This book was a game changer for me. Reading the 4-Hour Work Week 18 months ago prompted a different way of thinking about life and work. I clearly remember sitting on a noisy bus surrounded by locals in Vietnam absorbed in my new favorite book with ideas and a light bulb Ah-huh moments after every chapter.
Tim Ferris is one of a kind; his unique achievement list goes on forever, although his humble nature is most impressive. In recent years he has become a famous influence through his #1 rated podcast, best-selling books, his angel investing success (with huge companies like Twitter, Facebook, Evernote, Uber and Duolingo). nonconformitymity, bohemian lifestyle and inexhaustible pursuit to better himself and the world have inspired millions of people, especially through the 4-Hour Work Week.
4-Hour Work Week Book Quotes
“There is no sure path to success, but the surest path to failure is trying to please everyone.”– Tim Ferriss
“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.” – Tim Ferriss
“If you are insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is, too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.”– Tim Ferriss
“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”– Tim Ferriss
Rules That Change the Rules
~ EVERYTHING POPULAR IS WRONG
I can’t give you a surefire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time. —HERBERT BAYARD SWOPE, American editor, and journalist; first recipient of the Pulitzer Prize
Everything popular is wrong. —OSCAR WILDE, The Importance of Being Earnest
Being Earnest Beating the Game, Not Playing the Game
In 1999, sometime after quitting my second unfulfilling job and eating peanut-butter sandwiches for comfort, I won the gold medal at the Chinese Kickboxing National Championships. It wasn’t because I was good at punching and kicking. God forbid. That seemed a bit dangerous, considering I did it on a dare and had four weeks of preparation. Besides, I have a watermelon head— it’s a big target. I won by reading the rules and looking for loopholes, of which there were two:
- Weigh-ins were the day prior to competition: Using dehydration techniques I now teach to elite power lifters, I lost 28 pounds in 18 hours, weighed in at 165 pounds, and then hyper hydrated back to 193 pounds.3 It’s hard to fight someone from three weight classes above you. Poor little guys.
- There was a technicality in the fine print: If one combatant fell off the elevated platform three times in a single round, his opponent won by default. I decided to use this technicality as my single technique and just push people off. As you might imagine, this did not make the judges the happiest Chinese I’ve ever seen.
The result? I won all of my matches by technical knock-out (TKO) and went home national champion, something 99% of those with 5-10 years of experience had been unable to do.
Challenging the Status Quo vs. Being Stupid
Most people walk down the street on their legs. Does that mean I walk down the street on my hands? Do I wear my underwear outside of my pants in the name of being different? Not usually, no. Then again, walking on my legs and keeping my thong on the inside have worked just fine thus far. I don’t fix it if it isn’t broken.
Different is better when it is more effective or more fun.
If everyone is defining a problem or solving it one way and the results are subpar, this is the time to ask, What if I did the opposite? Don’t follow a model that doesn’t work. If the recipe sucks, it doesn’t matter how good a cook you are.
When I was in data storage sales, my first gig out of college, I realized that most cold calls didn’t get to the intended person for one reason: gatekeepers. If I simply made all my calls from 8:00-8:30 A.M. and 6:00-6:30 P.M., for a total of one hour, I was able to avoid secretaries and book more than twice as many meetings as the senior sales executives who called from 9-5. In other words, I got twice the results for l /s the time.
From Japan to Monaco, from globetrotting single mothers to multimillionaire racecar drivers, the basic rules of successful NR are surprisingly uniform and predictably divergent from what the rest of the world is doing.
The following rules are the fundamental differentiators to keep in mind throughout this book:
Retirement Is Worst-Case-Scenario Insurance.
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. Retirement as a goal or final redemption is flawed for at least three solid reasons:
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.
Most people will never be able to retire and maintain even a hotdogs-for-dinner standard of living. Even one million is chump change in a world where traditional retirement could span 30 years and inflation lowers your purchasing power 2-4% per year. The math doesn’t work.4 The golden years become lower-middle-class life revisited. That’s a bittersweet ending. c. If the math does work, it means that you are one ambitious, hardworking machine. If that’s the case, guess what? One week into retirement, you’ll be so damn bored that you’ll want to stick bicycle spokes in your eyes. You’ll probably opt to look for a new job or start another company. Kinda defeats the purpose of waiting, doesn’t it?
I’m not saying don’t plan for the worst case—I have maxed out 40i(k)s and IRAs I use primarily for tax purposes—but don’t mistake retirement for the goal.
Interest and Energy Are Cyclical.
If I offered you $10,000,000 to work 24 hours a day for 15 years and then retire, would you do it? Of course not—you couldn’t. It is unsustainable, just as what most define as a career: doing the same thing for 8+ hours per day until you break down or have enough cash to permanently stop.
How else can my 30-year-old friends all look like a cross between Donald Trump and Joan Rivers? It’s horrendous— premature aging fueled by triple bypass frappuccinos and impossible workloads.
Alternating periods of activity and rest is necessary to survive, let alone thrive. Capacity, interest, and mental endurance all wax and wane. Plan accordingly.
The NR aims to distribute “mini-retirements” throughout life instead of hoarding the recovery and enjoyment for the fool’s gold of retirement. By working only when you are most effective, life is both more productive and more enjoyable. It’s the perfect example of having your cake and eating it, too.
Personally, I now aim for one month of overseas relocation or high-intensity learning (tango, fighting, whatever) for every two months of work projects.
Less Is Not Laziness.
Doing less meaningless work, so that you can focus on things of greater personal importance, is NOT laziness. This is hard for most to accept, because our culture tends to reward personal sacrifice instead of personal productivity. Few people choose to (or are able to) measure the results of their actions and thus measure their contribution in time. More time equals more self-worth and more reinforcement from those above and around them. The NR, despite fewer hours in the office, produce more meaningful results than the next dozen nonNR combined. Let’s define “laziness” anew—to endure a non-ideal existence to let circumstance or others decide life for you, or to amass a fortune while passing through life like a spectator from an office window. The size of your bank account doesn’t change this, nor does the number of hours you log in handling unimportant e-mail or minutiae. Focus on being productive instead of busy.
The Timing Is Never Right.
I once asked my mom how she decided when to have her first child, little oP me. The answer was simple: “It was something we wanted, and we decided there was no point in putting it off. The timing is never right to have a baby.” And so it is. For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up all the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. “Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way.
Ask for Forgiveness, Not Permission.
If it isn’t going to devastate those around you, try it and then justify it. People—whether parents, partners, or bosses—deny things on an emotional basis that they can learn to accept after the fact. If the potential damage is moderate or in any way reversible, don’t give people the chance to say no. Most people are fast to stop you before you get started but hesitant to get in the way if you’re moving. Get good at being a troublemaker and saying sorry when you really screw up.
Emphasize Strengths, Don’t Fix Weaknesses.
Most people are good at a handful of things and utterly miserable at most. I am great at product creation and marketing but terrible at most of the things that follow. My body is designed to lift heavy objects and throw them, and that’s it. I ignored this for a long time. I tried swimming and looked like a drowning monkey. I tried basketball and looked like a caveman. Then I became a fighter and took off. 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, at best, become mediocre. Focus on better use of your best weapons instead of constant repair.
Things in Excess Become Their Opposite.
It is possible to have too much of a good thing. In excess, most endeavors and possessions take on the characteristics of their opposite. Thus:
Pacifists become militants. Freedom fighters become tyrants. Blessings become curses. Help becomes hindrance. More becomes less. Too much, too many, and too often of what you want becomes what you don’t want. This is true of possessions and even time. Lifestyle Design is thus not interested in creating an excess of idle time, which is poisonous, but the positive use of free time, defined simply as doing what you want as opposed to what you feel obligated to do.
Money Alone Is Not the Solution.
There is much to be said for the power of money as currency (I’m a fan myself), but adding more of it just isn’t the answer as often as we’d like to think. In part, it’s laziness. “If only I had more money” is the easiest way to postpone the intense self-examination and decision-making necessary to create a life of enjoyment—now and not later. By using money as the scapegoat and work as our all-consuming routine, we are able to conveniently disallow ourselves the time to do otherwise: “John, I’d love to talk about the gaping void I feel in my life, the hopelessness that hits me like a punch in the eye every time I start my computer in the morning, but I have so much work to do! I’ve got at least three hours of unimportant e-mail to reply to before calling the prospects who said ‘no’ yesterday. Gotta run!”
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. The problem is more than money.
Relative Income Is More Important Than Absolute Income.
Among dietitians and nutritionists, there is some debate over the value of a calorie. Is a calorie a calorie, much like a rose is a rose? Is fat loss as simple as expending more calories than you consume, or is the source of those calories important? Based on work with top athletes, I know the answer to be the latter. What about income? Is a dollar is a dollar is a dollar? The New Rich don’t think so. Let’s look at this like a fifth-grade math problem. Two hard-working chaps are headed toward each other. Chap A moving at 80 hours per week and Chap B moving at 10 hours per week. They both make $50,000 per year. Who will be richer when they pass in the middle of the night? If you said B, you would be correct, and this is the difference between absolute and relative income. Absolute income is measured using one holy and unalterable variable: the raw and almighty dollar. Jane Doe makes $100,000 per year and is thus twice as rich as John Doe, who makes $50,000 per year. Relative income uses two variables: the dollar and time, usually hours. The whole “per year” concept is arbitrary and makes it easy to trick yourself. Let’s look at the real trade. Jane Doe makes $100,000 per year, $2,000 for each of 50 weeks per year, and works 80 hours per week. Jane Doe thus makes $25 per hour. John Doe makes $50,000 per year, $1,000 for each of 50 weeks per year, but works 10 hours per week and hence makes $100 per hour. In relative income, John is four times richer. Of course, relative income has to add up to the minimum amount necessary to actualize your goals. If I make $100 per hour but only work one hour per week, it’s going to be hard for me to run amuck like a superstar. Assuming that the total absolute income is where it needs to be to live my dreams (not an arbitrary point of comparison with the Joneses), relative income is the real measurement of wealth for the New Rich. The top New Rich mavericks make at least $5,000 per hour. Out of college, I started at about $5. I’ll get you closer to the former.
Distress Is Bad, Eustress Is Good.
Unbeknownst to most fun-loving bipeds, not all stress is bad. Indeed, the New Rich don’t aim to eliminate all stress. Not in the least. There are two separate types of stress, each as different as euphoria and its seldom-mentioned opposite, dysphoria.
Distress refers to harmful stimuli that make you weaker, less confident, and less able. Destructive criticism, abusive bosses, and smashing your face on a curb are examples of this. These are things we want to avoid.
Eustress, on the other hand, is a word most of you have probably never heard. Eu-, a Greek prefix for “healthy,” is used in the same sense in the word “euphoria.” Role models who push us to exceed our limits, physical training that removes our spare tires, and risks that expand our sphere of comfortable action are all examples of eustress—stress that is healthful and the stimulus for growth.
People who avoid all criticism fail. It’s destructive criticism we need to avoid, not criticism in all forms. Similarly, there is no progress without eustress, and the more eustress we can create or apply to our lives, the sooner we can actualize our dreams. The trick is telling the two apart.
The New Rich are equally aggressive in removing distress and finding eustress.
Q&A: QUESTIONS AND ACTIONS FOR YOU
- How has being “realistic” or “responsible” kept you from the life you want?
- How has doing what you “should” resulted in subpar experiences or regret not having done something else?
- Look at what you’re currently doing and ask yourself, “What would happen if I did the opposite of the people around me? What will I sacrifice if I continue on this track for 5,10, or 20 years?”
I hope you enjoyed this week’s Food For Thought Fri-YAY excerpt from Tim Ferri’s 4-Hour Work Week – it’s a must read in my opinion! Although I’d much rather the hard copy myself, here is a free PDF version of the book with super helpful links 🙂