It is many arduous weeks into Luke’s training with Yoda on the swamp planet of Dagobah. As Luke continues his training, his concentration is lost when his X-Wing sinks deeper into the swamp. Luke is distraught — he’ll never get off this planet now!
“So certain are you,” Yoda says. He tries to convince Luke that size matters not, and that retrieving the X-Wing, when using the Force properly, is a simple matter. But Luke remains unmoved. He accepts Yoda’s challenge, saying he’ll try.
You all know the quote that comes next: “Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”
It’s clear that Luke does not. The X-Wing sinks deeper, and Luke says that Yoda’s claims are impossible.
It’s then that Yoda effortlessly lifts the X-Wing out of the swamp and onto stable land. Luke’s mind is blown, and he tells Yoda, “I don’t believe it.” And Yoda turns back to him and replies, “That is why you fail.”
Yes, this Commencement issue carries a Star Wars theme with it, and while it makes for a nice way to celebrate May the 4th, there’s also a more important reason.
Yoda’s “Do or do not” line is quoted endlessly in yearbooks, graduation speeches and congratulatory cards around the world. But it’s not the quote that I immediately think of.
This is the most important moment in the entire Star Wars saga. It effortlessly explains what the Force is capable of, and how even a small green Muppet can channel that energy if he puts enough concentration into it. This scene worked better than any Midichlorian explanation ever could have.
But the most salient point of this scene is that we can do anything we can put our minds to. Everyone remembers “Do or do not,” but to me, there’s one quote in the scene that’s infinitely more important:
“That is why you fail.”
Luke couldn’t lift the X-Wing out of the swamp because he was skeptical. He thought such a task to be impossible. And when Yoda lifted it out, he couldn’t believe it. That was why he failed.
Perhaps it’s a bit cliché when you think about it, but the thing is, it rings true.
You enrolled in UAA because you had a dream you wanted to chase, the same as Luke wanting to learn the ways of the Force. You arrived at this place and immediately faced obstacles — the costs of textbooks, the snobby fraternities, the high grading standards, the monumental projects — it was completely foreign, just like the swamps of Dagobah were to Luke.
And finally, you eventually reached a breaking point. We’ve all had one. That one capstone project we couldn’t find the will to finish. The sheer mountain of homework we were sent to accomplish. It seemed impossible.
But all you need is to realize that anyone can do it if they concentrate and focus hard enough. It is possible to lift that X-Wing out of the swamp. It just takes training, and lots of it.
And now, you come at the tail end of your training. All that’s left to do is put it to use, and then your training will be complete. Just like how Luke only completed his training after overcoming his father.
This journey is not over, and it never will be. This is only the calm before the storm, the short break before the real-life equivalent of the Battle of Endor. But focus. Do. Or do not. There is no try. And if you believe your future to be impossible, so will it be. That is why you will fail.
And then, after you have proven yourself and become a true Jedi, your adventures will continue. Just like the upcoming Episode VII, your future is shrouded in mystery, but you must take it in stride. Embrace it, maintain your focus and remember your training.
May the Force be with you, and may it be with us all.