Jedi Productivity 9 of 11: Yoda’s first rule: Do or do not, there is no try

This post is part of the Star Wars Jedi Productivity blog post series.  There will be 11 posts coming weekly every Tuesday for… yes… just counted it… the next 11 weeks.  These posts will guide your journey from a wilful, novice young pretender who is controlled by time…  into a magnificent Jedi who uses time as her own power.  The full set of posts are available from here.

Yoda’s first rule: Do or do not, there is no try

“Do, or do not. There is no try” Jedi Master Yoda

Do or do not, there is no try

“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret” Jim Rohn

The greatest enemy to your own success is not outside of you, it is you.  It is you in the habits you have that you did not choose to have, it is you in the little voice inside your mind that judges and compares and criticizes and proves and searches for “rightness”.  The sadest use of a good goal is to take it to the graveyard with you.  The sadest use of this unique opportunity of a lifetime is to live in abject comfort.

It is easy to be a loser.  It doesn’t take any effort.  Lying on the floor and looking up is available to anyone.  The mountain climber does not reach the summit by accident.  He doesn’t wake one day and exclaim “oh my, I have reached the top!  Lovely.”  No, he knows where he is headed and he takes step after step after step after step.  Those steps were not easy.  Each individual step is something achievable by anyone, but only a few put 40,000 steps together into climbing a mountain.

Legendary boxing trainer Cus D’Amato said to Mike Tyson: “You think you know the difference between a hero and a coward, Mike? Well, there is no difference between a hero and a coward in what they feel. It’s what they do that makes them different. The hero and the coward feel exactly the same, but you have to have the discipline to do what a hero does and to keep yourself from doing what the coward does.”

The sad fact of our schools and adolescence is that critical apathy is the ultimate in cool.  As a 17 year-old I was brilliant at the apathetic, critical put down of those who tried.  A “try-hard” was the ultimate un-cool character in our pantheon of school yard heroes.

I meet 17 year olds who have mastered criticism.  They have mastered nothing else, but they have mastered criticism.  And what is so sad is that they don’t use it on their enemies… they use it on their friends.  They use to keep their friends from trying, from aiming, from challenging themselves.  I was this 17-year-old.

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk via Compfight cc
“Do or Do Not, There is No Try” Yoda; Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk

Somewhere along the way I stopped criticising others, seeing their flaws and focussing on my life.  “Men in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” says the old phrase.  It is easy to break the sandcastles of other kids, it takes work to build my own sandcastle.

Do, or do not.  Get off the Path to Master Critic.  Get on the Path to Master Jedi of Productivity.

Do Not Wait for Permission

You have to start from where you are.  It doesn’t matter where you start from, what matters is the movement.  No guru ever received “permission” to be a guru.  They decide.  There is no diploma that you need to get to be the best version of yourself – you just decide to do it, and then you start taking action.

At the core of my discipline is the Pomodoro technique.  Here’s a simple version: (you can google the full version!)  Get a timer that clearly counts down 15 minute intervals. Take your to-do list. Prioritise number 1 important item. Estimate number of 15 minute intervals. Set the timer and work on the first timer. Any interruption, reset the timer to 15. At the end of a pomodoro take a proper 7 minute break. After 4 take a 25 minute break. How many pomodoros can you achieve in a day?

Don’t tell me your values, show me your life

Plenty of people are willing to talk about what is important to them.  Plenty of job interviews are full of wonderful descriptions of what the potential employee would do in a hypothetical business situation.  Words are easy.  Action counts.  Don’t listen.  Look.  If someone says “punctuality is important” and has just arrived 6 minutes late, and has taken 4 minutes after saying “let me give you the one minute version…” – ignore the words, look at the actions.

The question is: what are you going to do with your time?

You will never ever be successful, until you turn your time into action…  until you allow your pain, frustration, anger, joy, hope, sweat and tears to push you from where you are towards where you need to be.  Discipline is not easy. It is painful.  Running a marathon?  Pain is guaranteed.  Your pain is going to be a part of your prize, a part of your product.  The pain, in the end, is necessary for the glory to count.  The achievements that are worthwhile are put out of the reach of the lazy ones.

What you did last week doesn’t count.  What you did yesterday doesn’t count.  Today counts.  Today is the only important day.  Right now is the only moment you control.  I choose now, to write or to wait… to write or to wait…  to write or to wait.

Only Action Changes the Future

There is no future, better self without facing the need for disciplined action now.  Only action now changes the future.  Only action now allows for learning and growth.  Only action now counts.

I am writing this now and there is a lot of inner chatter saying “its sunny outside, write later”, “you still have time, you can do this tomorrow”, “go have a coffee” (I think I might actually follow that idea…  ok coffee here…  back).

There are eighty-six thousand, four hundred seconds in a day.  How will you use those seconds?

Top 9 ways to achieve nothing in this moment

  1. Open Facebook
  2. Turn on TV
  3. Churn between 3-5 different projects
  4. Engage in a logical debate with the little voice in your head
  5. Criticise someone for something they could do better
  6. Think of other people who might be able to do it “better” than me
  7. Think of how little chance there is that this will affect the world
  8. Think of how I have no credibility to do this work
  9. Seek permission to do something great

Top 1 way to achieve something in this moment

  1. Start

Further Resources

Goodbye Ad-Hoc, Hello Systematic

In order to be a full Jedi time manager, the novice must learn to use proven tools such as:

  • Prioritising
  • Goal Setting
  • Deadlines
  • Delegation
  • Planning

That’s what this post series is all about.  You will become a master of the force and a power user of the tools of systematic, habitual action.

Are you a Jedi guided missile?  Are you systematic in how you set goals and make daily progress on what is important?  Or, are you more of an ad-hoc novice?

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Author: Conor Neill

Hi, I’m Conor Neill, an Entrepreneur and Teacher at IESE Business School. I speak about Moving People to Action.

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