“No! Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.”
I’m going to use a synonymous phrase instead.
“No try, only do.”
Yoda may have been trying to ease Luke’s anxiety about taking on a galactic empire and nothing more but the words he chose are fraught with meaning. Of course, dissecting the semantics in an Eastern-inspired phrase is essentially pointless – but so is everything else. So fuck it.
Obviously in our Western lexicon we have the verbs “try” and “do” which mean different things. To try means to attempt and to do means accomplish. These are different. So now we’re here: we have trying and doing all figured out. If you were to get saucy and decide to split hairs over trying to do and doing tries, yes, you’re right forever. You’re also an asshole.
What Yoda is saying is actually quite literal. No try, only do, in this context, means: If you’re going to fight off the entire empire, you should leave no room for doubt. Yoda is trying to instill Luke with confidence enough to defeat Vader – which is an obscene amount of confidence to have for a 20 year old who learned how to sword fight from a green midget in a swamp. What I am going to do is explain why the phrase worked(s).
First, some back-peddling. Star Wars has a plethora of Eastern influences ranging from philosophy to costume design and a significant portion of this influence is stuffed into the concept of the Jedi. If you’re unaware of the Jedi, you’re either a genius or, more likely, a terrible person. I’m not saying you can’t be both but if you are, you are seriously wasting time when you could be saving the world. So the Jedi exemplify the Eastern ideas and Yoda is the most badass Jedi so naturally, he would dispense the greatest wisdom – or the coolest nonsense, they’re basically the same thing. What I’m getting at is Yoda is the Dalai Lama of Star Wars and what he says is the realest shit in the galaxy. Except for the huge letters that recap earlier events in the other films.
When Yoda says “There is no try, only do.” not only is he fully capable of dropping the mic and walking into the swamp to enjoy his bitchin’ self and smoke some force-spice but he is also giving the audience a nugget of advice from on high. In effect, he’s hacking up commonly used language that comes with a self-destruct button. To try, or attempt, leaves room for failure. Yoda says “Fuck failure, you got this.” And so he knows Luke won’t try to defeat the empire, he’ll do it. In a phrase so tiny, the Jedi master hides a bit of wisdom we’ve known for quite some time, but is easy to forget. Believe in yourself.
Failure is ever present. In fact, failure succeeds about as much as success fails. It’s nuts. Failure is inevitable, like death and runny poops. If something is inevitable, like runny poops, instead of worrying about it coming, cause it will, we should prepare for it. Knowing and worrying are different and one of them sucks the life out of everything. It’s the one I didn’t capitalize, for all you who are hanging on my every word. Yoda knew if Luke ever thought he might fail the stress of fighting a fucking empire would destroy his training and Vader would whoop Luke so bad he would have less limbs than his father. Luke, not wanting to live life as an evil head and torso adorned by cybernetics would find this most distasteful. Yoda knew that, because Yoda is a goddamn hero.
If we take this advice, being the Luke Skywalker of our own lives, we can see that anything we’ve deemed worthy of trying, should be worthy of doing and if we’re going to try it, we may as well do it with everything we’ve got. “No try, only do.” means giving all the percents you have 100, 200, I don’t care, it means no pussy-footing or half-assing, it means diving in ready for whatever may come, it means buying 3 hot dogs and eating 4, it means, in a world where anything is possible trying just holds you back from what you could be doing.