to become better, we’re just going through the motions. If you set the bar high and reach your goal, its time to readjust the bar and keep becoming better!!

  5. says

    Great post and attention-getting photo, Joel. Bruce’s exceptional skills and philosophy are inspiring.

    p.s. Given that he DID die when he was only 33, I wonder if he’d still express his philosophy this directly given another chance… I hope so.

    • says

      it’s funny how sometimes we try to prolong death by taking as few risks as possible. It’s sort of cliche, but I think trading a short interesting life for a long, safe route really shortchanges what it is to really live.

  6. says

    I love Bruce. He’s always had the best advice, and is the perfect example of living the impossible. He pushed his body in so many ways.

    A great, and inspirational post.

    What am I doing right now to help me grow? Well, jump over to my blog and find out (learning Spanish through immersion in Spain)… just one of the things on my personal bucket list.

  7. Steve says

    Hell Yeah! Best thing I have read in a very long time and I read alot of material like this. Thanks for sharing Joel.

  8. says

    Loved this post. And right when I was in the middle of shoulder presses today, thinking I was at my limit, I remembered “Then Die” and pushed through the rest of the set :)

  9. says

    “Seriously, if you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being…”

    It is good to know what are you limits,but every time, about everything ,we can go one stap more then we did expect :)
    Thank you for this, it is really stimulating :)

  10. Emily says

    Hey Joel, what’s your opinion on different types of limits… let’s sayyy society’s? I’ve been going through a lot lately dealing with what other people think is morally right and wrong. What if their really aren’t any limits, physically or socially? Should we actually live without ANY limits? I’m not saying that it’s right to go out and kill someone but what about what we know in our hearts is right but what everyone else frowns upon? Say like forbidden love?

    • says

      I think you’re talking about the difference between limits & truth.

      I think you should be allowed to do whatever with your own life as long as it doesn’t infringe on others or hurt them. That doesn’t mean anything you do won’t have consequences (everything has consequences), but I think you should be allowed to make whatever decisions you feel you need to (as long as you’re prepared to deal with the coming consequences that come about from those actions).

  11. says

    Thanks for this timely post, Joel. In high school, I was far from a stand-out scholar and was all too average academically. I excel in classes I love and really hate classes I don’t like. Thus limited me to the colleges I could get into out of high school but I’ve worked my ass off in college and have since been accepted to Ivy Leagues I could transfer into. I’m currently pushing myself academically more than I ever have before, as I’m taking 7 classes(21 credits this semester). I have the following due in the next 2 days: a 10 page legal memo, 7 page congressional act evaluation, 10 minute ethnicity presentation, a 2 page judicial review report and a Spanish test.

    Onwards.

  12. Angel says

    Absolutely what I needed to hear! I’m a 17 year old female, who isn’t the most “athletic” of the bunch. I’m an EMT at my local rescue squad. And, you would never beleive it by looking at me…..but i’m in training to become a firefighter. DEFINITELY not something you would expect a 17 year old female to commit herself to. It has been THE hardest past couple months of my life, physically. I’ve had weeks of sore muscles, mornings where i’ve pushed myself so hard the night before, I phisically CANNOT get out of bed. I’ve had bruises the size of softballs, cuts you wouldn’t believe, and MAJOR setbacks, including dislocating my hip during training. WHICH put my on injured reserve for two months. Now that i’m back, (i was just released a few weeks ago from light duty) training has been excruciating(yes, more than before, due to my hip, and two months of my body not being able to do any “work.”) I’ve more than once almost thrown in the towl. But, through it all, i’ve come to learn. NOTHING WORTHWHILE IS EVER EASY. This quote is just what I needed. WHO said I CAN’T do this? ……..I DID. But who can also tell me that I CAN? …..I CAN. If I beleived myself when I told myself I couldn’t, then i’ll push myself that much more when I tell myself I CAN. Thanks for the quote, it helped alot. God Bless.

  13. says

    Bruce Lee’s life is nothing short of an inspiring testament to doing the impossible and exceeding your limits.

    We can choose, every day, to recognize that oftentimes it’s not our limitations that hold us back, but rather our attitudes.

    Your post calls for us to do just that. Thanks for writing it :)

  14. says

    amazing story/quote about bruce lee! he certainly lived and die to his word. :) i saw a biography about him and damn he is hard core. V up pilates-like position for hours… punching fists into a bucket of rocks etc and just the way he trained was insane.

  15. Sonny Crockett says

    Just a “little” FYI. John Little was not a close-personal friend of Bruce. For awhile, he was allowed access by the Lee family to use Bruce’s journals, notes and such to write a pretty impressive line of books; The Art Of Expressing The Human Body being just one. The quote above is from the late screenwriter Sterling Silliphant, who was student of Bruce in the late 60′s.
    “Walk on.” – Bruce Lee
    Peace,
    Sonny Crockett

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Then Die “…you might as well be dead. Seriously, if you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.” ~Joel Runyon at Blog of Impossible Things [...]

  2. [...] If you’ve ever run with a running group, you’ll often see the same groups of people run with each other – even when on person consistently improves, they run in similar relative positions because that’s what they’ve become accustomed to. So even while they’ll improving, it would appear that they’re plateauing. Not because they’re not faster, but because they’ve hit a mental plateau of how fast they think they should be going. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.” – Bruce Lee, Then Die [...]

  3. [...] This quote sums it up nicely: Seriously, if you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. – Bruce Lee [...]

  4. […] The process seemed daunting at first, but once you figure out the fundamental components, like generating new div boxes with jQuery functions, it actually becomes a lot easier and is just a matter of restructuring and cleaning your code. If you’re brand new with code it might not come intuitively to you at first, but keep going. As with learning anything, or endeavoring through any process of growth: you can either exert yourself to as far as you know how to exert yourself, or die. […]

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