7 Personal Development Lessons – Kung Fu Panda Style

Personal development can be really fun, if you want to. I mean, it’s ok to write ambitious goals, to develop self-discipline and to embark on 30 days challenges. But all this can become really boring at some point. Being better doesn’t have to be all serious, grave and solemn. Life is also made of fun, relaxation and leisure. So, why don’t we try to mix some personal development with a little bit of cheerfulness? Or, to borrow the words of a very close friend of mine: we can never have too much awesomeness in our lives. Yes, you got it right, this friend is no other than Kung Fu Panda (I know his name is in fact Po, but I will remember him for as long as I live as Kung Fu Panda).

Ladies and gents, fasten your seatbelt because we’re going to learn 7 personal development lessons from the master of all masters: Kung Fu Panda:

1. If You Can Dream About It, You’ll Eventually Get It

The lesson: no matter how unreal, huge or totally out of this Universe your dreams are, if you really trust them they’ll become reality at some point. Dreams do come true.

The plot: The very beginning of the movie pictures a mighty hero, saving the world from villains with outstanding kung-fu skills. There is no match for his art, and no worthy opponent. The shady world is breaking into a million pieces, under his skillful and magical hits. Alas, the morning reveals that the mighty hero  is just a huge Panda bear dreaming to become a Kung-Fu master. The rest of the story is in fact his journey towards fulfilling this great dream.

How many times you had the courage to dream something really big? A house in Toscana, maybe? An apartment in the middle of New York? Cruising the world with your own yacht?  Dating the most beautiful woman in the world? Come on, bring it on! Name your biggest dream! Don’t be shy, you can never have a dream too big. Just look at that Panda and how his dream is totally out of sync with his current reality.

And yet, by the end of the story, he fulfills it with magnificence. Not only he become a perfect warrior, but he also saves his village from Tai Lung, the darkest of the darkest kungu-fu warriors of all times. A lot of stuff happens between the dream and its fulfillment, that’s true, but that’s not the point here. The point is that your reality will always match your dreams. So you’d better dream something amazing.

2. Role Models Are Just Milestones

The lesson: role models are just milestones in our lives, their real purpose is to set us up for something bigger than we think and deliver. After that, a role model should disappear.

The plot: Kung-Fu Panda is a big admirer of the Furious Five, a pack of legendary warriors. Once he’s accepted under the training of Shi-Fu, and he’s allowed to practice with them, all he wants is to be accepted in their circle. Of course, the only thing he receive is rejection: they are way above him. But as time flies and Kung Fu Panda learn to look into his own soul and accept his own greatness, he totally overcome all his former heroes.

I’m sure you have a role model. Somebody who is inspiring and motivating. Somebody you look up to and thrive to become like him/her. That’s ok as long as you stop at the inspiration and motivation level. Going over this will be against the normal rules of evolution. You can’t become somebody else because you’re… you. Imitating somebody else to the bones will never make you better, on the contrary, will weaken your strength and ruin your authenticity.

A role model is just a catalyst, nothing more. Once you discover your own inner power, you will be amazed by how much you can do. And, most of all, you’ll be amazed by how small your ex-model will look from your new position. One of the biggest, yet subtlest, personal development roadblock is the “role model fixation”, a situation in which all you do is try to fit in the shoes of your guru. As sad as it may feel, at some point you’ll have to “kill” this image of success in order to make room for your own.

3. Your Biggest Fault Can Be Your Biggest Asset

The lesson: we’re too often trapped into “the proper way of doing things” forgetting that our uniqueness is the most precious gift we’re carrying. What we think it’s our biggest liability, is in fact our bigger asset.

The plot: despite the fact that he’s supposed to become the Dragon Warrior, the training of Kung-Fu Panda leads nowhere. Po is totally dumb and clumsy, not being able to perform not even the simplest exercise, to master Shi-Fu and Furious Five’s exasperation. But when master Shi-Fu discovers that Po is highly motivated by food (whenever he feels down, he usually fill himself with dumplings just to alleviate the pain) everything changes. By using a mental connection between food and exercises, Po is finally becoming a martial art master

What’s your biggest fear? What’s the thing that you want to avoid the most? What are you terrified by? Whatever this is, there lies the key to your transformation. Although Po was emotionally blocked by his looks (an obese bear obsessed with food) the moment he realizes that this liability is in fact the thing that motivates him the most, his life changes for good. And for the best.

Each and every one of your liabilities are in fact disguised opportunities. Facing them upward and accepting as part of your core being will eventually convert them to assets. It takes a lot of power and maybe some painful confrontation to get to accept them, but the reward will be unmeasurable. Whenever you feel down, defeated or just unfit, remember that the Dragon Warrior was just an obese, bulimic panda before he realized his true greatness.

4. Sometimes Things Just Go Wrong

The lesson: accept it and deal with it. Life is not always fair. In fact, life is never fair, we just happen to have the same opinion every now and then, that’s all. We can’t control anything, all we do is to adjust and adapt.

The plot: Tai Lung, the negative character with super kung-fu knowledge and mastery, escapes the high security prison using only a small feather.Despite the guardians, the gates, the chains, against all odds, he really manages to get out and to start pursuing his revenge. Apparently, the role of Po, our Panda, was to stop Tai Lung when he become the Dragon Warrior. Which, eventually, happens, but not without some very upsetting ups and downs. Especially downs.

We’re not living in a fairy tale.We’re living in a highly unpredictable environment, filled with unexpected challenges and sudden turnarounds. The real point is not to avoid them but to manage them. Because, in fact, we can’t avoid them. Not only because we have limited control, but because it’s in our nature to be exposed to challenges and pressure in order to grow an evolve.

Living a life of total security is a paradox. The mere act of being born is a very dangerous one: separating two living creatures and pushing the youngest into a hostile environment is a highly traumatic event. And yet, we forget that and expect things to “go right”. Just because every now and then things are going right, we can’t expect this to happen on a regular basis. Sometimes, life only needs a small feather to turn the whole universe against us.

5. Have Hope, You’ll Eventually Get In

The lesson: even if you’re in the worst possible circumstances, something unexpected may happen, which will literally make you jump over the obstacles. No matter how difficult life seems now, it can always turn the other way around in one second.

The plot: the show of the Furious Five, in which master Oogway (the turtle) wants to select the Dragon Warrior, is held on a very high mountain. Our Kung Fu Panda had a little bit of trouble getting in. He got there the last one and despite his desperate efforts, he just couldn’t get in. Until some unexpected coincidence actually make him fly over the walls and fall from the sky just in the middle of his future destiny.

This lesson is a mirror of the last one: life can go unexpectedly well the same way it can go unexpectedly wrong. The circumstances can change in a second. Whenever you think you hit the bottom, something incredible may happe and you’re suddenly projected right in the middle of your dream life. Provided you don’t quit, of course.

From a personal development perspective the lesson can be read as: be prepared, even if your current environment won’t give you much. Now. But you never know what the next second will bring into your life. Embrace possibilities. Summon the potential of the next second. Just be prepared for something magic to happen.

6. The Magic Power Lies Within

The lesson: your power is in yourself, not in outside circumstances. Don’t you ever give your power away to circumstances like luck, magic gizmos or other people. Everything you need to know and have is already inside you.

The plot: all Kung-Fu fighters, Tai Lung included, are searching for some powerful Dragon Scroll, which will allegedly give infinite power to its owner. In the end, Po finds it but, surprise, the Dragon Scroll is empty, there’s nothing in it. At the same time, Kung Fu Panda learns from his father that the secret of his famous family soup was… nothing. In fact, he realize, the Scroll it’s not empty, it’s a mirror of yourself. All the power lies within.

Too often we give our power away to circumstances: we imagine that we will be more powerful if we would have access to some external tools. We think we’d be happier with more money. We think we could solve all our problems with some magic touch or a lucky strike. And, while waiting for these external circumstances to manifest, we ignore the only real source of power: ourselves.

The pursuit of the perfect tool for drastically improve your lfie will always end with the same result: at the end of the race, there’s only you. The Magic Scroll is empty. And it always was. Because all the real power is within you, not outside. You are the master of your own circumstances. You don’t really need something to prove your power. All you need is to trust that you have power, and you”ll manifest.

7. You Can’t Have Enough Awesomeness – Kung Fu Panda Manifesto

The lesson: there isn’t any, really. That’s just a fact 😉

The plot: In Kung Fu Panda’s dream, there is this line which already became folklore: “You can’t have enough awesomeness”.

And you know what? What he dreamed about was right: you can’t really have enough awesomeness in your life.

Dream your biggest dream and have faith it will come true. If Kung Fu Panda did it, you’ll do it too.

Isn’t this awesome? 😉

26 thoughts on “7 Personal Development Lessons – Kung Fu Panda Style”

  1. Hello, Dragos!
    You know? I saw the animation long time ago, but I didn’t quite remember the quote: ‘if you can dream about it, you’ll eventually get it’. Thank you for pointing that out. It’s totally awesome, because that’s also what my mentor is always saying, “if you see it in your mind, you can hold it in your hand”. Po outgrew his lovely self just by saying that! I absolutely love it!

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  3. This is a good point but i think the most important lesson from Kung Fu Panda is that there is no secret ingredient, most people that have let themselves fall into a state of learned helplessness feel that there is something missing, They cant get better because they lack the realization that “there is no secret ingredient'”. Once a person can realize that there is no single outside factor that will make everything all better they can actually fulfill their maximum potential.

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  5. Dragos, wonderful, uplifting post. Thank you from the land of aikido and judo – Japan. I especially liked your words “you don’t need something to prove your power. All you need is to trust that you have power, and you’ll manifest.” Power really does lie within us. Raising it up to express in each moment of our lives is not only possible, it is what we are born to rediscover and make real on our personal journey. And thanks for the reminder about lightening up. With all our serious goals and commitments we often forget that living is joy. Joy is the undercurrent that illumines our existence. Joyful greetings to you from the foot of Mount Fuji – Catrien Ross.
    .-= Catrien Ross´s last blog ..Catrien Ross on Blowing Out Your Negativity in A Puff of Positive Intention to Shift Your Energy =-.

  6. To really concrete the knowledge learnt here I am off to watch Kung Fu Panda yet again…seriously it is to concrete the knowledge. Ok, well thats my story and I am sticking to it.
    .-= Jonny | thelifething.com´s last blog ..Writing The Perfect Blog Post: Heart, Skeleton, Flesh, Skin and Polish Your Elephant =-.

  7. Kung Fu Panda was one of my favorite animated shows which shares a number of wonderful life lessons. Great choice in using it to illustrate timeless personal development principles!!
    .-= Evelyn Lim´s last blog ..How to Win the Lottery or the $10 million Hongbao Draw? =-.

  8. #2 about role models is key for me as I start to build my new blog which, will launch soon and as I build my “personal brand”.

    I have always had the benefit of great mentors and credit that as one of the keys to my success but it is important not idolize them. I now see and believe I can accomplish as much (or more) then they have and that is a huge shift in my self-confidence.

    Your other lessons are great as well and I will have to check that movie out. Thanks Dragos.

    Peace & Prosperity,
    Dallas M Cyr
    .-= Dallas M Cyr´s last blog ..Joyous Action Part 4 of Manifesting the Life You Desire =-.

  9. Dragos,

    Seven great lessons and worthy of commiting to memory. You have summarised personal development in an easy to follow process. I guess it’s worth watching now.

    Thank you for sharing this.



  10. Hey Dragos, Inspiring as always. I haven’t seen Kung Fu Panda but perhaps I will now. I liked the quote “don’t ever give your power away to circumstances like luck”. I think that’s a really important thing to remember because so often we feel like we’re not enough and must rely on something or someone else to get us through. We really are enough most of the time.
    .-= Carmen´s last blog ..9 Ways to Travel Like an Asshole, Endanger Yourself, and Be Hated by Locals =-.

  11. Hello Dragos,

    Kung Fu Panda is a great animated movie teaching the lessons of life.
    We need to take correct actions to reach our goals, even though initially we may feel that we may not achieve it. But if we QUIT we will never achieve it. I personally liked point# 5: Have Hope, You’ll Eventually Get In.

    As Peter Mandelson said – I’m a fighter, not a quitter.

    Bye for now,
    Cheryl Paris
    .-= Cheryl Paris ´s last blog ..To People Who Want To Get Stress Of Your Chest — But Can’t Get Started =-.

  12. I’ve not seen Kung Fu Panda either, but I love the quote:

    “You can’t have enough awesomeness” That’s certainly very true.

    I think we need to strive to avoid mediocrity. Great tips, thanks for sharing.

  13. Great post Dragos. I love these references from Kung-Fu Panda; I’ve never seen the movie before, but this makes me curious to find out what it’s like. I really agree with lesson number 6. I think too many times we will try and go out of our way to find something outside of us in order achieve a goal. This might bring our self-esteem down. Everything we need to get started is already within us.
    .-= Hulbert´s last blog ..My Brother Got Pulled Over by the Police – Part I Interview =-.

  14. I love that cartoon. Everybody should watch it for motivation! 🙂
    .-= zmajeva´s last blog ..“GIVE ME SOME LOVING” =-.

  15. I haven’t seen Kung Fu Panda – but I’m totally in favour of making personal development fun!

    Regarding point 3 “Your Biggest Fault Can Be Your Biggest Asset” – you’re right, a fault is a fault in a particular context but an asset in a different context. Like shyness being great for listening.
    .-= Reeta Luthra | Stress and Health´s last blog ..5 Signs Your Stress Is At Danger Levels =-.

  16. Awesome post. Title is really great as i have seen Kung Fu Panda. I am also liked specially “Your Biggest Fault Can Be Your Biggest Asset” because i realize it worked for me. Great post for motivation. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post. 🙂
    .-= Mahmudur Rahman´s last blog ..Mahmudur Rahman =-.

  17. I hadn’t thought of Kung Fu Panda as a particularly inspiring movie until I read your post. I think we’ve all been in the panda’s position: wanting desperately to achieve something, but even if we get a shot, needing to struggle our way through to accomplish it.
    .-= Thursday Bram´s last blog ..The Problem with the 4-Hour Workweek =-.

  18. Armen,
    That’s hilarious…looking for coconuts when you already have 5 in the refrigerator!

    One of my biggest dreams was to move out of the cold, dreary and dark Midwest, this was when I was stuck with four small girls as a young mother. I decided one day I was moving to the Southwest when they graduated. My hubs and I held on to that dream for 25 years…guess where we live?
    .-= Tess The Bold Life´s last blog ..Dream An Impossible Dream =-.

  19. Dragos –

    Too right. You can’t have too much awesomeness in your life. That is a fundamental truth, and the world is full of delights if you follow that approach. I agree that personal development should be fun – otherwise what is the point? Wanting more every day is a great way to ensure we make the most of life.

    .-= Phil – Less Ordinary Living´s last blog ..Friends – Will they Really be There for you? =-.

  20. Hey Dragos!

    Totally awesome post!! I so enjoyed reading this 🙂
    You know, I have never seen kung-fu panda, just never got round to it. You’ve inspired me to go rent it this weekend!

    I think there are a lot of lessons and wisdoms that you can get from watching movies even though some people think it is just a waste of time. I love movies where the underdog rises to success in spite of all odds and in spite of all people who do not believe in him.

    Enjoy the day Sir!
    .-= Diggy´s last blog ..A**holes – The Menace of Society =-.

  21. Hey Dragos.

    This is a very good post. I don’t normally say that, but you explained multiple valuable items here.

    Reading number 1 was appealing because it is empowering to hear. I have certain items I envision or hope for, so it is refreshing to know they are attainable. Things sure can seem out of reach. What you said there also connects with my lyric from a song that I keep in mind, which is “if I can picture that, I’ll bring a picture back”.

    Number 3 is another I like because I can see how it works at times as a huge strength. We think something about us is terrible when the negative part of it shows up, but there is usually a great part of it too.

    The 6th point about how the magic power lies within is another cool one to take into account. It can take us a long time to realize that what we were searching for outside ourselves was already here. It’s like going looking for coconut trees when you already have 5 coconuts in the refrigerator.

    Pleasure to read.
    .-= Armen Shirvanian´s last blog ..Others Won’t Create The Perfect Circumstances For You =-.

  22. Hi Dragos,

    Great post: I liked especially the “Your Biggest Fault Can Be Your Biggest Asset” section. A wise person said once that your fauls are just extensions of what you are very good at…

    Thanks for sharing,



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