Listen to the Masters

“Softness triumphs over hardness, feebleness over strength. What is more malleable is always superior over that which is immovable. This is the principle of controlling things by going along with them, of mastery through adaptation.”


“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

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.”

-Bruce Lee

What do these masters have figured out that we continually miss? We’re constantly led to believe that meeting challenges, aggression, and attacks head-on is the best way to deal with them. Yet these quotes suggest otherwise.

A wise jiu jitsu master once explained her particular martial art this way: “The principle of avoiding conflict and never opposing an aggressor’s strength head-on is the essence of jujitsu. We apply the same principle to problems that arise in life. The skilled Ju Jitsuka is as elusive as the truth of Zen; he makes himself into a koan-a puzzle which slips away the more one tries to solve it. He is like water in that he falls through the fingers of those who try to clutch him. Water does not hesitate before it yields, for the moment the fingers begin to close it moves away, not of its own strength, but by using the pressure applied to it.” (

How would our lives be different if we truly embraced softness, adaptation, and creative avoidance of conflict? Certainly it would take years of study, but the alternative is to continue the same cycle of unresolved violence that breaks us individually and as a species. Perhaps it’s time to listen to the masters.