“Do, or do not, there is no try” said Yoda to Luke Skywalker when Luke answered “I’ll try” on being told to levitate his X-wing fighter out of the swamp.
People often use this answer, “I’ll try” when asked to do something they don’t really want to do or aren’t sure about . . .
“I’ll try to get back to you this week”
“I’ll try and do what you ask”
“I’ll try and do those things I need to do”
“I’ll try and remember”
Although this is correct usage of the word try in the sense of intending to make an attempt, usually the person involved has no intention of doing any such thing!
You and I often recognise this pretty quickly when we are given answers like these to a request or suggestion, even when we provide advice.
But, albeit hidden away in most dictionaries, ‘try’ has other meanings.
It’s a specific point scoring move in a game of rugby that qualifies the team to make an attempt at ‘converting’ it and scoring a goal.
When lawyers ‘try’ a case, the proceedings are all about presenting and testing evidence on either side through questioning and cross examination.
Similarly, in science, a hypothesis is tested by ‘trying’ different experiments to prove or disprove its validity.
Edison ‘tried’ thousands of different ways of developing a robust incandescent light bulb and eventually succeeded.
An artist might ‘try’ different ways of achieving a certain effect, a musician might ‘try’ different variations of notes until they get what they want, a writer might ‘try’ different forms of words to express their intention, and an engineer might ‘try’ different ways of completing a project.
I was often advised by my shoolteachers “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again”.
‘Trying’ is not really about just making one attempt, which is what most dictionary definitions imply.
‘Trying’ is about not giving up.
‘Trying’ is about making as many attempts as necessary, deploying as many different methods as necessary, practicing over and over again until we ‘get it right’, testing, testing and testing again, until we achieve the definitive or best possible result.
To try is a good thing to do
Provided that you and I keep trying until we get what we want.
Once is not enough, one attempt usually doesn’t work out the way we want it to.
(Admittedly, sometimes it does, sometimes we do get an immediate breakthrough, but it’s very rare)
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again”.
And when you and I have tried and tried and tried, tested and tested and tested, practiced and practiced and practiced – then we can and will ‘do’.
I hate to say it, but Yoda was wrong – although in a way he was right
There is ‘do’ and ‘not do’ but there is also ‘try’.
Because in order to ‘do’, the vast majority of times, you and I have to ‘try’ first.
We have to try or test or practice, so we can finally generate the ability to ‘do’.
But, and here’s where Yoda was right in a way, if we don’t ‘try’ we will probably never ‘do’.
But what’s the answer when people tell you and I that they’ll ‘try’?
Here’s the thing, we know what ‘try’ means so, if we think it might be worthwhile and we’re not just being fobbed off we can offer help.
We can enquire as to what difficulties they envisage in achieving whatever is being discussed and then perhaps negotiate ways of making it easier for them to do whatever needs to be done.
You and I know when “I’ll try” is being used as a get-out, but we also know when it isn’t; and then we can offer help to make things easier.
Look out for when “I’ll try” is being used to cover up a problem or perhaps misunderstanding of what is being asked.
Explain more what is involved and perhaps agree some clear interim targets when necessary.
“I’ll try” can be as much a call for help as it is anything else.
I’m going to keep on trying, testing and practicing to achieve each of my goals, and helping others do the same.
How about you?