ASE Podcast

#2 Wu-Wei & What Ancient Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us about Peak Performance with Edward Slingerland

Success does not always come from thinking, trying or striving harder.

There are certain goals that you can’t pursue directly. Trying harder in that situation not only doesn’t help, but hurts.

Edward Slingerland

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Success does not always come from thinking, trying or striving harder. The ancient Chinese philosophers believed that wu-wei – effortless action aligned with the natural order of things – was the answer. Edward Slingerland, author of Trying Not to Try: Ancient China, Modern Science and the Power of Spontaneity, presents Confucius’, Laozi’s, Mencius’, and Zhuangzi’s strategies to access wu-wei, as well as the cognitive science demonstrating its power.

Edward Slingerland

Edward Slingerland is a Professor of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia, where he also holds adjunct appointments in Philosophy and Psychology. His research specialties and teaching interests include Warring States (5th-3rd c. B.C.E.) Chinese thought, religious studies, cognitive linguistics, ethics, and the relationship between the humanities and the natural sciences. 


  • Wu-wei, De, and the Way (5:50)
  • Confucius, Laozi, Mencius and Zhuangzi’s strategies to enter wu-wei (23:15)
  • Applying wu-wei to work and careers (33:20)

Show Notes

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