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4-Hour Work Week – Lifestyle Review

Posted by on Mar 26, 2011

I know what you’re thinking; two things in fact. One, didn’t you just see this picture a couple of days ago? Yes, you did. And two, if this is a post talking about a book then why not call it a book review instead of a life review? Hey, it’s me, so I have to do something a little bit different. After all, my buddy Marelisa just wrote on it as well, giving it a much different take than just a book review as well.

You know, one of the things about speed reading is that, when you’re doing it kind of for pleasure, you tend to stick with stuff that you’re specifically looking for and thus you’re normally happy with what you’re reading. If one is speed reading something they don’t like it won’t stick, and thus it becomes harder to speed read. I actually read half of 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss at Barnes & Noble many months ago and was really enthusiastic in what I’d read. The concept of finding ways to reduce one’s workload and stress load were very appealing to me. And I understood some of the concepts that could get me there. It was enough to get me to buy the book and read it more thoroughly.

Part of me is now wishing I hadn’t done that. The early concepts I got from the book are still valid, and yet I found myself not enjoying some other parts of the book as much, to the extent that at a certain point I started speed reading some of it again because I just wanted to get past extraneous stuff that I knew I didn’t care about.

First, let’s talk about what I liked in the book. I liked his concept of finding ways to free one’s time so they can do more of what they want to do, which in Ferriss’ case is travel. He set up many ways to get this done, from outsourcing some of the things he didn’t want to do to giving people working for him more power to make decisions for himself. What a life for someone with many interests.

I liked his talk about moving towards minimalism in many ways, including how he travels with luggage at less than 10 pounds; man, that would be sweet. I also enjoyed some of the “case studies” which he was able to include in this particular book because it’s updated and expanded with stories that weren’t available at the first printing, since obviously people hadn’t read his book yet.

And I liked him talking about not being available to everyone 24/7 and having some down time when you really need it. In relating some of this to my life, I rarely give out my cell number because I don’t want everyone being able to always reach me. If my phone rings in the car, I know it’s one of only 5 or 6 people. If I’m out of town, I might give it to a client I’m working with at the time, but I also know that once the assignment is over that’s one less person who’ll ever use that number again.

Now let’s talk about what I didn’t like about the book. I didn’t like that it concentrated so much on travel. Probably 20% of the book covers that topic, and that’s not the book I wanted to read. I thought that some of what I read was irresponsible. For instance, at one point he talks about how one of his plants ended up being closed while he was gone, yet he had fun doing this or that by being unable to be contacted. In other words, his fun was more important than all the jobs that were lost because he decided not to concentrate on an aspect of his business; that’s shameful and affected the lives of a lot of other people.


Tim Ferriss

I wasn’t crazy about the way he and some of his case study people outsourced certain things such that someone else took care of aspects of their personal lives and pulled them away from personal contact. For instance, he tells the story of giving an assignment to college students to reach 3 celebrities and get them to answer 3 questions within 24 hours. However, as a celebrity himself, he’d have never been available to be reached for any student that decided to reach out to him. Being in business and telling people to only check their email once a week for about an hour or their phones for the same amount of time kind of irks me. True, both can kill time, but if you’re in business you might just have to suck up some of that. Then again, he does have other people handling most of this stuff for him; how many of us could do that sort of thing as readily?

There’s also the advocating outsourcing everything at the cheapest price possible, which leads to him and others sending a lot of their business out of the country and really being kind of smug about it. Yeah, I’ll admit that one of the things that irks me a little bit is not using workers in one’s own country if the only difference in quality is price. That might be a minor sticking point, but it’s one I have so I thought I’d mention it.

To be fair on that last point, though, the concept of finding things one can outsource to someone else isn’t a bad one, even if it costs you a little bit of money. Something I absolutely hate is making cold calls of any form; I find reasons not to do it, preferring email or only wanting to talk to people from whom I know there’s already some kind of interest in what I have to talk to them about. Right now I’m contemplating hiring someone to handle a few hours of phone calls for me in one of my industries so I can work on something else. I already have an accountant that handles my bookkeeping and such, and I have a guy who cuts my grass, and let me just get one big contract and I’ll be outsourcing some other things that I not only don’t have time to do, but don’t want to do.

Where do I come down in the end? I think it’s a book many people still need to read because it does get one thinking about ways to make their lives simpler, even to possibly learn how to work it out with your employer so you can not only work from home, but potentially work while being mobile with the feeling that you’re actually sitting at home. True, I have some things I didn’t like, but overall this is a book that, if you’re looking to change your life in some fashion, you need to break down and read.

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30 Comments »

Marelisa:

Hi Mitch: Like you, there were some things about the book that I really liked, and other things that I disagreed with. That’s one of the many benefits of speed reading: you can zoom in on the parts of a book that you like, and quickly skim over the rest. πŸ™‚

March 26th, 2011 | 12:12 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Seems we’re in agreement on some things Marelisa. I’m glad I did go back to check out a few other things in the book, as it seems we have to be ready to take the good stuff with the bad stuff.

March 26th, 2011 | 4:36 PM
Christian:

I’m right there with you. Much of it I loved, but it’s been so long that I’m beginning to forget what I didn’t quite like. Speed reading is certainly the best. A good way to learn much from a world of text!

March 27th, 2011 | 7:39 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Thanks Christian. I do notice that when I speed read I do tend to find the best in things first unless it starts out bad, in which case I just quit. I got a lot out of this book, good and bad.

March 27th, 2011 | 11:22 AM
Carl:

It is possible, but it is not recommended. One of my long term business partners outsource 100% of the work and is never in control. On the other side, not that he is not in control, but also he is not learning anything new related to the business matter and work. I have said this before, if it is possible, I would keep everything in house, no matter about the business niche, I have being in both end manufacturing and services. Results are always good if you control everything and seeing and communicating with people everyday. As well I don’t want to work 4 hours a day, I prefer 14 hours working day.

March 26th, 2011 | 9:32 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Carl, are you saying you’d actually love working 14 hours a day for the rest of your life? Heck, not me! If I could reduce myself to 4 hours a week legitimately I’d love it, although to tell you the truth, I’d probably be working on something else instead. However, I define “work” as something you have to do to make a living, and everything else is your personal time, whether you’re filling it with business stuff that could make you money or play stuff. I do agree that I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting too many things into the hands of others that affect me, especially personally.

March 26th, 2011 | 9:47 PM
Carl:

I am really enjoying it, my work is my hobby, but there are many things involved. 14 hours a day include a lot of activities, wake up early, coffee during checking emails, meeting and communicating with customers, business meetings, photography and videography, social networking. Generally I feel the buzz from doing what I like and achieving success at my age. I am not sure that I have share this with you, but one of my ex-bosses, I was pretty young during this time and I used to wear beard always to look a bit older, I was afraid that people will not gonna take me seriously. So he told me, you’d better shave and show your knowledge, it is even better to show that you are successful at this age. I really enjoy what I do.

March 27th, 2011 | 8:20 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Glad that works for you, Carl. Let me know if you still like that much activity daily when you hit 40, let alone 50. I’m thinking your mindset will change dramatically; take that from someone who was a workaholic that never took a vacation until age 37 (my honeymoon) and has problems sleeping more than 4 hours at a time. πŸ™‚

March 27th, 2011 | 11:24 AM

A four-hour work week would be cool, Mitch, but I don’t think that would also be right. I mean I could probably go for a 4-hour work day but not a week. πŸ™‚ Now, that does not mean that I don’t spend time with my wife, my kids, my family and friends because I make it a point that they are as much a part of my life as they are in mine. I think no matter how many work hours you do every week, what matters really is keeping things in perspective. Knowing what to prioritise in specific periods of time. When kids need you for school and you would have to skip work to be able to do that, so be it. You don’t have to take 4-hour work weeks to be able to do the things you’d love to do. Just make the time. πŸ˜‰

March 27th, 2011 | 5:34 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Wes, this is a guy who does extreme things; I don’t know if you’ve heard about his new book 4-Hour Body. For me, I’ll admit that I’d love to work as little as possible and maximize my income; who wouldn’t want that? But I also recognize I’m not trusting enough to allow people to do too many other things for me. I’m thinking this might turn into another post at some point. πŸ˜‰

March 27th, 2011 | 11:21 AM
Carolee a.ka. Blogging Biz Mom:

I liked the idea of just traveling and having others do everything, but I find it a bit unrealistic.

At least with what I do, I need to check my email more than once a week! In fact I’ve been checking email/reading blogs for an hour or so and will probably do more after Church….

And I’m not comfortable giving my banking information to others- especially in another country!

I’m working for that RV and full-time travel, but I’m doing all the work myself- at least for now.

March 27th, 2011 | 8:46 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

Carolee, you have family and such, yet at a certain point you also have your free time, or rather, you can alter your time to do other things fairly easily. If you can generate enough income, I’m sure there are plenty of tasks you’d love to pay someone else to do, which would free your time to do whatever you wanted to do, even if it was just more email and the like. I know I could.

March 27th, 2011 | 11:27 AM

I’m a big 4HW fan, as you know. πŸ™‚

Honestly, I think most people don’t get it or haven’t really read it thoroughly. It’s not really about travel or hanging out on the beach or some other particular activity. It’s about LIVING. I dare say that Ferris probably works harder (and longer) than most people. But he’s developed techniques that allow the “lifestyle design” of his dreams. If yours is to sit in a cube working for the man β€” and I mean that seriously β€” then the techniques can make it the optimal experience on your own terms.

Personally, I don’t really like travel. I know that’s odd, but I love being home and doing things locally. The book still applies to my life and is very beneficial.

I’d say the vast majority of people I know do not really want to own a business. They prefer the “security” and/or lack of responsibility of working for someone else and having a position and salary provided. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just a preference, but there are ways to keep those things you like about having a job while eliminating many of the things you do not like. His book addresses that issue.

Being location independent isn’t just about seeing sights, but about economic advantage β€” among other things. Outsourcing isn’t just about offloading work, but making work more efficient: taking advantage of others’ expertise, using the mutual benefits of geoarbitrage, etc.

One of Ferris’s fortes is taking our general assumptions and obliterating them. Making us think about what we are doing rather than just following along the common path is priceless.

I wrote too much more, but it should probably be an entire blog post. I’ll spare you! πŸ˜€

April 4th, 2011 | 11:48 AM

Well, my edit whacked the bold tag. Sorry. Maybe you can repair that for me? :/

April 4th, 2011 | 11:50 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

What a great comment, Alison. Actually, it seemed like he talked a lot about travel and all his adventures, and started giving travel tips like how to pack and how to book trips. I’m thinking that really wasn’t needed, but I know he was trying to help. As I said, I think people should read the book and look for the good things in it, but I don’t want anyone getting confused or bogged down in some of the minutiae and other things that, well, I wouldn’t ever think about doing, time saving or not. And I’m really not much of a fan of outsourcing for the only reason of saving money, but that’s just me.

April 4th, 2011 | 5:01 PM

Actually I thought the fact that he didn’t mind his plant closing down while he was away having a good time very poor business practice as well as not very moral . Seems to me that some of the things he’s talking about in regards to saving time, it’s not available to the average person. I mean how many people can afford to outsource their jobs these days. I know I can’t which is why I’ve been working my butt off fixing the skylight on my home the last couple of days.

April 6th, 2011 | 1:31 AM
Mitch Mitchell:

That’s what I thought, Sire. I mean, sure he was doing well, but a lot of people lost their jobs while he was gone, and he justifies it by talking about how much fun he had. Just didn’t seem right.

April 6th, 2011 | 9:03 AM

I think that this is one of the best books I have ever read. It showed me that owning a business doesn’t have to be constantly overbearing. You make some good points about why you don’t like the book. I am interested in travel, so the travel talk didn’t bother me so much.

The only thing I didn’t like about the book is that he made everything sound so easy. He did a lot of hard work getting to the point where he is at, but he didn’t mention that getting to that point is tough.

April 6th, 2011 | 7:34 PM
Mitch Mitchell:

Keith, that was really one of the big sticking points. This wasn’t a guy who went into it doing nothing and having nothing. He had a lot and got overwhelmed and decided to unplug. A lot of the book offers another way for the rest of us, but at the same time. there’s tons that won’t apply to any of us, that we certainly can’t do now. Of course, if I’d hit that $350 million last week… lol

April 6th, 2011 | 8:11 PM
Christian Price:

This books are awesome I love it’s content, I enjoy doing my job now and I’ll make it as my lifestyle. I love this books I love reading it.

October 4th, 2011 | 7:39 PM

The Four Hour Work Week resonated with millions of people, because they’re sick of the lack of control in their lives! I really enjoyed it and I’m doing my best to apply the principles here as much as possible! Tim focuses a lot on his love of travel, but the aim is the create the time to do the things that you really want!
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April 19th, 2013 | 9:58 AM

It is Anthony, but it’s also problematic. This guy loved his life so much that he could care less that a lot of people he was responsible for lost their jobs because he was unavailable. Frankly that’s the main thing that irks me to no end.

April 20th, 2013 | 6:39 PM

I see things differently. I don’t think ANYONE is responsible for my job, except me. I don’t think anyone OWES me a job β€” or the continuation of a job or a “living wage” or insurance or paid leave or anything else.

It’s an arm’s length transaction. Period.

You offer me a job, I consider the terms, if I like them I take the job, if I don’t like them I refuse. As long as you offer it and I accept the terms, I stay. If you withdraw the offer or change it to terms I don’t like, I leave.
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April 28th, 2013 | 11:13 AM

I guess it’s the leadership consultant in me that sees it somewhat differently than you do Alison. The way my mind saw this, homeboy left to go on a 30-day excursion and when he got back a factory closed and over 300 jobs were lost, including those of the people he’d left in charge, because he, the leader and owner, wasn’t around to make a decision that only he could. It’s easy to say he didn’t owe those people anything but the way I see it he certainly did, even if it was only to the stockholders and the people who invested in his business. I’m doubting any of the people working there, other than top leadership, even knew he was doing these things until the book came out.

Leaders bear a responsibility for those who work for them; I will always believe that.

April 28th, 2013 | 12:52 PM

OK, then, what IS the responsibility of a business owner. Specifically.

I believe we owe honesty and clarity, for example, but not a lifelong position or any of the other things I mentioned specifically.

IMO, our culture has become one of entitlement and it’s bizarre. Business owners are just people and the expectations for them should be in line with that of others.

If an owner has an obligation to keep a job available for some specific period of time, for example, shouldn’t the employees be obligated to stay in those jobs for the same period?
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April 28th, 2013 | 2:49 PM

Business owners are under no obligation to anyone except themselves and their shareholders if they have them. True leaders are under an obligation to the people helping them make money. Since Ferris could care less whether his business folded or not it makes me care less about him as a man or a business owner but he’s well within his right. It’s behavior like this that leads to a culture where there is no loyalty anymore, a major reason why I work for myself.

I guess it just comes down to whether one decides to care about others or not. If it’s only about making money and being narcissistic, that’s fine. But if one expects that everyone is going to applaud them for the way they step on others to do so, then they’re kidding themselves. His book was somewhat inspiring because it shows what one can do by finding other ways of doing business, but it was shameful in glorifying that he was derelict in his own company and the lives of the people who came in every day and did their job helping him make millions so he could go gallivanting around the world. There’s no way I will respect anyone who does that.

April 28th, 2013 | 4:56 PM

Mitch, I agree that it’s critical that we care about others. It’s the difference between a civil society and a primitive one. But what does that MEAN?

A business actually can be all about profit without being narcissistic. As I said, the difference is, at least in part, about honesty and ethics. If my employees know where I stand and know the focus of the business β€” and they live in a FREE society where they can choose where they are employed β€” there is nothing unethical, uncaring, or even narcissistic about taking risks and focusing on money.

I’m not asking you to applaud anyone for anything β€” and I’m not defending any particulars of Ferris (I don’t think he’s necessarily a moral person from my worldview). I’m asking you to look critically at sweeping statements about employers to see if they are reasonable.

So, again, I ask you, what are the specific obligations that you think “leaders” have to those who “help them make money”?
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April 28th, 2013 | 5:06 PM

The short answer is “every” but that’s not quite accurate. So I’ll set it up in a much different way.

First, I have 3 main morality points that I believe are important for every leader – loyalty, trustworthiness and honesty. It doesn’t mean that leaders don’t make tough decisions, and it doesn’t mean leaders have to tell everything they know. But to totally discount people who work for them without considering these 3 moral points is reprehensible and shows a lack of ethical standards; in my mind, it will always come back at you eventually.

Second, fairness. I don’t say equality because everyone isn’t equal; not even close. And yet, in every relatively large business, and I’ll start at the “50” number only because it’s convenient, without every single person doing what they’re supposed to do the business has flaws. So, you hire people based on the strengths they bring to a particular job, you make sure their trained, then you give them the chance to prove themselves. What I hate are people who perceive themselves as leaders and feel or act like everyone else is beneath them; I see that often and it’s irksome. My background is in health care and as important as doctors and nurses are, housekeeping, maintenance and the people who work in the cafeteria are just as important, as any flaw in those areas can shut a hospital down as quickly as a doctor removing the wrong leg.

Third, motivation. True leaders understand the importance of motivating others, and it can manifest itself in multiple ways. Every study done in the last 30 years or so proves that not only is making money not the biggest motivator for employees, it’s not even in the top 5. People who work in factories have dreadfully boring jobs. Get too bored and mistakes can and will happen. Finding ways to keep them motivate and alert that aren’t threatening not only benefits them, it benefits the company. And of course motivation needs to be promoted throughout the organization. True, one hopes people are motivated on their own to do these things but answer this question; if it’s your business or you’re the director of the department, and you know your success depends on all these other people, are you comfortable risking your own career and livelihood by not giving them what they need… within reason of course?

That’s only a start. My other blog has almost 8 years of articles on leadership, and I have a book and another book on the way on the subject. It’s something I think about all the time, even when I’m writing this blog & my other blogs. Sure, businesses might succeed without doing any of the things I’ve mentioned, but they’ll have a much better opportunity to sustain themselves and grow if they follow them. I think we can point to many of the mega-success stories of our time to see that how they treat people is tied in directly to how well they perform.

By the way, interesting discussion here; doesn’t happen all that often, which now means I have to check out your blog. πŸ™‚

April 28th, 2013 | 5:26 PM

On your first point, I agree. Loyalty, trustworthiness, and honesty are all critical. Those three character traits don’t require any particular longevity of job position, however, which is my point. A person can be loyal, trustworthy, and honest and still leave a business for others to run and shut it down when it makes sense. Again, I’m not saying Ferris necessarily did that, but shutting a business and ending jobs for others doesn’t mean the owner has been unethical.

On your second point, I agree about inequality. I’m not sure fairness is the word I’d use, but let’s go with that. I agree completely that people, when hired, should be trained and given a chance to meet company expectations, as long as that is what was agreed to. πŸ™‚

I think it’s perfectly reasonable for a boss to say, “Hey, I’ll try this out for a month and if I don’t feel comfortable and I don’t think it’s a good fit, I’ll let you go.”

I saw that exact situation a few weeks ago in a business I’m familiar with (not mine). The employee knew it was a trial period and knew that the criteria was completely subjective and at the whim of the team leader. And he chose to step in under those conditions.

In the end, his position was not made permanent. He hoped otherwise, but he accepted the conditions as given. I want people to have three freedom to make such choices rather than be confined to some much more limiting notion of “fairness.”

I guess we’ll have to disagree about all positions being equally important. One of my sons spent the entire month of April 2012 in the pediatric ICU. Sure, it was a perk to have good meals but the surgeon was THE most important reason my son is alive today and the nurses were the second most critical in his recovery. Sure housekeeping could have allowed a staph infection and the cooks could have given us food poisoning, but those are secondary issues and not central to his situation.

Your last point is interesting. I hate to use a term like “true leader,” as there are all kinds of leaders and neither of us owns the term. Not all of them focus on motivation or even think about it. More to the point, however, I don’t think it’s accurate.

There is a lot of recent research (Founder’s Dilemma, for example) that shows business owners (which you may or may not lump in your personal definition of “leaders,” but they are the leaders in this discussion about employer/employee relationships) have two primary foci: control and wealth.

Anyway, too much to go into and I’ve got to back out of the conversation now, but thanks for an interesting discussion. πŸ™‚
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April 28th, 2013 | 5:51 PM

Alison it’s been fun, but I have to close with this one thing just to make sure we’re understanding the same thing. Ferriss didn’t close that particular plant. There was a decision that had to be made and he wasn’t around to make it, and no one could reach him so it had to close. If it was performing badly & he shut it down that’s one thing. If he decided he didn’t want to deal with it anymore & shut it down, okay fine. But knowing he was responsible for it and not setting things up so someone who was in charge could make a critical decision in his absence… bad business decision and bad leadership. Anyway, enjoy the rest of your weekend.

April 28th, 2013 | 5:59 PM