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Review Saturdays: Thoughts on “The 4-Hour Workweek”

February 11, 2012

A friend of mine recently recommended Timothy Ferriss’ hype machine book The 4-Hour Workweek. This friend of mine is pretty damn industrious, so I decided to give the book a shot. After cranking cover to cover in just about four hours — was this length planned Mr. Ferriss? — I walked away with a sense of empowerment. The true metric by which this book should be judged, in my view, is by whether or not this sense of pull myself up by the bootstraps optimism sustains itself within the reader after finishing the book. For me, the answer is no.

Coming soon: The 4-Hour Gunshow

I’m a sucker for self-help manifestos like this one. They’re easily digestible in one or two sittings, and the feeling of “I’m now ready to go change the world” after finishing is addictive. Ferriss’ offering to the genre are no exceptions. I really enjoyed reading about his background: how he became a world champion ballroom dancer in two years and how he  went from Japanophile nerd to champion of Chinese martial arts. I also found his story of founding an online nutritional supplements company to be interesting.

Ultimately, The 4-hour Workweek, is about efficiency. Ferriss has many good ideas, based on personal experience, about how to condense the amount of time spent on “work” to maximize the amount of time to pursue “play” and personal ventures. His ideas about minimizing checking email to once per day or less resonated strongly with me. I am now on an email diet — twice per day only, once in the morning and once at 3PM. I even reverted back from my iPhone to my circa 1995 Nokia brick for most things (granted, the iPhone still comes with me and comes out in dire situations). Many of Ferriss’ other ideas, however, fall a bit flat. The idea of hiring a personal assistant in India seems a bit slapdash to me. Sure it may be economical, but I wouldn’t want someone else taking care of anything in which I take personal pride. For me, this precludes almost everything I do, bringing me to my next point…

Ferriss implies that work is something that should be minimized and even averted. I strongly disagree. I would counter this implication with the notion that we should strive to be the same person at work that we are outside of work — that is, we should not repress our souls and interests at work. I’ve worked in the startup realm, consulting, and academia, yet I still strive to create my own working environment in which I can be effective without checking my awesome personality at the door. Perhaps this then is what Ferriss means. Working for 4-hours from home sounds pretty great, but I would prefer to work hard (and sometimes long) to reap greater rewards. Not to get too 1984, but the accomplishment I feel from actually working my ass off at something is paramount and unique.

I strongly recommend this book, if for nothing else, because it won’t take you more than 4 hours to read. After finishing The 4-Hour Workweek, I was left feeling parched for Steven Pressfield’s superior get-your-ass-in-gear manifesto, Do The Work.

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