Try, Try and Try Again


Once upon a time I watched a series of movies called Star Wars.  One of the characters in these movies was an enigmatic Zen spouting creature whose name was Yoda. Yoda was the oldest and wisest Jedi Master. Yoda took Luke Skywalker as an acolyte to teach him the ways of the Jedi.  One of Yoda’s favorite sayings was “There is no try.  There is only do or do not.”  I loved this thought and I used it far too many times with my spouse and friends.  Most of the times, they would just roll their eyes at me or look with some angst while I tried to explain the import of Yoda’s thought.  Whether they got it or not, I will never know.

It was clear to me that when you attempt something, you either do it or you do not do it.  For instance, if I say, “I am going to “Try” to do a cartwheel.”  Either I do the cartwheel, or I do not do the cartwheel.  As Yoda said, “there is no try.”  But lately, I have had to rethink this thought.  Maybe, I was too quick to embrace Yoda’s theory.  Perhaps I am lucky to still have any friends?  People the world over still respond with the phrase “Okay, I will give it a try.”  Am I right or is the world wrong?

I think there may be something missing with Yoda’s theory.  There is a try but try is not succeeding.  Yoda is right but only to a point.  There is only you succeed, or you do not succeed.  You do or you do not.  However, without try there is no succeeding.  Without try, there is no do.  The famous French revolutionary Danton (1792) said, “ Dare, Dare Again, Always Dare.”  What if we had the same attitude about try?

I recently saw the following quote by the great actress Lauren Bacall.  She stated that this was the philosophy of her late husband.  He was the renowned actor Humphrey Bogart.

Humphrey_Bogart_1940_crop“To be good, was more important than to be rich.  To be kind was more important than owning a house or a car.  To respect one’s work and to do it well , to risk something in life, was more important than being a star.  To never sell your soul — to have self-esteem— to be true— was most important of all.”

Great thoughts.  Wonderful ideas.  Ideas well worth living up to.  However, I am quite sure from what I have read of Mr. Bogart that he fell well short of his lofty aspirations.  Cameron Shipp wrote the following in the 1952 Saturday Evening Post about Bogart.

“Humphrey DeForest Bogart, who will be 53 years old come Christmas morning and doesn’t care who knows it, is a whisky-drinking actor who has been hooting at Hollywood and making fun of its pretensions for 22 years. Mr. Bogart’s derision, often acted out with alcoholic capers in night clubs followed by funny quotes in the public prints, is mainly aimed at the popular gospel that under their grease paint, glamorous or menacing, screen players are really fine, home-loving, dish-washing citizens like you and me. In his one bad-man campaign to correct this impression, Bogart has toiled to reestablish the more interesting belief that actors are not necessarily wholesome,”

The more I could tell you about Humphrey, the less you would want him for a role model.  But you would be making a mistake.  This is a common mistake.  All too often made.  We dismiss the message because of the man.  It is said that many kings would kill the messenger because they did not like the message.  But you can kill the message because you do not like the messenger.  In fact, the latter is more often done these days than the former.  And this is where the role of TRY becomes important.  Let me explain.

I have written more than 600 blogs.  In many of my blogs, I offer my advice and wisdom on how to lead a good life.  I counsel patience, compassion, and kindness.  I counsel tolerance, courage, and gratitude.  I counsel learning, discipline, and forgiveness.  I often look back on blogs that I wrote many years ago and wonder “who wrote that?”  I seem far wiser in my letters than I do in my actual life.  I ask myself “why don’t I follow my own advice better?”  It seems to me that over the years, in fact, even over the weeks and days, there is hardly a time when I do not violate my own wisdom and guidance.

PrintTry.  Yes, I try to lead a good life.  I want to live up to my own advice.  I want to be one of the people that I am telling the world we need more of.  I want to live a life consistent with my wisdom.  A life where my behavior mirrors my thoughts and ideas.  But then I fail.  I fall flat on my face.  I try and do not succeed.  I lose my patience.  I am not kind.  I suffer from a lack of gratitude.  I won’t forgive my neighbor.  If it is either do or do not, all too often I DO NOT.  I think like a Yoda, but my actions often lead me to feelings of loneliness, isolation, and despair.

But try, the word disparaged by Yoda comes back into my mind.  Don’t give up.  Tomorrow is a new day.  Stop feeling sorry for yourself.  Try, try, and try again.


I think I have a lot in common with Humphrey Bogart.  I have lofty goals and ambitions.  I want to save the world.  I want to eliminate greed, poverty, crime, bigotry, and injustice.  I want to live a life of integrity and be true to myself.  But all too often I fail to live up to Gandhi’s admonition, “to be the change I want to see.”  I can’t even eliminate injustice or selfishness in my own life, never mind the rest of the world.  Then I tell myself, “try again.”  Try again and try again.  Maybe each time I try, I will get a little bit closer to success.

One day maybe, I will be able to tell Yoda that I did not try because I really did it.  Until then I will just keep on trying.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. nancykkkkk
    May 18, 2022 @ 08:51:50

    Stop trying to be just one thing. I’m a human being. I’m all kinds of shades of gray, black, white, and multiple hues. Not trying to become anything but multi-faceted. The more facets, the better. The more failures, the better. Try failing more often – very insightful!



    • Dr. John Persico Jr.
      May 18, 2022 @ 09:11:57

      Good thought there Nancy. “Not trying” to become anything. I can see a virtue in not trying sometimes. We can all “try” to hard.



  2. barryh
    May 19, 2022 @ 04:55:54

    Great post, John. I identified with much you say, especially the bit about not always living up to our own ideals. We have to intend to learn and aim do better – I guess that is trying…



    • Dr. John Persico Jr.
      May 19, 2022 @ 07:25:33

      I think so Barry. I guess we just keep on trying. If we did not have to try anymore I wonder if that would be enlightenment or Satori?



  3. Jane Fritz
    May 22, 2022 @ 11:07:44

    Great post, John. As is so often the case, you give me more than I can respond to in one short comment, so I’ll stick to my initial thoughts. I don’t agree with Yoda’s notion, even though I get what I think it means. I think it means give it your best shot, no excuses. But not that you should expect to be able to do whatever you put your mind to beyond your abilities. I can get up off the sofa and run, but I can’t run a 4-minute (or 5 or 6 or 7 or 8) mile no matter how hard I try. Trying something new, something hard with an impossible expectation of what success means is setting oneself up for disappointment, even an undeserved sense of failure.

    I like your conclusions, as usual! 😊



    • Dr. John Persico Jr.
      May 23, 2022 @ 09:34:14

      Thanks Jane, The article I reposted this morning is excellent. I think you will enjoy it very much. I will keep trying regardless of Yoda’s admonitions. I agree with you comment about abilities. Hard to know what we can and cannot do though unless we try and try and try. I do not think I can run a six minute mile anymore regardless of how hard I try though. Reality must set in at some time.

      Liked by 1 person


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