Trying vs Doing. And the winner is…

“Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda #MondayMorningWakeUpCall


Better than do… just be.

Doing wins hands up, hands down, hands over and around. In fact doing kicks trying’s ass till there’s no ass anymore.

Bernard Roth in his book The Achievement Habit explains it super succinctly. “There is a big difference between trying to do something and actually doing it. They’re two totally different actions. The difficulty arises when people conflate them. If you try to do something, it may or may not happen. If it does not happen, you might try using an altered strategy, and again it may not happen. Although this could go on indefinitely, usually it lasts until you luck out and succeed, get tired of trying, or get distracted by something else. Clearly this is a very unproductive way to go about your life.

If you are doing something, then no matter how many times you hit a barrier, or how frustrated your original strategy becomes, you intend to get the job done, and you bring to bear on it the inner resolve and attention necessary to fulfill your intention. Doing takes intention and attention.”

To demonstrate this in his class, the professor asks for a volunteer to come to the front of the room. When he is standing in front of him, he holds out a water bottle (or other object) and say, “Please try to take it away from me.” The volunteer will tug at the bottle—at first tentatively, because he’s older and looks weaker, and then more forcefully when he realizes the professor has it firmly in his grasp. Eventually he asks the student to stop trying.

The professor then asks the volunteer to listen carefully to his next instruction. This time he says, “Please take the bottle from me.” What follows is essentially the same action as before, with more force and maybe some twisting added. Sometimes he’ll decide to change tactics and ask me to hand it over. The professor always refuses.

Finally he asks the volunteer, “Do you have a younger sibling or cousin?” He then asks the volunteer to imagine that the professor is that younger sibling or cousin, they’re both kids, and there are no parents around. Furthermore, he tells the volunteer to imagine the situation has gotten very annoying, and it is time for him to reclaim the bottle from the professor. Then he repeats the instruction, “Take the bottle from me.”

Participants who get what he’s driving at simply whisk the object out of my hand, leaving him no time to resist. He is overpowered by their intention to take the object. They have manifested a dynamic, elegant flow of intention to do, which is in sharp contrast to their previous static, tentative attempt at doing. Even better, in taking the object they usually actually exert less force than they did before.

He uses this exercise to show that when you do, you are using intent, there’s an inner resolve; when you try, you are merely attempting.

Simply put, trying is ‘half-hearted doing’, a veil to hide indolence and disappointment.

Which doesn’t mean that all roads of doing leads to ‘success’ in whichever way you choose to define success. It rather means trying is ineffective. Don’t try your best. Do your best.

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