By Dr. Peter Kim of Passive Income MD, WCI Network Partner
A few years ago, I watched an interesting documentary that showcased elite athletes and some of their training regimens. In it, they mentioned something that stuck with me far after the movie ended. It was called “the Bruce Lee Principle” of finding your path.
Now, I think it’s safe to say that most of us have heard of Bruce Lee, widely considered the most famous martial artist of all time. Many of us have seen his movies or posters, but what many don’t know is how tirelessly he worked to figure out the perfect path for everything in his life. His pursuit of this perfection led him to study everything from nutrition to weightlifting, supplements, and multiple fighting disciplines. The latter even led him to create his own form of martial art: Jeet Kune Do.
So what does all of this have to do with our readers?
Well, I believe that we’re all on our own path—one where we're seeking out the perfect or ideal life. There are many aspects to this journey, of course, but I can safely say that a huge part of it comes from the state of our finances.
Again, what does that have to do with Bruce Lee? Interestingly, it turns out that he left clues for how he approached his journey of perfection, and he used it as the foundation for what he taught his students. He formulated a four-step process:
- Research your own experience
- Absorb what is useful
- Reject what is useless
- Add what is specifically your own
I suggest that we can learn a lot from this. In fact, we can use the same process in our own journey to financial freedom.
Research Your Own Experience
As I mentioned earlier, I believe that we’re all on this path to create the ideal life, and that includes an awesome financial future. Some of us are so quick to just blindly follow the crowd or what seems to be the norm or accepted method. However, I think there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all experience—especially when it comes to the path to financial freedom. It’s important to invest a lot of research into what many other people are doing to find success.
At some point, Bruce Lee broke away from traditional martial arts. It didn’t seem to work perfectly for him. So, he researched fighting techniques such as boxing, fencing, jiu-jitsu, and countless others to figure out what the landscape was. He realized that it was best to approach his own fighting style like a blank canvas. There were so many different people doing things in different ways, so he wasn’t afraid to look around and learn from a variety of others.
In each form of martial art, the goals might’ve been the same (to defeat the opponent), but the paths were different.
The same is true for us. We all want financial freedom. We want the choice to make medicine a hobby if we choose. We want to work on our own terms and spend time with the ones we love doing the things we love.
However, everyone seems to have a different opinion on how to achieve that goal.
We’ve got the stock market folks on one side and real estate on another. Even within these groups, we have the diversified index funds on one side, dividend stocks on another, stock-pickers, REIT people vs. direct ownership . . . and the list goes on. The fact that everyone is fully convinced their way is right just adds to the confusion.
What’s someone at the beginning of their journey to do?
My advice is to look into all of them. Figure out what people are doing and talk to those who have successfully reached the goals you want for yourself. Utilize people, books, blogs, and podcasts. Research, research, research.
Sure, it might take time. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s a small investment for the potential payoff. Find what seems to interest you. See what compels you or what you gravitate toward. Kindle passions and interests.
Early in my own journey, I invested only in the stock market. I maxed out my tax-deferred accounts and contributed to my Roth IRA (both are things I still do). But then I realized I didn’t want to wait until I was 60 to “retire” and I wasn't making real progress toward my goal. I wanted to start creating my ideal life sooner rather than later.
I then realized the way to make this happen for myself would be to invest in things that provided cash flow today so I could gradually replace my day-job income. I looked for people who had accomplished what I wanted to accomplish, and I found that many of them were investing in real estate.
I spent hours and hours reading books and listening to podcasts to find out what real estate investing was all about. And as I began to hear more and more stories of how it changed lives around me, I began to believe that it could do the same for me. I invested a small amount. Then more, then more. And I started to really enjoy it. It made sense to me, and I really enjoyed seeing those deposits in my bank account every month.
I started with what most people said I should do. But once I started researching for myself, I found something that I liked far more and that has allowed me to reach my goals far sooner.
Absorb What Is Useful
As you start to research and see what paths are out there, you’re going to start hearing and seeing tons of different strategies and ideas. At first, it might seem too overwhelming. When it comes to real estate, you might hear some say you need to invest passively in syndications and funds, in crowdfunding, or in owning single-family homes. Some will say you have to invest in apartments, mobile home parks, or self-storage.
It can be a little too much.
The key is to figure out what resonates with you and whose stories appeal to you. Figure out who you want to emulate and learn from. Everyone has something to say, some advice to give. When you start to feel overwhelmed, just pick the things that seem useful. It might be one or two principles or strategies. Write them down. Then, figure out how to do those things well.
When I started investing in real estate, it seemed like everyone had a strategy for me. But again, my goal was to create cash flow, not necessarily just to make money by appreciation (or the value of the property going up in value over time).
I decided to invest in just a couple of things that seemed to make sense to me at the amount of capital I was willing to invest at that time. Breaking it down for myself made it much easier to jump in, and I’ve slowly incorporated new strategies and goals as I’ve continued to learn. When you’re first starting out, research everything, but just pick out what’s useful for you at the time.
Reject What Is Useless
When it comes down to it, I can tell you what worked for me, but not everything I did will work as well for you. There’s an aspect of luck, timing, and situation involved in everything. Some of the investments have worked out really well for me because of the run-up in the market over the last few years. But those same strategies may not work out when the next downturn hits.
The key is this: when listening to advice from someone, you still need to do your own due diligence and analytical thinking. Please do not just follow anyone blindly—that’s when you can get into real trouble. Even the most trustworthy financial advisors don’t know your personality, goals, and passions. Their advice might be phenomenal, but it’s not usually customized for you.
Only do things if it makes sense to you. If not, reject it and move on.
Don’t waste too much of your time and effort trying to tell others why it won’t work for you, either. They won’t understand it because it works so well for them. Just reject the things you don't want and move on.
Add What Is Specifically Your Own
This last step requires you to put things together on your own.
You’ve done your research to figure out your own path. You’ve incorporated the good and useful things and rejected the ones that don’t seem to work for you. After all that, it’s up to you to figure out how to make things work specifically for you. It means you have to take what you’ve learned and don’t be afraid to innovate a bit. Trust yourself to know that you’ll get where you want to be and know that you’re the only one who truly knows how to get there.
If you think about it, we’ve all done this before. We’ve all been through years and years of training and we’ve worked under many, many attendings and mentors. We’ve seen what they do, and not all of it made sense to us. We’ve taken the good, we’ve removed what is useless, and then figured out how we should practice.
If you take a look at the way you treat your patients, you’ll probably notice that it’s a hybrid of all the things you’ve read and learned from others. And many of you have taken the next step to innovate and create your own techniques and methods based on everything you’ve learned.
Really, our finances are no different.
Ultimately, your financial path is completely unique. No two paths will look exactly the same, and they shouldn’t. Everyone’s experiences and backgrounds are different. But the basic goal can be the same: ultimate financial freedom.
Follow Bruce Lee’s methodology of finding your path to that financial freedom. Along the way, don’t waste time and energy being argumentative and judging other people’s paths. If it doesn’t agree with you, try to find out if there’s something useful there to learn, then reject the rest and move on.
The key is to take action. Pursue a path. If you stumble, it just makes it easier to see what works for you and what doesn’t.
Constantly refine your own experience. Do that, and you will find yourself achieving your goals.
Can you find the wisdom in what Bruce Lee taught and apply it to your own financial situation? Are there other people's principles that you've used to form your own path to financial freedom? How did you get started in forming your own philosophies? Comment below!