My mom is a great cook. No, I mean it. When my mom gets going she lays out a spread of dishes that, when taken together, represent the depth of her care for the people she’s entertaining. (She’s also wickedly funny, but that’s for another day.) She has a gift for cooking intuitively, and she sticks only to the bare essentials of a recipe. After she’s got those taken care of she wings it, adding a little of this, a dash of that, so she couldn’t tell you exactly how to replicate the recipe she served. Even soup becomes multi-faceted with complex flavor profiles (thank you, Top Chef, for altering my terminology so I could say something more than, “This tastes yummy.”). You could try to follow her recipe, but it will never end up tasting as good as what she made.Quick Beef Stew

Contrast that with my dear friend who we’ll call Velveeta, who is also a good cook but cooking without a recipe would drive her bonkers. When the two of us were out of town together and wanted to make a raspberry brie appetizer, it seemed pretty straightforward – you spread raspberries and rosemary on top of a wheel of Brie and wrap it all in pastry dough. It was Velveeta who felt compelled to phone her husband and ask him to find the recipe in her cookbook. She thoroughly relied on it. And because of that she has consistently solid results and you can be sure that her recipe card will include all the ingredients.

Let’s go back to Kung Fu Panda.

When Po, the panda who has been chosen as the Dragon Warrior, worked at his father’s noodle shop, he was never given the recipe for his father’s signature Secret Ingredient Soup.  Oh, and Po’s dad is a duck.

Does your life ever seem like you’ve been given a recipe that’s missing an important ingredient?

When Po thinks he can’t handle being the Dragon Warrior and the whole valley has to evacuate, Po talks to his dad about his sense failure. He even admits to his dad that sometimes he wonders if he’s even his son.

His dad takes the opportunity to tell Po something he should have told him long ago…the secret to his Secret Ingredient Soup.

Dad: The secret ingredient is…nothing. There is no secret ingredient.

Po: Wait – what? It’s just plain old noodle soup? Doesn’t it have some kind of special sauce or something?

Dad: To make something special you just have to believe it’s special.

Po: There is no secret ingredient…

Is that a cheap parlor trick or is it more true than we like to admit?

If there’s no secret ingredient, that means that I can take responsibility for my own path.

If there’s no special sauce, I can’t claim that I don’t have the right background or upbringing to achieve my dream.

If there’s no special ingredient, then (gulp) I’m all my kids’ve got.

Sometimes it is easier to throw up our hands and complain about the cards we were dealt. But if we were all dealt the same hand, then the thing that matters is what we do with it..with that hand…

I mean, that deck of cards…


Ugh, you know what I mean.

It is easy to find reasons why things don’t go well, if that’s what you’re looking for. In this scenario reasons = excuses.  There’s usually somebody to blame, even if it’s a stretch to make the blame fit. It is a huge departure when we believe that we have what it takes to get it done, to achieve it, to create it, to find that solution.

Truthfully, it is a bit terrifying.

Po from Kung Fu Panda

Po from Kung Fu Panda (Photo credit: Antony Pranata)

If I start thinking I have what it takes, who will I blame if things go wrong?

If I start taking responsibility for the course of my life, what will I do if it doesn’t go my way?

Don’t worry about that just yet. Let’s review the beauty of the Kung Fu Panda lesson.

“To make something special, you just have to believe it’s special.”

I’m gonna get all up and personal in here for a second.

Scoot your chair in closer.

“YOU are special.”

Yes, I’m talking to YOU.

I know. You’re going to tell me all the reasons you’re not. All the reasons I’m wrong. All the things that prove that I don’t know what I’m talking about.


You’re not listening.

To make something special, you just have to believe it’s special.

You may not think you have what it takes. But you do. You may have to dig deep into your personal reserves. You may have to let go of some other things that have been getting in your way (ie. excuses, self-protection, sleep) but you can do it.

Remember, there is no secret ingredient.

As you read the stories of people who have achieved their dreams, sure there are sometimes when they happened to be in the right place at the right time. But frequently that was able to happen because they got out of bed and made themselves available many times prior to that occasion.

What about the moms out there who are not convinced that they can do this mom thing?

You aren’t missing a crucial “mom-gene” that other people received when all those hormones washed over them during pregnancy. You can do this mom thing. You have what your kids need. If you feel that you are lacking, welcome to the sisterhood my friend, because most of us feel we are lacking in at least one area of our parenting. Be the best you that you can be, work on those areas you know are weak, don’t allow your issues to become your child’s issues, and when you screw up (which you will, we all do) admit it and try again.

Maybe a more accurate kung fu statement is that YOU are the secret ingredient. Not your neighbor, not your partner, not your cubicle-mate, not your mammy, not your granny.

You are the secret ingredient.

So put yourself into the recipe of your life like broccoli in the LeAnn Chin Broccoli Beef (’cause we all know there’s hardly any beef to be found in there). Don’t hold back. Trust yourself. Learn. Listen. Try.

You got this.

What is the secret ingredient you feel you’ve been lacking? What goals do you have that seem out of reach? What would be impacted if you changed your mindset and started to believe that there was no secret ingredient?

"Tonkotsu + shoyu" not only did the ...

“Tonkotsu + shoyu” not only did the perky staff create a friendly eating atmosphere but they also flavored my soup with a secret ingredient while carrying my food to the table (Photo credit: Wikipedia)