Bruce Lee, the legendary martial artist and film star, once said “Be like water making its way through cracks.” His daughter, Shannon Lee, published the book “Be Water, My Friend” to explore and expand on this philosophy and mindset.

I know it may seem odd, but this logic actually applies to business.

Water Handles Obstacles Easily

Water has an amazing way of dealing with obstacles. It works around, under, and through obstacles. Water is patient and flexible. When an obstacle is thrown in its way, water directly interacts with it and seeks opportunities to keep moving forward. It has a state of readiness to move when circumstances change.

It’s tempting to see obstacles as “in the way” and have a negative reaction. Yet, what can we learn from obstacles? Can they help us hone our objective and make our goal stronger? We can learn a lot about ourselves and our priorities when looking at how we respond to obstacles like water.

Overthinking, doubt, and worry about the obstacle creates new obstacles in front of the initial one. Be inspired by water and move into the cracks when opportunity appears.

That being said, ready to move like water doesn’t discount the value of research and patience in determining the best next move when faced with an obstacle. During much of Bruce Lee’s adult life, he had major back pain due to a weightlifting injury. This threatened his training, teaching and acting careers, and whole persona. Addressing that obstacle, he studied, met with experts, changed his routine, and became clearer about his goals. He said, “Remember, my friend, it’s not what happens that counts; it is how you react. Your mental attitude determines what you make of it. [Obstacles are] either a stepping stone or a stumbling block.”

Water Transforms to Fit the Circumstance

Water responds to circumstances with movement and transformation. Water moves smoothly between states. It freezes, melts to liquid, evaporates to gas, and condenses back to solid form where it can freeze or evaporate again. Yet, it remains water. Lee referred to this as having “no limitations.”

For long-term sustainability, a business needs to transform — “Change or Die” said business author Alan Deutschman. This can involve the people, company culture, the work pursued, clients, and the markets in which you operate.

Pliability is another trait of water that Lee incorporated into his way of being. More options show up when we can be pliable in our thoughts and responses. It creates more potential for growth and success.

Lee also saw water as moving in “no way.” It moves, of course, but not in a fixed way. It finds ways. Plural. Sometimes one way; sometimes many ways. Flexibility without attachment.

To what degree do you embrace new circumstances in your life and business? How can we transform in ways that reflect new realities and support our core goals?

Bruce Lee was inspired by water and its skillful response to life. No matter what life throws our way, how can we be increasingly skillful at having clear objectives and seeing many ways to get there?

Be water, my friend.