Try Hard

when Yoda’s advises Luke to “Do or do not. There is no try,” Yoda is trying to get Luke to see that he can do more than he thinks he can. He’s also trying to get him to focus on growing and not on perceived limitations.

Someone tried to give me this advice once. “Trying isn’t doing,” she said. I ignored the advice until many years later. This is one of the biggest regrets I have from my young adult years.

During Cross Country in high school, my oldest son sometimes referred to a teammate as a “try hard.” This was someone who might run all out in practice but fail to do so in a meet. They weren’t usually, my son explained, supposed to run their fastest in practice.

My approach to exercise and dealing with the chronic pain that has increased over the past year has been to just try harder. If I stretched enough, found the right approach to weights, and varied my cardio, I would overcome the discomfort and be stronger than ever. I just needed to keep trying until I found the right combination.

Here’s, based on these and other examples in this unexpected journey I find myself on, the hard truth I now – finally – know about trying. It doesn’t produce results.

  • Focusing on the wrong thing, no matter how hard you try, limits you.
  • Trying to be productive isn’t being productive.
  • Failing to listen to those who know more about something often makes trying ineffective.
  • Ignoring a problem by trying harder doesn’t make the problem go away.

Effort is important. Trying is important. There must be more, though, if we want progress. Effort (i.e., trying) is the means by which we accomplish, but it isn’t meant to be the end in itself.

Assess and Adjust

Often, the effort that once worked and resulted in achievement no longer works. If you’re trying doesn’t result in accomplishing, most likely your effort needs assessed and adjusted. How does this happen?

  1. Believe progress is possible. Yoda tells Luke he fails because he believes the goal set before him is impossible. Yoda shows him this isn’t true. After spinning our wheels for far too long, progress may not seem possible. If you’re still breathing, I’m here to tell you it is possible.
  2. Be consistent in your effort. Effort is essential for progress. Sporadic effort, however, often results in spinning wheels. Consistency is key if progress is your goal. This is where trying matters. When trying fails, it’s usually because of a lack of consistency. Trying becomes productive effort most often when it’s consistent.
  3. Get some help. No one is an expert or even proficient at everything. We all need help in some area. Getting help when needed turns fruitless effort into productivity. Getting help also relates to choosing to do something about a problem rather than ignoring it and hoping for the best.
  4. Pull back. Sometimes, less is more. One of my biggest chronic mistakes lies with trying too much at once. I tend to overdo almost everything I try at some point. People who care about me regularly remind me to simplify and do less. Often, this results in productive effort.
  5. Don’t force the effort. In other words, don’t be a try hard. Related to pulling back, not forcing your effort relates to not just overdoing things but also trying to force things. When forced, even the smallest things result in trying without ever seeing progress.

Trying has become an acceptable level of existing. Trying has become “good enough” for far too many people. You could say that “Trying is the new best.”

Refuse to let your best stop at trying. Don’t become a try hard. Don’t focus on being perfect either. Instead, realize that progress toward perfection is the goal.