At the surface level, Warren Buffett and Bruce Lee have very little in common. One is a white older businessman and the other an ultra-fit Asian celebrity. Buffett is best known for his long-term investment strategies that have made him one of the richest men in the world. Lee was a movie star and founder of his own Kung Fu style known as "Jeet Kune Do."
Both of these men are endeared by American culture for their iconic influence. There is little overlap in how these men lived their lives, but they are seen as high performers in their own ways.
I study the journey of leadership for hypergrowth companies. I got curious about what made each of these self-made men high performers in their fields -- and I found that it comes down to the correlation of three fundamentals shared by two great individuals.
1. The ability to deeply focus.
Both Buffett and Lee credit much of their success to focus. In the 2017 documentary, Becoming Buffett, there is a scene between Buffett and Bill Gates where each was asked to list the prime reason for their success to the billionaire level. Both of them separately wrote the word "focus."
The art of focus has been the cornerstone of Buffett's success -- he does not move in and out of the market as most investors do. He invests for the long term and focuses his efforts on his portfolio. "The difference between successful people and very successful people is those very successful people so 'no' to almost everything," Buffett said.
Lee has famously said, "The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus." Lee put his focus into his talent as a martial artist. He trained and dedicated his life to being the best in the world at it.
Both of these men understand the value of focus and have demonstrated it in their areas to reach iconic levels in our hearts.
2. The importance of character.
Our character defines us. It takes years to establish integrity in the eyes of the world -- but it takes only seconds to destroy character. Buffett and Lee are two men who believe in character in life and business. Character is defined by living by a strict moral code. Both are quoted about integrity of living by that moral code.
Lee said, "Knowledge will give you power, but character respect." Lee lived this as he established himself in the world. He didn't have to try to be a martial artist. He was authentic to it with his journey.
One of my favorite quotes by Buffett is this one: "Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don't have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it's true. If you hire somebody without [integrity], you want them to be dumb and lazy."
3. The commitment to mastery.
Buffett and Lee believe that far too few people are committed to mastery of the fundamentals. Buffett believes people are quick to hop to new markets and new strategies before mastery has been achieved. Buffett is famous for discipline in investing and commitment to a company. Buffett's approach to business growth is more like a ritual than a step-by-step plan. "Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken," he said.
Lee also said, "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times." This strikes to the heart of mastery. Lee's approach to growth could only come from dedication and commitment to mastery.
I wanted to find someone who had a close connection to Lee and could speak to the lessons learned that applies to today's entrepreneurial journey. Dan Lok, a successful businessman, and martial art practitioner, has had the privilege of training with Ted Wong, who was Bruce Lee's last private student. Lok's success in business comes from principles that he learned during his 14-year journey in martial arts.
"You don't learn business in a weekend seminar," Lok said. "You must commit to mastery to learn it." This relates to so many leaders enamored with finding the "one thing to grow." It is not one thing. It is a combination of things that make you the kind of leader that inspires others and impacts a market.
Lok said, "You must live the journey in martial arts and in business if you want lasting success."
As I looked over the careers of Buffett and Lee, they devoted themselves to focus, character and mastery to become the high performers in life and business that you know today.