Yoda, wrong was he.
Frustrated with Luke Skywalker’s attitude during their training, Yoda shakes his head and says, “Always with you it cannot be done. Hear you nothing that I say? You must unlearn what you have learned.”
Luke considers and says with little conviction, “All right, I’ll give it a try.”
“No!” Yoda exclaims. “Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.”
I don’t know what planet he was on, but it wasn’t planet earth.
As much as I love the little green, wrinkly humanoid, my entire theory of ethics, my fundamental formula for success, is encapsulated in three words: Never stop trying.
Were we to adopt Yoda’s rigid, inhuman stance, failure would be the story of our lives. Fail we would every time we did not — regardless of how hard we tried.
Einstein, with his feet firmly planted on planet earth, said wisely, “You never fail until you stop trying.”
Jedi Masters may transcend trying and do things right the first time, every time, but I’ve yet to meet a human who fits the bill.
We are a fallen, broken race. Our journey on earth consists of a never-ending process of trying, failing, and trying again. Imagine our tragic destiny if Father told us, “There is no try…” I thank Him every day for the gift of trying again.
I’ll give Yoda this: Luke did have a hopeless, defeating attitude. Thus, his trying was half-hearted at best.
Legitimate trying is earnest striving, with hope and faith in a positive outcome. Trying without faith is the husk without the kernel, a seed without soil and water.
Trying alone doesn’t cut it. The secret sauce of trying, the “midi-chlorian” that gives it power, is persistence.
Luke’s pathetic attitude was, “I’ll try, but if it doesn’t work, I’m giving up.” A reason to be frustrated Yoda had.
The formula that transforms imperfect trying into ultimate success is this:
Our faith is demonstrated by never yielding. Despair and hopelessness engulf us when we lose faith.
“Never stop trying” acknowledges our mortal state, accepts our imperfection. But it is not a justification for sloppy work, but rather a call to excellence. It gives us not comfort for our excuses, but rather motivation to awake and arise to greatness despite our imperfections. It is not a formula for discouragement, but rather for courage. As Marry Anne Radmacher said,
“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’”
First and foremost, “never stop trying” is an imperative to try in the first place. As David Viscott said,
“The worst thing one can do is not to try, to be aware of what one wants and not give in to it, to spend years in silent hurt wondering if something could have materialized–and never knowing.”
Yoda was also right that we must unlearn what we have learned from broken people in a broken society:
- “You’re not good enough.”
- “You don’t deserve to succeed.”
- “Avoid risk at all costs and play it safe.”
- “A job provides safety and security.”
- “It’s impossible.”
You are good enough. You deserve whatever you’re willing to commit to and fight for. The riskiest life is playing it safe, cowering in the darkness of squandered potential, shackled by golden handcuffs, as my Entrepreneur Manifesto declares.
It can be done, and you can do it. You just have to never stop trying.
Stephen Palmer is a writer and entrepreneur devoted to helping people conquer limitations, maximize their potential, and achieve true freedom.
He is a co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, the founder of Life Manifestos, and the author of Uncommon Sense: A Common Citizen’s Guide to Rebuilding America.
He co-authored the New York Times bestseller, Killing Sacred Cows: Overcoming the Financial Myths that are Destroying Your Prosperity. He is also the co-author of The Conscious Creator: Six Laws for Manifesting Your Masterpiece Life.
Stephen and his wife are raising their four children in southern Utah.