This is most clearly expressed in the teachings of the Jedi, the mystical knights who bring peace and justice to the universe.
In one very poignant scene in The Empire Strikes Back, the Jedi Master Yoda says to the young trainee Luke Skywalker, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Luke tries to use “The Force” to get his X-Wing out of a swamp and fails. Yoda then brings the space ship to solid ground.
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”
Even though I have never been a huge fan of the films, this is a classic piece of wisdom and a formula for success. Trying implies that we put an effort into achieving a particular goal and then reach a point where we give up. Doing implies that we not only put in an effort, we see the goal achieved. We don’t back down when challenged. We persist, we persevere and we succeed.
One of the greatest books ever written on success is Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl concludes that a person who has a “why” can deal with any “how.” If our goal is important enough to us, we will find a way to achieve it. Frankl survived the unimaginable cruelty of life in Nazi concentration camps in order to achieve the goal of bringing this truth to us.
James Braddock was a washed-up boxer during the Great Depression. When he faced losing his family because he couldn’t afford to take care of them, he found the strength not to just try to get back into a boxing ring, but to rise from the ashes and become the heavyweight champion of the world. This is beautifully illustrated in the film Cinderella Man.
I saw this same spirit in the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo. I was astounded that, despite the desperate state of the economy, people always found a way to feed and take care of their families. It could have been by pushing a loaded cart barefoot on hot pavement day in and day out, but they found a way. This spirit of persistence is very prevalent in that country. In my field of education, I found some of the finest professionals I have ever met working in the Congo.
Regardless of our goals, we are going to face setbacks. The person who follows the teachings of Yoda will be able to break through challenges and realize that there is no such thing as failure, there are only valuable lessons to be learned on the way.
We know that we may not achieve our goals when and how we originally envisioned them. The young athlete who dreams of playing professional sports may not achieve that goal, but she will find that her relentless pursuit brought her to the place she was meant to be.
So often after we work through the initial disappointment of not achieving a goal, we realize that we actually ended up somewhere so much better that we are grateful our original wish was not granted. We are not just trying, we are achieving.
Perhaps this is why Star Wars is so popular. We are all Luke Skywalker, working to realize the tremendous potential that lies within us, and the Jedi teachings hold a profound meaning for each individual.
Troy Media columnist Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning high school teacher specializing in languages, genocide studies and work with at-risk students.