The 4-Hour Work Week (Ebury Digital, 2011)

Escape the 9-5, live anywhere and join the new rich

I bought this book by Timothy Ferriss around 6 months ago at the start of a sabbatical.  The title was catching and held the promise of a new lifestyle and the enormous possibilities of building a business online and becoming very rich.

I am embarrassed to admit that I found this book a frustrating read, despite it being a best seller.

I won’t go so far as to say that it was a waste of time, but I constantly had to force myself to push on through a monologue about a wonderful vacation style life, in an attempt to find and understand Tim’s deeper message.

Others might find it easier to relate to a lifestyle of motorcycles, ball room dancing, kick-boxing and more.  These are not things I personally value very highly (although I’m game to try them out!), but I accept that for some this is Nirvana and I respect that totally.

So what is Tim saying in the book?  There are three main elements:

  1. Start with defining your purpose.
  2. Eliminate time wasting activity.
  3. Automate your business. Liberate your mode of working (through taking mini-retirements and filling the void left).

Each of these are valuable contributions and there is plenty of good practical advice.   I particularly like the concept of a mini-retirement – the traditional “retirement” at the end of a corporate career always seemed to me to be very wrong indeed.

Tim’s message is that you need to live life.  This is good stuff.

My only problem with his philosophy is that he somehow seems to view work and life in some sort of conflict, hence the need for a new “balance”.  His section on eliminating time wasting activities left me with the impression that you need to work frantically to compress the nasty bits into as short a time as possible (4 hours a week) which frees you to do anything you like in the remaining time.

For myself, separating work and life is not as simple.  I therefore prefer thinking about work life integration, and perhaps that is what Tim actually wants too and I missed it in my interpretation.

I believe that everyone has a fundamental desire to work and to find real satisfaction and fulfilment in what they do.  I would therefore not advocate a 4 hour work week at all.   Instead I would suggest a changed perspective in which you integrate your professional activities with your personal goals, talents and passions.  In my own model you thereby work full-time and are better for it because you enjoy every minute.


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