The Four Hour Work Week
There are few books that I feel have changed my life, but I would confidently say that The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Feriss is one of them. I read The Four Hour Work Week a few years ago, and have recently picked it up again for some inspiration. Feriss’s book has inspired me recently to pursue something I have always wanted to do, so I wanted to use that opportunity to discuss his revolutionary book here.
The Four Hour Work Week is literally a book about how to have a four hour long work week. That is actually what it is about, but it is also motivational in so many other ways. Few books can expand your scope of reality in a way that this book does, and the type of lifestyle that Feriss lives is one that I try to practice.
The idea of having a four hour work week is to create a self-sustaining business through maximizing efficiency at work, but the reason to do this is to allow for maximum free time to pursue your dreams in the here and now. In the American work force we have this idea of retirement, which is ultimately delayed joy and gratification. We work hard, long hours endlessly with the idea that one day there will be a big pay off. We will go on that vacation one day! Be happy one day! Have enough money one day! What I find most interesting about this book is not how to have a four hour work week, but how to change the way that we live our lives to maximize joy now. Here is one of my favorite passages from the book that I often think about in my own life, an anecdote that Ferriss includes that will demonstrate his point of view:
An American businessman took a vacation to a small coastal Mexican village on doctor’s orders. Unable to sleep after an urgent phone call from the office the first morning, he walked out to the pier to clear his head. A small boat with just one fisherman had docked, and inside the boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.
“How long did it take you to catch them?” the American asked.
“Only a little while,” the Mexican replied in surprisingly good English.
“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” the American then asked.
“I have enough to support my family and give a few to friends,” the Mexican said as he unloaded them into a basket.
“But… What do you do with the rest of your time?”
The Mexican looked up and smiled. “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Julia, and stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, senor.”
The American laughed and stool tall. “Sir, I’m a Harvard M.B.A. and can help you. You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. In no time, you could buy several boats with the increased haul. Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”
He continued, “Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution, and move to Mexico City, then to Los Angeles, and eventually New York City, where you could run your expanding enterprise with proper management.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will all this take?”
To which the American replied, “15-20 years. 25 tops.”
“But what then, senor?”
The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.”
“Millions, senor? Then what?”
“Then you would retire and move to a small coastal fishing village, where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…” (The 4-hour Work Week, Timothy Ferriss, page 231-232)
Ferriss brilliantly points out that everyone thinks that they want to be millionaires, but in reality, we just want to do the things that millionaires do, which we inaccurately believe can only be accomplished with money. The goal of the Four Hour Work Week is not to be a millionaire so you can buy a BMW and eat cheetos all day. If anything, it is to free up time in your life to accomplish the things you have always wanted to do- the things you think only millionaires can do.
“The question is then, how can one achieve the millionaire lifestyle of complete freedom without first having $1,000,000?”
Let me give you a for-instance in my own life: It is clearly an expectation that a college graduate gets a full time job right out of college, and it is currently an expectation that people have of me right now. Currently, I work in an office 3 days a week, part time. I have applied for countless full time jobs with little coming back, some jobs that sound completely interesting, and some jobs I applied for because I feel like I need a full time job.
Upon reading the Four Hour Work Week I started wondering why it was I felt the need to have a full time job. Am I fulfilled by my current job? Yeah, some what. Would I like more money? Yes, obviously. But here is where it gets interesting- What am I not doing now that I would be doing if I had more money? What kinds of experiences and events would I be doing that I don’t already do? Do I have to scrimp and save when I want to go on a trip? Yup. Would I be better off at a full time job where no matter how much money I made I would only be able to travel one or two weeks out of the entire year? I’m not sure. These are questions I need to ask myself.
“You spend two weeks negotiating your new Infiniti with the dealership and got $10,000 off? That’s great. Does your life have a purpose? Are you contributing anything useful to this world, or just shuffling papers, banging on a keyboard, and coming home to a drunken existence on the weekends?”
The Four Hour Work Week isn’t just about working as little as possible, it’s about lifestyle design. It’s about realizing that there are other ways to live in this world. Sometimes my boyfriend and I discuss what we would do or become if we were millionaires- learn a language, own a vineyard, ballroom dance (okay those are just mine). Well what the hell is stopping me from starting any of those things now? Some people don’t get to their bucket list until they are (lucky enough to) reach retirement….how mindbogglingly crazy is that? I’m all for hard work, but this life isn’t a dress rehearsal! This is it, and not only do few make it to this idyllic retirement that everyone dreams up, but are you going to have the energy to swim, discover, travel, and explore all of those things you have been putting off when you are in your seventies on retirement? Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef might be something you want to cross off that list sooner than later my friend.
“People don’t want to be millionaires — they want to experience what they believe only millions can buy. Ski chalets, butlers, and exotic travel often enter the picture. Perhaps rubbing cocoa butter on your belly in a hammock while you listen to waves rhythmically lapping against the deck of your thatched-roof bungalow? Sounds nice.
$1,000,000 in the bank isn’t the fantasy. The fantasy is the lifestyle of complete freedom it supposedly allows. “
One of my I’ll-do-it-someday desires was ballroom dancing, and I was so inspired by Ferriss and his endless personal accomplishments that I started researching ballroom dance studios in my area. I had an absolute blast! It did not have to be something on my far-away-maybe-someday-when-I’m-a-millionaire list, I can do it here and now- and I did! I try to accomplish my dreams now. Ballroom dance now, go to Paris, now, go to Tokyo now, say yes now! You might not even have a later to put it off until. Lifestyle design is important to me, and this book has been hugely inspirational in showing me that I don’t have to wait for the good things in life.
Any book that can change the way you think about the way you live your life is one that I need to recommend. I hope others get the same motivation and inspiration that I have from The Four Hour Work Week! If anything you can be in awe of the things that this one man has accomplished- aside from being an entrepreneur and author, he is a kickboxing champion, and holds a Guiness World Record in tango. To learn more about the Four Hour Work Week visit http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/