The Secret Ingredient

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In the movie Kung Fu Panda, we follow the journey of Po, a young panda who is told that he is a prophesied warrior destined to achieve greatness and become the protector of the land. The problem is, Po is overweight, clumsy, and seemingly not at all the warrior type. He spends a portion of the movie training, doing his best to catch up with the Kung Fu masters, but he fails spectacularly at first. He starts to believe that he is nothing special, and will never be the great hero he’s supposed to be.

Meanwhile, Po’s father is a restaurant-owner who sells a special noodle soup that the local townsfolk love. Supposedly, there is a secret ingredient in the soup that makes it taste so good. Po’s father says that when Po is ready, he will get to know what the secret ingredient is.

There comes a point in the movie where Po must face a powerful opponent who threatens the land. To prepare for this battle, he is given a special scroll that is supposed to give him wondrous power when he reads it. But, to Po’s surprise and disappointment, he finds that the scroll is empty. There is no magic writing on it; he gains no superpowers. I remember watching this movie in theaters and feeling just as disappointed as Po must’ve felt that the scroll was empty. How was he supposed to face his enemy now? He is still just a clumsy panda!

Feeling that the prophecy was just a big mistake, Po starts fleeing town with his father. Seeing how downcast his son is, the father decides to reveal to Po what the secret ingredient to his special soup has been all along:

“The secret ingredient,” Po’s father says, “is nothing! There is no secret ingredient. To make something special, you just have to believe it’s special.”

Po realizes that the only thing he’s been missing was not magic powers from a magic scroll, but believing in himself. He goes out and faces, and defeats, the powerful enemy that no one else could beat.

Often we think that we need some magical “secret ingredient” to be happy and live fulfilling lives. Some think the secret ingredient is money. Others think it’s power. Others think it’s pleasure, or respect or notoriety. But at the end of the day, none of these things will keep you happy.

There is no one “secret ingredient” to life, no one magic trick that will transform you into something special–because you already are special. When you believe that, when you internalize it and learn to love yourself, you will be surprised at how the world seems to change around you. And problems you once thought were unsolvable become solvable. This knowledge will bring you confidence, as well as a greater respect for others. This will create new behavior that will add harmony to your life.

Love yourself. Take care of yourself. Believe in yourself, and in the great things you can and will achieve.

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