Book Review: The Four-Hour Workweek (Timothy Ferriss)

Agree or not with the author’s radical points of view about life, careers, and how to go about the pursuit of happiness, this is a fascinating book — and one that will expose you to 300 pages of the most thought-provoking material you’re likely to have read in quite some time!

Simply put, Tim Ferriss believes that 99.9% of all American citizens are allowing fear, outdated social norms, and the illusion of deferred happiness (someday I’ll have everything I need to be satisfied) to limit their lives to a pale shadow of their true possibility.  He maintains that an emerging class of people called the “New Rich” are finding creative ways to free themselves of these old shackles and live out their dreams now, instead of postponing them until later, simply by redefining their priorities and learning to manipulate today’s business climate to their financial advantage.  As a case in point, the author himself gives a step-by-step account of how he’s managed to fund the globe-hopping lifestyle of his dreams and accomplish virtually every goal he’s set out to achieve — including speaking six languages, becoming a competitive tango dancer, and being crowned as the Chinese national kickboxing champion — all based on a business model he’s created that requires less than four hours per week to sustain.

Sound crazy?  I thought so, too, at first.  But you’ll be surprised at how incredibly lucid and sensible many of the book’s recommendations are compared to all of the other “get rich quick” schemes that have been written about out there.  Love him or hate him, Tim Ferriss clearly represents a unique brand of entrepreneurial genius, and this book gives an incredibly detailed road map of how individuals can replicate his lifestyle for themselves, if desired, using techniques that range from outsourcing many of one’s personal responsibilities overseas to leveraging modern contract manufacturing methods to become a millionaire with a minimum of personal investment.  But just to clarify, and despite what some critics have maintained, this book doesn’t (in my opinion) glamorize or celebrate the pursuit of money alone as a meaningful end in its own right.  The heart and soul of the book, I believe, is its dogmatic insistence that conquering the challenge of making money — and living paycheck to paycheck — simply gives one the freedom to devote their time to more useful, enriching purposes in life.

Is the author’s path the right one for everybody?  Absolutely not.  As you’ll quickly realize by reading through the hundreds of on-line commentaries that are buzzing about this book, many people have pointed out a number of significant contradictions, inconsistencies, and ethical issues that arise from the “Four-Hour Work Week” philosophy.  Has Mr. Ferriss confused a lucky break with true business brilliance?  Does his lifestyle work for somebody with family obligations to consider?  Is it truly ethical to exploit loopholes and farm out work to poorer countries simply to feather one’s own nest?  These are all valid questions and ones that you’ll have to weigh, yourself, after reading the work.  And yet, objectively speaking, I’d still argue that it represents an important contribution to the emerging dialogue around work/life balance and is a tour de force in terms of the career and business genre — therefore making it a worthy read for anybody looking for some refreshing, paradigm-challenging material!


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