What a vague and factually incorrect piece of advice. A man, an ardent fan of Star Wars, once told me this in an effort to motivate me to accomplish a work project many years ago.
There was only one problem. The aim – the vision of the project itself – was wrong. It was wrong for the objectives of the company. It was only then that I realized I had indeed ‘tried’ to accomplish the project. It was halfway through when I realized that the project was a mistake. This man pushed me, sure – but in the wrong direction. He was pushing me for the sake of pushing me; possibly to have a claim that he could motivate his employee.
Eventually he gave up. After all, he had tried to motivate me, hadn’t he?
The problem with this phrase, classically lauded as a wise piece of advice imparted by the revered Yoda, are the following:
- There is indeed a ‘try’. It exists. It is in the dictionary. If you attempt to argue this point, you are merely an ignoramus.
- There are indeed circumstances in life where you pursue a path – you ‘try’ it – only to find that it isn’t the right path for you.
- There are circumstances where people – perhaps a governing board or approval committee – literally will not let you enter whatever their special program is, perhaps because a choice from your past disqualified you. And guess what? You can’t change the past. You indeed ‘tried’. You worked your ass off. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. And you know what? Maybe it really isn’t worth it. Maybe something else matters more to you, or will work out better in your favor.
- You apply for a job. You are scheduled an interview. They pick another candidate. Ok, you ‘tried’. At least in this case, you “Do” or “Do Not” get the position – but guess what? You’re not the one who decides that, are you? You spent days preparing for that interview. You studied interview questions. You brushed up your resume. You had several reliable references. Damnit, you ‘tried’. It just didn’t work out. Guess what – on to the next job application. You try again. On to the next. Rinse, recycle, repeat, until you finally land a job.
- You can not “Do” or “Do not” when it comes to influencing people’s choices. People choose to be influenced and make their own choices. You can only ‘Try’ to influence them. Either it works or it doesn’t.
- You can try to become an actual cat instead of a human being. Guess what? There is absolutely no way that is going to happen. If you think you can ‘Do’ that, fine. Go ahead, do it. Record it. Post it on the internet for likes. Wait for the government to contact you so they can covertly steal your piece of machinery that made it possible. But I’m going to guess that there is a firm “Do Not” in becoming that cat. Don’t worry, I’m saying that for the sake of your sanity. “There is only Do or Do Not.” No, Yoda. In this case, the person may have legitimately tried to become a cat. But guess what? In trying, they gained wisdom; the wisdom that they would never be able to become a cat. They didn’t gain wisdom in the “Do Not” part of becoming a cat. I imagine the “Do Not” is the default option for most human beings.
But you know what?
It’s okay. You’ll be fine.
You know why? Because you try. “Do” or “Do Not” ignores and disregards the hard work, blood, sweat, and tears of ‘Trying’.
And I guarantee you – from all that trying – you learned something, didn’t you? You learned that maybe something wasn’t your life path. You learned that the direction was wrong. You learned a skill. You learned how to get back up again and try something new or try it in a different way. It is in the process of ‘trying’ that we gain true wisdom. Endlessly choosing to “Do” or “Not Do” things, while ignoring the try, keeps our minds and bodies busy, sure. But it does not give us the vision or purpose necessary to truly achieve our objectives.
‘Trying’, if done with sufficient amount of effort, denotes a commitment to hard work, purpose, goals, and vision. The most successful people didn’t wake up one day suddenly having “done” or “not done” something. They ‘tried’ first. They had a long series of strategically placed ‘Do’s’ and ‘Do Nots’, which meant that they were trying.
But guess what? Shit happens. Unfortunate and maddening shit. And sometimes things just don’t work out, no matter how many things you choose to ‘Do’. Often, these are things that are completely out of our control. But there are many things that are in our control. Those are the things we choose to Do or Not Do. It is the series of ‘do’s’ or ‘do nots’ that denote our level of ‘Trying’. To ‘Try’ doesn’t mean you will succeed. It also doesn’t mean you will fail, either. Less can be said of ‘Doing’ something. I can’t wake up tomorrow, choose to “Do”, and be a doctor. I would be jailed for manslaughter. No, I would have to try first, take the necessary steps, and then become a doctor.
If you choose to “Do” only one action that would, in theory, contribute to your success, does that mean you even tried? Sure, maybe – if that’s your standard of ‘trying’.
To the successful, ‘Trying’ means resilience. It means ‘trying’ over, and over, and over, and over again until finally, they arrive at a satisfying destination. Success isn’t a “Do”. It is a “Try”.
It always has been.
Don’t ever be ashamed of your ‘Tries’ or let other people convince you to be ashamed. It means that you are learning. I guarantee you, if I chose the “Do” of being a doctor – or a cat – tomorrow, I would be deemed as much more foolish of a human being than if I had just ‘tried’ first.