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The French Art of Not Trying Too Hard

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Whether it's the Protestant work ethic, or the capitalist need for productivity, most of us in the English-speaking world believe that in order to achieve anything worthwhile, we must first expend huge amounts of effort. In fact, just the opposite is true. In 'The French Art of Not Trying Too Hard', Ollivier Pourriol shows how the best results in life, love, work, art and Whether it's the Protestant work ethic, or the capitalist need for productivity, most of us in the English-speaking world believe that in order to achieve anything worthwhile, we must first expend huge amounts of effort. In fact, just the opposite is true. In 'The French Art of Not Trying Too Hard', Ollivier Pourriol shows how the best results in life, love, work, art and even sports come not from working harder, but from letting go. This is not a new idea in France: since Montaigne, philosophers have suggested that a certain je ne sais quoi is the key to a more creative, fulfilling and productive existence. We can see it in their laissez faire parenting, their chic style, their haute cuisine and enviable home cooking - the French barely seem to be trying, yet the results are world famous. Drawing lessons from French legends like Descartes, Stendhal and Françoise Sagan, Rodin and Zidane, Cyrano de Bergerac and Coco Chanel, Ollivier Pourriol explores how to be efficient a la française, and how to effortlessly reap the rewards.


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Whether it's the Protestant work ethic, or the capitalist need for productivity, most of us in the English-speaking world believe that in order to achieve anything worthwhile, we must first expend huge amounts of effort. In fact, just the opposite is true. In 'The French Art of Not Trying Too Hard', Ollivier Pourriol shows how the best results in life, love, work, art and Whether it's the Protestant work ethic, or the capitalist need for productivity, most of us in the English-speaking world believe that in order to achieve anything worthwhile, we must first expend huge amounts of effort. In fact, just the opposite is true. In 'The French Art of Not Trying Too Hard', Ollivier Pourriol shows how the best results in life, love, work, art and even sports come not from working harder, but from letting go. This is not a new idea in France: since Montaigne, philosophers have suggested that a certain je ne sais quoi is the key to a more creative, fulfilling and productive existence. We can see it in their laissez faire parenting, their chic style, their haute cuisine and enviable home cooking - the French barely seem to be trying, yet the results are world famous. Drawing lessons from French legends like Descartes, Stendhal and Françoise Sagan, Rodin and Zidane, Cyrano de Bergerac and Coco Chanel, Ollivier Pourriol explores how to be efficient a la française, and how to effortlessly reap the rewards.

30 review for The French Art of Not Trying Too Hard

  1. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    3.5? I thoroughly enjoyed chapter 8 and most parts of chapter 9. The lessons/ideas from other chapters were not as impactful or relatable (imo) but maybe that's because I'm not a French tightrope walker or freediver or maybe it's the "French Art" that je ne comprends pas...yet 3.5? I thoroughly enjoyed chapter 8 and most parts of chapter 9. The lessons/ideas from other chapters were not as impactful or relatable (imo) but maybe that's because I'm not a French tightrope walker or freediver or maybe it's the "French Art" that je ne comprends pas...yet

  2. 5 out of 5

    Wafa

    It is a bit repetitive. I also found that the author indulges too often and for too long in platitudes that most everyone knows. I would just read the first couple of paragraphs in each chapter.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Marissa Alexander

    Don't be fooled by the title into thinking this is light reading. It's a philosophy book that uses some unexpected examples. Don't be fooled by the title into thinking this is light reading. It's a philosophy book that uses some unexpected examples.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Hemant Bohra

    7 ½ Learnings Yes, indeed, that’s the title of the book. The author had my attention with the questions on the back cover: Sick of striving? Giving up on grit? Had enough of hustle culture? Daunted by the 10,000-hour rule? The fact that the book draws inspiration from French legends was yet another reason to not miss it. Since moving to Paris, I started feeling that I am not trying hard enough to achieve my goals – learning the French language and helping French companies communicate better with t 7 ½ Learnings Yes, indeed, that’s the title of the book. The author had my attention with the questions on the back cover: Sick of striving? Giving up on grit? Had enough of hustle culture? Daunted by the 10,000-hour rule? The fact that the book draws inspiration from French legends was yet another reason to not miss it. Since moving to Paris, I started feeling that I am not trying hard enough to achieve my goals – learning the French language and helping French companies communicate better with their audiences in India. After reading this book, I do believe that I have already taken the first step – without thinking and without hesitating (you will know what that means after you read the book). 1. Where do we start? That’s always been the big question. More often than not, we keep planning and eventually stagnate. “If you don’t know how to get out of this kind of stagnation, do what Stendhal did: borrow your first sentence or your first action from someone else, and continue it.” Like drafting or slipstreaming in cycling or learning a language by imitating others, don't start, continue 2. We’ve always been told to think before we speak. But thinking too much and trying to get the right words to describe our thoughts often leaves us paralysed. When I read Alain’s example – “I discover what I want to say when I open my mouth”, I was overjoyed. That is me written all over it 3. Despite the flaws of the 10,000 hours rule well documented, we are still bombarded with variations of the same. Through the example of a failed experiment and other references, the author drives home the point that working hard is not enough 4. My favourite part of the book, Stop Thinking, walks through hypnosis, yoga, non-thinking, archery and modern rationalism to distinguish between thought and action - “Take a path you don’t know, to reach an unknown place, to do something you’re incapable of doing” 5. If you thought the book’s title was confusing then the chapter on “Hit the target without aiming” will throw you off. But there is a difference between trying too hard to hit a target and preparing well enough, physically and mentally, to hit 6. “Attention is a wave on which we must learn to surf.” The most powerful and thriving industry today is the one that has our attention at the heart of it. If I want to achieve my goals then I need to ride the wave not get drowned in it 7. “Ideas do not come because we pursue them, but because we are open to them” – not just a statement but a narrative woven by the author to unlock the secret laws of attention As for the half…. I took a culinary class at Le Cordon Bleu Paris the day I finished reading the book. What a coincidence!!! The French culinary experience is sublime but to get to that level...

  5. 4 out of 5

    نورا نورالدين

    إذا كنت ترى أى شئ فرنسى آخر سهلا، فهذا الكتاب أيضا سهل بعض النصائح مفيدة عن التعامل بهدوء الخبير وسلاسة المحترفين مع الأهداف

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jay Ahn

    Economy of action, flow state, tempo in Chess, these are what immediately came to my mind when reading Pourriol's philosophy. I would say it isn't exactly a French art, but the book is rather like a Daoist handbook with French examples including Zidane and Napoleon. Economy of action, flow state, tempo in Chess, these are what immediately came to my mind when reading Pourriol's philosophy. I would say it isn't exactly a French art, but the book is rather like a Daoist handbook with French examples including Zidane and Napoleon.

  7. 4 out of 5

    One Cool Cat

    The author himself refers to this book in the conclusion as an airport book. That sums it up well: it's interesting, but not revolutionary or important, full of food for thought and easy to both put down and pick back up. The ideas on the book are all quite interesting. I didn't always agree with or fully follow the author's arguments. It also felt a bit disjointed to me, and I sometimes felt like I was reading meandering thoughts that weren't really trying to take me anywhere. Sometimes I didn't The author himself refers to this book in the conclusion as an airport book. That sums it up well: it's interesting, but not revolutionary or important, full of food for thought and easy to both put down and pick back up. The ideas on the book are all quite interesting. I didn't always agree with or fully follow the author's arguments. It also felt a bit disjointed to me, and I sometimes felt like I was reading meandering thoughts that weren't really trying to take me anywhere. Sometimes I didn't mind, like when he discussed diving for several pages, and other times I was sure I'd missed a key detail a paragraph or two back. I feel like this book is vaguely marketed in the same category as all the other ones that romanticize french culture. This is not a book that teaches you to be more french or argues that the french do things better than us anglo-saxons. It's more of a meditation on the french tendency to put in the effort to look effortless. The author cites french artists, athletes, philosophers, etc to build a case study. He offers advice based on the case study. He theorizes on the philosophy behind it all. I would rate this book a three. It was mostly pleasant, but it was hard to read parts for me. French has a tendency to be less direct than English, and the translation felt like it retained a French style to the prose, which was hard for me to read at times (2020 did not bless my attention span). I would recommend this book specifically to those who like exploring philosophy and french culture, or maybe someone looking for a light read that's heavy on philosophy.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Iona

    Read the first two chapters and then save yourself! This book could have been a great 3000 word essay. But as it stands as a whole is shit. It is wordy and repetitive, the same point being made in each chapter with different sporting analogies. Also there are some misogynistic undertones. I know nothing of the sports men talked about in this novel, so can't offer an opinion there, however, I can speak on the two artists that we're mentioned. Ollivier (who claimes to be well versed) idolises the Read the first two chapters and then save yourself! This book could have been a great 3000 word essay. But as it stands as a whole is shit. It is wordy and repetitive, the same point being made in each chapter with different sporting analogies. Also there are some misogynistic undertones. I know nothing of the sports men talked about in this novel, so can't offer an opinion there, however, I can speak on the two artists that we're mentioned. Ollivier (who claimes to be well versed) idolises the lifestyles of both Rodin and Picasso who are known to have actively abused women and children in their lifetimes. It is one thing to talk about their art and talent, it is another to uphold them as great men whose way of life and philosophies are what we should strive to achieve in our own lives, completely ignoring the harm their actions and lifestyles had on those around them. There is no excuse for this. Ollivier later goes on to spend a whole chapter diminishing a teen girl he tutored to make himself look intelligent. It has the exact same vibe of those Tumblr stories that end with 'everybody clapped'. This chapter may be based on a real interaction but the dialogue definitely is not real, I feel so bad for the girl he was writing about, she was reduced to a 'sexy lampshade'. This whole books feels like an essay you write in highschool when you can't reach the word count. On one page I counted the same point made six times consecutively with slightly different analogies. I'm angry and disappointed, the introduction and first chapter held such promise

  9. 5 out of 5

    June

    I fear the slightly gimmicky title might scare some away from this book, and that's too bad! Really it's an exploration of the literary and popular culture expressions of a philosophy that has been adopted by many native and naturalized French folks, a kind of anti-Gladwellian belief that working extremely hard (say, 10,000 hours) isn't necessarily always rewarded and that life may have some other lessons in store for you much sooner than that. It's not just the author's own ramblings--he takes I fear the slightly gimmicky title might scare some away from this book, and that's too bad! Really it's an exploration of the literary and popular culture expressions of a philosophy that has been adopted by many native and naturalized French folks, a kind of anti-Gladwellian belief that working extremely hard (say, 10,000 hours) isn't necessarily always rewarded and that life may have some other lessons in store for you much sooner than that. It's not just the author's own ramblings--he takes sizable quotes from ancient and modern philosophers, writers, athletes, and a tightrope walker. Any book that takes you from Rene Descartes to Yannick Noah is a wild ride. This book put quite a few authors on my to-read list. Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for a digital ARC for the purpose of an unbiased review.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Introduction really sets the tone of this book to be a conversation between you (the reader) and the writer. If you only wanted to read the first two chapters you could check this book off your list. But if you continue reading you'll receive more examples than you'll know what to do with, that dive deeper into concepts highlighted in this book. Once finished I felt as if I had learned a lot, I have a new perspective on a few things, and I have researching more about what I am wanting out of my Introduction really sets the tone of this book to be a conversation between you (the reader) and the writer. If you only wanted to read the first two chapters you could check this book off your list. But if you continue reading you'll receive more examples than you'll know what to do with, that dive deeper into concepts highlighted in this book. Once finished I felt as if I had learned a lot, I have a new perspective on a few things, and I have researching more about what I am wanting out of my own life. How can I make things in my life look easy to others and what are those things I really want to be that good at?

  11. 5 out of 5

    Maya

    It is like the author said an airport book . You get a gist of various thinkers and new perspectives . Learnt a lot on perseverance, when to take a pause , the 10000 hour rule concept , sometimes it’s alright to step away do something else and come back to the puzzle at hand , doing tiny bits is better than doing nothing at all, the concept of feeling no pain when you are in the flow of achieving perfection . It might not be well Knit chapters together , but again it’s an airport book ;) Worth yo It is like the author said an airport book . You get a gist of various thinkers and new perspectives . Learnt a lot on perseverance, when to take a pause , the 10000 hour rule concept , sometimes it’s alright to step away do something else and come back to the puzzle at hand , doing tiny bits is better than doing nothing at all, the concept of feeling no pain when you are in the flow of achieving perfection . It might not be well Knit chapters together , but again it’s an airport book ;) Worth your time .

  12. 5 out of 5

    anna b

    I wanted to read something really simple and light and picked this book. Don't judge a book by its title, it ended me up on a different tangent. This book started out great. It's a deeply philosophical book worth rereading. But as I read on, it started to sound somewhat like The Secret which was really anti climatic. I'd probably reread this again just to make sure that I didn't misunderstood the book. I wanted to read something really simple and light and picked this book. Don't judge a book by its title, it ended me up on a different tangent. This book started out great. It's a deeply philosophical book worth rereading. But as I read on, it started to sound somewhat like The Secret which was really anti climatic. I'd probably reread this again just to make sure that I didn't misunderstood the book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    Like the opposite of the Niksen book that I found so irritating. Instead of shallow, trite observations, it's philosophy. Instead of what seemed to me a fawning over Danish culture, it barely seemed specifically French. The examples all are I believe but it wasn't forced. Also the end of chapter 9, what he called the law of inverted effort matched almost perfectly to the last chapter of The Willpower Instinct, which was funny reading back to back. Like the opposite of the Niksen book that I found so irritating. Instead of shallow, trite observations, it's philosophy. Instead of what seemed to me a fawning over Danish culture, it barely seemed specifically French. The examples all are I believe but it wasn't forced. Also the end of chapter 9, what he called the law of inverted effort matched almost perfectly to the last chapter of The Willpower Instinct, which was funny reading back to back.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Audrey

    Likely one of the most inspiring books I’ve read in years! What a GEM! The author writes about the French art of not trying too hard but the importance is on why and how. I thought this would be a fun read but was pleasantly surprised that it was much deeper than expected! Highly recommend to anyone that has a practice in the arts, crafts, music, sports or the like.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Karen Steiger

    The cutesy title sounds like it's about eating more croissants, but it's actually a more philosophic book about acting more instinctually and getting in the zone and not getting trapped by overanalysis. I'm not sure how practical some of the advice is, but I'm willing to try reaching goals with ease. The cutesy title sounds like it's about eating more croissants, but it's actually a more philosophic book about acting more instinctually and getting in the zone and not getting trapped by overanalysis. I'm not sure how practical some of the advice is, but I'm willing to try reaching goals with ease.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Susan Steggall

    An interesting and thoughtful read. Although the reading of it has squeaked into 2020. I will need to think about it for a while before writing any kind of review. I am a fluent French reader and like all books that have been translated I would very much like to read it in its original language.

  17. 4 out of 5

    BonLivre

    A wonderful title and promising premise on the concept of ease, this book took on a more philosophical air with long paragraphs spanning multiple pages and a slow flow of thought. “You don’t have to be French by birth to be attracted to the French way of life.”

  18. 4 out of 5

    Annarella

    Even if I found it entertaining I think it's a bit repetitve and there wasn't anything new or very useful. Not my cup of tea. Many thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for this ARC, all opinions are mine Even if I found it entertaining I think it's a bit repetitve and there wasn't anything new or very useful. Not my cup of tea. Many thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for this ARC, all opinions are mine

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nina Petersen

    I genuinely loved this book! As I started my New Year's resolution to read 12 books in 21, I flew through this. There are so many great takeaways to become a more graceful, successful person and I love it! I genuinely loved this book! As I started my New Year's resolution to read 12 books in 21, I flew through this. There are so many great takeaways to become a more graceful, successful person and I love it!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    I found it hard to get in to the book at first, it seemed to repeat subjects in parts. There was a couple of interesting points made in the book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Estelle

    An interesting book. I’m thinking about it all.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Johannes Bertus

    Do yourself a favour and skip right to chapter 6 - it is quite brilliant. The rest is forgettable.

  23. 4 out of 5

    ياسمين خليفة

    موضوع الكتاب عن كيفية النجاح بسهولة شديد الأهمية ولكنه يحتاج إلى تروي في القراءة وعيبه الوحيد هو إن الفصول الأخيرة فيها تكرار

  24. 5 out of 5

    Theenemytoad

    I'm not sure why I finished this book, considering I didn't like it. The introduction was promising, but overall it was too many words to demonstrate a few concepts. Also too many sports examples. I'm not sure why I finished this book, considering I didn't like it. The introduction was promising, but overall it was too many words to demonstrate a few concepts. Also too many sports examples.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Felice Lam

    Basically, people stress themselves out too much. Also, the whole 10,000 hours of whatever activity might not be quite right for all.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Christina

    Self-help books are highly personalized. What works for me might not work for you, and vice versa. But this worked for me. It really worked. If you’re in a moment of indecision, if you need a little courage, or a little push to get started, this book is for you.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bocca

    I didn't understand the subject of this book. I didn't understand the subject of this book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Patti L. Kommel

    Have to love philosophical journeys!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    3.5 Quintessentially French exploration of philosophy and its application to our modern world.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Nikhil Bojja

    Read it passively. Maybe glance at it sometimes

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