Trying vs. Doing

A motivational speaker once dropped a coin on the floor of the stage and called a member of the audience up.  “Now,” she said, “try to pick up that coin.”  The gentleman from the audience bent down and picked it up. 

“No, no, no,” she responded.  “You picked it up.  I didn’t say ‘pick it up.’  I said TRY to pick it up.”  As the man stood there, bent halfway over, “trying” to reach the coin, the audience began to chuckle.  “Ok, stand up,” the speaker said.  “Do you realize how silly you looked TRYING to pick up that coin?”  Fortunately, she was good-natured, and so was the gentleman, and he laughed.  She sent him back to his seat, telling the audience, “That’s what happens when you TRY.  Trying is the same as not doing it.  Either do it or don’t.  But don’t say that you’ll TRY to do something.”

I think about that every once in a while.  I hear her in my head when I think, “I’m going to try to go to the gym every day.”  “I’m going to try to post more often.”  “I’m going to try to eat better/drink less/ get hold of my thoughts.”  “I’m going to try to meditate.”  “I’m going to try to get that cookbook written.”  I’m going to TRY . . .

When I try to do something, it’s like having a built-in get-out-of-jail-free card.  If I don’t do it, OH WELL, I TRIED. 

But it’s really such a cop-out.  It’s a way of saying, “I don’t really think I am strong enough to accomplish this, so I’m going to try and earn points for my good intentions.”  When I say that I’m going to try to do something, some part of me, deep down, already KNOWS that I won’t do it. 

Maybe Yoda said it best: “Do or do not do.  There is no try.”  Those Jedi fanboys might be on to something.  (Hee.  Check out my inner nerd showing, there.  ;D)

In some ways I have to be careful with “Do or do not do” though.  It’s easy for me to get caught up in the whole “I missed one day of something and that makes me a FAILURE” mindset.  There has to be a middle ground between “trying” and obssessing, you know?  I just haven’t found it yet. 

Or maybe for me, my middle ground won’t be quite as balanced as most people’s.  Maybe I should shoot for an 80/20 balance or a 70/30 instead of a 50/50.  Even 80/20 is better than 100/0, right?  All or nothing, excel or fail.  Even 80/20 is better than that.  I’m still sorting it out.

Anyway.  All this came about because I’d like to “try” 😉 to post every day, 5 days a week.  And I was thinking about how I’d already missed a day, and OH WELL, I TRIED, while I was washing my face, and I thought of that woman: “Do you know how silly you look TRYING to pick up that coin?”  So I thought, screw it, I’ll post. 

And what do you know?  Turns out I had something to say.

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11 responses to “Trying vs. Doing

  1. Another motivational speaker (Tom Peters, in his book Thriving on Chaos) quoted Soichiro Honda, the founder of Honda Motor:

    Many people dream of success. To me success can only be achieved through repeated failure and introspection. In fact, success represents the 1 percent of your work which results only from the 99 percent that is called failure.

  2. This came at an optortune time, thanks Marste.

    Oh, and I hate to say it, but I (probably) would not try your recipies. But that’s just because I get into food ruts. So maybe I should? I dunno. Put it out there – you’ll get back what you need. 🙂

  3. there is a difference though, between mimed effort and actual effort 🙂

  4. OH MY….

    You just post-sniped me!! Seriously, tomorrow’s post was going to be header “Do or do not. There is no try.” and then I was going to proceed to MOAN about people who talk about doing things and then don’t do them. Not in the way that you are, or the way that I say I will “try” to clean my house more often. None of that. That’s allowed. Because it only affects us.

    The trying but not doing that annoys me is like when my colleague says (and has said) for the last month that she’s going to join the gym so we can go swimming together. Every week she pins me down to meet her that Sunday, every Sunday rolls around and she still hasn’t joined. Or when my boyfriend says he will fix up his house and rent it out so we can live together. But he doesn’t get round to it. But he’s still shown willing so “it’s okay” and I can’t complain. The kind of trying that other people do that basically results in crushing disappointment on my behalf, but that I sound petty for complaining about.

    SEE it’s not so bad. You could be trying and letting ME down, and then having me moan about you on my blog. But you do anything but let me down!!

    Hey, I wrote my blog post here. Cool!

    TA x

  5. On the other hand, as you mentioned, should we not try anything? If we always say “I’m going to do….” and then we don’t do it, well that’s failure. If we say we are going to try, and then we don’t try, that’s not exactly failure. Is it just a mental thought process – try vs do? It seems a set up for failure to say that we are always going to “do” something.

    I like your 80/20 rule. So are you going to “try” for 80/20, or are you going to “do” 80/20?

    If you’re a perfectionist like I am this can be dangerous territory.

  6. CBTish, yeah, I’ve read a similar quote attributed to Thomas Edison: “I haven’t failed 99 times. I have found 99 things that didn’t work.” But I think this has more to do with me using “trying” as an excuse to give less than 100%.

    LOL, Sassy, no harm, no foul about the cookbook. I just was trying to see if there was any interest at all! 😉

    Emily, you hit the nail on the head. I hadn’t thought to put it in those terms, but yes, I’m TOTALLY guilty of miming effort and then saying I “tried.” (Which is probably why I keep writing the variations of “try” in quotes – ha!)

    *giggle* Sorry, TA! Didn’t mean to steal your thunder! 😀 But I totally agree about people making commitments to others an then not keeping them! It’s one of the ways I’ve been forcing myself to the gym super-early in the morning, actually: I’ve been meeting a friend there, and I can’t let her down, you know? (Though apparently I would be able to let MYSELF down by not going – there’s a whole ‘nother post is there somewhere.)

    Harriet, I do see what you’re saying. And although I’m a perfectionist too, I also have something of an iron will. It’s INCREDIBLY hard for me to commit to something, but once I do, I’m 100% there, so it’s much easier for me to say “just do it,” that to say “just try.” Does that make sense? I have to admit though, that I don’t know if I could use that mentality without going crazy if I hadn’t found the FlyLady site (over in the sidebar, under “Not Blogs, But Cool”). Most of her stuff is house-work focused, but it basically boils down to don’t be a perfectionist, a little is better than nothing, and don’t procrastinate. If I can remember not to procrastinate, I can actually “just do it.” And if I don’t complete the task, well, something is better than nothing. I found her website SO HELPFUL in that area. (Although I have to confess that the folks on that site are WAY more conservative than I am, so I just tune that part out, LOL.)

  7. And I was successful at reading your post too.
    One of my pet peeves is when people say “I’ll try.”
    That usually translates to doing nothing. At least that has been my experience as an observer.
    I’m glad you were successful.

  8. I tried to think of something to add that hadn’t been said 🙂
    I couldn’t though, but I’m not going to beat myself up over it!

    Lola x

  9. I used to be a big fan of flylady about 10 years ago (that long? maybe not). You’re right it is very housework-y, but maybe I’ll check out her website and get inspired in other areas of my life.

    I was reading my favorite magazine today – Martha Stewart. She says things like: “Skincare is very important to me. A rash? UNACCEPTABLE!” Imagine being that hard on yourself because you’ve got a rash.

    She and Flylady wouldn’t get along very well.

  10. hmmm, Im having a strong reaction to that post. Im not sure if I think that that lady was completely wrong or whether she was completely right and striking a chord within me. On the one hand I think trying is very important and some things are a lot more difficult than a basic task such as picking up a coin. So in that respect I think her ‘example’ was set up to prove her point even though her point was ridiculous. The whole aim in life is to try. If we only did things we knew we could do for certain then we would never get anywhere – we need to try!

    On the other hand. Maybe I do use that as an excuse and often bail out when I have committed to something. So good post – it gave me a good conflicting reaction.

  11. POD, EXACTLY. I definitely fall into that camp.

    *giggle* Lola, no, DEFINITELY don’t beat yourself up. That’s not the point. 😉

    Harriet, something tells me Martha and Marla would be mortal enemies. I have to admit I’ve been that hard on myself because of things I couldn’t control, but (I hope) I’m MUCH better now. Yeesh.

    LOL, Dan, that was exactly my reaction. I SO OFTEN say “I’m trying,” when (like Emily pointed out) all I’m really doing is miming effort without actually MAKING an effort, you know?

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