The Four Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss (Book Review)

I recommend following the author’s advice on this one even though it means giving up on his book before finishing. It just wasn’t for me for many reasons. I listened to the audiobook version through chapter 9 and returned it to my library. I wanted to give a fair, honest and complete review for my readers here, so I checked out the e-book version and plowed through until the end. This book may be better suited for someone looking for a quick fix (and I emphasize quick) to a dead end career, although I’m not quite certain how sustainable that fix would be for the average person.

The Four Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich was first published in 2007. I accessed the Expanded and Updated edition released in 2009 which has 17 chapters and 370 pages, including extensive bonus material and resources. This book details how to move into the arena of an elite group of individuals called the New Rich (NR). The NR have the freedom to work whenever and wherever they choose in order to support the lifestyle they want to attain. The goal is freedom to do whatever it is that you would like to do with your time. That premise in and of itself appeals to me; it’s just the methods described in this book which have me a bit skeptical. The author even acknowledges in the introduction, “much of what I recommend will seem impossible and even offensive to basic common sense – I expect that.”

First, I was set aback by the tone of this book. It comes across as very sarcastic, in my opinion. I am accustomed to the tough as nails, no sugarcoat manner in which many self-development books are written (think Dave Ramsey). This is to get the reader to wake up and move into action. However, the verbiage here bordered on condescending and there was a great deal of offensive language and profanity. For reference as to what is offensive to me, I do not use profanity at all. At one point, he makes a joke about not taking an Uzi into McDonald’s. I could do without all of the crass language, but for others it may not be an issue.

The tactic used in this book is to hook the reader emotionally in the first few chapters, provide sound personal productivity/time management advice mostly gleaned and paraphrased from other established writers and then to present a solution which relies heavily on online marketing. The author justifies getting ahead or winning based on technicalities rather than merit. My thoughts about this method immediately went to criminals getting released based on a clerical error rather than actually being acquitted. He agrees that a lot of people would be upset by your gaining the advantage that way, but who cares. I understand innovation, creativity and out of the box thinking. I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of thinking unlike the majority as a means to success, but purposefully looking to game the system to get an advantage without any qualifications, credentials or real experience? That just doesn’t sit well with me. It smells like a scam.

To the point of qualifications and credentials, he points out that what defines someone as an expert is pretty arbitrary. Reading a few (author suggests four) top-rated books, joining a couple of industry organizations, and giving a free seminar or two are enough to catapult one into a position for the sole purpose of selling their expert and unoriginal advice to the masses. All of this is legal and will return dividends quickly to lead you to a life of financial freedom, but what happens when the curtain is pulled back and your path to fame is discovered?

The first six chapters hooked me with the strategies for personal time management and productivity which I suppose I was looking for all along in this book. Explanation of the 80/20 rule, abiding by an information diet, ideas of minimalism and resolute goal and priority setting were all valuable tips that I could absolutely use. The assertion that retirement is not the ultimate end goal challenged my thinking in a wonderful way. The concept of mini-retirements throughout one’s career and making use of the cyclical nature of work and rest were brilliant. However, in all honesty, I could have just perused the footnotes and the recommended reading at the end of the book and studied these principles on my own. I will do this in the future, actually. For those looking for a quick shortcut to these productivity strategies, they are summarized for you in this book.

I did not like the advice the author gave for dealing with coworkers as you attempt to free yourself from your job. I understand the need to be efficient and effective, streamlined and productive at all costs. However, pretending to be on the phone to prevent co-workers from interrupting your work or taking fake sick days to prove that you can overachieve from home will get you to your end goal, but at what cost? That talkative colleague that presumably wastes your time might just be the ticket to your next legitimate passion project. I would not underestimate the value of relationships with anyone you come in contact with, but in this book, it seemed to only be valuable or worth your time when connected with high profile, star power.

There are many different ways to achieve financial freedom and allow for more time to do the things you really want. The method described in this book is one way, but it is too risky for me. Maybe it’s best to find what the author calls a “vocation” early in life, so you can wake up every day doing something you love. It will not be a career you need to escape from as you would be living your dream every single day. Sometimes, however, it takes traveling a few paths to find one’s vocation, and vocations can change as you move through life and new passions are revealed. Perhaps, downsizing or moving to a more modest, simpler lifestyle would allow one to have the financial means for more desirable travel or experiences. Online marketing is a lucrative career; I’m not convinced this book is the best guide for that. If you are looking for a quick fix, you might just find it in this book, as I’m sure many have, but peace of mind is sometimes worth the wait.

Note: I obtained a copy of this book as a library loan. I received no compensation for this review. This is my honest review and all opinions are my own.

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