The 4-Hour Workweek

The 4-Hour Workweek

What do you do? Tim Ferriss has trouble answering the question. Depending on when you ask this controversial Princeton University guest lecturer, he might answer: "I race motorcycles in Europe." "I ski in the Andes." "I scuba dive in Panama." "I dance tango in Buenos Aires." He has spent more than five years learning the secrets of the New Rich, a fast-growing subculture w...

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Title:The 4-Hour Workweek
Author:Timothy Ferriss
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Edition Language:English

The 4-Hour Workweek Reviews

  • Todd N

    Timothy Ferriss spoke at a management meeting last week where I work. A few of the managers came back pretty impressed, so I cadged a copy off of a manager and skimmed/read it one sitting Friday night.

    The effect of this book is like being trapped in a room with a manic-depressive during the manic part of his cycle. Imagine a cross between Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys and a late-night infomercial. Then add a dash of narcissistic personality disorder to get an idea of the tone of this book.

    This book is

    Timothy Ferriss spoke at a management meeting last week where I work. A few of the managers came back pretty impressed, so I cadged a copy off of a manager and skimmed/read it one sitting Friday night.

    The effect of this book is like being trapped in a room with a manic-depressive during the manic part of his cycle. Imagine a cross between Brad Pitt in 12 Monkeys and a late-night infomercial. Then add a dash of narcissistic personality disorder to get an idea of the tone of this book.

    This book is one in a series of books lately -- including Rich Dad, Poor Dad -- that damns the middle class for a lack of imagination as demonstrated by showing up for work every day and upholding the social contract, among other things. The middle class, far from being admired for being the people that the economy and that this country is built on, should be pitied as they pathetically roll down 101 in their Civics and Jettas to their white collar jobs. Why build a career when you could be selling can openers at a profit through the miracle of AdWords?

    Offered as an example of the breakthrough thinking in this book is the time the author won a kickboxing championship by reading the rules, finding loopholes, and then winning on a technicality. It's hard to imagine an attitude further from the Renaissance concept of

    than this.

    The part of the book that I greatly enjoyed concerned "time management" and gave valuable tips on how not to be such a fucking patsy at work. I put "time management" in quotes because he believes that time management is part of the problem. He offers great advice on handling email (check only twice a day) and handling it (send clear if-then emails). He also gives great advice on how to make yourself valuable and productive enough to negotiate a better work-life balance, assuming you have the talent and energy to pull it off. But in this day of telecommuting, this is really less radical than he makes it sound. He makes a good case for quitting any job that doesn't allow working from home on a regular basis.

    Another highlight of this book is a reprint of a hilarious article from Esquire about outsourcing personal chores to India. It's too bad that the rest of the book couldn't take on the same humorous and likable tone while making its sometimes valid points.

    I guess you could sum up this book like this: "There's no TEAM in I."

  • Emma

    At first I thought this was the bee's knees, toes, and ankles. But as I read further I began to realize that this guy "wins" by cheating, "delegates" by leaving everything in the hands of his $5/hour personal assistant in India, and sells books by promising to tell you how to get rich, and delivers a book on how to get everyone around you to be really annoyed with you for shirking any responsibility.

    He encourages you to lease expensive cars so you can feel like you are living the "life of your

    At first I thought this was the bee's knees, toes, and ankles. But as I read further I began to realize that this guy "wins" by cheating, "delegates" by leaving everything in the hands of his $5/hour personal assistant in India, and sells books by promising to tell you how to get rich, and delivers a book on how to get everyone around you to be really annoyed with you for shirking any responsibility.

    He encourages you to lease expensive cars so you can feel like you are living the "life of your dreams". And then he puts Walden in his list of resources. I'm confused. I guess he's saying that if you really want to drive a fancy car, then make that your priority, and then when you can afford to lease it, you'll be happy. I'm hoping that would then teach you that maybe a car is not the most important thing in your life and you might want to spend your $2500 a month on rent, food, health insurance and the like. So you don't have to live in Borneo in order to drive your new car.

    Reading this book made me realize that I already have a life that involves meaningful work, setting my own schedule, and choosing whatever projects I want to do. And oh yeah, passive income. No, I don't drive a Ferrari and vacation in Argentina because the exchange rate is awesome. But you know? I don't really want to.

    I agree with some of his instructions on automation, especially the importance of not having decision-making bottlenecks. However, if you care about the reputation of your company you might want to have *some* input on its day to day operations. I guess now we know why he is described as a "serial" entrepreneur on the book jacket.

    I give him points for being honest. If someone wanted his kind of lifestyle, this would be a fairly good roadmap. Except for one thing: his sales ability. Which he doesn't really teach in this book.

    He definitely has a different take on business and the point of life, and perhaps it is useful just in that sense. He is definitely marching to the beat of his own drummer. I just am not sure I want to march with him.

  • David Sasaki

    I don't know how else to put it. Timothy Ferris is a douche. There is, in fact, an entire genre of blog literature that explains why Timothy Ferriss is a douche. Even New York Times columnist Frank Bruni

    .

    Since I already heard Ferriss' insecure egocentricity on full display during

    , I came to this book expecting a self-obsessed hustler to peddle his "you-too-can-be-like-me" vision. But I still wanted to read the book. I wanted to understand why it became a b

    I don't know how else to put it. Timothy Ferris is a douche. There is, in fact, an entire genre of blog literature that explains why Timothy Ferriss is a douche. Even New York Times columnist Frank Bruni

    .

    Since I already heard Ferriss' insecure egocentricity on full display during

    , I came to this book expecting a self-obsessed hustler to peddle his "you-too-can-be-like-me" vision. But I still wanted to read the book. I wanted to understand why it became a bestseller and why Ferris, the arch-egocentic, has become so influential among ambitious American men of my generation. (If you haven't heard of Ferriss before, you probably don't spend much time reading tech and entrepreneurship blogs.)

    What I didn't expect was to come to feel a deep sympathy for Ferriss. Despite the fact that he's a jerk, he isn't a terrible writer and the biographic sections of the book are rich fodder for psychoanalysis. Like Ferris, I also grew up with an instinctive, acute resentment of authority and hierarchical structures. It is still the most defining characteristic of my personality, but I have learned to control the resentment and anger as I have matured. Like Ferriss, I too was also extremely motivated and reasonably precocious. This combination of wanting to accomplish so much while spending most of my energy rebelling against the institutions around me led to constant anxiety and insecurity. "Does not fulfill potential" was scribbled across all of my report cards, which led me to rebel against my teachers and parents even more, all the while internalizing the basic notion that I was letting people down.

    Like Ferriss, I knew that I didn't want to define my life by others' expectations. I wanted to find my own path and define my own expectations. Part of that — like Ferriss — was to travel the world.

    That is where our paths began to diverge. Ferriss embraced a deep individualism that prioritizes self-improvement as the definition of success. Among his conclusions: Don't search for meaningful work; find a way to make as much money in as little time as possible, and spend the rest of your time having fun. There is no meaning in life; what we really want is excitement, not 'meaning.' Don't let others interrupt your path toward personal perfection; if they start blabbering, cut them off and return to focusing on yourself.

    Ferriss is obsessed with his own image. He constantly reminds the reader that he is a world champion of kickboxing, the winner of a tango championship in Argentina, a polyglot, a motorcycle racer, a chef, and a weight-lifter. But he is driven only by extrinsic motivation. He does not appreciate the "

    " of his pastimes; that is, in the words of Richard Sennett, "the desire to do a job well for its own sake." For Ferriss, it's all about winning a trophy, bragging to his friends, or checking something off his to-do list.

    The collective, the individual, and the twilight of the elites

    Why has Ferriss' vision of "the good life" proved so appealing among my generation? Why has the

    become such a

    ?

    I am easily persuaded by Christopher Hayes'

    that the rise of American meritocracy over the past fifty years has led to extreme, individualistic competition among ambitious elites at the expense of our concern for collective well being. In order to be successful in America today you have to focus on yourself. The idea of placing one's community (or one's work team) ahead of one's self is passé.

    David Brooks has written a lot about the individual versus collective world views. From China, he penned a

    noting that Asian economies are challenging the assumption that a culture of individualism creates incentives for greater economic growth. Then, following President Obama's second inaugural address (which he calls "among the best of the past half-century"), Brooks

    . It is the cultural debate that underlies almost all other contemporary political debates.

    Like Ferriss, I too am deeply individualistic. The day after I graduated from high school I packed up all my belongings and drove to Alaska to spend six months by myself. I

    needed to disconnect from all institutions, responsibilities, and expectations. But unlike Ferriss, during my 20s I came to a deep appreciation of the satisfaction that can come from participating in a community that isn't defined by hierarchical structures or individual achievements. I am, of course, speaking of

    with

    , which finally gave me a productive channel to focus my energy toward the goals of a greater community.

    There is satisfaction that comes from individual accomplishments. But, in my experience, nothing is as satisfying as building something together as a team. I fear we are losing the "

    ." If there has one thing my generation has learned, it is self-promotion — and no one can out-self-promote Timothy Ferriss. I hope that one day he can take a break from perfecting his self in order to experience the pleasure of cultivating community.

  • Craig

    Instead of focusing on this book's lame contents (it was really bad) I decided to share my review of how it was otherwise used in the hopes that it might inspire others.

    First of all, I found the book's paper a little rough in texture. This precluded it from being used in the outhouse or camping, if you know what I mean. The raspy paper DID, however, have just the right stuff to be 'ripped and rolled' into some really effective starter wicks in the old fireplace. Went up like a charm and led to a

    Instead of focusing on this book's lame contents (it was really bad) I decided to share my review of how it was otherwise used in the hopes that it might inspire others.

    First of all, I found the book's paper a little rough in texture. This precluded it from being used in the outhouse or camping, if you know what I mean. The raspy paper DID, however, have just the right stuff to be 'ripped and rolled' into some really effective starter wicks in the old fireplace. Went up like a charm and led to a toasty warm fire in no time. Very little smoke produced and it left a good, clean ash.

    The pages and binding that remained sat limply and dejected by the hearth for much of the evening before inspiration struck once again. I tore the front cover off (I am reluctant to burn colored ink in my fireplace -- call me old-fashioned) and ripped it into some smaller pieces to fold and wedge into a drafty window to help keep it closed. I made sure to have the outer cover facing outward to better repel any moisture that might attack the paper from the window seam. Again -- like it was MADE for the task!

    Finally, and I'm not proud of it -- I like to minimize my footprint on Mother Earth -- I had to let the binding go. No good for burning and I doubt even a hungry squirrel would find it appealing. It was dropped in the trash by the light of the crackling fire on that dark snowy night.

    I sat by the roaring fire, light sleet pellets tickling the window with a silent powdery snow, pondering the fate of the environment. With so many copies of this book very likely suffering some form of destruction around the globe what's a species to do?

  • Jonathan El-Bizri

    EDIT: I've left my original opinion below. However, as time has passed, I don't really think I can recommend this book as anything but entertainment. Anything useful has been written elsewhere, better, and by people who aren't lying to you.

    -----

    I hesitantly recomend this book. The reasons why are towards the end of the review.

    The douchebaggery and straight up disengenuity espoused almost drips off the pages: quite remarkable even in the self-help, think-outside-the-box, start-your-own-business g

    EDIT: I've left my original opinion below. However, as time has passed, I don't really think I can recommend this book as anything but entertainment. Anything useful has been written elsewhere, better, and by people who aren't lying to you.

    -----

    I hesitantly recomend this book. The reasons why are towards the end of the review.

    The douchebaggery and straight up disengenuity espoused almost drips off the pages: quite remarkable even in the self-help, think-outside-the-box, start-your-own-business genre. Much of what Ferris recommends just plain doesn't work (I'm talking from experience). Other things are slightly ridiculous: an entire chapter is spent discussing how one can get people to stop bugging you at your cubicle by lying to their faces about how busy you are, or using other, more passive-aggressive methods to avoid them.

    Yet more suggestions are even more unethical and unsound: how to get your boss to sign you up to work at home, so you can go off and get your job 'done' in an hour a day and then get on with pursuing your just rewards. Apparently, as long as no one realizes what useless timewaster you >used< to be, Ferris thinks it is perfectly acceptable to use this new found time to your own ends, as long as no one catches on.

    According to Ferris, we should all use methods to arbitrage the actual productivity of others - such as email friends and colleagues for information rather than finding it ourselves, despite the fact he also espouses avoiding all such requests from others, getting them to 'channel' their communications into forms that you can either ignore or answer as quickly as possible, preferably through an executive assistant. As far as that secret 'get rich quick, live on the beach' lifestyle he promises? It involves the same arbitrage, only commercially. In other words, we should all start websites that dropship stuff and by google adwords and we'll all be rich. Life doesn't work like that: someone has to make shit, and the web is already saturated with stores.

    Why do I recomend this book anyway? Well, despite the shitloads of pie in the sky bad advice, and the loads of leeching & douchebaggery that Ferris seems to think he is the original source for, there is a lot to be learned in regards to automating and simplifying one's life, and practicing and developing an enterpreneurial outlook to improving one's situation.

    So, read between the lines, recognize the Ferris is an untrustworthy weasel frat boy out to promote himself and sell books. But, take note that while the lifestyle he espouses in his book just doesn't add up, his overall philosophy has served him well, and there is definitely utility in the tactics that serve this get-someone-else-to-do-it-for-you life strategy.

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