Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Suck it, Yoda.

It's Tuesday, which usually means a trip to the scale and a weigh-in report here.  But since I've been flu-y, I don't want that number to be artificially low.  So I'm skipping the weigh-in this week and hopefully once my body is more recovered next week, the number won't be out of whack either.

During Tom's fever-induced naptime this weekend, I happened to stumble upon a Star Wars marathon on TV.  So I listened to The Empire Strikes Back while doing some photo editing.  And as Yoda schooled an impatient Luke on Dagobah, I found myself getting pretty pissed off.

Let's be clear.  I love Star Wars - and have ever since my brother introduced them to me one at a time, on his trips home from college.  And boy howdy did I respond.  I was a pretty nerdy kid.  For my eleventh birthday, my hair was done up in the Return of the Jedi double braid crown.  The first essay I ever typed on a computer (around the same time) began with "I know everything there is to know about X-Wing Flyers." Yoda is my favorite character, other than my schoolgirl crush on Luke. (Don't be surprised that it's not Han. I also prefer Raoul over Erik, Riley over Spike, and young X over young Magneto. Though it's impossible not to prefer Rhett over Ashley.)

Anyway... as I listened to Yoda's fatalistic platitudes on Sunday, I found myself thinking he was full of crap.

Wrong, you are.  Full of the force, am I.  Filled with crap, I am not.

Wrong again, Yoda.

Here's the thing.  You ask Luke to lift a whole ship out of a mud-laden swamp with just his mind.  You say...

"Do or do not.  There is no try."

It has, in fact, become one of the most popular quotes to come from the movie. (Next to... that one.  You know the one.  "Scruffy-looking nerf herder.")  And, like Yoda, it is full of crap.

Now, I'm not saying Luke can't do it.  You and I both know he can.  But Luke needs practice.  And what's another way to say that?  He's trying.

My first day working out at Slimmons - my first minute, actually - I was struggling.  The aerobics was kicking my ass, and I wasn't sure I was going to make it through all 90 minutes.  And, in fact, I didn't.  Within 20 minutes, my heart was pounding so hard that I felt nauseous.  I had to do the rest of the workout sitting.  I was humiliated.  The road ahead of me seemed not just challenging but completely impossible.

But Richard, and the kind people at Slimmons, encouraged me.  So I came back to the next class, and I sat down before I felt nauseous.  I kept attending.  The more I worked, the longer I could make it before needing to sit down.  And within a month, I made it through all 90 minutes.

On the journey to better health, you'll face all kinds of challenges.  You won't be able to do everything you want to do, right away, so try to be patient with yourself.  Sometimes you'll be your own challenge, and a food choice or a missed workout you regret will make you want to throw it all away - because you've been told all your life that you're supposed to be perfect.

Well, no one is perfect.  And all we can do is take that regret and transform it to wisdom.  NO DAY is a lost day, if you don't let it be lost.  If you missed your workout after work, can you talk a walk with your family after dinner?  If you overate at lunch, try thinking about it, talking about it, and letting it go.

There's too much pressure on us (from ourselves, mostly) to perform perfectly at everything from moment one.  The ensuing shame and fear will only make it that much harder to try and keep trying.  Remind yourself that you're not perfect, and then take a moment to be mindful.  You don't have to wait until tomorrow.  You don't have to wait at all.  Every minute is a new minute for you to take care of yourself.  And taking care of yourself takes practice.

You say "there is no try"?  Well, suck it, Yoda.  I say...

Try or try not.  But there is no do without try.


  1. I like Luke best too, I like nice guys & nice women.
    You are the best Heidi, your blog always makes my day brighter, but this one was particularly well timed (I am going to pretend it was especially for me).

  2. Yoda is full of crap because absolutely NONE of his predictions ever come true.


    But as for do or do not, I think it's a matter of correctly framing what is is you're "do"ing. You came back after your "humiliating" 20 minute experience, because what you were DOING wasn't TRYING to get through a workout. What you were DOING was making yourself better. And if you were just trying it out, that 20 minute exhaustion would have been the end of it. But you weren't just trying. You were committed. You have a goal in mind, and you are doing everything you can to get to that goal, not letting the difficulty of the task stop you. THAT'S Yoda's lesson.

    Just sayin'

  3. With all due respect, you (and most people) are simply misinterpreting Yoda's position. Oh, by the way, neither he nor Frank Oz nor George Lucas made that one up. It's absolutely ANCIENT wisdom from a thousand spiritual traditions, and that's why it's the most resonant line in the movie. (Yes, more resonant than Nerfherder!).

    It's not trying to say that nothing should be attempted, that practice does not result in improvement, or that effort which fails is a complete waste. But Yoda is right. There is NO TRY. Something is either done or its not. If your goal was to work out for 90 minutes and you reached only 20, then you did not succeed. Simple as that.

    I'm not saying anyone "fails" because they did not "succeed." But it's really a rather helpful aphorism that contending you "tried" is just self-pitying drivel. I'm not as good as Yoda in expressing things without seeming insulting, so I think I'll stop right here before I get my foot any further down my throat. But the very best thing about The Empire Strikes Back is the simple truth that There is No Try, There is Only Do.

    No one's doing it better than you, Heidi. So I hope Yoda's words of wisdom don't sting too badly in the end. You ARE all about DO.

  4. I have to agree with ZliKiSm, I think. I always understood Yoda's message to be one of positive thinking, too. The Force responded mostly to your visualisation. If you didn't see yourself doing it, you wouldn't. Simple as that.

  5. I'll have to agree to disagree here. It is that all-or-nothing attitude (whether from Yoda or Lucas or any spiritual tradition) that freezes so many people in fear. This is not an all-or-nothing Jedi world, nor does it need to be.

    I get what DCD is saying, and to an extent, what Z is saying - that doing is doing, and trying is another word for failing. But I disagree. Trying is everything.

    At the time, Luke really couldn't have lifted that ship out of the swamp. He didn't have the focus. He needed time and practice. And it is, in my opinion, ridiculous to ask someone to, say, work out with 15-pound free weights for 20 minutes, if they've never done weight-lifting before. If they pick up a pair of 3-pounders... yes, I get it, they're *doing* with a smaller goal in mind. But they're *trying* to get to that bigger goal by *doing* toward that smaller goal. None of that is failure.

    And the heavy leaning on "failure" is pretty out of place here at a blog that is about inspiring people (including myself) to work toward an end-goal that cannot be reached without repeated work toward it through smaller goals. Work that can very much feel like failing, because it takes a long fucking time to get to that end-point. The last thing anyone on a weight-loss journey needs to hear is that they "failed" because they weren't able to a huge thing that they weren't ready for. The idea that I wasn't successful because I had to sit down after 20 minutes is unacceptable. That day was possibly the biggest success of my life. Gee, Steve. Calling it a failure to work out for 20 minutes instead of 90 minutes, after not working out for many years... it's like saying, "Gee, Heidi, you've only lost 56 pounds in six months, not 200 pounds. You have failed at your goal." Bullshit.

  6. Wow, way to twist my plainly-written words. How much more clear can I be when writing "I'm not saying anyone "fails" because they did not "succeed"? I specifically put that in to put the lie to the assumption this is all about accusations of failure. It's not.

    That's not what the aphorism is about, and it's widely misunderstood to be about punishment of failure rather than a working model for success.

    You and others throughout time have put the "failure" aspect into There is No Try. It's not there any more than TRY is there. When you worked out for 20 minutes of 90, you simply did not do the 90-minute workout. It's not that you Failed at the 90-minute workout. But you didn't do it until you did, and the attempts were simply that. When you completed the 90 minutes, you did it. It's really very simple. But please don't put the fearful scorn of failure into the equation when it's not there. Double please don't accuse ME of putting it there, when I specifically pointed out it's not there at all.

    Again, my apologies for being less sage than Yoda, because I'd love to explain it better ... but you are simply misunderstanding the meaning of There is No Try.

    There's plenty of merit in your own encouragement to keep working to improvement and success. Neither Yoda nor I are trying to demean that.

  7. I think you use "try" differently. Yoda is targeting the "I tried but it was too hard so I gave up" where you use "try" as a means of getting to your goal. The "try" crowd would have just given up at the 20-minute mark, but instead you finished it with the chair.

    I think this discussion is fascinating. I'd never thought about that line much before, other than don't make excuses. :)

  8. Tom points out that part of the problem of Yoda's statement is its simplicity. And that the definition of "try" has been sullied by those who use the word as an excuse to put in a half-assed performance.

    To me, my whole weight loss journey is a journey of trying. I don't get to my end-point today. I don't get to my end-point tomorrow. I am neither succeeding nor failing at my journey. I am simply on it. I am simply trying - which is valid, and very hard work.

    I think my problem with "do or do not" is that it does imply "succeed or fail." And the trouble is, on a long journey like mine, one has to make peace that it's going to take a long time to reach success (unless you look at progress as success. Which I do. I would go crazy otherwise.)

    I get, it iSm, that from your perspective, failure is not part of Yoda's equation, and that helps me understand your point of view. I'm not sure if it is or isn't.

    My whole goal of this post was to shift the perspective of those who think that perfectionism is the only success - and anything else is failure. Especially those whose fear of lack of perfection stymies their ability to try. Yes, try.

    I reacted violently to the observation that I "didn't succeed" when I went to Slimmons for the first time. On a strictly impartial and dictionary level, sure. I didn't complete the 90 minutes standing up, so I "didn't succeed." But do you really think it wasn't a successful day, in taking that first step towards a better life for myself? It's a day that was precious to me - and about which I am apparently extremely sensitive, judging by the amount of crying I've done this afternoon. I'm sensitive about it, and though I know you're supportive, the dictionary-level scrutiny of my 20 minutes... it hurt my feelings.

  9. (A thought I had after the fact... in response to my own "I don't get to my end-point today. I don't get to my end-point tomorrow.")

    I don't get to my end-point ever, actually. This is a life-long thing and tied to addiction; I will only ever be a recovering addict, never not an addict.

  10. Having grown up a consummate whiner, I would like to take full responsibility for sullying the word try. I have in the past, and do still more often than I can to admit, used try when I mean put in half-assed performance.

    Heidi, from the outside world looking in, you are "do"ing in the Yoda sense. Anybody who reads your blog or has the privilege to enjoy your company sees you're growing a personal love and understanding we all wish he had. Try for you is a journey, not a surrender sentiment.

    Back to yoda: He's a martial arts instructor teaching a whining brat a tool of internal discipline he didn't receive as a child. For whining kids like Luke and I, it's a valuable mindset for getting past complacence.

  11. Trying IS doing. Therefore, Yoda is correct.

    I think it is how some use the word "try" as an excuse NOT to take action or to not accept failure. You fail at something and you either a) never TRY again (or never DO again) or you DO it again until you do it right. Doing it is doing it, it's not trying. I'm not TRYING to make jewelry, I am DOING it. I may not do it perfectly, but each day I do it I get better. But, I never just TRIED to make jewelry, I went straight to DOING.

    Trying is not an action word to me, it's a verbal stall, a way to not really take action or to leave yourself an out to fall back on.

    Nike's slogan isn't "Just Try It".

    (Now, I'll go back and read everything else to see how much I missed/repeated/stuckfootinmouth.)

  12. One other thought: Doing involves putting one foot in front of the other - moving forward - for ever! There is no destination, only a journey and that journey is achieve by DOING the deal every single day, hour, minute - whatever it takes. Milestones? Yes, of course there are those and they are important to mark for some, but doing is constant and forever. Doing is how you get anywhere. Trying is more of a thought about which path you'll take on your journey.

    Oh, and don't get me started on fear. False Expectations Appearing Real. You just have to ignore fear (easier said than done, but, again, you have to DO it.)

  13. I am the walking example of Yoda's expression. There is a significantly higher rate of success (for me) when I say I am going to DO something. If I try to go to the gym I don't go. If I AM GOING to the gym I [more often than not] go.

    You aren't trying to get healthy, you ARE getting healthy. You didn't try and make it through that first class, you MADE IT through that first class.

    Do is an active word, try is not.

  14. Heidi, I am going to have to agree with you on this one. I didn't wake up one morning and know how to lose weight. Any success I have achieved has been through trial and error. There is more to weight loss than a standard calories in/calories out formula. There are mental components that you should tackle and new behaviors to learn. Practice makes perfect, and I need a lot of practice. The thing is, I won't quit.
    PS - I hate those older Star Wars movies because Luke is such a whiner! LOL!


  15. Honestly, the real issue here is that agree or disagree with Yoda, a two sentence grammatically incorrect platitude from a SciFi sequel is a woefully inadequate philosophical basis for discussion. It is not a philosophy, it is a chapter title from a book about philosophy. It might make a good mnemonic to remin oneself of the complex issues of motivation and perseverance it's meant to summarize, but no one should view it as a guiding principal, even if it were a clear-cut positive message.

  16. Sometimes, messages in films "stick" with people long after they view it. And, everyone has a different interpretation of things in films.

    Personally, I find Yoda's message to be inspiring, but then again, I view the term "try" to be negative, but only in my personal sense. It might spark good feelings for others, like Heidi.

    I've read an article about how damaging the Disney princess films are to young girls... instilling in them the sense that they are not "complete" without a prince, and need to be "rescued". I can understand that, and see how it can impact the thought process of some girls, affecting them into their adult lives. However, it doesn't impact all of them.

    By nature, if an eagle fails to capture its prey on the first swoop, it will continue repeatedly until it succeeds. One could say that the eagle "never quits" or "does", while to another, the eagle "keeps trying" until it succeeds. Basically, the meaning is the same.

    In a nutshell, it isn't so much the term, but the meaning it gives to us as individuals.

    Heidi's explained what it means to her, and I get where she's coming from, even though the phrase does not mean the same thing to me. :)

  17. Greg, sometimes simplicity is best (I say after reading your post without a proper amount of coffee) ;)