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Exceed Your Level

In the book “The Art of Expressing the Human Body”, Bruce Lee’s friend, John Little, talked about the experience of running with him.

Bruce had me up to 3 miles a day, really at a good pace. We’d run the 3 miles in 21 or 22 minutes. Just under 8 minutes a mile. When Bruce running on his own, he would get his time down to 6.5 minutes per mile.

So this morning he said to me, “We’re going to go five (miles).” I said, “Bruce, I can’t go 5. I’m a lot older than you are, and I can’t do 5.” He said, “When we get to 3, we’ll shift gears and it’s only 2 more and you’ll do it.”

I said “Okay, hell, I’ll go for it.” So we get to 3, we go into the 4th mile and I’m okay for 3 or 4 minutes, and then I really begin to give out. I’m tired, my heart’s pounding, I can’t go any more and so I said to him, “Bruce, if I run any more, I’m liable to have a heart attack and die.”

He said, “Then die.” It made me so mad that I went the full 5 miles.

Afterward I went to the shower and then I wanted to talk to him about it. I said, “Why did you say that?”

He said, “Because you might as well be dead. Seriously, if you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.”

If you let limits define the possibility of your life, you’re not growing, you’re dying.

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