Here's How Much Money Bruce Lee Was Worth When He Died

Bruce Lee was a true international man of mystery, with powers beyond even what Austin Powers had at his immense, hairy disposal. He was a physical force to be reckoned with, and just as much a spiritual force, merging the two through intense discipline and training.

The result was a man who had total confidence in his ability to achieve greatness, and followed through with it by just about every metric one can be judged by. Fame? Check. Chiseled abs? Check. Fortune? Absolutely. 

Lee died tragically at age 32, according to Quartz, from an allergic reaction to a painkiller he took for a headache. Even at that relatively young age, he had managed to amount a fortune of around $10 million.

What's crazier is that he predicted he would have that amount in a letter he wrote years earlier, along with many other visions for his future that would soon be realized.

Bruce Lee predicts his future

The letter read: "I, Bruce Lee, will be the first highest paid Oriental super star in the United States. In return I will give the most exciting performances and render the best of quality in the capacity of an actor. Starting 1970 I will achieve world fame and from then onward till the end of 1980 I will have in my possession $10,000,000. I will live the way I please and achieve inner harmony and happiness."

Lee is truly proof of the power of dedication and intention. And what proves it even more is the fact that decades after his death, he's still pulling in millions. According to Forbes, his estate made $7 million in 2013. In an earlier letter Lee wrote at age 21, he spoke of the ripple effect, likening it to his envisioned success. "When you drop a pebble into a pool of water, the pebble starts a series of ripples that expand until they encompass the whole pool. This is exactly what will happen when I give my ideas a definite plan of action."

A man who lived at the confluence of dreams and reality, Lee was every bit as much of a philosopher as he was a fighter.

How Bruce Lee made his millions

Lee was able to acquire wealth as a result of the dedication he put into his martial arts training, combined with a very healthy view on the importance of money. Upon first moving to the US at age 18, he began earning money as a personal martial arts teacher, while also working a family friend's restaurant and performing other odd jobs, according to his website bio.

Eventually, his success as a teacher and profound personal drive led him to create the Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute in Seattle, one of the country's first martial arts school in the style. Not long after, Lee had opened two more schools in Los Angeles and Oakland.

The same letter that predicted his future wealth laid out his plan to bring the gung fu martial arts style to the west: 

"My aim... is to establish a first Gung Fu Institute that will later spread out all over the US (I have set up a time limit of 10 to 15 years to complete the whole project)."

Today, there are hundreds of Lee-inspired martial arts schools all over North America, inspired by the style of fighting he created, Jeet Kune Do.

The real reason Bruce Lee was so successful

Lee's positioning as the foremost gung fu authority in the United States quickly garnered him attention, and eventually led to his role in the Green Hornet television series, followed by feature-length films, all of which broke box-office records. But he would be the first to tell you that his wealth was merely a by-product of following the passion and energy which coursed through him.

As reported in Business Insider, he was always focused on the bigger picture, viewing money simply as a tool for achieving deeper goals. By sticking to his philosophical guns and choosing work that he was passionate about, Lee could do no wrong. 

"My policy is that money is an indirect matter," he wrote. "The direct matter is your ability or what you are going to do that counts. If that comes, the indirect things will follow."

Time and time again, Lee's philosophy of passion-first was proved correct. He met his wife Linda after she began taking lessons at his school, and caught the attention of Hollywood during a martial arts exhibition. While building his acting career, he supported his family through private lessons with celebrities and sportsmen like Steve McQueen and Kareem Adbul-Jabbar, the NBA's all-time leading scorer, who credits Lee's training with much of his success:

"He taught me the discipline and spirituality of martial arts," said Abdul-Jabbar, "which was greatly responsible for me being able to play competitively in the NBA for 20 years with very few injuries."

Lee's most successful film, Enter the Dragon, debuted shortly after his tragic death, catapulting his status to mythical heights. Though he isn't around to see it, the ripple effect of Bruce Lee's legacy is as strong as ever, proving the power of selfless determination.