“Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try”.

Sound familiar? If you’ve ever watched the Star Wars films it might be. These words were uttered by Yoda when training Luke Skywalker on his hero’s journey to reach his full potential as a Jedi.

Even though the words are said by a fictional character in an intergalactic space story, they contain an important but overlooked life lesson: Don’t try just do.

Following this mantra won’t make us Jedi Masters. But it can help us on our journey to master ourselves.

Don't Try Just Do Yoda

‘Try’ is redundant

‘Try’ entered the English language as part of its original legal usage i.e. someone being subjected to a court trial. It’s less clear how it started being used as an alternative way of saying ‘attempt’.

Yet the reality is this usage of the word was and can still be redundant. It’s an aberration of the language with a more negative than positive causal effect.

‘The word ‘try’ seems like it has been around forever. But a Google Ngram shows usage of the word has surged since the 1980s. This habit of throwing ‘try’ into sentences unwarranted is a compulsion of modern times. People obliquely hedge against failure with their language. The irony is by doing so they increase the odds of failing.

‘Trying’ presupposes failure

Imagine a world where the words ‘try’ or ‘attempt’ have to be included in every statement about intended actions or behaviours. The words are so ubiquitous in day-to-day life, they become grammatical rules in the language. Someone saying “I’ll find the time” no longer makes linguistic sense; “I’ll try to find the time” becomes the ‘correct’ way to phrase that sentence.

In such a world, what would happen?

Language belies a person’s attitude. In this world, even if someone completes an activity, there’d be no confidence that they’d complete it again the next day. People would be less committed behind their actions. Uncertainty would be rife. The world would become less reliable in general. Mass disorder would likely ensue.

Now imagine another scenario. In this world, no language (including English) contains the word ‘try’, ‘attempt’ or any other related synonyms. When people say they’re going to do an action, they just do it with no hedging involved.

What would the effects be in this world?

People would be more judicious about what they do and don’t do since their state of mind enters into things with full commitment rather than halfheartedness. Mistakes and failures which are inevitable in any pursuit would be reframed. Societies would be more compassionate to those who falter understanding that failure is the greatest teacher and hiccups along the way are part of the learning process.

The first scenario reveals a subtlety about human nature and language that goes unnoticed—trying presupposes failure. By appending ‘try’ onto your vocabulary, you’re low-key priming your mind to assume a lower chance of succeeding.

You might think this is an exaggeration. How can saying “I’ll try to run for 5k nonstop” be much different from saying “I’m going to run 5k nonstop”?

On the surface, changing the latter to an attempt seems harmless. But what will happen is you’ll program your mind to accept the possibility of failure. You’ll chip away at your level of conviction behind what you’re going to do. At its worst, ‘trying’ becomes a matter of confirming expectations, the expectations that you were never going to succeed with an action in the first place which may or may not be true in reality.

Don't Try Just Do Presuppose

Don’t try just do as a way of being

When you say you’ll try to do something, you’re tacitly accepting the premise that you might not achieve what you set out to do instead of committing with full effort. It’s as if by uttering the word ‘try’ you believe that the universe takes the sting out of the failure in the cases where you don’t succeed.

People use the word ‘try’ because they’re worried about what other people think. They believe that by attempting, they’re preventing the foolishness of making guarantees.

Here’s the rub. The universe doesn’t care what words you use before you do something. Nor will others pretend that you haven’t failed if you didn’t complete an action simply because you told them beforehand you’ll “try”. No-one is saying that if you commit rather than try you’re making arrogant guarantees. But you’ll give your best and if you don’t manage to achieve what you set out with your actions, so be it.

In this sense, don’t try just do is a Barbell Strategy. It’s about being all in or not at all without lacklustre engagement behind a task.

‘Trying’ often creeps in when we’re made to do things with a lower probability of success. Recall the world where people don’t try just do. Removal of ‘try’ makes you more prudent in what you pursue. For those low success inevitabilities that we have to undertake, instead of saying “I’ll try”, you can say “There’s a chance I’ll fail but if it’s important, I’ll do it and give it my all”. An important and enormous distinction.

This is why many of the most successful people around speak about failing forward and learning from mistakes. They’re highlighting the life wisdom of knowing that we’ll each encounter our own failures on our respective journeys but the key is to face them head on accepting they’ve happened rather than soften them and deny their most important lessons.

Remember, with few exceptions most failures don’t spell eternal damnation. They’re part of the journey of learning, the journey of evolution, the journey of life. Doing your best to prevent them from occurring but nonetheless accepting that some will happen is the only sensible way to operate. ‘Trying’ doesn’t prevent them from happening anymore than if you don’t try just do.  Thus, don’t try just do is a rationally and emotionally parsimonious attitude for navigating life with.

For any endeavour, assess whether it’s worthwhile and commit to doing it or not doing it. But don’t ‘try’ because you shoot yourself in the foot before you’ve even begun.

Don't Try Just Do Being


Throughout historical and contemporary culture, the folly of trying over committing has been hinted at, whether that’s in Hollywood epics or Zen literature. Regardless of how they convey it, they’re all pointing to the same thing: don’t try just do.

‘Try’ or ‘Attempt’ are words we casually throw out in speech yet we often don’t realise how redundant they are. Trying presupposes failure through priming your mind that there’s a possibility of failing at something you’re going to do rather than just committing to the task without softening potential failure.

Removing ‘try’ from your vocabulary doesn’t mean you’ll make arrogant guarantees. But it will increase your prudence about what tasks you undertake and it’ll force you to have conviction in how you go about doing them.

Don’t seek to take the sting out of failures with your language, mistakes and failures have rich lessons for us no matter who we are and what course of life we’re on. With commitment, you’ll find you achieve your tasks better than if you’d ‘tried’.

Commit to something with unbridled involvement or don’t do it at all. Don’t try just do.