052 | There Is No Try

Greetings, hero!

Do or do not, there is no try. Those are familiar words from a familiar mentor, words that have been quoted and misquoted so often that they now feel almost cliche. 

In fact, I’ve heard those words so many times, seen them on so many mugs and T-Shirts, and read so many parodies of them that I almost forgot that for the longest time, I didn’t actually understand what it meant.

The reality is that life is trying: it tries our courage, our virtue, our strength, our patience. It tries to get the best of us, tries to have our back, and sometimes tries us on for size! 

Not only is life trying, but life requires trying. Trying new hobbies, food, and clothes. Trying to meet new people. Trying your best. So much pushing and pulling and prodding that the words of a small green jedi master telling us that there is no try seem bizarre, almost comical. 

But there’s a different kind of trying—one that is far too easy to slip into. It’s our natural reaction to tasks that feel impossible, when we come up against something we think we can’t accomplish. It could be a great feat, like moving a mountain with your mind, or an old wound, something that has become a mountain within your mind. 

We tell ourselves that we’ll try. We’ll try going to the gym again, to see if it’s different this time. We’ll try picking up the guitar in the corner, or dusting off the novel we abandoned. But we know in our heart of hearts that it’s all futile. We know that things will not have magically gotten better. And secretly, we know we don’t want them to—we’re trying instead of doing because we’re really just trying to prove to ourselves that we could never do it all anyway. 

Because if you tell yourself that you’re only going to try, you end up not actually trying in the first place. And that, my dearest heroes, is why there is only two options—to do or do not. Yes, the path to any heroic endeavor is a long one—but it’s a long path doing the small things you can to advance, not the short path of trying once. 

So do or do not—but don’t undercut yourself by just trying. 

May the road rise up to meet you!

The Mentor

The Letter from the Mentor is a weekly letter of encouragement and inspiration from your favorite old wizard, archetypal figure The Mentor. Full of advice, stories, and cheerful good will, the Letter from the Mentor is a weekly reflection on the greatest heroes of our time and those times before. You can read more letters below or sign up to get them in your inbox every Tuesday morning here: