How Kung Fu Panda can help you find success

In the film King Fu Panda, it tells the story of Po. Who desires to one day be a legendary Dragon Warrior.

I see it as a delightful heroes journey type story. After watching it again I wanted to picked out some great lessons and moments this story has given me.

Astride Two Worlds

Po in Kung Fu pose

Early in the film we see the state of Po and his world. He want to be a Kung Fu master, respected by others, fighting deadly foes and so on.

Yet reality comes back and he finds himself in his fathers restaurant serving noodles. I feel many of us are in the same sort of predicament.

We are caught just like Po between two worlds, the one we are in, and want to escape, and the one we desire and dream of.

We find ourselves stuck, unsure how to get ourselves out of the rut we find ourselves are in, yet want to become more than we are.

We need, want more than what we have, so our gaze often resets on the horizon, dreaming of these things instead of acting to achieve it.

The Peach Seed

Under the peach tree Oogway gives advice to his own pupil, Shifu. Who still does not believe Po can be the Dragon Warrior. He talks about about the Peach tree he stands under.

Oogway: My friend, the panda will never fulfill his destiny, nor you yours until you let go of the illusion of control.

Shifu: Illusion?

Oogway: Yes.

Oogway: Look at this tree, Shifu: I cannot make it blossom when it suits me nor make it bear fruit before its time.

Shifu: But there are things we can control: I can control when the fruit will fall, I can control where to plant the seed: that is no illusion, Master!

Oogway: Ah, yes. But no matter what you do, that seed will grow to be a peach tree. You may wish for an apple or an orange, but you will get a peach.

Oogway and Shifu
If you are willing to guide it, nurture it.

Shifu: But a peach cannot defeat Tai Lung!

Oogway: Maybe it can, if you are willing to guide, to nurture it, to believe in it.

Shifu: But how? How? I need your help, master.

Oogway: No, you just need to believe. Promise me, Shifu, promise me you will believe.

Shifu still has a certain idea about who the Dragon Warrior Can be. A certain type of person.

The lesson Oogway is teaching here is Po can only reach his potential if the nurture is right. Po is not like the other warriors, like the five. So for him to become the Dragon Warrior he need a different kind of teaching.

Its the matchup between soil and seed that matters. It’s nurture and nature, not one or the other.

Shifu does this later in the film when he motivates Po with the promise of food.

Different people require different nurturing to fulfil their potential.

The Dumpling Fight

Po in triumph with dumpling

The fight between Shifu and Po to get the dumpling result in a special moment for Po.

After winning he realises then that he can be more than he thought he could be. The illusions that have trapped him no longer seem valid or even reasonable.

His horizons expanded at that moment as his mind sifted, he has gained more power.

There is another moment like this later on when he look at the scroll. These are special moment, Pivotal Moments, times that signify changes in your life.

The Dragon Scroll

To be the dragon warrior was not just about the training. But the possession of the Dragon Scroll that contain a secret. A knowledge, a power so great that you become capable of defeating the arch enemy.

No one but Oogway believes Po could be the Dragon Warrior. Po, the Five, Shifu all think that to be the dragon warrior you must have a certain quality which Po does not.

Po: ‘How’s Shifu ever going to turn me into the Dragon Warrior? I mean, I’m not like the Five. I’ve got no claws, no wings, no venom. Even Mantis has those…thingies.’

The folly of thinking like this becomes apparent later with his father and the fight with Tai Lung.

After earning the right to receive the scroll Po looks at it only to find to his and everyone’s dismay. It’s blank.

This is confusing, what does it mean?

It’s his father who helps him realise the truth. He thinks it’s time to tell Po the secret of his ‘Secret Ingredient soup’.

Mr Ping
The Secret ingredient is…

Mr. Ping: The secret ingredient is… nothing!

Po: Huh?

Mr. Ping: You heard me. Nothing! There is no secret ingredient.

Po: Wait, wait… it’s just plain old noodle soup? You don’t add some kind of special sauce or something?

Mr. Ping: Don’t have to. To make something special you just have to believe it’s special.

Po: There is no secret ingredient…

This is where the truth dawns on Po. There is no secret ingredient, no magical formula, no mystical powers. You don’t need it. I’m that single instance Po sees the illusion he’s operating under. That he was deficient, and needs a special skull, knowledge bestowed from outside.

So many of us feel incomplete and are looking for that special something that will make our lives happier and successful. We believe that flawed creatures like ourselves don’t deserve success, or can’t achieve it. We look at those who are and reason they did it because they are special.

The problem with our society is that expect an outside force make all better. It keeps us prisoner because we end up chasing superficial nonsense.

There is no secret ingredient.

The scroll destroys that illusion.

That’s what the scroll is doing, it is tripping you up. It questions what you believe and provides the answer.

You know less than you think you do.

There is nothing special about being the Dragon Warrior. Just as there is nothing special about being a successful artist, businessman or Olympic athlete and so on.

Tai Lung, his enemy, learns this himself in the fight with Po.

He expects to fight someone like himself, like the Five. But Po is different. Tai Lung’s power has little effect on Po because he could not adapt himself to a new opponent.

For Po it’s the same, he finally believes that he is the Dragon Warrior destroying the previous belief that he was not and never could be.

All this shows up the limitations of our thinking and our knowledge. They can never be the same as reality, so they will always be incomplete or wrong. This is the truth the scroll brings

This is why Oogway asked Shifu to believe, and the same again Shifu asked Po to believe in him.

Sometimes belief is what is need to take you to places you never imagined.

Another lesson here is the value of not fitting in. Tai Lung could not have been defeated had Po not become the Dragon Warrior. It means being a non conformist, a misfit who does not fit the mould, can do things and achieve success no-one else can.

Being and outsider can have its advantages.

Tai Lung will Escape

Tai Lung

Early in the film Oogway has a dream that their arch-enemy Tai Lung will escape the prison he is confined in.

Shifu sends a messenger, Zeng, to tell the prison guards to double their measures to prevent his escape. Zeng unwittingly aids the escape of Tai Lung.

So it’s one of those ‘self fulfilling prophecies’ that fascinate us.

Here the belief Lung will escape unexpectedly leads to that exact outcome. If Shifu had ignored Oogway’s dream then he would not have escaped.

It’s the same with ourselves. If you believe your talents are fixed that will lead to proving yourself all the time. But if you feel your talents are changeable, improvable then you accept mistakes and failure as part of the learning process.

If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right. – Henry Ford

It just goes to show again how our beliefs shape the world we are in.

If you wish to change the world, change your beliefs.

The Wuxi Finger Hold

Wuxi finger hold
You know this hold?

Tai Lung: The Wuxi finger hold!

Po: Oh, you know this hold?

Tai Lung: You’re bluffing. You’re bluffing! Shifu didn’t teach you that.

Po: Nope. I figured it out. Skadoosh!

At the end of the fight with Tai Lung Po uses the Wuxi finger hold to finish him. The lesson here is very simple. There are something even our mentors and teacher can’t tell us.

There are some things we have to learn for ourselves, they cannot be taught to us.

Pure Awesomeness

We are often afraid of our own power.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most” – Marianne Williamson

We dream of great deeds like Po himself, but are either afraid to follow through, or don’t know how.

Purse Awesomeness
Pure Awesomeness!

Don’t deprive the world of your genius. Because you never can tell where the great ideas will come from.

That’s how the world works, a series of thousands experiments in how to live.

Don’t hide yourself from the world, blind it with your awesomeness.


The biggest lesson of this story is the one about the scroll I think. It’s showing us the folly of preconceived ideas and entrenched thinking.

The secret to life is that there is no secret, no ingredient, skill, possession, you need to find to create your dreams, be happy or successful.

We say to ourselves that we are not good enough, that the ‘time is not right’, ‘I’m not good enough, or pretty enough’ and so on.

We always seem to be missing the special ingredient that will make it all better. What this lesson is showing is that is no ingredients. There is nothing stopping apart form yourself,

So stop trying to ideal an ideal that does not exist. Turn away from the having perfect body, mind and soul. Accept yourself on your own terms.

Define life on you own terms. What does success mean to you?

And just so you know, I don’t change for awesomeness or attractiveness either.

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Kung Fu Panda is a film by Dreamworks Animation and Paramount Pictures.

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