The Myth of the 4-Hour Work Week

When Timothy Ferriss claims to know how to make a pile of money, he’s not kidding.  It’s true that he made money in business, nutritional supplements to be sure.  But in terms of becoming ultra-rich, it’s books that have done it, books that make grand promises.  Chief among these is 2007’s The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich.

This book promises a lifestyle in which a person finds some marketable niche and finds a way to sell so many units that the money pours in, providing great riches without a 40-hour work week.  It’s all about escaping your work place for glamorous vacation without your boss knowing it, living in an igloo or a hammock and making more in a month than you used to make in a year, and generally being a rock star.  Live like this, and you’re the “new rich.”

But all of this is a bit misleading.  It implies, since Ferriss is marketing a book to show you how, that there’s some sort of formula.  But following Ferriss’s steps, such as eliminating time wasters and getting a virtual assistant from a third-world country to do your grunt work for you won’t necessarily put you in the igloo, warmed only by your piles of cash.

The limits of formulas

You can’t really use a formula to make great riches, and that’s because the products that sell the most are ones that are unique and strange.  They may be smart and may fill a niche, but they’re not to be identified by some formula.  Not only do you have to do the Herculean task of finding that magical product, but it may indeed take magic to do it.

A great product or idea could get you anywhere from a life of debt to a perfectly handsome living.  But if we’re talking about having nothing but kick boxing on the docket of a particular day, you really need a little luck.

How many hours Does Tim Ferriss work?

Even if he got someone to write all his books for him, just reading them over will take more than four hours—does he spread the reading of a book out over three weeks just to stay under his quota?  I’m not quibbling here just to be a pain.  If you turn all your work over to other people, it won’t get done right. 

The only way to experience a week with only four hours of work is to define what you’re doing as not work, as in “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Entrepreneurs, whether they be Mark Cuban or Tim Ferriss or Joe with his pizza joint down the street, love doing what they do.  They’re not trying to sit around all day, but rather to keep their empire in place and growing.

What Is Freedom?

What Ferriss is peddling is ultimate freedom.  But, the irony is, if he enjoys loafing so much, why does he keep writing books, making personal appearances, etc?  Whether it’s due to wanting more money or some other motivation, he feels a call.

If he’s trying to buy more freedom, that means that it takes more work than he’s letting on.

A life of chilling on the patio is boring and unavailing to people with the kind of drive it takes to get there in the first place.  If you’re pure hearted, you’ll want to make a difference in the world, which means that you’re life of leisure becomes its own sort of prison.