what yoda taught us about productivity

TPP #18: What Yoda Taught Us About Productivity

With all the Star Wars hype at the moment, I came across this great quote: “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose”. This got me thinking of other insightful Yoda quotes and I thought… huh, there are some good productivity lessons in some of the stuff he says. So as a bit of fun I thought I'd deconstruct some of these quotes and drawn out some valuable lessons in productivity from wise old Master Yoda.

Listen to me talk about each quote in this episode of the Productivity Podcast, or read them all below!

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1. “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose”

Fear of loss is one of the biggest causes of procrastination. And as Master Yoda would say: “Fear is the path to the dark side”. The dark side of productivity that is!

This reminds me of something Tim Ferriss has talked about in The 4-Hour Work Week. When you feel resistant towards doing something, whether that’s taking on a new project, start a business or in his case it was to take a trip and time off from running his company, you should define the worst case scenario that could occur from that decision. As Ferriss says:

“What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.”

Therefore, we must train ourselves not to let fear get in the way of progress.

2. “Named must your fear be before banish it you can.”

One of the ways you can do this is to clearly define your fear. When you define your fear and think through the potential worst-case scenario, you’ll often realise that it’s not as bad as you think. And even if this worst-case scenario does come about, it’s often not that hard to recover from it.

On the flip side of this, the potential upside from doing something is often far greater than we realise. For example, imagine you’re thinking of starting a business. Now a potential downside might look something like this: “I can’t start a business, I might fail. And if I put myself out there like that it might be embarrassing…”. This ranks about a 3 or 4 out of 10 in terms of how bad things can get (10 being really bad). However, the potential upside is that you create an incredibly successful business that generates enormous revenue, and you change your life forever. That’s going to have a potential impact of 10/10 on your life and is far greater than the potential downside.

Go one step further and live your fear:

“Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with course and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: “Is this the condition that I feared?”

To overcome fear, think about the reasons why you should and shouldn’t do something and you’ll quickly realise the potential upside is far greater than the potential downside.

3. “Pass on what you have learned.”

Hm… how is sharing what you’ve learned related to productivity?

The way I see it, teaching something requires you to have an excellent understanding of a subject. When you become an expert in a subject, you become more effective and efficient within the context of that subject.

For example, let's say you’re going to teach someone about website design. To teach this subject, you need to have a good sense of design concepts, you need to understand programming and how to layout a page. As you teach web design to others you improve your own understanding of the subject and, in turn, become a more effective web designer. In doing so you, become more effective and efficient at your job.

So you see, teaching and sharing knowledge is a path to productivity, much like jealousy is a path to the dark side…

4. “[Luke:] I can’t believe it. [Yoda:] That is why you fail.”

Ah, what a classic Yoda line…

Not only does self-belief boost motivation but it keeps momentum high, helping you to move through tasks and projects with less down time.

Creating affirmations and visualisations is a great way of supporting self-belief and is one of the key principles of Hal Elrod’s, The Miracle Morning (book summary).

“I am the greatest!” Muhammad Ali affirmed these words over and over again—and then he became them.

To create an affirmation, try writing down a statement about what you want your work/relationships/life to look like. Think about what you want, why you want it, what you’re committed to doing to attain it and any other inspirational quotes or philosophies.

5. “Patience you must have, my young padawan.”

While being efficient and getting through your work quickly can be a good thing. You must avoid the temptation to power through your work and rush. When you do, you risk doing such an average job in the first place, you have to go back and redo the work (which isn’t very efficient).

The other point of interest here is that you should take the time from the onset to determine what work you should be doing in the first place. As Greg McKeown notes in Essentialism (book summary):

“The essentialist takes the time to explore all his options. The extra investment is justified because some things are so much more important that they repay the effort invested in finding those things tenfold. An Essentialist, in other words, discerns more so he can do less.”

So, follow in Yoda’s words and take your time. It’s easy to think about your goals and wish you could reach them sooner. Patience, stay focussed, take action and you’ll be exceeding your expectations in no time.

6. “You must unlearn what you have learned.”

Here’s an interesting one… As Yoda points out, sometimes you must “unlearn what you have learned” in order to let go of the habits that hold us back.

For example, if you want to get into the habit of using the first hour of your day to focus on your most important task, you must first kick the habit of going through email first thing.

I like this quote because it highlights the need to develop good habits while unlearning the bad habits that prevent us from doing our best work.

7. “A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind.”

This is a great quote and highlights one of the most important parts of productivity, being committed to your cause.

I find that when you’re working on something you care about that you feel deeply committed to, you’ll naturally start to be more productive as your motivation helps you to work in a more effective and efficient way.

In terms of having a “serious mind”, this reminds me of the following quote by retired Navy SEAL Jocko Willink:

“Our freedom to operate and maneuver had increased substantially through disciplined procedures. Discipline equals freedom.”

As Jocko highlights, discipline (i.e. having a “serious mind”) creates freedom. For example, when you have the discipline to consistently schedule your time and plan (even your weekends) you create the freedom to do more of the things you care about.

8. “Do or do not. There is no try.”

And this brings us to a classic Yoda quote. “Do or do not, there is no try”. Yoda hit the nail on the head with this one.

Your internal dialogue and the way you talk to yourself is a crucial part of keeping motivation and momentum high. When you adopt the mindset that there are only two options, “do” or “do not” it helps you to create an unshakable belief in yourself. A belief that says: “I will do this”, instead of “I will try to do this”.

This quote also serves as a great reminder to not half-arse activities. Don’t try and do things, simply do them. And if you’re confident you can’t do something, or that something may not be worth your time, don’t waste energy “trying” when you can be “doing” other things that matter.

9. “Early must I rise. Leave now you must!”

Sounds like Yoda is an early riser, which as we all know, is a common trait among some of the worlds most successful people. People like Tim Cook, Richard Branson and Barack Obama.

Getting up early is a great way to kick start your day and the early morning is an ideal time to get some focussed work done. It’s quiet, dark and it’s highly unlikely you’re going to be disturbed by anyone.

According to Dr Tracey Marks, going to sleep and waking up early syncs your body with the earth’s natural circadian rhythms and is more restorative than trying to sleep when the sun is up. Credit to Shawn Stevenson and his book Sleep Smarter (book summary) for this insight. When the sun rises, that’s nature telling you it’s time to wake up and start being active. Fighting this instinct not only harms your productivity but your general health and the quality of your sleep as well. Studies show that we’re more effective at cognitive tasks and problem-solving in the morning.

Don’t waste this time; build early starts into your routine and take advantage of how this time can benefit your productivity and personal well-being. Here are 7 tips to help you jump out of bed in the morning.

10. “Already know you that which you need.”

This is a nice quote to end on. If you’re a little confused by it, it means that you already have the capability to do what you want and to get where you want to be. You already know everything you need to succeed, and it may be that all you need is some last piece of knowledge or process to close this gap.

This is a nice thought and goes a long way towards boosting your personal confidence. Think about it… no matter what you’re trying to achieve in life, you already have the ability to reach that goal. How good does that make you feel?

In terms of productivity, you have the ability to do really great work and to get lots done with lower amounts of stress. This increased productivity is within your power. Sometimes you just need to tweak your systems and processes in order to unlock this power.


Timothy Ferriss, The 4-Hour Work-Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (Crown Publishers, 2007)

Hal Elrod, The Miracle Morning: The Not-So Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life Before 8 am (Hal Elrod International, Inc, 2014)

Shawn Stevenson, Sleep Smarter: 21 Proven Tips to Sleep Your Way to a Better Body, Better Health and Bigger Success (Shawn Stevenson, 2014)

Gregory McKweon, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (Crown Publishing, 2014)