4 Hr

The 4-Hour Workweek: A Review

Tim Ferriss has become a sensation.  His book, “The 4-Hour Workweek,” popularized the term “lifestyle design” and crowned him the leading practitioner. Apparently, he makes a great living working very few hours while traveling the world.

What’s the secret to such a life?  Can it be taught to the masses?  And is it a life worth pursuing?  I thought I’d investigate by reading the book.

What’s the Goal?

Ferriss is against what he calls “the deferred-life plan” where you do “soul-crushing” work for most of your days as you trudge toward the golden carrot known as retirement.

He’s for joining the “New Rich” (NR) who are all about living luxury lifestyles right now.  The NR have figured out how to put income on autopilot so they’re free to pursue lives of excitement and adventure.

A Muse You Can Use

The ultimate expression of Ferriss’ vision is for readers to find their “muse” – his term for a business in which you don’t manufacture the product, answer your own phones, ship your own products, or service your own customers.

The idea, he explains, is to own a business, not run one – preferably a business that throws off plenty of cash without interrupting you too often while you live your life of adventure.

Ferriss’ muse is a nutritional supplement company.

And how would you come up with such a company, you may wonder.  That’s simple, according to Ferriss.  Just:

1) Choose a market you know

2) Pick a product to sell to the market

3) Run some low-cost advertising tests.

And Now, the Fun Part

Once you find a product that sells, you simply outsource all those annoying details that the poor people who run businesses have to attend to, like manufacturing, marketing, advertising, taking orders, shipping, billing, and providing customer service.

When it’s all humming, you’ll just need to do some occasional training, put out an occasional fire, and check to make sure your automated deposits are landing in the right account.  You should be able to take care of all that by noon.  On Monday.  Then you’ve got the rest of the week free.

Your biggest challenge from that point forward will be figuring out what to do with all your free time and money.


What’s Wrong With The 4-Hour Workweek

I disagree with Ferriss’ stated goal of living a life of luxury.  It’s just too self-indulgent.  I believe we are called to live for something greater than ourselves, something much more than our own pleasure and comfort.

Some of his tactics also sound downright unethical.  For the typical employee, he advocates lobbying for one or two work-from-home days each week.  Then, purposely dial down productivity when you’re in the office and dial it up when you’re working from home.  Hopefully, that’ll lead to always working from home.  And that can lead to slipping out of the country to travel the world.  Why should it matter to your boss if you’re checking e-mail from Europe?  It’s none of her business where you are, right?  Ah, no.

And I believe his three-step process for creating a hands-off cash machine of a business is absurdly oversimplified at best.

What’s Right With The 4-Hour Workweek

We all know people who are just putting in their time, waiting for retirement.  They’re not living; they’re getting by. We were made for more than that.  So, I appreciate Ferriss’ desire to shake people out of their usual ways of thinking about work and retirement.

I also agree with his point that many of us could use our precious hours much more effectively.

He advocates:

  • Putting the Pareto Principle into practice, figuring out the 20 percent of activities that generate 80 percent of the results in our life, and then systematically paring back on the 80 percent of activities that drive very few results.
  • Practicing “selective ignorance:” learning to ignore or redirect all information and interruptions that are irrelevant, unimportant, or unactionable.  I loved the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote he used in this section: “There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant.”
  • Hiring a virtual assistant (VA) to do many of life’s busywork projects, such as conducting research (for work or personal projects), making vacation reservations, scheduling appointments, assisting with a job search, hiring contractors, and more.  Depending on the country where your VA is based, Ferriss says they can be hired for as little as $4 to $15 per hour.

I’m not sure about the VA idea, but this was my favorite section of “The 4-Hour Workweek.”  I take in way more information than I need, and Ferriss’ book has motivated me to cut back.

Have you read “The 4-Hour Workweek”?  If so, what did you think?

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6 Responses to The 4-Hour Workweek: A Review

  1. Matt Bell August 30, 2011 at 11:09 AM #

    Rick – I’m sorry for the pain you are going through. If you haven’t done so already, please make your needs known to the leaders of your church and also to friends at your church. The Bible instructs us to help take care of the needs of those in our midst who are struggling, and one of the things I always admired about the late Larry Burkett was his encouragement to make our needs known to other believers in our church.

    Also, if your church does not have a stewardship ministry, contact Crown Financial Ministries via http://www.Crown.org. They should be able to connect you with a “coach” who can look at your situation in more detail and provide wise counsel.

  2. rick August 30, 2011 at 10:50 AM #

    Ferriss says they can be hired for as little as $4 to $15 per hour.
    Im 62 and for the last 32 yrs have been fully comitted christian. I have always worked within this range $4-$15 hr…we still cant pay bills and struggle hard to just get basic life. Leaning not on our own understanding and waiting for the Lord to direct our steps mainly via circumstances. I disagree that a businessman can possibly also be a good Christian-I havent seen it yet! they are opposed to each other, as business is basically exploitive, lets use the above as example.
    Im now disabled by working so hard for so long, the wife tries to support me, and my handicapped son (on social security disability) i doubt you have any advice for me huh?

  3. Matt Bell August 4, 2011 at 6:05 PM #

    Jeff – Thanks for the link. I remember that post, but it’s worth revisiting.

    Nancy – Couldn’t agree more. I think that verse about all things being permissible, but not all things being constructive, is one of the most challenging and helpful teachings, especially with financial matters. We have freedom to do so much, but would this or that decision be constructive? How would it impact others? How would it impact our relationship with God?

  4. nancy dahl August 3, 2011 at 4:00 PM #

    I’ve read in the Bible, and this is paraphrased, that all things are permissible, but not all things are profitable. How much of what’s out there is profitable? Ive also heard it said by management consultants that it is not our time we manage, but rather what we choose to do, when, and how. Time is not something you control.

  5. Jeff Herron August 3, 2011 at 11:12 AM #

    Of greater help to me has been this blog post on time management — it is largely a more detailed take on harnessing the Pareto Principle.


    This has helped me in my own time management more than just about anything else out there.

    I, too, still take in more info than I need to each day (so many blog posts, so little time), but I’m getting better at being more selective. A feed reader is a great tool in this regard!

    Thanks for your insight, Matt.

  6. Nate August 3, 2011 at 9:55 AM #

    Hi Matt, I read your weekly emails. I agree with you. The other part you left out about his business is that the product he is selling is probably quite very poor quality. Preying upon “suckers” to buy a worthless supplement product creates some ethical issues as well. Additionally, he probably loses many friends by over-selling them on a sub-par product.

    That makes for some lonely travel no matter where you go to.

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