Absorb what is useful. Discard what is not. Add what is uniquely your own.

Absorb what is useful. Discard what is not. Add what is uniquely your own.Bruce Lee

There was only one Bruce Lee. But that's the way it should be. We are unique, and what we keep, what we discard and what we add is as well.

There was only one Bruce Lee. But that’s the way it should be. We are unique, and what we keep, what we discard and what we add is as well. Don’t be afraid to be yourself.

What does that mean?
The first part of this quote is fairly straight forward. It is part of what learning is all about. You retain what helps you in your daily life: Pass the Test; Survive; Improve.

The next line is a bit more difficult. Especially if we’ve been in school for too many years. If it was taught, it must be important, and therefore, retained. Forever. But that isn’t always true, is it?

The third part comes naturally to the more creative types, who have flair and panache and add their styling to what they do. The rest of us just have a few quirks or oddities which we make into habits. 8)

While this us usually described as how he approached Martial Arts training, it also applies to the rest of our lives. No matter what we do, some things apply, others do not. And we all do it a little differently.

Why is individuality important?
To artists, whether in music, paint, or stone, this also applies. Learn from the Masters, but also learn to be yourself. If painters never discarded what didn’t work and never tried to add their own unique touches, we’d still be celebrating cave paintings of stick figures throwing spears at leaping animals.

Fortunately, that isn’t the way things worked out. Each generation of artists builds on the work of their predecessors. They then discard what they don’t like, and then they add a little bit of them. Consider the evolution of Jazz or Rock and Roll. Each built on existing style, discarded some, and added their own unique touches.

And so it goes in our own lives. No one is exactly like their parents. We take some, we leave some behind, and add some new stuff. And we become our own person, a unique individual, in the process. And that is how we progress as people. Discarding can be tough, but it is one of the best ways to change.

Each of us will influence someone somewhere at some point in our lives. If all of us were the same, we’d give the same advice, right or wrong. And that person would make the same decision. Fortunatly, we’re not that way. From our clothing to our hair styles to our methods of transport to our music, we are all different. To me, that is important.

Where can I apply this in my life?
One size does not fit all. Nor does it fit most. Unless you have a very narrow definition of most (ie 50.1%) You’ve seen the labels on clothes, or you’ve tried on cars. At 6’4″ tall, there are a lot of things which do not fit me, including most small cars. But that’s fine, I like the big old cars.

That also helps to make me unique, an individual in a sea of people. We each have our similarities and our differences. Whether we call them quirks or flair, we all do things a little (or a lot) differently. Because of this, no two people will get the exact same result from any experience they share.

Consider this blog post. There are those who will scan over it, and not really think about it. For some, this quote will strike a sympathetic nerve and some of it will be retained. For others, it will simply be sucked out of their head tonight by their pillow.* Still others will spend some time thinking about this, and change their lives.

The same thing happened. They all came to this page. Very different results. My words won’t reach everyone, even if they come here looking for an answer. Different people prefer different styles of writing. Some speak different languages and have to run my post through an auto-translator. Sorry about that.

Each of us will have to take what is useful from this post, or any other experience in our lives. Not everything makes sense. Not everything applies to you. You may have to adapt it to suit your situation or needs. And then you have to figure out how to remember it, to make it part of your unique life.

The rejection of what does not work, or is not longer effective, that the greatest progress is made. If you have kids, or have had to adapt to a new situation, letting go of the things which no longer work brings the quickest improvements. Of all the things we do, the discarding seems to be the hardest.

Finally, we add a little of ourselves to it. It may be something new, or a different method. Even a modified method could be unique to you. In my martial arts training, I’m usually the tallest one there, so I have to adapt what I do to the height of the person I am training with. Another benefit of being tall, I guess.

Think about what you have learned today. What of it was useful? What of it was not? What ways did you think up to modify or otherwise use it in a way which is uniquely your own? In all likelihood, you have already used this quote today.

Use this every day, and remember to discard what does not work, and there are no limits to what you can achieve.

* Learning by osmosis does work. You just have to take into consideration how little your pillow knows… 8)

From: Twitter, @quotepage
confirmed at : http://thinkexist.com/quotation/absorb-what-is-useful-discard-what-is-not-add/1273286.html
Photo by kris krüg

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7 Responses to Absorb what is useful. Discard what is not. Add what is uniquely your own.

  1. Grendel's Wish 24 September 2014 at 7:21 pm #

    Colossians 2:8 – Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

    • philosiblog 30 September 2014 at 5:48 am #

      Thanks for stopping by, and for leaving a comment.

      Your quote is a great application of this quote for those who view Christ as useful, and the rest as somewhat less so.

      It goes to show how different people can come to the same conclusion, even though they live at different times, in different places, and have different backgrounds.

  2. Kendra Francesco 20 March 2014 at 8:50 pm #

    Most of my life I heard, “Why can’t you do things the way everyone else does?” I’ve not been much of a conformist since I was a teen. Well, except when it benefits me, as in following the rules of my employer so that I get paid. As pointed out in “V for Vendetta” (the movie; I’ve not read the graphic novel), “Our integrity sells for so little, but it is all we really have. It is the very last inch of us, but within that inch, we are free.”

    • philosiblog 21 March 2014 at 4:33 am #

      Well said. Imagine the world if Einstein or Edison had been a conformist? They took what made sense, dumped what didn’t, and then went for what their imagination told them was out there. And they kept at it until they found it.

      I hadn’t really thought of the integrity aspect. I was mostly focused on learning, and, when appropriate, unlearning.

      Thanks for stopping by and adding your thoughts. Hope to hear from you again.

      • Kendra Francesco 21 March 2014 at 5:28 am #

        Somewhere along the way, the integrity of what I learn and keep (or discard) became entwined with my inner workings. If I hold too long onto something that isn’t good for me, I feel like I’ve betrayed myself.

        And that integrity has taken most of my life to learn.

      • philosiblog 21 March 2014 at 3:04 pm #

        Ah, that makes it clearer. Yes, being true to one’s self and our purpose is important. Discarding things which no longer serve, despite having been around for a long time, can be difficult, but must be done. Otherwise the tools we once used to help us become our betrayers.


  1. The beginning of wisdom is silence. The second step is listening… | philosiblog - 27 March 2014

    […] practicing what we have heard and remembered, we can keep what works, discard what does not, and adjust it to suit our needs. In this manner, we also come to understand the more subtle aspects of what we are doing. That is […]

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