Bookshelf: The Four Hour Work Week

It’s been a while since I added anything here on the Bookshelf, though rest assured, I’m always reading something! In fact, I’ve just finished reading Tim Ferriss’s book “The Four Hour Work Week” (4HWW) (he just released another ‘The Four Hour Body”).

The book aims to be a guide to ‘lifestyle design’ and has gained an almost cult following around the world. Much of the premise revolves around the 80/20 rule which Ferriss adheres to, more commonly known as Pareto’s Principle which Ferriss does acknowledge further on in the book. Basically – you can get 80% of things done / achieved (good enough), with 20% of the effort, and the question is whether than last 20% is really worth it. He shows how you can create a business (initially on the side) which is self sustaining, and from which you can increasingly step away from thanks to outsourcing and subcontractors. If you had a 9-5 job, then the key is remote working agreements, and then you can travel and do what you want to do with your life whilst building that product and outsourcing the rest. This is how it’s a four hour work week.

The resulting book, is one third potentially useful and interesting, one third useful if you’re Tim Ferriss or like him, and one third is almost silly, but it’s all entertaining and really is best described as ‘career porn’. That’s what this book is – a product which can generate money without much work from Ferriss now, so he can, and does, outsource routine matters and is living what he says – and in the book he tells you how to do that.

When you look at reviews for the book, those people who slammed it are generally against the ethos – that somehow this is cheating: he ‘won’ a martial arts tournament by dehydrating himself for the weigh in, then boosting back again adding kilos of weight against his opponents and then pretty much just bear hugging them and forcing them out of the ring to win (there’s a few clips on YouTube of this). Ferriss makes the point that he exploited a loophole in the tournament’ rules, and didn’t break them. It’s very much up to the reader, but that a book elicits that kind of response is interesting in itself.

The truth is Ferriss is very smart, and puts his money ostensibly where his mouth is – perhaps the tournament push-outs weren’t in the spirit of the event, but he did turn up and get in the ring, and that takes a bit of skill and guts as it is.

The book is full of links and product recommendations – most links in there smell like product placement, and yes the whole thing smells like an infomercial, but at least it’s a readable ‘reality distortion field’ informercial if nothing else, and again, you’re simply holding a sample of what he’s talking about – it’s about sales – there’s a reason Ferriss won a “Greatest Self Promoter” award and why his Wikipedia page is relatively bare for someone so high profile online – it’s all about sales – the tips in the book can be found elsewhere – he’s wrapped it up, added an angle and sold it. It’s about sales, sales sales, and expertly done.

You might wonder whether I actually liked the book, and ultimately I did, but not because I believe so much in the message of the book – it isn’t for me – but viewed as a sample product, and as an example of what Ferriss is selling it’s very good, and there’s are some good tips and reminders in there, many of which you can apply to many aspects of your life and work.

For a different angle on this type of idea though, I would recommend Gary Veynerchuck’s “Crush It“, 37 Signal’sRework” or David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”.