The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss: The bottom line
We all want to work less and have a better work/life balance, right? The problem is, how do we do that? Now, what if The 4-Hour Workweek model developed by Tim Ferriss made you a new rich? What if it helped change your life for good?
In this book, Tim Ferriss uses his business life as a case study. He explains what works and what doesn’t. He provides plenty of actionable tools to make your business work for you.
In short, the 4-Hour Workweek is a reference book out there and you should know about it. Especially if your goal is to escape the 9-5 model. Read my book review to find out more!
Book Review: The 4-Hour Workweek – Timothy Ferriss.
‘The 4-Hour Workweek – Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich’ by Tim Ferriss is a reference book when it comes to self-development and business books. The book explores the idea (shared by many) that we should not live to work, but that our work life ought to be an accessory to live the life we want to live. Here is my book review!
The first time I read it’s 400 pages (hardcover version) I was traveling from London to Paris. I know, lucky me… And I ended up feeling frustrated because I didn’t have anything to write on and take notes on the hundreds of ideas I picked from the book!
At the time my reading methods were not as sharp as they are now and reading that book took me days. But it felt smart, so obvious, so relevant and so inspiring that I read it again with, that time, a pen and a notebook!
So here we go! (Keep reading)
As usual, here is what you get on this page:
- A brief overview of the book (that includes my SMART takes).
- A much more comprehensive commentary of what the book is about, with the author's main topics explained in detail.
- The book's main themes, questions and conclusions in bullet points.
- Why the book was worth my time, why it will be valuable to you, and additional reading suggestions if you are interested in the topic!
Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek: a brief book review (for starters).
Timothy Ferriss (Tim Ferriss) is an American entrepreneur, a business angel and investor. He originally set up a nutritional supplements online business and sold it to a private equity firm in 2010. He is also a bestseller author – the 4-Hour book has become a series of books based on the “4-Hour” model. Ferris furthermore runs a show (The Tim Ferriss Show) and is known for the success of his podcasts. As a result, Tim Ferriss is clearly recognized as a thought leader in the business world. He is praised for the relevance of his ideas, books and tips by the many who have tried to change the way they live.
The 4-Hour Workweek explores the idea (shared by many) that work ought to allow us to live the life we want to live. Ferriss writes about his experience as an entrepreneur. He writes about his successful shift from 80 to 4 hours of work per week – which will appeal to all those who consider quitting their job to run their own business. He explains how he still made his business more profitable. All this, of course, comes with tons of tips on how to live like “the New Rich” and change life.
The style is very accessible because The 4-Hour Workweek targets a large public. Ferriss tells his own story and backs it up with examples borrowed from the community he built around his book. Hence, while the book is fairly long, it remains easy to read, very practical and inspiring.
Now, I’m getting into the details with a much more comprehensive book review below (keep reading!), but to finish the brief overview here is what the book is about:
Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek: the comprehensive book review.
Tim Ferriss’ book discusses one major topic: how to become a “New Rich” and live a different life based on the 4-hour workweek model. He however approaches this lifestyle ideal through four main themes or break-downs.
The first theme focuses on defining the rules of the new game. The second theme claims that elimination is essential to a new lifestyle. What matters is to drop those occupations that make you waste your efforts and time. In a logical way, the third theme flows from the latter. Automation is one solution to putting cash flows on autopilot-to use his own terms. The fourth theme is “liberation” or the ability to enjoy the time and money we make through what Ferriss calls “mini-retirements”. All of this, of course, while escaping the traditional “boss model”. Let’s look into this more precisely.
The 4-Hour Workweek in bullet points
Tim Ferriss explores these major themes:
- The classical 9-5 work model
- Its alternative: the 4-Hour Workweek
- The issue of satisfying work-life balance
He also asks a series of questions throughout the book, including:
- Do you need to be a millionaire to live a life you want?
- What is the difference between absolute and relative income?
- Why do we spend so much time working instead of living the lives we want to live?
- Is it possible to change the model to significantly improve our lifestyle?
- What are the main obstacle to change and how to overcome them?
- Who do we want to be and what are our main goals in life?
- Should we work now to live later or is it worth considering the idea of living now by working differently?
- What can we change in our daily routine to make our life much easier?
- How can employees reach significant results too?
Now, shall we dig into the book’s themes a little deeper? Keep reading!
The 4-Hour Workweek – Theme #1: Becoming a New Rich.
Tim Ferriss first focuses on explaining what our life should be about: becoming the “New Rich”.
The term “New Rich” is usually used in a critical and pejorative way. In The 4-Hour Workweek, however, it incarnates the idea that we should all escape the 9-5 system. In short? The “New Rich” describes the few who dare going for a new lifestyle.
A massive difference.
The typical working person is a “deferrer”. Understand, someone who works hard to try and make the most of their lives, later. They work hard now with the aim of retiring young, if they reach their goals. They think about becoming the boss and have more, and they work hard for that, without enjoying.
The “New Rich”, in contrast, are those who try and do with as many options as possible. For instance, they organize their life and efforts NOW to reach the greatest results as soon as possible, with the smallest involvement. They aim for cumulated breaks and “mini-retirements” throughout their lives, they want to enjoy NOW and do NOW what others might do later. But there’s more, of course. They do not aim to be the boss but the owner, they opt for more quality but are not interested in just having more… You see the idea.
In other words? The difference between “deferrers” and the “New Rich” is that while the former aim for success, the latter aims for freedom. The “New Rich” choose when, where and how to live their life. In sum? Becoming a New Rich is about having more options, especially the option to start living now.
Are you able to choose?
To Ferriss, “the ability to choose is thus the real power” and becoming a “New Rich” requires understanding several things.
First, you need to change the rules of the game, challenge your own status quo and stop being stupid with your life. The normal retirement model is the worst scenario. One, your energy and interests work in cycles. So, chances are that you will never do in twenty years what you have in mind now. Two, the time to do things is never right. This means that you should live NOW. Ask for forgiveness later instead of asking for permission.
The 4-Hour Workweek also insists on the idea that money should not be the issue or the excuse for doing nothing. What matters in becoming a “New Rich” is not to accumulate money. What matters is to focus on your relative income, i.e. the money you make in comparison to the time you spend making it.
The fear of change.
Second, it is necessary to escape the paralysis created by pessimism. In short, most people do nothing (and don’t even try doing things) because they fear change. Hence, we should start with a series of questions! For instance, what is the worst-case scenario? What could be the benefits? What B plan do we have if we lose our job anyway? Or, what is the actual cost of postponing our lives?
What is it that you want most? Answer that question!
Third, we all need a reset. We must go for the unrealistic, aim for “unusually large” goals because, in Ferriss’ words, “if the potential payoff is mediocre or average, so is your effort”. This leads to another important set of questions. What do we want? Are we excited by something in particular? What is our dream, and what would we do (something crazy) if we couldn’t fail? Not to forget… what do we want to have, who do we want to be?
Ferriss does not merely ask questions, though. He provides guidelines to help the reader calculate financial targets capable of contributing to reaching our own goals.
The 4-Hour Workweek – Theme #2: Eliminating pointless tasks.
The second theme in The 4-Hour Workweek relates the importance of eliminating time-consuming tasks and efforts. That’s elimination.
Here, the idea is that time management as we know it is a deadlock. In short, we should not try to do more. Instead, we should redefine what we mean by “productivity”. We should do what we ultimately want to do with our time and liberate ourselves from our work routines. Simple!
Being effective, therefore, is a matter of reaching our goals in the most efficient and economical manner. Here, Ferriss refers to the well-known Pareto rule according to which 20% of our efforts ought to produce 80% of our results. He for instance explains how he reviewed his suppliers and retailers policy to focus on the 20% of partners generating 80% of his income. In doing so, however, he mainly pushes the reader to ask (and solve) an important question: what is the” unproductive majority” of our daily tasks and what can we do about it?
Ferriss insists again on the quality of life enjoyed by the “New Rich”. By aiming for what really matters, he says, we can stop the 9-5 cycle in which we all operate.
So? Well, you do not need to work eight hours a day to become a “New Rich”. You need, however, to review your methods and focus on what pays enough to allow your dream lifestyle.
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One aspect of this approach is the myth of multitasking and the importance of stopping it.
To do so, prioritization is a good tool. Instead of doing everything and nothing, let’s be picky! Instead of drowning under excessive information, let’s filter! Let’s stop wasting our time! Here, Ferriss gives numerous tips and practical examples of how he achieved far more by reviewing his own email, phone, meeting policies and so on… If you are interested, get the book!
The 4-Hour Workweek – Theme #3: Automating and outsourcing.
The 4-Hour Workweek provides plenty of examples of how employees and bosses alike have managed to create systems to replace themselves. It is possible, indeed, to delegate the most unproductive part of our work whilst, at the end of the day, putting our income on “autopilot”.
The book is full of tips and ideas, it is about doing, not just about talking.
Again, he gives numerous tips on how to proceed, on how to find niche markets and choose your target customers. For instance, should you go for higher or lower pricing? He also provides a mine of examples when it comes to testing your niche and market while sticking to an ideal of “Management By Absence”.
The 4-Hour Workweek – Theme #4: Liberation.
Here, Ferriss discusses in more details the ways to escape the office through efficient remote work while increasing your value as either an employee or as a service provider.
Ferriss also deals with the idea of “mini-retirements” that he describes as opportunities to explore the world throughout our lives, without waiting for retirement in decades from now.
Overall, Ferriss associates the very idea of working less with the notion of “liberation”, which he describes as a necessity to learn how to slow down and manage work from far away while enjoying a life that most people spend working without reason.
The main insights
Tim Ferriss comes to the following conclusions.
- You do not need to be a millionaire to live a life you want and there is no point waiting for retirement either. What matters is your relative income, i.e. the amount you generate taking into account the limited amount of time you spent working.
- Most people fear change and will never consider the possibility of living the lives they want to live.
- It is nonetheless possible to change our model to significantly improve our lifestyle.
- We should all aim for the Pareto optimum: 20% of our efforts should generate 80% of our income.
- There are many simple solutions to make our lives easier and in line with our goals.
- We should all aim for mini-retirements throughout our lives instead of working hard no to retire and live later.
- Employees can reach significant results by improving their routine, training their boss to value efficiency and performance more than work hours, and saving time for other occupations.
Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek: Food for Thought.
As always, let’s finish this book review with some food for thought! The 4-Hour Workweek – Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich is a classic if you are interested in motivational, productivity, self-help, personal development or career change topics.
The book is a praised manifesto on the art of working less while (and this is the key element of the book) freeing time to live the life we all want to live. It provides many opportunities to think about what we want to do in life, about whether our work/life balance makes any sense (or not), about who we want to be, and about the crazy things we would start doing tomorrow if we knew they would succeed.
As Tim Ferriss writes it himself, “Gold is getting old. The New Rich are those who abandon the deferred-life plan and create luxury lifestyles in the present using the currency of the New Rich: time and mobility”.
Having said that, Ferriss’ definition of a “New Rich” is not about becoming wealthy by accumulating or making more. The main idea here is that people do not seek (and do not need) to be millionaires to succeed. What matters is to experience life and enjoy our time. Hence, being rich is not about having cash, it is about generating the means to do things we usually give up on doing.
The ultimate goal is to achieve a profitable 4-Hour Workweek
I wouldn’t really define the book as a reference book on entrepreneurship because the goal isn’t to elaborate an entrepreneur’s profile here. The ultimate goal is to make money profit and have some fun, the goal is not to work. Getting to 4-hour workweeks is the goal, it’s written on the book!
Beyond the motivational aspect of the book, the strength of The 4-Hour Workweek is the many examples it provides. In terms of methods (where to start, how to do this or that). And in terms of examples (how this worked for him, how that worked for someone else). In short, The 4-Hour Workweek is a good opportunity to start making plans and you will learn things if you are seeking to re-balance your life for a general point of view.
Yes, the revised version of the book is big, long to read and process. But it provides plenty of ideas and examples which will help those seeking new methods and habits. Of course, the book is particularly worth reading by new entrepreneurs. By pushing the readers to do less, indeed, Ferriss creates opportunities to do some serious business planning! It’s up to you know.
Additional reading suggestions:
There is more to it, though. The 4-Hour Workweek should be read in parallel to other books. If you are interested in re-focusing your life on stuff that really matters to you, I had a great time reading The One Thing by Keller and Papasan. That book really helped me consider my options and gave me a real framework to re-think my priorities, so I’m highlighting it as a great book suggestion.
For those interested in revisiting their business model, you should also have a look at my book review of The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E Berger. This book is written like a story and it is very easy to read. Yet, it will give you tons of ideas on how to do things differently.
Those interested in identifying their strengths should also consider reading Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath – available on Amazon here. I tried that book on myself some time ago and I must stay I am still surprised with how accurate the results were… give it a try, you won’t regret your investment. Those seeking business model guidance should read Business Model Generation by Osterwalder and Pigneur. Alternatively, Business Model You’ by Tim Clark, Osterwalder and Pigneur is another must-have written for those who think about shifting from employment to independence.
Talking about building new businesses, if you are thinking about making new plans – or if you are making new plans already, two other books by Chris Guillebeau are really worth reading. I strongly suggest that you take a look at my book review and summary of The $100 Startup and at my book review of Side Hustle as both books exclusively deal with the art of starting something from nothing. Just saying!
In my opinion...
… a classic when it comes to self-development books. Good insights if you’re looking for ways to work less!
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That’s it for now, but don’t stop here! My reading notes are meant to give you a very comprehensive overview of the books I read and some food for thought for the month. That’s why I’ll Make You Think SMART is the Kick-Ass Book Reviews blog after all!
Having said that, the next step for you is to keep digging! Remember, books are a cheap way to learn new things and to benefit from the experience of others at no cost. Not to mention the stories you’ll be able to tell after a good read!
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