Seeing as how I have a vested interest in starting and running my own business, I’ve read a fair number of business-themed books over the years. It can be hard to pick out the ones that have the ideas that speak to you when staring at a bookshelf (or an Amazon page), so periodically I’ll bring you a review of a business book I’ve read. And we’re going to start with The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss.
Discovering Tim Ferriss and The 4-Hour Workweek
I first came across Tim Ferriss — the man, the idea, the guru — a couple of years after I started working a job in the “real world.” His ideas ran pretty contrary to everything I was seeing in corporate America — the endless, pointless meetings; the insistence on working set hours in the office; the disorganized, unclear email communication. As an early member of Generation Y, I loved his ideas and tried to incorporate them as well as I could into my own work day.
Unfortunately, when you’re working with people who have never heard of Tim Ferriss nor his ideas and you don’t have enough history with a company (or being a part of the workforce in general) to have much (if any) clout, you can get a certain reputation for being hard to work with pretty fast. To be perfectly honest, it’s a reputation I’m still trying to live down at my corporate day job. But the flipside is I’ve had a lot of positive feedback employing those same principles as a freelancer.
The Gist of the 4-Hour Workweek
There’s a lot to take from Tim Ferriss’ guide to “escape 9-5, live anywhere, and join the new rich,” but here’s a quick summary. The book is divided into 4 basic steps: Definition, Elimination, Automation and Liberation. But the gist of his book can also be divided into Dreaming Big, Productivity, and Life Design Strategy.
In a nutshell, Mr. Ferriss details how to identify your dream life, how to make it a concrete concept by running actual numbers, and how to address the risks associated with going for your dream. A big part of this concept is defining wealth as relative instead of absolute. Instead of asking, “How much money would I need to feel wealthy?” you ask, “What experiences or possessions would make me feel wealthy? You can check out his Dreamline worksheets and calculators online to give you the basic idea of how he turns an unattainable dream into a concrete — and possible — concept.
Mr. Ferriss’ strategies range from simple (email/time management, the 80/20 principle, effectiveness and efficiency, employing Parkinson’s Law, Getting-Stuff-Done strategies, low-information diets, etc.) to more complex (outsourcing tasks, delegation, automation).
These are the principles I loved, but also the principles that got me into a bit of trouble. Part of this is in the design, and part of this is in how I implemented them as a young, inexperienced professional. He addresses these pitfalls, but Mr. Ferriss isn’t exactly known for being the ultimate sweetheart either — which is OK because he’s Tim Ferriss. Just something to keep in mind as you start to introduce some of these strategies into your life, especially in the corporate world.
Life Design Strategy
In the Automation and Liberation steps, Mr. Ferriss details multiple ways in which you might leave (or lessen your time spent in) the corporate world while earning the money you need to live the life you want. These include real-life examples of both his start-up ventures (both successes and failures) as well as those of other entrepreneurs. In short, it’s about how to maximize your time while spending less of it to achieve your goals — whether that’s going into consulting, writing books, or creating and selling products.
The Hype of the 4-Hour Workweek
So, does the book live up to the hype or down to the backlash? Neither. There’s a lot of great information in there, but I don’t think there’s anyone in the world who believes Tim Ferriss actually only works four hours a week. The key is that he does, perhaps, spend four hours a week doing tasks he doesn’t particularly like so he can spend the other hours on the things he likes or loves. And that’s a pretty good life balance if you ask me.
This was one of the first business books I read, and it’s one that has stuck with me and that I continue to refer to six years down the road. You may not be able to (or want to) put all of it into action in your life, but I think you’re guaranteed to get some good and practical information out of it no matter what your life goals. Check out the 4-Hour Blog to get an idea of his tone and style if you’re unsure, but I have no qualms recommending it to anyone interested in strategies to work and live better.