There Is No “I Tried” in Success by Lora Morrow, M.S.

All my life I was raised on the notion that as long as I “tried,” that was good enough. Sure I’d fail, but who cares? At least I tried, right? So I’d just try again.

It wasn’t until I watched I Love You, Man (2009) and heard Sydney tell Peter, “Try is doing something with the intention to fail,” that I realized how flawed the “try” logic really is. Okay, it might seem silly to gain such profound insight from a comedy, and a really silly one at that, but when I heard that line, it was an epiphany.

It’s this simple: You either do or don’t.

Over the past year, I’ve worked to remove the word “try” from my vocabulary when it comes to actions related to goals, dreams, chores, appointments, and so forth. Instead of “I’ll try my best to write 1,000 words every day,” I tell myself, “I will write 1,000 words every day.” If I don’t write the 1,000 words, I failed. In that case, I have to re-evaluate my actions to get back on track for my goal.

There’s no blame game, excuses or fail safe, which usually accompanies the “Well, at least I tried” mentality. And let’s face it, the whole reason to use “try” is to give yourself a built-in out. A way to play it safe and avoid all of the responsibility being placed on your shoulders. After all, when I switched from “I try” to “I will” it meant there was no hiding behind a protective barrier of excuses. Just me and success or me and failure for the world to see.

Yep, the potential for failure is probably what scares everyone right into try’s arms. But remember, one key to success is persistence and persistence is basically never losing passion for your goals even when you might fail time and time again.

I cannot express how much a small change like the removal of a one-syllable word helped me break out of several bad habits, namely procrastination. I don’t let myself “try to get to it tomorrow.” Nope, I do it right now or on the day I added it to my schedule. There’s no more “trying to eat healthy.” I either eat healthy or I don’t. How empowering is that?

Success and failure are completely within my control.

In the February 1, 2010 edition of the Self Growth newsletter, I read an article by a woman who gets it!

My passion for this topic is the reason I’m posting her article on my blog. I hope it will, at least, give you a new perspective on “try.”

The below article is reprinted with permission.
There Is No “I Tried” in Success
by Lora Morrow, M.S.

Those who say winning is not everything have probably never truly won anything because they do not know the true meaning of success. To recognize success, it is necessary first to define failure.

Failure is the refusal either to establish a plan or to work persistently toward its accomplishment, regardless of the challenges.

Most of us were never taught that failure is a matter of choice or that success is a matter of choice. Failure is not, as many believe, the result of lack of talent, money, time, or opportunity. Failure is simply the refusal to create opportunity and to establish goals or objectives in your life and to work toward their achievement. When talking to people who have neither goals nor motivation to succeed, you’ll find that their lives have no excitement and no purpose. They feel like failures–and at that point they’re justified in their feelings.

To succeed, you will constantly find yourself facing steep, foreboding cliffs and seemingly bottomless crevices. You will be doing things you have never done before. But if you want more from life than to get halfway up the mountain, you first will have to make the decision to go all the way. You may know neither exactly what is ahead nor how you are going to handle it. The only alternative, however, is not to go.

When striving to achieve your goals, there is no such thing as “trying.”

That’s right! We have all been told from the time we were children that it does not matter if we win or not, just as long as we try hard. This may be true in competition, such as an athletic contest. In that environment, we will run into people we could never beat, and the only satisfaction is that we gave it our all.

But in real life, where the objective is to achieve, that is one of the greatest lies you can tell yourself or anyone else. “Trying” is a word intended to rationalize failure. It is an excuse. In truth, when reaching for any objective, short term or long term, you either succeed or you don’t. There is no in-between. “Trying,” therefore, is not real.

Lack of immediate success, however, is not failure. It is nothing more than the feedback you may need to modify your target date and even your plan for reaching your goal. “I tried” is a quitter’s statement. It means you have given up, that you have decided to continue your life having not reached your goals. This attitude is devastating to your personal effectiveness.

Drop the “I tried.”

When you run head-on into a brick wall, find a way over it, around it, or through it. Get yourself back in the race with a new plan for winning.

Physical problems and conditions are great examples of “brick walls” because they occur and recur without warning. It is up to such a person to set a goal to keep going. No one, including doctors, can make such a decision for you. You must keep going until you find the right answer for yourself. Only you know what is right and what you can do.

The number of times you fall down does not determine whether you will eventually reach the top of the mountain. It is how many times you get up and get moving again. Implanting the word “try” in your mind is an acknowledgment that it is okay to give up instead of get up. Failure occurs only when you quit or make excuses for your inability to succeed. “Trying” is, therefore, lying to yourself about what you are really doing.

“I tried” is not an acceptable excuse. (But then, no excuses are acceptable alternatives to success.) Using the word “try” creates an illusion in your mind that your effort produced an “almost win” and stops you from moving on. Accepting failure as an alternative, consciously or unconsciously, diminishes the effectiveness and power to achieve your goals. Conversely, using the word “do” creates the opposite illusion in your mind that your effort produced a “finish until done” and helps you to move on.

I want to ask you a personal question. Five years from now, what will you be doing? Where, what will you be?

I’ve heard many persons say, “I want to get my problems under control, then I will go and do something.” I’ll let you in on a little secret: You may never get them fully “under control.” What then? Are you going to waste your lifetime waiting for something to happen, or are you going to cause something to happen?

Fourteen years ago, I made a choice. I decided to graduate from college in the year of 1999. The doctors had provided me with little hope that I would ever overcome my epileptic seizures. Moreover, tests revealed that my problems impaired my cognitive abilities so much that my I.Q. would dip considerably when I was going through my worst times.

But I decided at that time that, come 1999, I would be having seizures with a degree or without one, so I might as well be having them with one.

In January 2000 I received my diploma: Bachelor of Science in Psychology. Yes, that was from my graduation . . . in 1999. All during that ensuing four years, I suffered three types of seizures: tonic-clonic (grand mal), partial complex, and petite mal. Yet my diploma hangs on my wall . . . just above my Master of Science certificate.

And I haven’t had a tonic-clonic seizure in years. You see, that was a goal, too.

So where will you be? Five years from now is coming. There is nothing you can do about it. Are you going to wait until your circumstances are ideal before you begin your quest? If so, when the time comes to leave this world, you may very well still be waiting.

Okay, so you will “try.” Okay, so you will fail. There is no reward in life for trying, only for doing! Set your goals, start on them now, and get them done!

AUTHOR BIO: Lora Morrow is a neuropsychological counselor and President and Director of Positive Personal Modification Institute. Visit her website on Conquering Stress Today at

What do you think? Will you continue to try? Or will you do?

5 Replies to “There Is No “I Tried” in Success by Lora Morrow, M.S.

  1. Fantastic post! Honestly, where did the idea start that if we “tried” that was good enough? I grew up listening to my mother tell me that and I internalized it very well. I began telling my older daughter that when she was little. It never occured to me to question it.

    A while back, Holly Lisle made similar comments regarding “I’ll try,” and it stopped me cold. The way she explained it (not quite as nicely or clinically as Lora Morrow, of course), I could see the false thinking behind it and the mental crutch it was.

    Like you said, it was an epiphany to me. I started thinking about how I used it in my life and cringed. During my early adulthood and up to about two years ago, I felt my life was really on autopilot. At least SOME of that was thanks to “I try.” I “tried” to do a great many things, but something always kept me from it.

    My mother had another saying when I was young and learning a new skill and whining “I can’t do that.” She would always say “‘Can’t’ never did a thing.” Well, “I tried” never does, either! 🙂

  2. I hate the word try. I raised a teenager that made the word a cliche. “I’ll try to be on time” “I’ll try to make better decisions.”

    You either do or don’t. You don’t drop I pen and say to yourself “I’ll try to pick that up.” Unless there’s a disability that prevents you from doing so, you bend down and pick the dang thing up. There was never a question of failure.

    I find I still use it as a crutch word myself when my heart isn’t into something. Thanks for reminding me to check myself once in a while.

  3. Eileen,

    I remember reading Holly’s take on it a while back in one of her newsletters. Holly definitely reinforced what I’d already discovered. Then after reading Lora’s article, I was like, “I’m not a crazy person for my beliefs after all.”

    I, too, have to work to break my daughter’s use of the “But I tried my best…” defense. Hopefully, since she only heard it for 10 years, it won’t be super hard to accomplish. We’ll see.

  4. You’re welcome, Tricia!

    And like I wrote above, I’m hoping I will be able to show my daughter the pitfalls of “I tried” before she hits teendom.

  5. I decided a long time ago that I was going to do. You’re right. The word try simply gives us an excuse to fail and at the same time letting us off the hook.

    The only way to get where we want to be is to do.We don’t always know right away just how we’ll do it but focusing on the end result and leaving the finer details up to the Universe seems to make sense if we actually get ourselves in gear and do all that we can to work toward those goals.

    Enjoyed your post!

Leave a Reply