A Bruce Lee Secret

Steven Barnes
4 min readAug 16, 2019

“Pay Attention Even To Little Things” — Musashi Miyamoto

“The three most important things in marketing are your USP, your Avatar and your chosen Media. USP is `Unique Selling Proposition’ — the thing you do better than anyone. Your Avatar is the one person who needs specifically what you’ve got. `Media’ is the specific way you will communicate with that person.” — (paraphrased) Dan Kennedy.


Bruce Lee didn’t become “Bruce Lee” until he came to the United States, and realized he was competing with people larger and stronger than him. He literally couldn’t out-muscle them, no matter what he did. So he did something seriously intelligent: he committed to strengthening muscles that were weak on most people, specifically stabilizers. Then all he had to do, even with someone overall stronger, is manipulate them into a position where it was their WEAK muscles against his STRONG ones. The result was legendary.


Just for the sake of argument, let’s say that your ability to excel at something you really want to be excellent at will come from your ability to commit to being the best in the world at some aspect of your performance. THE BEST. Not good, not even excellent. THE BEST. I’ve noticed that real masters often seem to have something they particularly shine at (even if they never specifically voiced this desire). They are the best synthesizers. Or the best at modeling. Or are more consistent. Or best at prioritizing.

Martial artists often have a go-to technique and approach to application, say a Tomoenage Stomach throw following a fake to the eyes. They drill it countless times, until they can get you with it from any angle, in any timing, whatever you try.

As a writer, I’ve specialized in understanding the relationship between character and plot, that 360 degree dynamic arc of story, such that you can give me any two aspects of a story and its like giving me two points on a sheet of paper: I can draw a circle to intersect them. I can describe a story that needs those elements. It can seem like magic if you don’t understand what I’m doing.

It is the COMMITMENT to being “the best” that matters here, not the objective measurement. You’ll go crazy like that. Remember: we are looking at ways to consciously achieve things Masters often do unconsciously. They might aim only at total immersion in an activity, with no concern for “doing better than someone else”. But it can be useful to use…

Steven Barnes

Steven Barnes is a NY Times bestselling author, ecstatic husband and father, and holder of black belts in three martial arts. www.lifewritingpodcast.com.