Slingerland said the theme of his book comes from the Chinese phrase, “wu wei,” meaning effortless action.
“Trying Not to Try” uses the concept of wu wei, which originated in early China as a way to relate to everyday life.
His theory is simple — it’s harder to try and do the things you want to accomplish than to just not try at all.
Slingerland said all of the additional stress only serves to make the process of achievement harder.
“There’s a point when it becomes counterproductive,” he said.
Instead, he posits that the solution to this problem is to just stop pushing back and to relax.
“You lose a sense of self-consciousness so you’re not aware, necessarily, that you’re doing anything and yet you’re very effective, so you’re doing a physical skill here perfectly,” Slingerland said.
“When you’re in this state of wei, you radiate this charismatic power — that’s what allows you to rule effectively and dabble through the social world.”
Flyleaf’s marketing manager Linnie Greene said it was an easy decision to host Slingerland because when hosting an author, the main idea to keep in mind is the type of audience that will be drawn.
Greene said with Slingerland’s book encompassing areas of humanities, social sciences, history and philosophy, she thinks there is something to appeal to everyone while still taking away the idea of using spontaneity to better everyday life.
“As far as actual content went, it just seemed like a wonderful fit for our community and the people that we know to have him at this book reading,” she said.
Slingerland, a professor of Asian studies at the University of British Columbia, said his students found the strategy of wei to be beneficial to their lives, and that his reason behind writing the book was the desire to reach out to a broader audience after seeing how his students connected to the material while applying it to their own lives.
“My favorite part to write was just being able to write the way that I talk, to write as if I was talking to my students,” he said.
While writing this book had its challenges, Slingerland said the personal reward was worth it, and something he hopes to share tonight at Flyleaf.
“It took a me while to get into it and break away from academic writing, but once I got into it I really found it fun to write, and more casual to be able to tell stories,” Slingerland said.
“And also it weaved together two different sides to my professional life.”