I’m risking nerd exile by even suggesting this but…I think Yoda was wrong.
In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker travels to the swampy planet of Dagobah to find Jedi Master Yoda. Luke’s X-Wing ends up sunk in a bog, and Luke doesn’t think he can get it out.
Yoda tells him the only difference between moving the ship and moving stones is the one in his mind. With a shrug, Luke turns back and says, “Alright, I’ll give it a try.”
Yoda replies, “Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”
In his post “The Difference between Trying and Doing,” Michael Hyatt, Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, talks about how he watched self-help author Tony Robbins use a chair to explain this concept. Robbins asked a woman to try to pick up the chair. When she picked it up, he told her she’d done it wrong. He asked her to try to pick it up, not to actually pick it up. When she left the chair in place, he told her that she wasn’t trying—she was simply not picking it up.
Hyatt goes on to explain, “The point is that when we say we are trying we don’t really have to do anything. It also provides us with an excuse for why we didn’t accomplish the outcome we say we want. Do you understand the difference? You either do something or you don’t do it. Trying is really the same as not doing it. It just makes it easier for us to let ourselves off the hook when we fail.”
Sometimes we do use I’ll try as an excuse. In some situations, there really is only a “do or do not.” You either exercise three times a week or you don’t. You either cheat on your spouse or you don’t. You either write or you don’t. Simple. You can’t try any more than the woman could try to pick up the chair.
But sometimes you can try. Sometimes trying is the best you can do.
(I know. I’m taking on Yoda and Michael Hyatt. I must be crazy.)
When Another Person Is Involved
Say someone was sitting on the chair in question. You might strain and plead, but the chair won’t move. Isn’t there a legitimate try in that case? You gave your all, but someone prevented you from accomplishing what you set out to do.
What about the spouse who goes to counseling, puts in to practice techniques to improve communication, and finds ways to truly show love to their husband or wife to save a troubled marriage, but their husband or wife walks away anyway?
They did everything they could to save their marriage, but someone else’s decision prevented them doing it.
When An Innate Ability Or Talent Is Involved
I’m 5-foot-2, and I’m strong for my size. But if you placed a 1,000-pound chair in front of me and told me to lift it, I couldn’t do it. I am physically incapable of lifting something that size alone.
As a child, I loved to sing. I sang every day. I still do. But it wouldn’t matter how many hours I practiced or how many lessons I took or how determined I was to become a professional singer, I don’t have the voice for it. I wasn’t born with it. No amount of determination can change that. (Want more proof? Look at some of the people who try out for American Idol.)
A neurosurgeon needs steady hands. What if you have a condition that causes yours to shake, and that no amount of physical therapy can rectify? Did you fail because your mindset was wrong? Or should you be applauded for trying to reach your dream even though you failed?
When It Just Isn’t Meant to Be
Occasionally the chair is just built into the floor.
As my husband was nearing the end of his five-year commitment to the Marine Corps, he submitted paperwork to go to the Navy, with the goal of eventually becoming a chaplain. He did everything right and believed he was working toward his goal. Three days after he submitted his paperwork, he had a stroke, resulting in his eventual discharge from the military and a medical ban on rejoining.
Some things just aren’t meant to be. Should a person be told to keep driving toward a dream that clearly isn’t going to happen? I think a time comes when we have to admit failure, grieve, and move on. To me, that’s a sign of true courage.
Saying “there is no try” implies we’re able to do anything if we set our minds to it. And that’s a lie. Sometimes we fail, and the value is in the trying rather than in the success.
We learn through trying and failing. We learn patience, persistence. We learn how to graciously accept defeat. We learn we had skills and strengths we didn’t dream of before. We also learn what isn’t right for us.
People who try, really try, give it their all, and fail, should be applauded. Their mindset was right. They fought hard. “Do or do not” just wasn’t an option.
Do you agree with me that Yoda was wrong (in this case at least)? Or do you still think Yoda was right?