Do or do not. There is no try.
-Yoda, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Many people recognize this quote from Yoda when he speaks to Luke as his ship sinks in a swamp. What do you think and feel about the well-known Yoda quote?
Though beloved by many, Yoda is only a fictional character. We still have to think, pray, and decide for ourselves. It may not be obvious at times what is ours to try on and what is not.
For a long time, I have thought about this movie quote. I find it easy to misuse the advice, so it isn’t always supportive. In fact, it may rarely be supportive. Let me explain…
The first time I remember seeing and thinking about the quote was in my 9th grade Government class. Our wonderfully engaging teacher, Mr. Croft, wrote it on the board before class. I don’t remember why he wrote it there. I remember a heated (for 14-year-olds) discussion on it. For years I thought of the one-liner as a motivational statement. The saying feels similar to Just do it! On the surface, it seems good. The quote, like listening to Eye of the Tiger, helped me get my head in the game.
20 years or so ago, the saying started to bother me, and then even more in recent years as I came to value God and other ‘things’ like presence and being more, it just didn’t resonate. Similarly, what I learned about neural pathways did not add up with this advice. Now I also live in a regular state of mystery, often not knowing what I will or won’t do until it happens. The quote doesn’t apply much of the time.
For Yoda and Luke, there was an immediate situation that needed action, and waiting meant failure. There was no time for trying, learning, and failing.
Emergencies or life and death situations, like what first responders regularly encounter, or other urgent situations call for this advice. Sometimes we only get one shot. We have to give it our all. I realize that sometimes we only get that one shot, so we need to put our whole heart and self into it. Waiting means we miss the chance to act, and the moment passes us by.
For the most part, trying and learning enriches us and those around us. Trying requires some openness to failure and ambiguity. Ideally, we are trying things and learning when it is not an emergency.
This year I started drawing to pass the time in a quiet way when the coronavirus took over our schedules and I was quite lonely. I had no idea if it would work since at almost 40 years old I have never really drawn, much less how well it would work.
Don’t get me wrong; learning is not always easy and fun. Sometimes it is necessary though. Sometimes we unlearn, relearn, or start over in life and learn something new. What else are we here for?
I stand for learning. I like trying. I also support not doing and not trying if that is best for someone.
If I only did what I knew I could absolutely do, and there was no option for imperfectly trying, I would not even write this post.
I would not have pursued my last career or attempted many of the things in my life, which have all led to knowing amazing individuals. When I am in a spirit to just try rather than do versus do not, life feels better for me.
Besides, neuroscience research on the brain and learning grows all the time. It teaches us that we can change and learn, and this depends on neural pathways. So there is no do or do not. We try! And with support come the neural pathways and learning or changing.
We don’t know what is happening or what will come. So we have to try. In fact, some of the answers are not found in doing at all.
How can we rise to challenges, despite this not knowing?
How can we be creative in our lives?
What is our work at a given time in our life?
So how about it?
Do you try, or only do or do not?
Do you try to be a kind person?
Even trying to do some things (like be a good person) can make a big difference.
I want to say again, I am for trying. I am for accepting failures as part of life. I am for learning.