Live Well, Do Good

Review: The 4-Hour Workweek

September 5, 2011 - David McConkey

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss is a great book.

The book is mainly a manual for using the new technologies – especially the Internet – to live like the title of the book. (Yes, actually support yourself by working just four hours a week.) And I do think that the book is an excellent source for such information. But likely, few are going to have the skills and chutzpa to actually pull off this feat. (Ferriss downplays what a special person he is, and that few others are really like him.)

But that doesn’t even matter.

4 Hour Work-WeekThis book has super ideas for anyone who would like to supplement their income from their job, make their finances more secure by diversifying their income, take a sabbatical from their regular work, ease out of regular working into semi-retirement, add more zest to their retirement years, or just make their lives more interesting.  

In short, there is a wealth of good ideas in this book, to make anyone’s life a bit (or a lot!) more intentional, satisfying, and fun.

Here are some examples:

Think Outside the Box

His whole premise is to manage an alternative to regular life, which as he points out, is often far from rewarding. He offers an option to the existence of so many: spend your best hours and years in unsatisfying labour and defer meaningful living until later (or, often, never). If you are OK with that, don’t bother looking at the book.

“I’m not going to spend much time on the problem,” he begins. “I’m going to assume you are suffering from time famine, creeping dread, or – worst case scenario – a tolerable and comfortable existence doing something unfulfilling. The last is most common and most insidious.”  

Get What You Want

The book is inspirational: we don’t have to be content with the normal. “Reality is negotiable,” he says. “Outside of science and law’ all kinds of rules can be bent or broken, and it doesn’t require being unethical.”

Make Money Using New Technologies

Ferriss has much detail and sources of information for using the new technologies to make money. Many of these ideas revolve around money-making websites, but there are many others as well. These include everything from outsourcing your work overseas to tapping into companies that will manufacture any product that you can then market.

Travel More

Travel is one thing that many people say they would like to do more of, if only . . .

But even if you don’t have a lot of time or money, Ferriss has many great thoughts, from packing more efficiently to getting the most of the experience other cultures. He is especially encouraging for those who have the time, but not the money. Many adventures, he points out, can be had for little cash.

Don't put off your dreams because you think you first have to save up a big pile of money, or be permanently retired, he says, "If your dream, the pot at the end of the career rainbow, is to live large in Thailand, sail around the Caribbean, or ride a motorcycle across China, guess what? All of them can be done for less than $3,000. I've done all three."

Take a Break From Work

“Why not take the usual 20-30 year retirement,” he asks, “and redistribute it throughout life instead of saving it all for the end?”   

Many people would like to take time off from their regular job, but are afraid to, for one reason or another. Ferriss dismisses most of these reasons as simply excuses, and tries to instill confidence in anyone to “just go for it.” That month or year off from your regular job (“mini-retirements”) may give you a renewed enthusiasm for living, or even inspire you to never go back to the old routine.

But won’t taking a year or two off “ruin my resumé”?

Make your resumé stand out, he advises, by adding what you did in your time off. And when you get interviewed, he says, “interviewers bored in their own jobs will spend the entire meeting asking you how you did it!”

“Do something interesting and make them jealous,” he concludes. “If you quit and then sit on your ass, I wouldn’t hire you either.”

Consider Odd Insights

Here is one of his ideas that could get anyone thinking: “You are the average of the five people you associate with most, so do not underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends. If someone isn’t making you stronger, they’re making you weaker.”   

Be More Efficient

If you are going to earn your living by working just four hours a week, you are going to need to be efficient, a lot more efficient. And there are loads of suggestions to make anyone’s life more efficient. One idea that got me thinking is not spending the time reading a newspaper or watching news on TV. Other ideas involve decluttering and making phone calls and e-mails much more productive. (One tip: don’t check e-mail first thing in the morning, instead concentrate first on your most important tasks at hand.)  

Enrich Your Life

The most interesting chapter in the book for me was “Filling the Void.”

Of course, he asks the question in the context of those who are able to make their living on just four hours per week: Just what do you do with the rest of your time? But the question is also appropriate for those who are taking time off from work, those who are retired, and even for those who wonder how best to use their non-work hours.

Ferriss has a number of thought-provoking observations about questions like “What is the meaning of life?”

His short answer to a meaningful life is two-fold: to learn and to serve. And, like the rest of the book, he provides numerous good suggestions for more information on both learning and serving (in other words, making the world a better place).

As for learning, he has a special interest in learning languages, which he describes as “the best thing you can do to hone clear thinking.” And, again, he is so encouraging; he describes himself as learning six languages after failing Spanish in high school. 

And for service, he neatly answers the question many have: How can I know the best thing to do as the world seems so complicated? “Do your best and hope for the best,” he says. “If you are improving the world – however you define that – consider your job well done.”

And don’t think that your efforts are more worthy than someone else’s. “Do not become a cause snob.”

“Find the cause or vehicle that interests you most and make no apologies.”

* * *

See also:

The 4-Hour Workweek on  (on

Deepening Our Thinking in the Internet Age:  Ten Tips

The Bathrobe Millionaire - Review

Other Reviews

Blog of author Timothy Ferriss

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