“Try not! Do, or do not… There is no try.”
If you’re not familiar with the movie The Empire Strikes Back, check out this quick clip (it’s less than five minutes) before you continue reading. Actually, even if you are familiar with the scene, humor me and re-watch it so you’ll know where I’m coming from 😉
I love this scene where Yoda teaches Skywalker about believing in himself. There is a powerful message within it, however there are few things I disagree with and few truths I’d like to share.
“Try not! Do, or do not… There is no try.” -Master Yoda
Sorry Master, but I’m calling B.S.
Truth #1/ “Try” is actually the only thing there is.
We can never know the outcome of anything until we try. The only way to know if we can ‘do the thing’ is to try. Can you think back on some examples of times where you didn’t believe in yourself, but you acted anyways? It’s very likely that you can think of a few… some which resulted in success, and others that didn’t. Only once you get more skilled at something will you shift to that place of flow where you don’t even think, you just do. No hesitation, no questions, no self doubt. The rest of the time, you really just have to try.
Truth #2/ The willingness to try has value.
If you don’t believe in yourself and you don’t try, you’re 100% guaranteed to fail. If you don’t believe in yourself, but you do try, you definitely have something better than 100% chance of failure. If nothing else, you have a chance to learn, you have a chance to grow, you have a chance to refine, and you may even have a chance to succeed—or, to “do” as Yoda would say.
What do we tell our kids when they’re tasting something for the first time? “Just try it.” You don’t know if you will like it until you try it. It’s the same with anything else.
You might fail, but you might succeed. You might like it, you might not. The one certainty is that you won’t know unless you just try.
For some reason we have decided that adults are not allowed to test the waters with things. At what magical stage of life do we pass from being “allowed to experiment” to “only allowed to exert effort towards things which are guaranteed?!”
Nothing is ever guaranteed! If we instructed kids the same way Yoda instructed Luke, none of us would be walking, none of us would be reading—heck, none of us would likely be doing much anything!
Luke Skywalker: “I don’t believe it!”
Yoda: “That is why you failed.”
Truth #3/ It isn’t “failure” just because we don’t succeed in the way we expected—especially on the first attempt.
Wrong again Yoda. He didn’t fail. He just didn’t succeed in the way YOU expected him to. He freaking tried! He freaking lifted his aircraft several feet out of the water with his mind!! He learned a lesson. Are none of those successes within the experience?? It’s unrealistic to think that will get it right every time, the first time.
The process of taking action despite your self-doubt, when it does lead to success, actually gives you more confidence to do (rather than not do) the next time something difficult comes along.
It also allows you to prove to yourself that your world won’t com crashing down when you try but don’t succeed. When you realize that, you get more comfortable with taking action the next time, even in the face of your fears.
Truth #4/ Believing we can do something doesn’t guarantee success.
I totally get the lesson that Yoda is trying to teach. He’s trying to teach Luke about faith in himself. This is important. I get that. I agree with that. Because even if you’re capable of something, you won’t necessarily achieve it if you don’t believe that you can. Well, believing you can do something doesn’t mean you will do it.
The difference is not the belief itself, it is the willingness to take action in spite of uncertainty... the willingness to… you guessed it… try.
Truth #5: Trying is enough.
What I’m arguing is that there is no clear-cut, all-or-nothing, black or white, do or do not do. There is only try, and that is enough.
Some days I don’t have the bandwidth to do anything other than to try, so I take action. Taking action is giving it my best, and at the end of the day, my best is enough.
Trying is the only thing I can do. I’d argue it is all any of us can “do.” Otherwise, it’s automatically “not do.” Which, coincidentally, usually also leaves me feeling like doo 😂
1/ Do you find it difficult or exciting to try new things?
2/ Do you view “failure” as an opportunity for growth?