The Problem With “Try”

When I was in high school band (yes, I was just that cool), the director of the brass line would sometimes lead practices, and one of his favorite things to say was this:

no try

He said it in a Yoda voice and I didn’t really get it at the time, other than it was a Yoda thing. I can only assume he said it in response to a student telling him they would try something.

“I’ll try,” they’d say.

“Do or do not. There is no try,” he’d reply.

*student rolls eyes*

I’ve become more aware of the meaning of the word “try” as I’ve grown older and wiser. It struck me this morning when my husband said something innocuous about the garbage. See, the can in the kitchen was full and today is trash day, so we needed to get the bag out before the truck came by.

“I’ll try to get that out in time,” he said.

Try? I thought. That won’t help if we miss it.

And once again, my Yoda-inspired band teacher’s words came rushing back.ย Either we get the trashย out or we don’t. No one cares if we tried. There is no A for effort here.

For the record, he got the bag out in plenty of time, regardless of trying.

I see try in the same way I see aspiring. It’s a hedge. It’s non-committal. It takes responsibility for doing the thing off the shoulders of the try-er. If we had missed the garbage truck, we could potentially blame the truck for getting here earlier than normal. We tried to get it out. It didn’t work. But in reality, we just needed to get our butts in gear.

It didn’t work. Oh well. At least I tried.

Let’s try to get together.

I’ll try to find a better job.

I’m trying to get published.


Let’s get together.

I’ll find a better job.

I’m going to get published.

In either case failure is possible, but the “oh well” attitude isn’t present in the second set of scenarios. In fact, I see an extra element of drive in the second set. If we fail, we go on to the next thing until something works.

edison quote

This is my attitude when it comes to marketing – I’ve “tried” way more strategies than what has worked, but observers only see what works. I may have struck oil with my first book, but that was after quite a lot of pecking away at less successful endeavors. In my mind, I wasn’t trying. I did something and it didn’t work. So I did another thing and another until somethingย worked.

Trying provides an out. It gives permission to quit. I tried. I failed. The end.

Did you notice “try” isn’t in that Edison quote up there?

I guess I should thank my band leader for drilling those words into my head twenty years ago, in Yoda-ese, no less. I get it now.

34 thoughts on “The Problem With “Try”

  1. Wise is Yoda and your band teacher. And the thing with marketing is that it’s all doing. Results might not be what you expect, but results help you figure out what to do next time or adjust your target.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Five Links Friday 5/26/17 | Write Good Books

  3. I struggle with this concept a lot to be honest. I absolutely see what you’re saying, but I also think there are a lot of areas where trying does count for something. But I will add the caveat that to me, trying is putting the effort in, as much effort as you can possibly muster. And if you fail, you can move on to the next thing and put as much effort as you can muster into the next attempt.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mine is: anything other than a “yes” is a “no.”

    F*ck “try.” Everybody who doesn’t achieve their goal – their dream – can look back and say, “Well, at least I tried.” Tried how much? Tried how often?

    It’s a built in excuse and once you see that all you hear is “I won’t” and it’ll sicken you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I prefer to work on things.
    Like I am working on getting into crow.
    Working on implies actively make an effort towards something.
    Try is what I use when I choose to sleep in rather than make my 6 AM hot yoga class. “I tried to get up early.”
    Slaps my own head.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ll try to get around to commenting on this soon. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Seriously, I agree with your adage, and word usage in writing. Being a procrastinator, try is the top of my speech vocabulary. “I’ll try to get the dishwasher unloaded before dinner.” Your reference to why we use it are true.

    Unfortunately, my vagueness comes out in my writing. Luckily I have some great critique partners that nail me for it.

    This post also reminds me I need to try and do more marketing. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! My husband has said that exact thing about the dishwasher. I’m like, okay but will you because that affects my cooking plans. LOL

      My hedging habits come out in my writing too. Thank goodness for CPs! ๐Ÿ˜Š


  7. I love this. My writing accountability partner pitches a fit whenever I attempt to preface the word try ahead of one of my monthly goals. That is one word she simply will not tolerate and eradicating it from my vocabulary has made a huge difference in what I’ve been able to achieve.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree with your writing partner. ๐Ÿ˜Ž
      I catch myself using it sometimes, and I’m training my kids to avoid using it. “Are you going to try to get your grade up, or are you going to get your grade up?” They probably roll their eyes behind my back. LOL

      Liked by 2 people

Share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s