A few weeks ago I said “Never has a book had more of an effect on me prior to reading it.” with regards to Timothy Ferriss‘ book The Four Hour Work Week. But now I’ve read it, and I still think it’s pretty good. Granted, it’s not for everyone, and there’s more swearing in it than I like to hear outside a war zone, but it’s given me quite a bit to think about, and is one of the few books which, while reading, I kept thinking “Man, I’m going to have to read this again.”
The meat of the book is the first half which contains most of the paradigm changing theories that cause you to reexamine your life. The second half is mostly reference-type detail on how to change your life, should you decide to. The first half is the “why” and the second half is the “how”. Personally I found the first half much easier to read because dealing with how isn’t that hard once you’ve got the why down, but until you have a why it’s pretty hard to deal with how.
If you read this book the way I did, by listening to it on your iPod, then you’re definitely going to need to buy it in paper form. There are two many things I wanted to mark, think about, and write about, while I was listening, but that’s hard when you’re at the gym or riding your bike on the Jordan Parkway trail while being chased by a great dane (ok, it didn’t actually chase me, but it did almost bite me and I’ve had numerous other confrontations with dogs on that trail while riding my bike).
The reason I say the 4 Hour Work Week is not for everybody is that I don’t see how the world could function if everybody bought into it. Somebody has to fix cars, clean toilets, work in factories, staff retail stores, operate on people, hang out at the fire station and fight fires when they happen, drive a police car, or fix downed electrical wires, and if you have one of those jobs you can’t do it remotely. That said, it’s not that there is nothing in the book for people with these occupations, it’s just that I can’t see how they could apply everything the book teaches and keep those careers at the same time. But there are certainly parts of the book that do apply to anybody in any situation, and even if they don’t apply to somebody right now, they might apply to that same person later in life should they decide they want to change what it is they do.
Case in point, the book asks you to examine what your definition of success is and what you want out of life. As an entrepreneur, I’ve often asked myself what my objective is. Do I want to start and grow a company to have 1,000 employees, or do I want to have just 1 employee, myself? Who is more successful, the guy who has 1,000 employees, works 80 hours per week, and pulls in $300K, or the guy who is his only full-time employee, outsources everything, works 4 hours per week, and pulls in $50K? One makes more money per year, gets more publicity, has more fame, gets more attention, is respected more by peers. The other spends more time with his family, can travel the world, is more relaxed, has time to read a book when he wants to, and actually makes more money per hour of work (($300,000 / (80 hrs x 50) = $75/hr) < ($50,000 / (4 hrs x 50) = $250/hr)). Who is more successful?
It all depends on your definition of success, and Ferriss wants you to look at your own definition and decide whether your definition of success is leading you to be truly happy and excited about life. Maybe your definition isn’t really your definition, but you’ve bought into what everyone else says your definition should be. Maybe your own definition of success is something very different than what you’ve always thought it was. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll read this book and discover that you’ve been running down the wrong road all your life and there’s something else out there that interest you more, if you can just get rid of the social conspiracy that has brainwashed you into thinking it’s all about money. That’s the thing about this book, it’s not a get rich quick book, it’s a do what you really want to do quick book.
Now if money were no object, what would you really do with your life? Maybe you would still work 80 hours per week and want to have a big company. Great, then do it. But if your dream is to relax on a tropical island or go bass fishing in the Amazon River, and you’re only working 80 hour per week in order to save up the money so you can retire when you’re 50 and do what you really want to do, then that’s the tragedy Ferriss is trying to save you from, because according to him there’s no reason for you to wait 20 years to live the life you love.