Yoda said “Do or do not, there is no try.” I have always had problems with this nugget of Jedi wisdom.
The semantic difference between do, do not and try is thin, but it annoys me enough to indulge my atomic hairsplitter.
The advice is superficial for doing anything interesting. Even if you are fully committed and focused, you are still likely to fail at a first marathon or novel. We all have limits, no matter how great our commitment is. To grow means putting ourselves in situations where we’re not sure we can succeed. To have complete certainty of success at a big challenge is insane, which is why rallying against the concept of a ‘try’ is ridiculous.
What Yoda’s advice implies, but doesn’t state, is that holding back prevents learning. I agree. When you hold back, you have an excuse. You can say “I didn’t really try that hard” or “I only did because you told me”. Those are the excuses that indicate a bad kind of trying. It’s trying where you just want to be able to say you tried, mostly so you don’t have to try anymore. Commitment is investment. You get as much learning out of any attempt as you put into it. No more and no less.
My point is there is a way to try and be fully committed. You give everything, in spite of knowing it may not work. And it’s only then that you might learn what you need to learn for your next try to have higher odds of success.
So I disagree with Yoda: there is trying, just different kinds. Some are more rewarding than others. The rewarding kind is where you know going in even if you give your best you may fail, yet you do it anyway. Your eyes are open. You have faith a better version of you is on the other side of that attempt, but only if you are fully committed. There’s nothing wrong with trying if you are fully committed and not hedging. Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with a half-assed try either, if it gives you the motivation to make a bigger commitment next time.
(note: this post revised on 7/11/2012)