I have had the pleasure of spending lots of time with my wife and son during this transition period.  We’ve played, we’ve worked, we’ve explored, we’ve traveled, we’ve tried new things, and yes we’ve made mistakes.  I don’t know that my son has had more reason than normal to use them or if I have just been more aware (or present), but I’ve noticed two phrases he seems to use quite often…

  • “I’ll Try”
  • “I didn’t mean to”

“I’ll try” seems to be the standard response when I kindly ask him to do something.  And “I didn’t mean to” is the default when he isn’t pleased with his execution of a given task.  It might go something like this…

Me: “Barrett, would you please pour me a glass of water?”
Him: “I’ll try” followed by a spill and an “Oops, I didn’t mean to.”

Whenever I hear him respond with “I’ll try”, I do my best to refrain from channeling Yoda by saying, “Do or do not, there is no try.” In fact, for a while, I was unable to help myself and we had fun playing the roles of Luke Skywalker and Yoda. I say for a while because I began to see a flaw in Yoda’s logic. While I was using the phrase with the intention of helping him to build confidence and learn that trying (starting) isn’t nearly as important as doing (finishing), I was taken by the words in parenthesis. Many of us are taught that it is not the trying, but the doing; not the starting, but the finishing; and not the execution, but the result that matters. Over time, many of us develop a fear of trying, an unwillingness to start something, and a deference once it is time to execute. What happens all too often is that by encouraging the “Do” and falling short, we inadvertently create a reluctance to “Try”. Over time, there is no “Try” and without a “Try”, there is no “Do”. Without “Do”, there is no value creation. Doing isn’t always about the result, but the starting, the action, and the effort.

I submit that our little green friend would be even wiser by stating “Do or do not, but try you must.”

When I hear that “Oops, I didn’t mean to” from across the room, my son knows exactly what will follow. My standard response, “Did you mean not to?” The point is that there are many things in life that we did not mean to have happened, but there is always something more we could have done to increase the odds of the desired outcome. For something as simple as pouring a glass of water we might ask did we use both hands? Did we move the glass close enough to the pitcher? Did we pour slow enough? Were we truly focused on the task? And I am sure we all could come up with a few more.

We all should embrace the TRY and if our DO falls short, we ought be comfortable writing it off as a learning experience that we are unwilling to repeat. At the same time, we all should think more about what we truly mean to do before our result gives us reason to to respond with an oops.


  • Did Yoda have it right, or is there value in the try?
  • How do you respond when you fall short?
  • Are you encouraging others to give it a try?