What Physical Therapists can Learn from Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee is one of my personal heroes. While there are many reasons I admire him, I find his philosophical approach to everything the most salient and magnetic feature of admiration. We can learn numerous lessons from his life. Here are 5 lessons that apply to Physical Therapists as individuals, and Physical Therapy as a profession. Enjoy!

1. Framework

The best fighter is not a Boxer, Karate or Judo man. The best fighter is someone who can adapt on any style. He kicks too good for a Boxer, throws too good for a Karate man, and punches too good for a Judo man.

To be bound by a traditional martial art style or styles is the way of the mindless, enslaved martial artist. But to be inspired by the traditional martial art and to achieve further heights is the way of genius.

The most effective clinicians I've met are those who have adopted & adapted techniques and perspectives from other fields from within Physical Therapy, as well as concepts outside of Physical Therapy. They weren't the most dogmatic about being a "purist" and didn't rely on any single data point or treatment philosophy. Instead, they co-opted new information into a usable framework that was capable of delivery and open to falsification. Turf wars & ideology have no place in clinical excellence.

2. Practice


Skill isn't about having many tools at your disposal; it's about knowing how to use them effectively. Skill requires focused attention, repetition, and a continual sharpening of techniques and their applications. Rather than being "ok" at a wide variety of interests, it might be more useful to focus in on just a handful of goals. Zoom in on no more than 3 goals (ideally just 1), and concentrate your efforts on making it happen. Develop a strength that you can then build upon to explore new things.

3. Don't look at the finger!

dontlookatthefinger (Click image for video)

We are often more enamored by the window dressing than the view through the window. For Physical Therapy to make a bigger impact on the transformation of society we need 2 things: Public Perception, and Political Engagement. "Emotional Content" creates the strongest levers for positive change. These 2 things should be the target of everything we strive for as a collective. Keep your eyes on the goal, and don't be entranced by the steps along the way (the fingers) or you might never reach your goal!

4. Be like water

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=pAxOHPmITHI"target="_blank"><img src="http://img.youtube.com/vi/pAxOHPmITHI/0.jpg"alt="Belikewater" width="420" height="360" border="0" /> (Click image for video)

Most (all?) living things require water to live. Most humans need mobility for health. We are trained specifically to help others regain lost mobility and function. Movement is an intrinsic component of what it means to be healthy human. Without movement quality of life slips; without water life itself will start slipping away. Water & movement are ubiquitous to the quality of human life. Water is adaptable. Movement should be adaptable. Be like water.

5. Knowledge & Application


There's an ever-growing body of published research within (related to) the field of Physical Therapy. Very soon, the issue will no longer be data, but the application of data. Integration & application of data will be more important than the accumulation of data. Connecting the dots is more important than collecting the dots. Practicality trumps theoretical knowledge.

I hope you find these 5 lessons useful in the growth of your practice as a Physical Therapist.



The boundaries of the unthinkable are exceptionally elastic.