Review: Four Hour Work Week

December 3rd, 2009

I viewed Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss with skepticism I normally reserve for late night infomercials. I read it in spite of that because the library had a copy, so it cost me nothing to satisfy my curiosity. My usual book-review note is in effect.

The crux of the book is advises the reader to create a product that can be shipped straight from the factory to your buyer without any action on your part, so all you have to do is sit back and watch the money appear in your bank account.

I’m not convinced of the book’s thesis: that anyone who wants to can make a huge stack of cash doing very little work. Its methods for dealing with employers seemed rather optimistic, and I think the author overestimates the amount of time one can save by cutting the non-work activities out of your workday. Admittedly, the author’s done it, I haven’t, so that make him the expert, but I’m not convinced that because he was able to do it, anyone can.

Additionally, much of the plan hinges on concepts advertising and outsourcing. As I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t like advertising and I don’t have a great solution to or substitute for it. I don’t know how you’d get people to learn about, much less buy, your miracle product without some form of advertising. I don’t have an educated opinion on outsourcing, but I’ve heard enough controversy surrounding it that I would need to educate myself on the topic before being personally involved. Although the author does spend a couple cursory pages saying basically, “Outsourcing is fine, don’t worry so much”, it didn’t really address any issues about why outsourcing might not be fine, just that everyone does it. Which is fair: it’s not a book about social justice in the global economy.

The plan is a guide, not a recipe that must be followed under pain of death. If you don’t like an idea presented in the book, you don’t have to act on it. The book as a whole is still useful for the other strategies he provides for reducing the amount of time you need to spend at work. Each chapter ends with a list of relevant resources, mostly on the Internet.

Many sections end with a series of questions to the reader: what would you do with your days if money were no object? He spends some time expounding on the idea that a person’s quality of life is directly proportional to the number of uncomfortable conversations they’re willing to have, and encouraging readers to swallow those proverbial frogs. This is book’s most powerful aspect: putting the proverbial frogs in perspective by juxtaposing them with of the promise of readers’ wildest dreams.

It was timely reading material for me, being between jobs, because I’m not entirely convinced I want a new job exactly like my old job so I can do exact same thing for the next forty years, and this book did help me get a fresh look at my options. I enjoyed it, and were I not also between incomes, I might even buy a copy. In the initial draft of this review, I said I would hypothetically recommend it to a friend, but in the month that’s elapsed I’ve already recommended it to two. I don’t know if they’ll find it useful or educational, but I do anticipate they’ll find it thought provoking


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