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No. Saying “I will try” is not a sign of failure. It’s a sign that you aren’t full of arrogance. It’s a sign that you don’t completely lack self-awareness. It’s a sign that some tasks are difficult. It’s a sign that you’re aware that some circumstances are out of your control. It’s a sign that you’re human.

Not that I’d advise you to say “I’ll try, boss” when she tells you to get into office on time. But if she gives you a task that you haven’t done before, it’s okay to say “I’ll try.”

If you’ve never created a case study on your own before, it’s okay to say, “I’ll try.” It’s also okay to say “I’ll try to get this done tomorrow” when you need answers from Abhijeet the Account Manager and he’s been too busy to talk to you.

When your boss says “I want this page ranking first on Google for ‘marketing’,” it’s okay to say “I’ll try.” It’s better to say, “Boss, I’ll work on the copy and the metatags, and get us more links to the page. But ‘marketing’ is a tough keyword to be on top for, so how about we optimize for a longer phrase that our customers do use frequently? I’ll do some research and work with Bob in Sales and make a list of those keywords.”

Any boss who yells at you when you say that isn’t a boss you want to work for.

Even less do you want to work for a boss who yells at you because you can’t have images go into recipients’ email inbox unless they choose to download the images. Sometimes, even “this can’t be done” isn’t an expression of failure, it’s a fact.

If I’m your boss or your client, I don’t want to hear “This will be done by tomorrow” when you mean “I’m not sure I can do this, but saying so is an expression of failure.” I want to hear “I’ll work on A and have it ready for you to review today, but unless you get me the information I need on B, I can’t move ahead on that.”

Let’s say what we mean. Work and life are both much easier that way.

Go on, tell us what you're thinking.