Title: The 4-Hour Work Week
Author: Tim Ferriss
Category: Non-fiction, entrepreneurship, business
10-word summary: Build a business, outsource everything and just travel the world.
About The 4-Hour Work Week
The 4-Hour Work Week is a popular entrepreneurship book that I’m sure you have heard about before. The book became widely popular because of its alluring promise: that you can make a lot of money by only working 4 hours a week and traveling the world.
The book does deliver, in a way, because it presents a system for how this is possible. But I think that the book premise is a bit misleading and I’m not convinced this is a good system anyway.
This is another one of those popular books that thousands of people seem to love…except me. Read this review to see why I don’t love the book or the system presented in it. And if you are curious about the book, read it yourself to see what you think about it!
What I like about The 4-Hour Work Week
1. Ferriss challenges the status quo and thinks outside the box
This is one of the things that I love about the book and its author. I think we need to challenge the status quo and Ferriss does that when it comes to jobs. He asks himself (and us) why we think we need to work for 8 hours since it’s clear that this is just the social norm. We can’t all need 8 hours every day for every type of job and field out there, right?
2. His system can help you make more money and have more freedom
His entire system focuses on outsourcing work. If you can create a successful business model, outsourcing almost every task is likely to help you scale your business as much as possible – without having to work every day yourself.
I don’t think anybody can use this model though and I don’t think it goes well for every type of business. However, I do believe it can help some people make money and have more free time.
3. He shares a system with practical steps to take
Many business books focus on concepts and ideas only, but I think we also need books that give practical advice. Tim Ferriss does include steps you need to take if you want to implement his system and this advice can be very valuable for people who have never owned a business before.
4. He shares a lot of resources
The practical advice shared is useful, but also reading about several resources you can use is great! Ferriss shares many websites and services you can use for different tasks and this makes taking action much easier.
What I don’t like about The 4-Hour Work Week
1. His system doesn’t really make sense to me
Ferriss’s idea is to create a business and hire freelancers to do everything for you. This way, you have a lot of free time and you can do whatever you want. He did this and spent his time traveling around the world and living in different countries. He learned foreign languages, took dance lessons, learned to fight and so on.
While I totally understand the appeal to making a lot of money and having a lot of free time, what’s the point? Sure, traveling is an adventure, it’s fun and so on. But what’s the point in going to China to learn some fighting style, then going to Peru to learn Spanish and then going to Bali to relax? I’m sure this seems cool – especially in the first weeks, maybe even months, but what’s the point in living like this?
Moving around often means that you won’t really have any meaningful connections or do any meaningful work. Why is it better to travel all the time for fun than living in one place and working on a job you actually love that can have a great impact on some people or the world?
2. If you don’t want to outsource everything, this book won’t help you a lot
The entire system presented in The 4-Hour Work Week is about outsourcing. So if you want to build a business, work on it yourself and hire great people to come work at your company, this book won’t be that useful. Some of his ideas could still help, but most of it won’t apply.
3. Tim Ferriss comes across as a lazy, selfish and immature person who thinks he’s better than everyone else – yikes!
I’m not happy to say this about him, but I think someone has to say it, so I will. Many of the things Ferriss says in this book makes him come across as all those things.
For example, he said that he was fired from or quit almost every job he ever had. But in some cases, the claims he was fired because he tried to do things more efficiently.
He also advises you to ask your boss to do you lots of favours (like allowing only you to work at home), but saying no when he asks you for favours or normal duties (such as attending a meeting at work).
He also said that he would often pretend to be speaking with customers just to avoid interacting with his colleagues during work.
Maybe this is just my impression, but after reading this book it seems that he is acting like someone who is great and deserves special treatment – even though he won’t reciprocate. Or at least, this seems to describe how he was acting at the time he wrote this book. Anyway, I wouldn’t want to be friends or work with him.
4. Some of his ideas make absolutely no sense
This is a big claim, so don’t just take my word for it. Let me share some of the things he said, word for word:
“It is easier to raise $1,000,000 than it is $100,000.”
He said this because more people are trying to make 100 thousand dollars. So, he thinks that you will have less competition if you want to make 1 million, which should somehow help you make 1 million easier. Obviously this makes no sense. Whatever the amount you want to make, you are competing with the same companies for clients and profit.
“Believe it or not, it is not only possible to accomplish more by doing less, it is mandatory.”
He goes on to talk about eliminating tasks that are not that important. While I totally get that, it’s not just about doing less – it’s doing less of the things that don’t matter and more of the things that do matter and get you results. Just doing less…will get you less.
He shares a few more ideas that are either incorrect or nonsensical. And as I already mentioned, his entire system doesn’t make much sense to me.
5. He claims you can become an expert by reading 3 best-selling books on the topic and joining some organizations
I don’t think I even need to explain why this is wrong for many reasons. Nobody becomes an expert in anything just by reading 3 books, joining an organization and giving an interview on TV. And the fact that he encourages people to think this way is wrong and ridiculous.
6. He claims he understands happiness but he clearly doesn’t
Ferriss believes that happiness is drinking a bottle of wine and the opposite of happiness is boredom. While drinking a bottle of wine can bring pleasure to your life, this is the type of happiness that matters the least and lasts the least amount of time.
The opposite of happiness isn’t boredom. Depression is a much more likely candidate because it increases the chances that someone commits suicide. What else could be more opposed to happiness?
Also, work is a really big part of what gives people meaning and brings them happiness – even if some people don’t even realize this. Creating a system that takes work away can really decline the meaning and happiness in someone’s life.
Of course, if he thinks he is an expert on happiness because he read 3 books on it, I get it. But it seems to me that he didn’t even pick the right books to read about the topic. Had he read better books on the science of happiness, he would already know these things. But hey, I’m not expert so…
7. He recommends selective ignorance
Ferriss argues that you should not read the news or other non-fiction books. You should want to be ignorant about the world and only focus on what you’re doing in your life.
While I understand his view and I think the news should be ignored most of the time, I cannot agree with this. Being ignorant means living in a world that you don’t understand at all and that’s just sad – especially when you can educate yourself. Choosing to be ignorant is no better than being stupid (unable to understand things) or not being able to read. Not to mention that by being ignorant, you can do things that are counter intuitive – and you can’t do anything about them because you don’t even see it. I am sad that I read a book that argues ignorance is something you should choose.
8. His system thrives on and creates more inequality in the world
This is one of the main reasons why I dislike this book. As I said before, his entire system is based on outsourcing your work. How? Basically, you hire someone in India or other country to do your work for you and you pay them a few dollars for an hour of work.
We need to acknowledge that this system is possible only because there are people who are quite poor and cannot find work that is better paid. You could hardly built this system by hiring people in the US or by paying people from anywhere in the world fairly.
The fact that he pays someone $4/hour when their work makes him thousands of dollars a month is not something to recommend or brag about, it’s something to be ashamed of. And before you argue that that’s just the way the world is, we are creating this world. By implementing Ferriss’ system you are just contributing to the problem and creating inequality in the world because you’re probably a privileged person.
Lessons from The 4-Hour Work Week
Why wait until you are 60 years old to enjoy your life? Instead of saving money for your retirement and enjoy that when you are older, why not take several short-term retirements while you are young?
Focus only on the most important tasks that get you most of the results.
You should have only 1-2 main goals or tasks for one day.
Avoid meetings that do not have a clear objective because they often just waste your time.
Quotes from The 4-Hour Work Week
“The common rules of the ‘real world’ are a fragile collection of socially reinforced illusions.”
“Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.”
“1. Limit tasks to the important to shorten work time.
2. Shorten work time to limit tasks to the important.”
“Learn to ask: ‘If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day?’”
“Eliminate before you delegate. Never automate something that can be eliminated, and never delegate something that can be automated or streamlined.”
Should You Read The 4-Hour Work Week?
Maybe – if you want to build a business that you don’t run yourself. While I don’t recommend this business model, if that’s your goal, this book will help you better understand how to do this.
If your goal is to build a business you love or find a job you enjoy, this book probably won’t help you. It does give some good advice about productivity, but you’d be better off reading a book that focuses on that.
I honestly did not like this book, but if you are curious about it, go ahead and read it – you’ll have your own experience.