7 Personal Finance Lessons From Bruce Lee

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By Brearin Land

Learn more about Brearin on NerdWallet's Ask an Advisor

Martial arts have always been a very important part of my life. Growing up, I wanted to be the Karate Kid. I bugged my mom to sign me up for lessons until she finally did. But it ended up being a bad idea because I ran around school kicking the other kids. Needless to say, my karate career didn’t go far.

Later in life I dedicated myself to Brazilian jiujitsu. I traveled the country competing, earned a black belt, and eventually became a teacher at one of the most iconic martial arts academies.

Today, as a financial planner and a martial artist, I frequently see parallels between the two disciplines when I work with my clients.

The legendary martial artist and actor Bruce Lee died more than 40 years ago, but his words continue to mold martial arts students today and apply to our financial lives, too. In honor of what would have been his 75th birthday this year, here are seven personal finance lessons based on his wise words:

1. “To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.”

No matter where you are starting from today, you have an opportunity to improve your financial well-being.

2. “A goal is not always meant to be reached; it often serves simply as something to aim at.”

When setting financial goals, set ones that seem out of reach or even ridiculous. Then work backward from there to create monthly, weekly and even daily goals. For instance, if you want to make $1 million, first try conquering a shorter-term financial goal, such as saving $25,000.

3. “Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself; do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.”

Trying to become a carbon copy of the affluent can lead to financial trouble.

Living in Orange County, California, and being in the wealth management business, I know firsthand the problems that come with living beyond your means, whether you are rich or not. We have doctors and lawyers living in the hills next to Kobe Bryant, but they aren’t making Kobe Bryant money. Even the wealthy struggle financially if they don’t get spending under control.

So don’t live beyond your means to become someone you are not. Do things that others won’t do: Try to stay frugal even when you have savings. Before you know it, the tortoise catches up to the hare.

4. “The key to immortality is first living a life worth remembering.”

Enjoy your life. Sometimes, you must put your nose to the grindstone and hustle, but you must also know when you can afford to enjoy your life. After all, you can’t take everything to the grave with you.

5. “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

Financial independence and success isn’t about million-dollar ideas, it’s about million-dollar execution. For instance, it may be in your best interest to develop multiple streams of income, but first focus on and master one flow at a time. Then you can move on to the next "kick." With saving and managing your finances, you don’t want to try to be a jack-of-all-trades and end up being a master of none.

6. “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”

All too often I see people falling into the trap of one-size-fits-all strategies or falling for get-rich-quick investments that sound too good to be true. What it takes for you to be successful financially is specific to you, and your plan must be customized to your needs and goals. Having an intelligent investment strategy that facilitates your long-term goals with a level of risk that you are comfortable with is the key to reaching financial independence.

7. “If you spend too much time thinking about a thing, you'll never get it done.”

To get to the next level financially, you can’t sit around twiddling your thumbs. You have to put in the work. Bruce Lee achieved his success with an unparalleled work ethic. He trained more than any martial artist I’ve ever heard of.

In the world of personal finance, procrastination is the single greatest contributor to financial shortcomings. Just like the legend says, don’t spend your time thinking about getting wealthy — go out and put in the work to make your dreams a reality.

If you want to become the champion of your finances, you have to put in the training. So go out and make it happen – start mastering your money today.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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