Notes from The 4-hour Workweek

[]( Ferriss thinks that you can work your job four hours a week, from anywhere in the world, still make enough money to live luxuriously, and do it for your entire life. Sound good to you? Me too. His book, [_The 4-Hour Workweek_](, explains the ways that he and other “New Rich” (NR) have escaped the traditional job culture to live more freely.

Tim’s plan starts with the assumption that “for most people…the perfect job is the one that takes the least time.” This is about *jobs*, not work, as he clarifies later. The key insight:

*You need to separate the way you make money from the way you spend your time.*

It’s ok to like what you do; it’s fine to spend all your time working on something. But that shouldn’t be what you rely on to pay the bills, as it will restrict your freedom. Instead, find a way to make money that doesn’t have a direct correlation with the amount of time you spend on it. Then, do whatever you want with your remaining time.

Tim presents a holistic plan for “lifestyle design”, one that looks past the simple measurement of dollars accumulated to the more intangible but equally valuable measurements of hours spent, freedom of time and location, and excitement level. There aren’t easily objectified measures for these things, but they are all the things we wish money would buy…but which it almost never does. You have to incorporate them from the start.

While his plan seems tailor-made for entrepreneurs, and he clearly favors that model, it’s also useful for people who want to stay employed at their jobs but want more freedom, efficiency, and fun. I’ve already taken his advice on dealing with email and meetings, and it’s absolutely changed the way I work–I’m much more effective, focused on important things, and only working on things that are interesting and fun. All that with no real problems. In fact, people seem to appreciate my time more now that it’s clearly valuable.

Tim’s tips are extremely practical, and each chapter has clear “Questions and actions” to dive into as practice. So while the philosophy is radical, he recognizes that most people will to try it out gradually. For starting a business, he gives strategies for testing the market before investing, using pay-per-click search advertising; for traveling, he has tips for your first “mini-retirement”, all the way down to putting fuel stabilizer in your parked car; for working remotely, he includes links to software downloads. Everything is so practical that it almost seems…possible. It’s a remarkable feat for such a radical book.

His writing style is a bit self-righteous at times–Ferriss continually reminds you of all the cool things he’s done, and it comes off as being full of himself. Then again, it’s important to visualize the possibilities in his framework through examples, for motivation. I just preferred it when he used other people’s examples instead of his own. It also made me wonder how replicable this method was–while he mentions about a dozen other “New Rich”, or “NR”, who have done these things, that’s hardly a statistically-significant number to trust for such radical changes. Consider it “inspiration”, but realize that your circumstances will vary.

Perhaps the best testament to _The Four Hour Workweek_ is the way that it, as a book, exemplifies the philosophy it espouses. It was created by a person with no experience in the publishing industry; manufactured, sold, and distributed by third parties; and provides a consistent revenue stream for its author (a significant one, I’d guess, using the sales rankings as an indicator). I’ve always wondered about self-help books, because if the author really believed in their methods they’d be doing them instead of writing about them. Tim managed to do both with this book.

My hunch is that _The 4-Hour Workweek_ won’t change you if you don’t want to be changed, but if you already feel dissatisfied with the way our culture works it will resonate with and inspire you. If you find yourself saying things like “there’s no fundamental reason that people should work for 8 hours a day”, “why should I have to wait for retirement to have freedom in my life” or “why should I spend the best years of my life in a cubicle”, or if you’re afflicted with (as Tim says) “the hopelessness that hits [you] like a punch in the eye every time I start my computer in the morning” (35), this book is for you. There is a better way.

### Notes

Focus on the goal, not the path:

> People don’t want to _be_ millionaires–they want to experience what they believe only millions can buy. (8)

A “job” is not the focus.

> I will take it as a given that, for most people, somewhere between six and seven billion of them, the perfect job is the one that takes the least time. (9)

The steps to “reinvent yourself”:

* Define a new goal – of freedom more than money

* Eliminate unimportant work

* Automate cash flow – separate it from how much you work

* Liberate yourself from a single location of work

Entrepreneurs can do it in this order; those wanting to stay in their jobs should first Liberate, then Automate. (10-11)

Of course, the original definition of “entrepreneur” was much more broad than the way we use it today:

> [“Entrepreneur” was] first coined by French economist J.B. Say in 1800 [as] one who shifts economic resources out of an area of lower and into an area of higher yield. (11)

Neils Bohr mentioning something out of _Creativity_, the focus in an area necessary to become an expert:

> An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field. – Niels Bohr (13)

The advantages to traveling the world, what Tim calls “geographic arbitrage”:

> If you can free your time and location, your money is automatically worth 3-10 times as much. (25)

> Money is multiplied in practical value depending on the number of W’s you control in your life: *what* you do, *when* you do it, *where* you do it, and with *whom* you do it. I call this the “freedom multiplier.” (25)

Stay out of things that are too popular–by the time they are popular, it’s too late, and there will be a ton of competition.

> Everything popular is wrong – Oscar Wilde (29)

Retirement as a last option for both money and time:

> Retirement planning is like life insurance. It should be viewed as nothing more than a hedge against the absolute worst-case scenario: in this case, becoming physically incapable of working and needing a reservoir of capital to survive. (31)

The two most compelling arguments against retirement as a goal:

1. “It is predicated on the assumption that you dislike what you are doing during the most physically capable years of your life. This is a nonstarter–nothing can justify that sacrifice.”

2. Most people won’t be able to retire. We’ll live until 100 and inflation will make our savings worth much less. No savings plan will cover all that. (31)

> The timing is never right…Conditions are never perfect…If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way. (33)

Focus on your strengths–like Google’s 70/20/10, like _Creativity_’s focus plan.

> It is far more lucrative and fun to leverage your strengths instead of attempting to fix all the chinks in your armor. The choice is between _multiplication_ of results using strengths or _incremental_ improvement fixing weaknesses that will always, at best, become mediocre. (34)

Interesting parallel with the _God’s Debris_ idea that everything in our society is a metaphor used for practical purposes:

> Busy yourself with the routine of the money wheel, pretend it’s the fix-all, and you artfully create a constant distraction that prevents you from seeing just how pointless it is. Deep down, you know it’s all an illusion, but with everyone participating in the same game of make-believe, it’s easy to forget. (35)

Defn: *Eustress* – “There are two separate types of stress, each as different as euphoria and it’s seldom-mentioned opposite, _dys_phoria. _Dis_tress refers to harmful stimuli that make you weaker, less confident, and less able…_Eu_stress, on the other hand [is] stress that is healthful and the stimulus for growth…there is no progress without eustress.” (37)

Our fear of loss ((((Link to research on how we fear loss more than value gain)))) keeps us from realizing that if we got a job once, we could get it again if needed.

> It’s not giving up to put your current path on indefinite pause. [Hans Keeling, one of Ferriss’ examples] could pick up his law career exactly where he left off if he wanted to, but that is the furthest thing from his mind. (40)

> Most people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty. (40)

Define your fears to overcome them:

> As soon as I cut through the vague unease and ambiguous anxiety by defining my nightmare, the worst-case scenario…I started thinking of simple steps I could take to salvage my remaining resources and get back on track if all hell struck at once. I could always take a temporary bartending job to pay the rent if I had to. I could sell some furniture and cut back on eating out. I could steal lunch money from the kindergartners who passed by my apartment every morning. (42)

> What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do…A person’s success in life can usually be measure by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have. (46)

Another playwright delivers the goods:

> 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_ (48)

Like the pool example in real estate–houses with pools sell for less because every potential buyer thinks “I don’t *need* a pool” and doesn’t even make a bid–it’s best to try great things because few people do.

> Ninety-nine percent of people in the world are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for the mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for “realistic” goals, paradoxically making them the most time- and energy-consuming. It is easier to raise $10,000,000 than $1,000,000. (50)

> Having an unusually large goal is an adrenaline infusion that provides the endurance to overcome the inevitable trials and tribulations that go along with any goal…I’ll run through walls to get a catamaran trip through the Greek islands, but I might not change my brand of cereal for a weekend trip through Columbus, Ohio. (50)

What to shoot for: excitement instead of boredom.

> The opposite of love is indifference, and the opposite of happiness is–here’s the clincher–boredom. _Excitement is the more practically synonym for happiness, and it is precisely what you should strive to chase. (51)

What my problem has always been: what else would I do?

> Most people have a lot of trouble coming up with the defined dreams they’re being held from…What would you do, day to day, if you had $100 million in the bank? (55)

Time shouldn’t be managed; it should be freed.

> Just a few words on time management: Forget all about it. In the strictest sense, you shouldn’t be trying to do more in each day, trying to fill every second with a work fidget of some type…Being busy is most often used as a guise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions. (65)

> Effectiveness is doing the things that get you closer to your goals. Efficiency is performing a given task (whether important or not) in the most economical manner possible. Being efficient without regard to effectiveness is the default mode of the universe. (67)

Perhaps simple efficiency *was* effective over the long run of evolution, but now that we are conscious of our actions and their results, it is important to concentrate on true effectiveness.

Fire bad customers…I’ve seen this over and over again lately, and I’m finally starting to get it. You can’t please everyone, and trying to do so means you’re watering down what you can do for the majority of your customers.

> The customers are always right, aren’t they? Part of doing business, right? Hell, no…I fired their asses and enjoyed every second of it…I lost one customer, but the other corrected course and simply faxed orders, again and again and again. (71-72)

Free time as a sign of good priorities:

> _Being busy is a sign of laziness–lazy thinking and indiscriminate action._ (73)

> Love of bustle is not industry – Seneca (76)

Ferriss follows the same diet as John Ortberg–eat healthy for 6 days, then whatever you feel like on the seventh. (76)

The same sort of to-do list as Marc Andressen (link): plan to do only two or three things each day–but make them important ones.

> There should never be more than two mission-critical items to complete each day. Never. It just isn’t necessary if they’re actually high-impact. (79)

Get rid of extra information coming in!

> Lifestyle design is based on massive action–output. Increased output necessitates decreased input. Most information is time-consuming, negative, irrelevant to your goals, and outside of your influence. (83)

How to avoid meetings: try to take care of it over email, which you can control your time with better and which forces people to actually coalesce their thoughts. Use the phone as a fallback. (97)

Interesting philosophy about meetings in general; not sure he subscribes to the collaborative style of working:

> Meetings should only be held to make decisions about a predefined situation, not to define the problem…ask [the person who proposed the meeting] to send you an e-mail with an agenda to define the purpose. (98)

Lots more tips on how to avoid meetings (97-101)

His email strategy – batch it all up and deal with it as infrequently as possible. I’ve been doing this; I’m down to checking and responding once a day. Nothing has blown up yet…

> For the last three years, I have checked email no more than once a week, often not for up to four weeks at a time. Nothing has been irreparable, and nothing has cost more than $300 to fix. This batching has saved me hundreds of hours of redundant work. How much is your time worth? (102)

The key: letting go.

> Realize that even if you can do something better than the rest of the world, it doesn’t mean that’s what you should be doing if it’s part of the minutiae. (107)

> It is absolutely necessary that you realize that you can always do something more cheaply yourself. This doesn’t mean you want to spend your time doing it. (120)

Ok, so where do you send the work that it’s not worth it for you to do personally? Use the power of the web to organize a distributed workforce. It’s easy to test and develop your ability to do this.

> Can you manage (direct and chastise) other people?…Using a virtual assistant (VA) as a simple exercise with no downside, the basics of management are covered in a 2-4-week test costing between $100-$400. This is an investment, not an expense, and the ROI is astounding. (120)

> It is important to take baby steps toward paying others to do work for you. Few do it, which is another reason so few people have their ideal lifestyles. (120)

Of course, you can’t delegate work things that are confidential to your company…but you can always delegate personal tasks (chores, errands), and many things at work probably could be…of course, your mileage may vary.

> You can delegate business tasks that don’t include financial information or identify your company. (121)

Best to delegate to people who themselves have backups:

> I recommend that you hire a VA firm or VAs with backup teams instead of sole operators…The best VA I have used to date is an Indian with five backup assistants under him. Three can be more than sufficient, but two is toeing the line. (129)

Emerson weighs in:

> As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble. – Ralph Waldo Emerson (139)

Now for the fun part: making stuff. You need to have a product, because products can be automated. Services require your active participation, but products can be manufactured, distributed, and sold without you doing any of it, thanks to the joys of outsourcing. If you are an expert in a service area, turn it into a book or DVD that can be sold as a product.

*You need to separate the way you make money from the way you spend your time.* It’s fine if you want to work with all your time–but your income shouldn’t depend on it. That will restrict your freedom, as you can’t afford to change or stop what you’re doing.

> Our goal is simple: to create an automated vehicle for generating cash without consuming time…[I] call this vehicle a “muse”. (143)

The four examples of a good muse:

* The main benefit should be encapsulated in one sentence – keep it simple

* It should cost the customer $50-200 – stay in the higher-range, you’ll get better customers and make more profit

* It should take no more than 3 to 4 weeks to manufacture – contact a manufacturer who does similar products to get an estimate on cost and time

* It should be fully explainable in a good online FAQ – something that doesn’t have people asking a million questions about details

Information products–DVDs explaining expert (where “expert” means you know more than the purchaser (156)) processes, or books–are often a great product, because they aren’t too hard to create and aren’t in as much danger of being knocked off.

> It’s easier to circumvent a patent than to paraphrase an entire course to avoid copyright infringement. (156)

It also gives you an opportunity to “niche down”–combine two broad areas to create a new targeted product, e.g. web design for real estate, or yoga for rock climbing, etc. Choose one area you are an expert in, then learn how to apply a general skill to that area.

> [As a real estate broker] If you read and understand the three top-selling books on [website] home-page design, you will know more about that topic than 80% of the readership of a magazine for real estate brokers…a 0.5-1.5% response from an ad you place in the magazine is not unreasonable to expect. (157)

How to test the market before committing serious resources to your product:

* *Best:* Look at the competition and create a more-compelling offer on a basic one-to-three-page website (one to three hours).

* *Test:* Test the offer using short Google Adwords advertising campaigns (three hours to set up and five days of passive observation).

* *Divest or Invest:* Cut losses with losers and manufacture the winner(s) for sales rollout. (168)

For the website, it’s important to track exactly how many orders you would get, by looking only at the people who signed up for more information, or (better) who actually input their contact and shipping information as part of an order process (don’t collect billing information, as it’s not legal to charge for something you’re not currently selling). (171)

How to progressively outsource your business (188-191):

> 1. 0-50 total units of product shipped: do it all yourself, keeping notes for a later FAQ and canned email responses for your customer service people

2. >10 units shipped/week: Find local fulfillment services; have contract manufacturers ship directly to them

3. >20 units shipped/week: Move to an end-to-end fulfillment service

Great fable about an American consultant’s “helpful advice” to a Mexican fisherman; in under 25 years of hard work, he could have the lifestyle he already has. (231)

The key insight to his “mini-retirements” plan:

> Why not take the usual 20-30 year retirement and redistribute it throughout life instead of saving it all for the end…relocating to one place for one to six months before going home or moving to another locale. (234)

[You have too much stuff](

> I asked every vagabond interviewee in this book what their one recommendation would be for first-time extended travelers. The answer was unanimous: Take less with you. (245)

Tons of very practical advice for taking a mini-retirement overseas (248-255)

Three great quotes on what we should be doing with our lives:

> People say that what we are seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think this is what we’re really seeking. I think what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive. – Joseph Campbell, _The Power of Myth_ (I really have to read/watch that) (267)

> What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. – Viktor E. Frankl (270)

> Hear the music

Before the song is over – terminally-ill girl in a New York hospital (285)