7 Life Lessons from Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

I recently watched Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and being the self-improvement philosopher that I am, I couldn't help but reflect on the life lessons from the story.

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Here are 7 life lessons I took away from the film:


1: You don't have to be good at everything, but it's important to be good at one useful thing.

For example, Katy is really good at driving, which was essential for Shaun's team. Katy's driving skill actually saved them multiple times. Another example is Trevor the jester. His useful skill was being able to communicate with Morris (the little faceless creature), but that turned out to be key to the team's success.


In life, people often compare their weaknesses to other people's strengths and feel bad. What we should do instead is reflect on if we've cultivated one useful strength and then focus on using that strength to help others.


2: Active listening is not easy

When Shaun was trying to explain that his real name is Shang to Katy, Katy couldn't understand because "Shaun" and "Shang" sound really similar. But she did the right thing of repeating back what she heard until she got it right.

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It's a humorous scene, but it illustrates how to do active listening!


3: People need cheerleaders not critics

Katy's mom and friend often criticized her for not living up to her full potential. The constant nagging gave her stress and made her seek outside pleasure like late night KTV. When they went to the village of Tao Ao, the grandma there acted as a cheerleader, encouraging her to learn archery. Later, the grandpa allowed her to go into the battle field with her archery skills, encouraging her to "come back alive." It's thanks to these cheerleaders that Katy built up her confidence and was able to save Shaun and Xialing with her arrow.


4: Trust takes years to build and one event to lose.

Shaun promised his sister he'd be back in 3 days. His sister waited for 3 days, then 3 months, then 6 years. Therefore, we shouldn't make promises so lightly. It's no wonder she was so upset and resentful towards Shaun. Later, in the battle with the Dweller-in-Darkness, Shaun refused to forsake his sister again, and that's how he was able to regain her trust.


5: Softness overcomes hardness

The great sage Lao Tzu once said,

"Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. This is another paradox: what is soft is strong."

Ying Li and Wenwu demonstrate this principle well. Ying Li was the only person who could defeat Wenwu.

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Ying Li's martial arts style was very fluid and soft, while Wenwu's fighting style was very aggressive and hard. In their fight, you could see that Ying Li looked very relaxed while Wenwu was very tense. Hence Ying Li was like water, while Wenwu was like rock.


Later when Shaun was fighting Wenwu, he initially fought like his father: very hard and aggressive, and he lost. The second time, he fought more like his mother, and that's when he was able to overcome his father.


In life, when faced with obstacles, if we are hard like a rock, then we will break when we collide with a bigger rock. But if we are soft like water, then we can simply flow around obstacles and overcome them that way.


6: Love needs to be balanced with logic

Popular media often glorifies hot emotional love, but in real life, hot emotional love cannot sustain a relationship. People need a good balance of emotional love with sound reasoning.


Wenwu loved Ying Li greatly, which was why he was able to give up being a villain to start a family with her. After his wife died, he was understandably extremely upset. But when he heard his wife's voice telling him she's trapped in a cave in Ta Lo, that just doesn’t make any logical sense. He saw his wife's dead body; there's no way the people of Ta Lo revived her and then kidnapped her and put her in a cave. But because he was so emotionally attached to her, he wanted to believe that she was there, so he got upset when Shaun said "Mom's dead" and refused to listen to logic.


While we might think we would never act like Wenwu, in reality, people's logical brain shut down when they're emotional brain is overactive. For example, we're initially head-over-heels for someone, all we see is their good points. When others tell us logically what might go wrong in the relationship, we just ignore them. But later, after the breakup, we look back at think, "How could I have been so blind back then?"


Therefore, when we feel very strong emotions for something, we need to realize that our logical brain probably isn't working so well, and we appreciate the opinions of a neutral third party observer.


7: Good relationships with family is key to our happiness and inner peace

Relationships are one of the main keys to people's happiness, and family relationships are among the most important. Shaun saw his mother sacrifice herself to save him and his sister when he was young and helpless. He later ran away from his father and abandoned his sister. Although he doesn’t show it on the outside, he feels very troubled deep down by his poor family relationships.


When he was training with his aunt Ying Nan, she told him his problem is that he hasn't come to peace with himself. That inner tension prevents him from devoting 100% of his energy into the present moment. When he decided he would kill his father, he cried, which showed that deep down, he didn't want to do it. Later in the lake, he flashed back to his mother telling him that the family needs him. Then he finally came to peace with himself, understanding that he is part of the family and he needs to save his dad, not kill him. When he then fought his dad the second time, he was much calmer and was able to overpower his father, but he chose not to kill him and instead to try to save him.


During the fight with the Dweller-in-Darkness, he also chose to not abandon his sister a second time. If he had actually abandoned her, then even if he defeated the Dweller-in-Darkness, he would still be haunted for the rest of his life.


The lesson here is that we should take initiative to nurture loving relationships with our family while we still can. Good relationships with family is key for happiness and inner peace, while strained relationships create long-term stress and misery.


Conclusion

I really enjoyed watching Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, not just because it was a really cool martial arts Marvel film with a compelling story and good humor, but also because there were lots of insightful life lessons to be learned! If you have any other life lessons you took away from the film, I'd love to hear about them.


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