I wrote a blog last fall on the power of giving – and asking for – by-when dates (see “Produce the Unimaginable – Give By-When’s” – October 8, 2008). Since then, I’ve been hearing a little word get in the way of commitments — the word “try.”
I’m amazed how much the word “try” shows up as I go through my day. My kids say, “I’ll try my best on that test,” and a colleague says, “I’ll try to have that to you in the morning.” I’d like to hear my kids say, “I’ll do my best on that test,” and my colleague say, “I’ll have that to you in the morning.” When try is inserted in these statements, I’m left wondering what to expect. I’ve noticed we use it as an out, and I’ve started to watch where I’m taking an out and “trying” instead of “doing.”
I believe in the power of our spoken word, and something truly happens when I commit and don’t use hedge words. When I put a stake in the ground and commit to something, I’m going to make sure that I keep my word. I understand that is one of the reasons the word try has gotten so prevalent, because we are afraid of disappointing someone and there are so many circumstances that are beyond our control. So we insert “try” just in case something happens and we can’t keep our word. When we commit, however, we have power, including the power to recommit or reset expectations if needed, too.
I’m reminded of the quote from Henry Ford, “If you think you can do it, or think you can’t, you’re right.” When someone says, “I’ll try to have that report to you on Friday,” they are already thinking that they may not have it to me Friday, so they weaken their commitment with try. My partner, Jennifer Wilson, in her October 29, 2008 blog, “How Positive Are You?” said, “If you’re afraid you won’t perform well at something, instead of giving those fears a voice, consider instead expressing all of the things you can (and will) do to ensure that you succeed.” Coaches of sports teams subscribe to this. They don’t chant “Let’s try to win!” before the game. They chant, “Let’s win!” and they work their game plan, huddle to check in and make changes as they go. Can you imagine how it would be if the entire team was “trying to win?”
One of the definitions of try from Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary is “to make an attempt at.” Attempt implies that whatever you’re attempting, like winning a game, will not be accomplished or that you won’t succeed – that you’ll fall just short. That is why using the word try does not instill confidence in others, but instead leaves them wondering. I want to know what I can count on from others, and I know they want to know what they can expect from me. With all the interdependencies we have in our work, it is critical that we can plan on what we can expect from others.
That is why I’ve been taking try out of my vocabulary and coaching my clients, and my kids, to do the same. Try is a funny little word with a big impact that can leave others uncertain. I am committed that those around me be certain and clear about what they can expect from me. How about you? Will you take on this practice and remove “try” from your vocabulary?
Before you answer me, remember what Yoda, Master Jedi, said in Star Wars: “Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.”
Yoda shared this to provide his student more power. Increase your power through the force of your spoken word – just do it!