Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The 4-Hour Workweek, by Timothy Ferriss

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich, by Timothy Ferriss

I’m honestly not sure exactly how I feel about this book. It contains some excellent advice—“don’t tolerate the mediocre” is a phrase that I particularly like—as well as some ethically-challenged advice, such as “get good at being a troublemaker and saying sorry when you screw up.” This duality is common throughout; in some places the advice seems sage and reminiscent of The E-Myth and in others more like a guide for fraudulent used car salesmen or scammers. Regardless, it has sparked interesting discussions with several of my friends.

One concept I really liked was that some kinds of stress are actually healthful and needed for personal growth. Ferriss calls this concept eustress, as in the opposite of distress. Distress refers to stressors which cause pain and suffering, in this context things like destructive criticism and abusive bosses. Eustress is stress that is positive and the stimulus for growth, such as constructive criticism, role models, and physical training. People who avoid all criticism fail. Role models that push us to succeed, to stretch our limits, and to accept risk and grow should be desired. It seems the complete elimination of stress is the main goal of many people these days; I found the idea of eustress a refreshing alternate viewpoint.

A recurring theme in the book is to outsource virtually everything you do; firms like YMII, Elance, and Brickwork India will provide assistants to help you do anything from market research to balancing your checkbook. The idea is that if you get others to do your work, then you have nothing but leisure time! I find this a fascinating idea, but one that doesn’t scale well. Assuming everyone bought into this, who is left to do the work? I suppose that is a problem for future generations, though; for now there is no shortage of people willing to supply labor for outsourcing. There are some ethical issues here too; as a manager when I hire someone I hire for the skills displayed during the interview, not for their ability to outsource assignments. Ferriss puts forth the defense that if the work is getting done the company won’t care, but I’m not entirely comfortable with that rationalization. Again, this makes for excellent discussions with your colleagues!

First Sentence:
His friends, drunk to the point of speaking in tongues, were asleep.

3 comments:

Chris said...

l thought it sucked. Fairly arrogant self-promotion

Klobetime said...

I agree, the style wore thin quickly. The content, though, had several interesting points.

James Higginbotham said...

Klobe,

I just finished reading this as well. I completely agree with you. The principles were mostly from Michael Gerber, with the arrogance that comes from a guy who was successful with one product and thinks he has a system mixed throughout.

The biggest take away I had was to challenge myself to try and take mini-retirements today, while I can enjoy them with my family.

I did like some of the time management ideas, but many were rehashed from other areas as well. He did inspire me to reduce my email and blog intake, though.

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