10 Life Lessons Black Panther Taught Us

black panther

As an academic-turned -endurance junkie, it is quite possible for me to deconstruct, reconstruct, and reverse engineer any topic to smithereens. I get that – I know myself. I enjoy thinking. I enjoy exercise. I enjoy thinking while I exercise. The synapses firing in my brain make me happy and keep me entertained while keeping me fit.

Prior to viewing Black Panther, a fellow academician sent a quick note. A post entitled “Tips for Seeing Black Panther (for exceptionally Woke People)” was shared with me and a few other friends. In no uncertain terms, she “tried to tole” me that my brain would explode in so many different directions as a result of seeing this masterpiece (yes, I’m biased and I’on care who knows). One of her tips noted:

“The papers, reports, exams, curricula, and classes that will be developed as a result of this movie are being developed now. If you are an educator or writer, take a notepad the second time you see it.” (McTeer Toney, 2018)

She was right.

As I sit here writing to all of you, I’ve already seen the movie twice. I’m glancing at my iPhone rhett nah (read: right now) to confirm tickets with Fandango for a third viewing with my family. Yes, it’s just that crucial.

You see, Black Panther is not just a fad for me. My grandfather Ed was a major fixture in my upbringing. Although reading comic books wasn’t necessarily “for girls” thirty years ago, I found his Black Panther comics and read voraciously (sidenote: lemme call Granny to see if she still has them). I read each one of them, if only to grasp notions of Africa, a Black man who was rich, wise, and fearless, and a place that held this curious “vibranium” that could fix things. (Ya’ll know that vibranium is the world’s duck tape. It fixes everything.) The many versions of Black Panther — including the diversion of Black Leopard to distinguish the Marvel superhero from the Black Panther Party — were included in the film. Black Panther just happened to be released during Black History Month, on my 40th birthday. How could I not love it?

From a complex place within me – I could spend the next year simply writing, publishing, speaking, and educating from the lessons learned in Black Panther. From a simple place within me – I wonder if Papa Ed is enjoying the movie from on high.

And from a place in the middle of these two extremes, here are a few Black Panther mindset shifts that anyone can implement to level up in all areas of life:

10. Appreciate your abundance

black panther
Wakanda’s richest resource, vibranium.

It’s not lost on me that Wakandans never once had to worry about a lack of resources. Now, I realize that you may fall at any point on the socioeconomic spectrum. Some of us may be unemployed while trying to make ends meet; others may be entrepreneurs with plenty of residual income. Some of us may have three good gym outfits that we rotate (like me, when I first started in the fitness game), while others may be purchasing $200 running shoes and $5,000 triathlon bikes with ease. Regardless of your status, what if we all woke up thinking this:

I have everything I need at all times. If I don’t have what I need, I can get what I need. I have relationships that automatically make the resources I need gravitate to me. The entire universe conspires on my behalf.

The “I ain’t got it” mindset does not reside in Wakanda. If it stopped residing in us, we could see more possibilities in life than we ever have before.

 9. Comparison is lethal

black panther
King T’challa and his archenemy Erik Killmonger.

What if we just stopped comparing ourselves to others in ways that are detrimental? What if we stopped saying, “I’ll never be that skinny” or “I’ll never be that muscular”… “I’ll never be that fast” or “I’ll never be able to do that…” Lemme help you grasp this. Sometimes we’re so busy trying to take someone else’s part that we forget to play our role. The measurement of success resides in the individual, not in comparison. You are valuable in and of yourself.

8. Embrace spirituality

Spiritual guides are often within earshot of the strongest leaders. I am an ordained elder, but while conducting research for my doctoral degree I studied a lot of people who couldn’t give a hoot about religion. They sought spirituality by “making meaning” of the world. Meaning-making often requires a guide, a mentor, a companion, or a least a discipline to keep you grounded. Find your “thing”  — whatever that thing is – a pastor, a mentor, a prayer partner, a sister-circle, a yoga practice. Something. But simply floating around in this life without attempting to make meaning of it can be a waste of a soul that just happens to be in a body. Don’t be a walking corpse.

7. Hero or villain? Know who you are

black panther mbaku
Good-bad guy M’baku, leader of the Jabari tribe.

Anyone and everyone can be the hero or the villain, depending on which angle you choose. In this life, there will be plenty of times in which people will view you as the hero, but another group will villianize you. Quiet as kept, take it ALL in and enjoy it. Those who declare you as a hero aren’t always right and those who name you as a villain aren’t always wrong. Never let opinions dominate your life, but listen, learn, and grow from significant responses to who you are in the world.

6. Listen to your elders







Elders and their traditions were revered, respected, and included. Your’s should be, too. I remember once I was sick as a dog. I was beyond miserable. It felt like I’d had the flu for at least 7 years. I was the BEST patient and followed the doctor’s orders to the letter. After no improvement, I finally decided to follow through with my Granny’s home remedy. She had the “Go back and do what I told you to do in the first place” face on, but I was so happy to be well that I was OK with the glance of judgment. Her traditional cold remedy had me up-and-moving in less than 48 hours when the “new-fangled” medical technology had me down for over a month. Don’t dismiss people or traditions so easily. Old doesn’t not always translate into “out of date.” Old age and current relevance can co-exist.

5. Learn your ancestry

black panther
The cast of “Black Panther.”

Speaking of Granny, she should work for Ancestry.com. Whenever I used to introduce a new friend to her, she’s immediately say, “Who’s her people?” Meaning, “I don’t know this child, but I do know her lineage.” Lineage is important to who you are, how you are recognized, and where you want to go in the world.

Almost 5 years ago, I learned how to swim as a very fearful adult. Well, you know me! I can’t just swim. I had to be a scholar of swimming. I learned about the history of swimming, including the history of African American swimming. Now, I love me some Cullen Jones and Simone Manuel, however, once I learned that Italian explorers visiting modern-day Nigeria and Angola found that Africans were raised to “swim like fishes” from infancy – my views of myself and my capabilities completely changed. Knowing that Tice Davids swam across the Ohio River to freedom in 1831, leaving Whites thinking that “he must have disappeared through an underground railroad” associated with Harriet Tubman makes me feel like Michael Phelps with much more melanin. Ancestry help us to understand ourselves and our superpowers.

4. Count on the babies to remember


Children are included in most sacred traditions. Their innocence is essential to remaining grounded and seeing old experiences in news ways. If you have children near you, maximize their presence. Even the smallest things are important. Case in point, in March of 2016 my then 6-year old son and I ran a St. Patrick’s Day 5K for his birthday. We ran in Washington, DC near the Monument and through the Smithsonian Museums. Fast-forward almost a year later, we were headed to the Air and Space Museum during a day-off from school. As soon as we emerged from the Metro Station, we were facing the Monument and he said,

“Look Mommy! Remember that cold day when we ran around the Big Pencil for my birthday?! Can we do that again?”  Children collect experiences with us, remember the minutia, and remind us of what’s really important in life. Some experiences are more important than others. Kids help to highlight this.

3. Accept technology

Shuri, Black Panther

Why ya’ll sleeping on the technological advances of the day? I’m shocked at how antiquated we all can be sometimes. As General Okoye said, “Guns. So primitive!” If nothing else — out of laziness  — we should embrace technology. There is technology that reminds us when to eat and what to eat. When to workout and how long to recover. Where to go and how to get there. When you need help and where to send help. Princess Shuri-type-innovation is literally at our fingertips to solve almost every complaint I’ve heard concerning health, wellness, fitness, and just mainstream life. I’m not saying that you need to drive a hologram, but I am saying that automation and futuristic technology is not a demon.

2. Harness your own superpowers

Being the best kept secret as a superpower may not be a bad thing. Being the underestimated underdog is my specialty. Born and raised in rural southern Virginia, I used education to move up and out, and…well, ya’ll get the point.  As women, women of color, and healthy women of color, caring deeply about our holistic health is our best kept secret. Why? Because we are the source of all life in so many other areas of influence. I shudder to think what the world would be like without healthy women of color. The world needs what you have to give, whether they know it or not. We educate people, we feed people, we house people, we clothe people. We serve people, but only when we’re healthy enough to do so. Health is a superpower.

1. Never forget: Women of color rock!

The loyalty, skill sets, and intuition of women of color can be a superpower if people would stop silencing, policing, and minimizing us. *Stomping my foot* Let me say it one mo’gin. We literally save everything we touch in all arenas. Take CRUSH Magazine, this very media outlet that you’re reading right now. We took our own fate into our own hands and created an online magazine for us, by us, and about us to get our message out about fitness, health, and wellness. Superheroes are great without limitations and regardless of challenges.

If you haven’t seen Black Panther, I encourage you to grab some popcorn (without the butter!) and enjoy it. Nah, you don’t need to dissect every scene, but regardless of your background, Black Panther will show you what empowerment, pride, and agency all look like. Black Panther doesn’t give us these gifts of self-determination, but it reminds us of everything we’ve always had. If you forgot that you have permission to be whole, healthy, and great, go get your reminder.

Dr. Shaunna Gold

Dr. Shaunna Payne Gold writes monthly for CRUSH magazine AND…she’s a U.S. Masters Swimming Certified Coach, Triathlete, Marathoner, Author, Blogger, Educator, & BoyMom, Owner & Founder of SHEro Athletics, LLC


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here