I’ve heard the quote “there is no try only do,” hundreds of times. It’s one my partner loves throwing at me with a chuckle as if ending any discussion. That by saying “try” I’m already acknowledging failure and (throw down the mic) this is why I’m never going to succeed in life. He doesn’t realise that there’s more than one way of interpreting Yoda’s iconic quote in The Empire Strikes Back: “Do or do not. There is no try.”
There is no try, only do or don’t do
At its most literal meaning, Yoda is saying that you either do something or you don’t do something. There’s no in between. If you try, you’re doing something without committing. Perhaps you’re trying your best, but when things get tough, you don’t persevere. When you say you’ll try, you’re basically just offering a non-committal promise to someone, or to yourself.
So, let’s give an example:
Statement 1: “I’m trying to be healthy.”
Statement 2: “I’m making healthy choices.”
The first one implies failure. It’s like you’re attempting to be healthy, but you’re fully open to the fact that you’re not always going to be getting it right. You’ll be trying, but not really getting your hopes high for this course of action. Conversely, when you say “I’m making healthy choices,” it implies that you’re continuously and repeatedly making healthy choices (as opposed to unhealthy ones) in line with a decision you’ve made to be healthier.
This example works well to illustrate the difference between do and try.
It also highlights the difference in mindset.
The first statement allows doubt, it allows lack of commitment. The moment the word “try” is used, it becomes self-denigrating. It means you don’t believe you’re capable of doing a certain task or lack the self-confidence to do it (if you need help finding confidence, do (don’t try :-)) this exercise). You can also read this article: Courage is a virtue you already have!
Trying isn’t good enough
Now let’s look at another example for a different interpretation.
Statement 1: “I tried really hard to study, but I still failed my exam.”
Statement 2: “I studied very hard, but I failed my exam.”
The first statement again implies that trying wasn’t good enough. If you really did work hard and still failed, it suggests that your trying wasn’t sufficient. You should have tried harder, clearly.
The second statement has a different, more positive slant doesn’t it? It starts with a positive and ends with a negative. But it leaves you thinking that there are other possible reasons why you failed. It’s more open-ended because it makes you want to fill in the blanks, why did this person fail if they studied so hard? It opens the possibility that there was something else going on (maybe something outside their control even) – and that they can recognise this and improve on it for the next exam.
If you look at Yoda’s quote differently, it could be that he’s saying just do it (whatever it is), regardless if you fail or don’t fail.
If everything comes down to a decision, you can simplify this whole dilemma, just by making a choice between two options (to do or not to do). Ask yourself: Is this task or goal something that I am going to do (wholeheartedly) or not? If I’m not going to give it everything, let me rather do something else that I will do wholeheartedly.
Should you choose to commit to the doing of the task or goal, even if you do fail, maybe once or twice or many times, you’ll keep at it, because (as most personal development and success gurus will agree) failure is your greatest teacher.
Here’s a quote from Heirs of the Force, which illustrates another way of looking at the idea of: “there is no try, only do.”
Any success book I’ve ever read will tell you that mindset is everything. If you can see the silver lining in things even when you’ve been knocked down, and use these life lessons to grow and learn, eventually you’ll succeed. Even if your life takes many twists and turns and the success you strived for turns out differently from how you imagined it would (you define your own success or accomplishment!).
The path to success is one long task
The important thing is that you see failure as the stepping stone to success (whatever you deem success to be). As long as you keep doing, as in, keep learning and improving, eventually you will succeed (in one way or another).
You can see the path to “success” as one long task which contains a bunch of mini successes and failures, rather than seeing it as you repeatedly trying and failing until you gave up, or just halfheartedly trying.
When you reframe the idea of: “there is no try, only do” into an awareness of where you came from and what you’ve gained in the process, this whole concept becomes more positive and powerful.
Blue-footed booby success formula: There is no try only do:
- Decide on a goal or task that is realistic and achievable for you.
- Now decide whether or not you want to do it. If you want to do it, then commit to it for the foreseeable future until you succeed. Dedicate yourself to achieving that goal (which means making hard choices about where you put your time and energy.
- Stop using the word “try” altogether. See if you can reframe any sentence that uses the word try into a more positive doing. For example:
- I am trying to do my Masters.
- I am finishing my Masters this year.
- Commit yourself to this goal or task completely, win or lose. Don’t let doubt or uncertainty demotivate or paralyse you.
By eliminating the word try, you are declaring to yourself and the world that you are capable of completing the task or goal you’ve set yourself, and that you have the self-confidence to face any obstacles that might come up. Remember, there is no try only do, so go ahead, booby, give it your all.
If you have tried this (pun intended) and it worked for you, please share your experience in the comments below or shoot us an email.