7 life lessons from Kung Fu Panda

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It was a cold, dreary day recently when Kung-Fu Panda came on TV and I decided to ease my mental health with a little cartoon action.  It wasn’t until I was laying in bed watching the movie that I realised just how many lessons this bright, colourful children’s’ movie could teach us about life…[spoiler alert!!!]

There is no secret ingredient

Po (panda/lead character) works for his father in a noodle shack and is promised the ‘secret ingredient’ when he hands the business to him.  Later in the film, Po’s dad confesses that there is no secret ingredient but by believing there is, people claim his noodles taste the best in town.  This is often one of the most difficult parts of life for us to get our heads around…we want the fast, easy answers to our next goal.  The miracle cure for our weight loss.  The cheat to gain our fortune.  But life doesn’t work like that.  There are no easy cheats to achieve our goals and no secret ingredient to success.  It’s hard work, opportunity and sometimes a bucket full of luck.  Unfortunately we spend so much of our time and money looking for the secret ingredient to achieve our goals that we miss one of the most important things in life…

You have to believe in yourself

The lead character Po looks for the answer to become the Dragon Warrior in a ‘magical’ scroll and when he gets his paws on what he thinks is the magic, it turns out that he’s left with nothing but a physical reflection of himself.  Literally.  He spends all his time looking for this magic to make him special before realising that the magic/secret ingredient is self belief.  He can’t become the Dragon Warrior and defeat the bad guys because he doesn’t believe he can be the Dragon Warrior. A lot of the time our lack of self-belief and low self-esteem stop us from attempting our goals.  We don’t think we’ll ‘ever be good enough so what’s the point in trying’ but, like most in things, simply starting to work on your goal will give you enough self-belief to keep going.

Everyone has their own strengths

In the movie there are a group of kung-fu warriors called the Furious Five who are a snake, tiger, crane, mantis and monkey (Chinese zodiac – a point I only realised whilst typing this!) and though they are very obviously all different shapes and sizes, they all bring their own abilities and strengths to the team.  It’s natural that we want to be good at everything but it’s also reality that we can’t so we need to stop focusing on what we can’t do and be proud of all the skills we do have.  There is nothing stopping us from learning new skills of course, we just have to accept that it will take a while for us to call them strengths.  We simply have to remember that everyone has something to contribute and that there is always (physical, emotional and mental) strength in numbers.

We all have different motivators

For some people, the motivation to lose weight is a holiday coming up or an event such as a wedding they want to look good for.  For others, losing a job kick-starts the determination to work for a dream.  In the movie, Po needs to train to become the Dragon Warrior but food (and eating too much of it!) makes things physically difficult for him to master the moves.  Master can’t get him to understand any of the moves or physical agility until he argues over Dim Sum with Po.  At that moment, all Po wants to do is eat his dumpling but Master won’t let him so they ‘fight’ to enable him to get the dumpling…the promise of food makes him master his Kung-Fu moves for it.  The lesson?  Motivation to change in life doesn’t always make sense to others but it doesn’t have it as long as it works for you.

You can always learn something new

The older we get, the more we allow the excuse of age and circumstance to stop us learning new skills because, after all, who wants to try something only to fail?  So we don’t try to avoid failure.  Po is overweight and knows nothing about Kung-Fu but he wants to become the Dragon Warrior so he learns Kung-Fu and what it means to become a warrior.  It didn’t matter that he couldn’t touch his toes or that he was an ‘emotional eater’ (shout out to Dreamworks for recognising the struggle!), he wanted to become the Dragon Warrior so he tried to learn new skills and he did it!  We can always learn the new language we keep meaning to.  Knit a scarf for our friend’s baby.  Start our own businesses.  We just have to begin to try!

Patience and hard work will help you succeed

Following on from the above point, watching the movie reminds you that whilst new skills are always attainable, becoming an expert, or even proficient in your new skill takes time and hard work to achieve.  Po didn’t become the Dragon Warrior overnight (despite the movie timeline); he had to work tirelessly every day to learn Kung-Fu and become good at it.  In our fast-paced world with so many successful people bringing out ‘My One Rule to Success’ books promising quick fixes and cheats to success, it’s important to remember that there really aren’t quick fixes or short cuts; if you want to succeed, you have to work your ass off and accept that success doesn’t come overnight.

Don’t judge a book by its cover

This is an old one but still relevant.  When Po is announced as the next Dragon Warrior, people see an overweight, unfit panda and think that he can’t possibly defeat the bad guy.  They see him as a joke, much like he sees himself (see lesson 2 above) but he ends up defeating the bad guy and saving their city.  He is an extremely unlikely hero and yet, he is one proving that whilst first impressions count for a lot, they shouldn’t be used to dismiss someone.  We all experience this throughout life.  People see an African-American and think he can’t be an astrophysicist.  They see a Hooters waitress and don’t realise (or care) that she’s using the tips to fund her new business.  We see a dotty old lady on a talent show who blows our minds with singing.  It isn’t the outside that counts but what’s inside.  We all have skills that aren’t necessarily on show.

If you haven’t watched Kung-Fu Panda (and you don’t mind that I’ve just spoiled it for you), watch it.  It’s beautiful, fun and incredibly thoughtful!

Enjoyed the “Life Lessons from…” article then read the others:

5 unexpected life lessons from Scooby Doo.

  • Jill


    it is amazing how a ‘kids’ film can tell someone so much. Unfortunately most people wouldn’t think that deeply about it.
    Good article Toni.

    • Toni

      Jill – Being a deep thinker is both a blessing and a curse! Glad you enjoyed the article though 🙂

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