One of the many ways Bruce Lee has looked at simplicity is that it’s “hacking away the unessential.” From Striking Thoughts, a compendium of his aphorisms:
“It is not the daily increase but the daily decrease - hack away the unessential! The closer to the source, the less wastage there is.” - Bruce Lee
Meanwhile, in another part of the modern world, namely the West, we share this notion that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” As a result, we have a culture of celebrating struggle - even if it’s just to struggle.
That line may be true for some extreme scenarios, but for most of the negative influences in our modern lives, it’s complete nonsense. Think about it.
You can drink every day and still keep your job. But, one day, being a functioning alcoholic might kill you.
You can eat junk food every day and not get fat. But it might still poison you in the long run, leading to a chronic illness.
You can gamble every week and still retire like a normal person would. But you might suffer from old-age poverty because of it and die a lot sooner.
Today, our problem isn’t surviving. It’s eliminating what keep us from thriving.
We have to flip the script and kill what doesn’t make us stronger.
Can you imagine what Bruce Lee would say to these habits? Drinking, junk food, gambling? I can. He would call them unessential. And he would tell us to hack away.
I like to call them “lucky eliminations.” Sure, there is a small chance doing a little of them has an upside - but if you eliminate them altogether, you can hardly go wrong.
Engaging with internet trolls, watching porn, dating coworkers, often, the big risk isn’t worth the small reward. That’s not to say eliminating these is easy - after all, they’re called bad habits. But if and when you succeed, you’ll feel much better for it.
We work so hard on adding to ourselves, but I’m not sure that’s even possible. Maybe, all we can do is take away. Until we’re the source. Until we find balance. And where that resides, Bruce knew, there’s no room for waste.
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