I’m a big fan of cartoons. I even find personal development lessons in some of them, like Dumbo, for instance. Or in a more recent Kung Fu Panda. Oh, that post was a fun one. Not to mention it was instantly picked up by social media, becoming quite popular. So, it goes without saying that Kung Fu Panda 2 had to find its place in my posts too. Ladies and gents, without further ado, here are 5 life lessons I learned from Kung Fu Panda 2, the movie.
1. Your Past Doesn’t Make You Who You Are
The movie: Po, the mighty Kung Fu Panda warrior, finds out that his father, the goose, was not his real father. And that he was adopted. Suddenly, all he knows about his identity is blown away. Who is he, after all? What he is supposed to do in his life? In technical terms, Po goes through an identity crisis. A big part of the movie is dedicated to this search for his lost identity. Eventually, he finds out who he is and a hurtful story, deeply buried in his unconscious mind, is finally revealed. Po is devastated.
But as he accepts that all that happened is part of his past, not his present, he also realizes a very powerful fact: in the end, you are who you choose to be. Your past doesn’t make you who you are. Your choices are shaping your identity.
The lesson: We all have our own personal history. Some of the things we did, or some of the things that others did to us, weren’t ok. We may have been hurt. Or we made some mistakes. Or we may have been humiliated or had to go through pain and reclusion. But that doesn’t make us who we are. We always have a choice. And who we are is not written in the past. It’s a constant result of what we do now, in the present.
2. The Biggest Victory You Can Achieve Is Inside
The movie: The beginning of the movie features a very interesting scene in which Master ShiFu dances the dance of “inner peace”. In a surrealistic choreography, his moves are so smooth and balanced that he can receive a drop of dew from a tree leaf, move it along his arms without getting wet (or damaging the drop), and then leave it down gracefully on a flower. Po is puzzled and asks how he can do this. “By finding inner peace” answers Master Shi Fu.
Po truly believes that this “inner peace” thing is just another Kung Fu technique and not something that he can find on the inside. He pushes and pushes with his Kung Fu techniques, but he never seems to conquer his enemies. Only when he finds that inner piece (a place where forgiveness and acceptance are playing a big part) he’s able to release enormous amounts of force and dance the same dance as Master Shi Fu, only with cannon balls that he returns back to his attackers. Without being hurt, of course.
The lesson: The outside victory is a always mirror of the inside victory. Not the other way around. No matter how many skills we may have, no matter how much experience we may have, no matter how much we may know, if we’re not balanced on the inside, the outside will always be in the wrong shape too. It’s only when all the inner parts are harmonized that the outside can achieve that (apparently) unachievable goal.
3. The Hurt Is The Source Of The Healing
The movie: During his multiple fights, Po is blinded by some signs his enemies are wearing and he remains without reaction, putting himself and his teammates at risk. The more he is exposed to that sign, the weaker he becomes. Po may have the choice to ignore that spot and keep on fighting. But something pushes him not to. Instead of ignoring it, he chooses to confront it and start to follow it, until it slowly begins to understand what’s behind it.
As the story unveils, we learn that the sign was the royal sign of his childhood realm. It was one of the few things that he could clearly remember about his (deeply buried) childhood. And it also became the key opening the gate to his lost memories. The hurtful point, once confronted, empowers Po with knowledge, identity and an enormous force.
The lesson: We all have a sensitive spot. Every time we’re facing it, we lose focus. This is the hurt, the confusion, the unknown. Most of the time we chose to ignore that hurting spot inside us. But the longer we ignore it, the weaker we become. It’s only by confronting what’s hurting us that we can truly heal.
4. Everybody Has A Mission, Even If He’s Not Aware Of It
The movie: There is a prophecy about a black and white warrior who’s gonna save the world. Po’s lifetime enemy, the royal pawn, knows about it, (that’s why he killed all the Pandas years ago). A clairvoyant sheep knows about it, and even does a little bit to help fulfilling that prophecy. The only one that doesn’t know about it is Po.
And still, he is drawn on his path by uncontrollable forces who are pushing him closer and closer to his destiny. Little by little, he realizes that all the small pieces of his life can be arranged in a bigger puzzle. In the end, he realizes that he does have a mission and he has to fulfill it.
The lesson: Even if we don’t know, we’re always on the right place, at the right time, fulfilling our mission. We may feel at times that we’re drifting (and Po felt that a lot) but the closer we get to our true core, the clearer our mission will become.
5. Laughter Is Powerful
The movie: Almost for the entire movie, Po is telling jokes almost incessantly. He keeps on laughing, although he’s ridiculous. Almost nobody in the movie laughs as much as Po. Not even his teammates. And when you finally hear other character’s laughter, it’s a freaking, horror-like one.
Somehow, laughing becomes his defense weapon. He answers to almost everything with a joke. And it works. Just imagine how the movie would have look like without laughing. Like a deep, true and very serious story. Sort of a drama. Also boring.
The lesson: one of the most powerful weapons that we have doesn’t come in the form of a weapon. It’s laughter. And it’s incredibly powerful. Especially when it’s used against yourself. If you can’t make fun of yourself, if you can’t truly and openly laugh at yourself, at least every once in a while, your last chance to evolve was just lost.