“The Four Hour Work Week” – Part 1

I recently got around to reading ‘The Four Hour Work Week’, and found it interesting. More interesting, in fact, than I thought it would be. So I decided to write up a summary/critique of what I consider to be the good bits/bad bits about Tim’s philosophical book.

Firstly, as hinted, I think this book is supposed to make you think. If you look past the Anthony Robbins/Robert Kiyosaki exterior, there are a couple of good points in amongst the salesmanship.

So here we go.

Preface: Obligatory ‘I’ve-written-a-NYT-bestseller-despite-all-odds’ paragraph. FILLER

FAQ: Allaying the reader’s doubts as to whether this book is really worthwhile. FILLER

My Story and Why You Need This Book:

Bit of background reading on Tim’s AMAZING life. And how you can do it, too! Really!

Sets out one of the interesting fundamental questions for entrepreneurs, that is:

In 2002, I was asked by Ed Zschau, übermentor and my former professor of High-tech Entrepreneurship at Princeton University, to come back and speak to the same class about my business adventures in the real world. I was stuck. There were already decamillionaires speaking to the same class, and even though I had built a highly profitable sports supplement company, I marched to a distinctly different drummer.

Over the ensuing days, however, I realized that everyone seemed to be discussing how to build large and successful companies, sell out, and live the good life. Fair enough. The question no one really seemed to be asking or answering was, Why do it all in the first place? What is the pot of gold that justifies spending the best years of your life hoping for happiness in the last?

4 Hour Work Week, p 13

Which is fair enough, and something I’ve discussed at length with friends. Usually the answer goes something like (well, at least, it does for me):

“So I can build enough of an asset base/perpetual income stream that I don’t have to worry about my living costs. But I want to do it doing something that I enjoy.”

So this seems to fit with what Mr. Ferriss is saying – he seems to be preaching to the converted here, and perhaps it is directed at those (mythical?) employees whose idea is to slave away for 10 years in the City and then retire.

He then goes on to define the “New Rich” as a group of people who are rejecting this social hypothesis and instead living a millionaires’ lifestyle already through (what appears to be) a combination of LBYM (living below your means – see fool.co.uk) and taking advantage of geoarbitrage. However he does make the assumption that a millionaires’ lifestyle is one of travel and focussing on experiences as opposed to goods. All good stuff, if a bit American-centric (“WOW, Europe! How exotic!”).

A four stage process is outlined for becoming one of the “New Rich”, which, reading between the lines, is a summary of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey:

  1. Definition – Define the objective; have a plan for what you want. Some assumptions about what is possible are tossed aside.
  2. Elimination – Time Management the Tim Ferriss way. Pareto Principle; ignore the unimportant.
  3. Automation – Hints for outsourcing businesses; the above chapter applied to managing a business.
  4. Liberation – Now what do you do with all your time and money? Travel, apparently.

Chronology of a Pathology: More self promotion about Tim’s awesome life. FILLER

Chapter 1 – DEFINITION: Cautions & Comparisons:

An example is given of a successful-but-unfulfilled millionaire. “Rich people can be sad too!”.

Tim then espouses his philosophy about life through the following statements. The “New Rich” don’t want:

  1. “To work for themselves”, rather / “To have others work for you”
  2. “To work when you want to”, / “To prevent work-for-works-sake, to do the minimum necessary for maximum effect”
  3. “To retire early or young”, rather /”… To recognise that inactivity is not the goal. Doing what excites you is”
  4. “To buy all the things you want”, rather /”To do all the things you want, and be all the things you want to…”
  5. “To be the boss…; to be in charge” /”… to be the owner…”
  6. “To make a ton of money” /”To make a ton of money with reasons and defined dreams/timelines/steps (a plan). What are you working for?”
  7. “To have more” /”To have more quality and less clutter…”
  8. “To reach the big pay off/IPO/acquisition/retirement” /”To think big, but ensure payday comes every day; cash flow first…”


  1. This seems semantics? I guess fair enough.
  2. Not mutually exclusive; efficiently lazy is a good idea.
  3. Fair enough, good point.
  4. Tim’s anti-materialistic rant. Fair enough.
  5. Fair enough, I took this from the Buffett book too.
  6. Not mutually exclusive, fair enough.
  7. Efficiency again, fair enough.
  8. Interesting point to consider.

He then goes on to explain GEOARBITRAGE – that is, if you want to learn/experience/do something that is prohibitively expensive; find a country where it is cheap.

Explains the point that the amount you earn can be multiplied by the following factors (freedom):

  • what you do
  • when you do it
  • where you do it
  • whom you do it with

Comparison of the 80 hr/wk executive earning $500k as against the ‘poor’ man making $50k on 20 hr/wk – comparison of the freedoms. How much is that extra salary worth. Fair enough.

Several examples of readers who have magically changed their lives.

DEFINITION: Rules that Change the Rules:

“Everything popular is wrong” – well, we can now see who he aimed the book at, you rebel you.

He then leads into a controversial example – how he exploited a loophole in the rules to win the National Chinese Kickboxing Championships in 4 weeks. Basically, weigh in was the day before and he used dehydration techniques to drop his weight 28 pounds; then pushed all the wee competitors out of the ring for a TKO. Well done I guess; but the example doesn’t sit that well with me.

He then leads into a fundamental point about pushing the limits to overturn social conventions. Challenging the status quo – examples of which then argued:

  1. Retirement is worst-case-scenario-insurance – I agree with the concept, but his argument for it is flawed. I don’t know why he tries to argue this? Perhaps to appeal to people that feel it is too far off to consider?
  2. Interest & Energy are cyclical – fair enough. In essence this is ‘don’t feel bad about taking time off’ – I don’t know that it justifies 3 month holidays every 6 months though.
  3. Less is not laziness – focus on productivity instead of busy, fair enough.
  4. Timing is never right – fair enough.
  5. Ask for forgiveness, not permission – fair enough.
  6. Emphasise strengths, don’t fix weaknesses – I am not sure I agree here, and in any case he doesn’t point out what you should do about your weaknesses. IMHO you should know your weaknesses, and find people to complement them – but work on them yourself too.
  7. Things in excess become their opposite – fair enough, I spose.
  8. Money alone isn’t the solution – fair enough. Add this to the anti-materialist rant.
  9. Relative income more important than Absolute – money/hour worked is a better metric than absolute cash. Fair enough.
  10. Di-stress bad, Eu-stress good – fair enough, minimise harmful stimuli (distress), maximise beneficial stimuli (eustress): role models, physical training, ‘good’ risk taking, expanding your comfort zone.

DEFINITION: Dodging bullets:

Escaping paralysis by analysis – this will be interesting as I definitely fall into this category. This is about when you’re putting off a decision for fear of the consequences.

Tim’s suggestion/strategy is to imagine the absolute worst – if everything did go completely wrong – then hopefully realise this isn’t the end of the world. Then he compares this to what would happen if it went best case, and use this as motivation.

Fear disguised as optimism. Valid point, that people staying in a bad situation and being optimistic about it improving (if it is within their control to do something about it) are perhaps living in fear. What is the cost of not making the decision?

DEFINITION: System Reset:

Being Unreasonable and Unambigious. Great quotes from Lewis Carroll & GBS (incidentally, straight out of ‘Introduction to NLP’):

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where …” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
—LEWIS CARROLL, Alice in Wonderland
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
—GEORGE BERNARD SHAW, Maxims for Revolutionists

Doing the unrealistic is easier than doing the realistic. Excellent section about how this is true.

The fishing is best where the fewest go, and the collective insecurity of the world makes it easy for people to hit home runs while everyone else is aiming for base hits. There is just less competition for bigger goals.

4 Hour Work Week, p 41

What do you want? Tim proposes that, rather than happiness, what we should be after is Excitement. Boredom is the enemy. Then he discusses how unreasonable goals are beaten out of us by the world once we get our first job; and that we accept the social norms. This is something that needs to be discussed…

The fat man in the red BMW convertible story.

Dreamlining: Ferriss coins this word to describe the act of planning out to get to your dreams.

It is much like goal-setting but differs in several fundamental respects:

  1. The goals shift from ambiguous wants to defined steps.
  2. The goals have to be unrealistic to be effective.
  3. It focuses on activities that will fill the vacuum created when work is removed. Living like a millionaire requires doing interesting things and not just owning enviable things.
  4. 4 Hour Work Week, p 43

He then goes onto discuss how to do it, with examples. Worth working through and doing.

Comfort Challenge: Learn to get comfortable looking into someones eyes – similar to the stuff in ‘The Game’.

Summary of Introduction & Part 1
– Summary todo

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