Learn to Be Like Water: Be More Adaptable


Empty Your Mind, Be Formless.

Bruce Lee famously coined the phrase "Be water, my friend". Why is it important to be like water? Let's explore his original quote in full:

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.

We all come into the world in the same manner: naked, screaming, and impressionable. From childhood to old age, the baby continues to adapt based on the challenges of the day. As a baby grows up, their clothes no longer fit. They stop screaming and begin to learn a language. Eventually, their gibberish turns into real words. Their crawl turns into a careful toddle, then into a full sprint. The one thing we notice with babies: change is constant and imminent.

It's similar to melting ice. Ice melts at 32°F. When the room temperature rises from 25°F to 26°F, nothing really seems to change. But as the temperature continues to rise in the room over the course of time, suddenly things start to change rapidly. In the short term, it doesn't seem like much is changing. However, over a long course of time, the ice actually transforms into liquid!

I believe a sense of ownership is vital in every aspect of life, perhaps never more so than when it comes to wardrobe. For every look, there is a season, and for every season a strategy.

- Matthew, The Gentlemen

If you were to sit in that same chilly room with the aforementioned block of ice, you would probably be wearing a warm coat to prevent freezing to death at first. But as the room warms up, you will need to adjust your wardrobe strategy to handle the needs of the changing environment. If the room goes up to 75°F, you will probably switch out of a coat and into a relaxing T-shirt and jeans. If it gets even hotter, you might even consider a tank top and shorts.

Just like the block of ice and the wardrobe we choose, we need to adapt to the ever-changing challenges of the day. Life is in a constant state of flux. Our bank account number changes daily. Our weight goes up and down. Sweat comes out of our pores when it's hot and goosebumps rise when it's cold. Our group of friends changes over time. Even our hair is most likely adapting to the breeze of the air at the moment. While certain universal truths remain constant, change is always happening and there is beauty in every season.

In the same vein, strategies that worked yesterday might not be so effective today. The world has shifted. Concepts that we have seen in the past that have created the world we live in should be outdated and deprecated. In the world of software, patches and versions are released at a breakneck pace. Developers are constantly fixing the broken things of yesterday with new and fresher ideas today. This state of flow helps us be able to enjoy a better world where we can unite and exist in peace.

As human beings, we need to admit that we are not perfect. We are not omniscient. We are not God. In fact, being humble to our own short-sightedness helps us become better versions of ourselves. We are able to update our own inherent biases and programming based on the new information that we receive. When I was a young man, I've made many mistakes in my life that would be inexcusable today. As I've gotten older, I begin to see my own fallacies and corrected them over time. The more I was able to say I was wrong, the easier it became to slash my pride and cure my ignorance. The more adaptable I became to situations, the better I performed to the scenarios I encountered.

Today, I have a challenge for you. When engaging in dialogue with someone, try to listen before you speak. Stop trying to have an answer for every statement. Stop trying to be the smartest person in the room. Stop being a brick wall and start being like water. Be willing to say that your point of view on something may be wrong. Be accepting of new facts to be better to orient to the truth. Be adaptable to your situation and the constant of the changing world. This is the only way we can unite as people and find the common ground. This is how we can rebuke the trolls and racists and be able to come from a place of love of understanding. Be like water, my friends.