Monthly Archives: May 2013

Try Harder.


“Try Harder” is something that often comes into my mind; often because I need to remind myself, less so that I feel the need to explain what it means to some unspecified listener.

Sometimes wisdom comes in tiny one or two-word packages that can take years to unpack and appreciate. Imagine struggling against a problem or goal, be it physical or academic, real or virtual, reaching the end of your wits, then turning to someone for a suggestion and receiving only “Try Harder” as advice. I can think of a few colorful two-word replies to that seemingly dismissive response. Let’s assume though that it’s not dismissive. Let’s assume it is what’s required.


The simple act of trying harder means focusing your effort. It’s not necessarily brute forcing your way through a problem or project, but being more mindful of the goal. Not all endeavors require an aggressive redoubling of effort.

Consider meditation, for example:

At it’s core meditation is a practice of calming the mind, and forcefully trying harder to meditate is obviously counterproductive. If an effort to calm the mind results in an internal shouting match consisting of you yelling at your mind to shut up, the point is lost. Mindfully trying harder means matching the appropriate method to the task at hand. In this case, trying harder to calm the mind may involve conjuring exceptional patience with yourself as you struggle to actually not do something.

Sometimes, however, Try Harder is exactly that. Bear down and push, go beyond your comfort zone, go to that place you’re afraid of. There’s rest at the end, but you have to get there first. In physical fitness, it could be lifting more than you ever have by focusing on technique, or it might be running faster than your best time by not giving in to that internal voice saying “It’s okay to quit.

Try Harder means discipline, progressions, perseverance. Ten minutes of focus today, eleven tomorrow, fourteen the day after; 100lbs overhead today, 120 next week, 175 five weeks later. Even when there are setbacks you keep trying harder, you keep fighting to keep or gain ground.

Tracking progress and effort is key to growth. If you don’t know where you’re at or where you’ve been, how can you have any clear idea of where you’re going?

This all takes effort. None of this is easy. All of this requires you to Try Harder.

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Letters to Benjamin

Tastes like baby
Not too long after Benjamin was born I came across this video []. I think it was around fathers day. Anyway, I loved the idea and immediately set up a Gmail account for our little guy. Since then, Summer and I have been sending him emails with letters, pictures, video, etc…Sometimes we tell him about his day, sometimes we tell him about things that are important to us, sometimes we just say hi. It’s a digital time capsule and we hope it will be interesting to him at some point in his life.


Here is a letter I sent him recently about writing:



I love you SO much! Just wanted to get that said before I started saying other things.


You are an amazing little guy and it is such a joy to be able to watch you grow into your own person.


Writing. I haven’t written you nearly enough. I have years to write you before you will even have a chance to read these, but I still would like to be better about telling you things about yourself as you grow up and about me as I grow up. Note: You are always growing up. All your life experiences add up to make you who you are at any given moment. So it’s never done. You are never fully “grown up”.


Writing. I will let you know that I plan to put emphasis on writing while you’re “growing up”. You will likely grow up in a world of 10 Billion people. With that many people it is hard to have your voice heard. Writing is one of the best possible ways to communicate your ideas. No matter what you choose to do with your life, no matter what interest or field of endeavor you decide to spend your time on. Learning to write well, to communicate well, will help you beyond measure.


I once read in a Stephen King book about writing that “writing is the closest thing we have to telepathy”. One mind speaking directly to another across time and space. Writing is an art and words have power. The right words in the right order and at the right time, stronger still.


Writing causes you to organize your thoughts, arguments, ideas. I’m attempting to do this now. You can learn a great deal about yourself from writing. Sometimes until you truly spend time explaining why you feel a certain way (even if just to yourself) you won’t understand the reason. Knowing why you believe what you believe is important. You may start out a writing project believing one thing, and finish convinced of another. When writing stories you may be surprised to find characters and themes that draw themselves out on the page. Characters you never expected to meet can assume critical roles. This happens in life as well but that is for another email.


Before this gets too wordy (I do that, explain too much. I’m sure you’ve probably noticed by now. My father did it too.) I will summarize with this final thought. You are now almost 15 months old. You are sleeping soundly in your crib upstairs. It’s well past midnight and because of writing I’m able to send my thoughts to you through time and space. You will be different when you read them and so will I, but you’ll always know your Daddy was up late talking to you before you could speak, because he loves you. (sappy ending but true).



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Yoda was wrong


“Do, or do not, there is no try.” – Yoda


I don’t believe that’s true. Do or do not implies knowledge or skill already established. A binary choice that requires little effort. There is always “try”. Especially in the doing. It would almost be better said “Try, or do not” period. For without “try” there is no “do”. Do or do not is trite and absolutist. In all efforts there is effort, the trying makes it so. You can “do” with little effort or enthusiasm or skill and can say you have “done”. To what degree you have “done” is not measured or established.


To try is to strive, to push, to endeavor. To try is to be bad at something and know that if you make the effort, you will improve. Trying is what life is made of. Whether it is starting something new, getting better at something established, or brushing up on something old. Trying is the essence of making life worthwhile.

“Do or do not” is for bungee jumping and skydiving. It is for knowing that once you cross the threshold that there is only one result to whatever degree of success. While that total commitment is admirable. There is a lot of try that goes into that one moment.

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