"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"
The [North] American dream waxes and wanes with political, social and economical shifts in society, but the goal remains consistent for most—work to live a life of comfort. The millennial generation is arguably the first to collectively demand more—more balance, more flexibility, more culture in the workplace. Timothy Ferris has taken it one step further in The 4-Hour Workweek (TFHW) to suggest that the ultimate balance is obtained when work is the smallest portion of our week and our life is designed to bring us ultimate happiness and fulfillment. The book is equipped to serve as the ultimate how-to guide to abandoning the status quo and establishing an independence to work that many crave, stacked with instructions, real life testimonials and practical tools to apply to the reader’s unique situation.
The Big Idea
Parkinson’s Law & The New Rich
"The New Rich (NR) are those who abandon the deferred-life plan and create luxury lifestyles in the present using the currency of the New Rich: time and mobility."
The story starts with burn out. Many experience it in pursuit of the ultimate goal: pulling longer hours in pursuit of movement, crafting meeting after meeting chasing visibility, sacrificing self-care in favor of self-promotion. Ferriss adamantly argues that it is all a myth, the 9-5 rat race is designed in such a way as to keep the wheel turning and the status quo protected. This is known as Parkinson’s Law, where “a task will swell in perceived importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion.” The arbitrary nature of 8 hours a day should have us questioning how each job and each unique industry conveniently fits into 40 hours per week, but when challenge strikes or a roadblock is presented the same worker can pump out their work in two hours in favor of attending to their sick children, or avoiding poor weather conditions. Ferriss suggests that when ultimate efficiency and effectiveness are re-introduced to the highest degree, meetings and phone calls become arbitrary, face time can be limited and 8 hours can be revered as overkill. When the work is at utmost efficiency, and living life at the forefront becomes the ultimate goal, you are considered part of The New Rich (NR).
As a reader, we are encouraged to question the model we find ourselves entrenched in and demand more. In order to live the life we want, rather than what is prescribed, we need to set limitations, work towards independence and utilize the ultimate currency of time and mobility.
Design the Life You Want
"Excitement is the more practical synonym for happiness, and it is precisely what you should strive to chase. It is the cure-all…’What would excite me?’"
So often we limit our own happiness or excitement by sticking to convention. Ferriss argues the synonym to happiness is excitement and the opposite of excitement is boredom. So many of us are bored, trudging through our best years in anticipation of the elusive retirement, failing to recognize that retirement is rarely as fulfilling as desired and an extended life sentence is not a promise. Designing a lifestyle NOW that serves you NOW should be the ultimate goal.
Here are a couple ways Ferris suggests we can do that:
- Invest in self-care. “By working only when you are most effective, life is both more productive and more enjoyable.”
- Less is more. “Focus on being productive instead of busy.”
- The time is now. “The Timing is never right, 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. “Get good at being a troublemaker and saying sorry when you really screw up.”
- Play up your strengths. “Focus on better use of your best weapons instead of constant repair.”
- Do what you want. “…Opposed to what you feel obligated to do”.
- Time is money. Focus on relative income, which accounts for time and dollar. Rather than absolute income that focuses only on the dollar amount.
Free Yourself Up
"Set the rules in your favor: Limit access to your time, force people to define their requests before spending time with them, and batch routine menial tasks to prevent postponement of more important projects. Do not let people interrupt you. Find your focus and you’ll find your lifestyle."
In order to live the lifestyle you have crafted, the next step is to free yourself of the limiting constraints of the 9-5 job. While Ferriss is quite adamant that the ideal would be self-employment with a very targeted product and buyer ship that can be guided and tweaked from anywhere, he has shared various ways of cutting through the mold and establishing more of what you want and it can all be simplified by using the 80/20 Principle.
“80% of the results come from 20% of the effort and time.” How often do we flip this on its head and lose sight of productivity and efficiency, investing 80% of our time and reaping only maybe 20% of the progress? This can manifest in useless meetings, lengthy email exchanges, needless conference calls or needy, low paying customers—there are countless examples of time and effort wasted in favor of filling the space and maintaining the status quo. By focusing on the 80/20 principle we are committing to ultimate efficiency in time and freeing ourselves up to live the life we ultimately crave.
Ferriss shares a couple of examples to uphold the 20% effort:
- Limiting meetings and policing face time to reflect quick, decisive agendas.
- Set an automatic response to indicate your priorities and manage expectations for your co-workers and customers.
- Abandoning needy, low-paying customers and focusing on maintaining the heavier minority.
- Do not multitask, rather prioritize and establish two primary goals for the day to achieve ultimate satisfaction.
Ferriss is radical, no question about it. He argues for his readers to abandon a lifetime of conditioning in favor of living a life of adventure, fulfillment and happiness. But he is persuasive, offering experience, arguments founded on convincing evidence and a book jam packed with thought starters and tools to get started NOW. While his ideals may differ from the wider population and his journey may appear selfish, his readers cannot argue with the very obvious examples of time wasted and energy ill spent in a life that is not promised.
Whether you buy-in or not, we can all do a little better to craft a life that is fulfilling and unique to our self prescribed goals.