[This is part one of two part post. This one’s short, so be sure to click on the three truly excellent links.]
In an old Steve Martin stand up bit, he says that if you take hostages, when making a list of demands you have to throw one crazy one in the list. That way, he says, if you get caught you can plead insanity. So with his authoritative voice he declares, “I want $100,000 in cash, a getaway car, and I want to strike the letter M from the alphabet.” He pauses, makes a smarty pants face and snickers, “Heh, heh. Getaway car.”
Apparently, Steve was no fan of the letter M.
At the risk of sounding like a crazy hostage taker or wild and crazy Steve Martin, my demand is this:
Strike the word “try” from the English language.
Extreme? Maybe. But, my friends, I am telling you that the word “try” is the most namby-pamby sorry excuse for human communication I can think of. And we all use it all. the. time.
Listen in on any conversation for a few minutes and you’re likely to hear people saying that “they’ll try to come” or they’ll “try to do it” or they are “trying to get some things done.” And in every case, their statements are utterly meaningless in their absolute wishy washiness. To say “I will try” gives me wide leeway to not follow through, to not do my best, to be squidgy and indecisive. As one of the wisest teachers of my generation says, “Do, or do not. There is no try.”
What the great Yoda says is true: we must unlearn what we have learned. Most of us were taught that it’s safer to hang out in the mushy middle rather than committing one way or the other. But as another of my favorite cinematic teachers points out, to walk that middle line is to risk being “squish like grape.” In my book, “try” is just a camouflaged “I guess so,” which is actually “probably not.”
And like Mr. Miyagi, my contention is that a world in which there is no try would be a far better world indeed. In tomorrow’s post, I’ll share the three reasons why I find “try” so trying and why I’m arguing for us all to stop saying it forever.