Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The 4-Hour Workweek

I had heard so many different things about Timothy Ferriss’s book, The 4-Hour Workweek, that I thought it couldn’t possibly cover all the subject areas. But I was wrong. Ferriss gives step-by-step instructions for changing many different aspects of your life all unified under the theme of “escape 9-5, live anywhere, and join the new rich.”

The main themes of the book are getting past fear of change, eliminating time waste, creating a low maintenance business, getting agreement to work for your current employer remotely, mini-retirements, and living in other parts of the world. Some of these themes may seem familiar, but Ferriss’s detailed strategies for completing these goals make this book unique. Few readers will attempt everything they read about in this book, but almost all readers will find some useful information for improving their lives.

The type of reader who will get the most out of this book is the 9-to-5 cubicle-dweller who yearns for a different life. We get some insight into Ferriss’s personality when he says that we shouldn’t be trying to figure out what we want or setting goals; we should be seeking excitement. He goes on to say that “boredom is the enemy, not some abstract ‘failure.’”

The discussion of taking mini-retirements instead of short vacations seems compelling, but I think it is only likely to be helpful for talented people who can find a new job or career fairly easily. I can see the concept of mini-retirement being used as an excuse not to look for a new job by someone who loses a job and can’t really afford to sit around.

A quote from Dave Barry sums up feelings about meetings among fed-up office workers: “Meetings are an addictive highly self-indulgent activity that corporations and other organizations habitually engage in only because they cannot actually masturbate.”

Another quote from Robert Frost that will resonate among cubicle-haters: “By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day.”

Continuing with this theme, Ferriss writes “Most people aren’t lucky enough to get fired and die a slow spiritual death over 30-40 years of tolerating the mediocre.”

We get some encouragement to take a chance from a Colin Wilson quote: “The average man is a conformist, accepting miseries and disasters with the stoicism of a cow standing in the rain.”

One area where Ferriss’s ideas and mine differ is with investing. He chooses to own only fixed income investments and stocks of companies he is able to influence through angel investing. I’d rather just own every stock in the world and focus on other things.

The author emphasises the importance of not letting email chew up too much of your time. He says to check it only a couple of times per day, or even better a couple of times per week. He makes a good point about avoiding work email on the weekend: “Is your weekend really free if you find a crisis in the inbox Saturday morning that you can’t address until Monday morning?”

I can’t do this book justice in explaining how thorough Ferriss’s prescription is for transforming your life. No doubt most readers will not choose to follow Ferriss’s path exactly, but he does a great job of giving the tools necessary to change the things you want to change.


  1. What check your e-mail only a few times a day? That is absurd!
    {Hang on just got to answer this quick one from my boss}
    E-mail doesn't run my life, it is a valuable tool.
    {Oh look someone sent me a picture of a kitten tap dancing}
    You obviously just don't know how to multi-task.
    {What, no e-mails? What's going on? Am I in a tunnel?}

    1. @Alan: Playing with email, Facebook, and Twitter are great ways to keep from thinking about the things that are truly important in life :-)

  2. I haven't read a ton of books in the past few years, but that is one book I read and I really enjoyed it. I don't know if I'll ever be able to accomplish a 4 hour work week, but I'm slowly regaining my life and that's something!

    1. @Stephen: In what ways have you reclaimed your life? A career change, perhaps?

  3. Another book I need to read, thanks Michael!

  4. Sigh. A book with such a title makes me instinctively recoil like those investment proposals that promise zero risk 50% returns. On average in life, don't you get what you work for? Of course, I'm an old fart, still trying to figure out how to escape quadrant IV (not urgent / not important) of Stephen Covey's 1990s matrix. Now, excuse me while I go check the latest golf gossip about why Tom Watson failed miserably to get any performance out of his team in the Ryder Cup.

    1. @Canadian Investor: I had a similar reaction to the title when I first heard it, but the reviews I read made it clear that the book had substance. Sadly, for the majority of modern full-time jobs, people are not paid to work but are paid to put in time. This book advocates hard work done efficiently. I enjoy watching sports too but I don't listen to sports "talk" because it is almost always inane and wrong.