Book Club: The Four Hour Work Week

I am kind of embarrassed to admit that I read The Four Hour Workweek.

I don't think I should be embarrassed by it, who wouldn't want to find ways to increase productivity and income on less time, after all? It's just that it's a five-year-old cliché and one of those classic self-help books making audacious claims (you know that Tim Ferriss works more than four hours a week, right?)

Still, I read it.

At first, I could barely get through it without gagging. It's just so COCKY. I don't just mean Timothy Ferriss himself, although he is definitely cocky, but the book itself. The words felt slimy as they went through my eyeballs and into my brain. In the beginning it's all about cheating the rules, winning on technicalities instead of skill, and bragging about achievements made on the backs of others. Gross.

(Okay, it's kind of that throughout. Cheating the "game" and winning on technicalities in order to get rich and do very little is basically the bread and butter of this book, so that shouldn't be a surprise.)

Book review of The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss - overall, I found it to be a cocky, slimy read with a few nuggets of good advice

Still, there is some pretty useful and non-slimy stuff.

As his main argument is about how much time we waste in work and life, there are a lot of useful time management and prioritizing/goal setting strategies in here.

For example, the first thing he has you do is define things: your fears, your goals/dreams, and the specific income needed to get there. He calls it Dreamlining (like creating time lines, but with dreams, so clever), and it's based around the question of what you would do if there was no way you would fail, under the categories of "being", "having", and "doing", for the next 6 and 12 months.

I am all about this kind of activity - being ruthlessly honest with yourself about what you want your life to look like is incredibly useful. Of course, I had trouble listing things in the "have" category. I just don't really care about having fancy cars or whatever.

The elimination chapter is also super useful. It's all about identifying the things you are doing that are a waste of time and then eliminating them, focusing instead on the areas/clients/activities that garner the most results. Since he's trying to turn you into a Nouveau Riche world-travelling champion, it's pretty ruthless: one of the instructions is to stop reading the news or caring about world events, for example, because it doesn't actually help you achieve goals and wastes time.

He also provides a pretty excellent how-to guide for setting up a business that can operate more-or-less without your involvement. He really includes every step except for the actual business idea (and even then, he provides some inspiration for business ideas).

So what's the problem?

The whole concept really depends on taking advantage of others. There's a whole chapter on outsourcing your life and business responsibilities to overseas call centres for $5 an hour so that you can windsurf all day, and trusting your employees to do more so that they don't waste your time.

So, basically, other people have to work 40+ hours a week to fuel your fortune so that you can travel the world and write books about how easy it is to live a life of leisure? Hello, hierarchy? (I realize this is basically the foundation of all business, where the boss makes a lot more for doing, operationally, a lot less, but they are still working so it doesn't seem so bad.)

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