Much ado has already been made about The 4-Hour Workweek, including a few reviews by other personal finance bloggers, like Ramit’s over at I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Like Ramit, I had the opportunity to listen and meet Tim Ferriss in person (it’s just one of those perks of living close to Silicon Valley), and I found his presentation interesting enough to pick up his book a few weeks ago.
Overall, I’d say the book is about three things: developing discipline, being decisive, and making some attitude changes. Discipline comes in the form of not allowing yourself to sink time into useless time eaters (like checking email all the time, watching TV, any of the other millions of things we do to put off acting on our dreams), and being decisive means not wallowing in self pity if you dislike your job and doing something about it. Attitude changes include questioning assumptions we’ve all grown accustomed to by working in corporate America, as well as using Pareto analysis to focus on the few percentage of activities that give us the most benefit or bang for the buck.
I found myself being pretty inspired by Tim’s book. At various points in my life, I’ve experienced doing some of the things Tim mentions and can confirm that he’s 100% correct on these points. For example, I’ve taken “mini-retirements” (though I admit I could have spent them doing more exciting things than he’s done), I’ve successfully asked for a paid leave from work, negotiated cutting back on hours to go to school, and even volunteered multiple times in places where I had no access to a TV for weeks at a stretch (ahh, how different life was and how much unexpected peace I felt when I had no distractions and noise around me).
At one point in the book, Tim mentions that it can take a while to make an attitude change and get away from the rat-race mentality, even if you’ve decided to take an extended leave or mini-retirement. It reminded me of how once I managed to feel completely stressed out at a cafe in Spain. I was looking around and telling my husband that we needed to finish our food quickly and leave rather than feel free to sit back, read our magazines, and relax, because I could see other people looking into the restaurant to check on availability of seating. My husband looked at me like I was crazy.
No one expected anyone else to finish their food and rush out…it just wasn’t done there. Besides, there were 10 more cafes down the street that served the exact same food simply because everyone wanted to have an easy, relaxing Sunday in a cafe. As you can tell, that experience has stuck with me (and with my husband…he tells that story all the time), because it made me realize that my mind had been conditioned into always bein in the rat-race-go-go-go mentality, even when I was on vacation, and that that wasn’t normal in many other countries and cultures.
Because of all this, I’m inclined to take Tim’s advice on other ideas that I haven’t tried yet. And lest you think this is just a book with rah-rah platitudes, he actually does provide concrete actions to take toward getting you to change your life.
Some people have said this book doesn’t encourage the “right” personal finance discipline (like saving for retirement, etc.) but I’d disagree. Tim actually has maxed out all of his retirement accounts, but more than that, his point is not that you spend your money frivolously or irresponsibly; instead, he shows you how you can make your money work harder in certain places (what he calls geo-arbitrage) and that you do not need to focus on amassing millions just to have the lifestyle you wanted. He emphasizes asking yourself, for example, why you think you need money. Are you hell-bent on getting more money just for the sake of getting “rich”? Have you calculated how much you need, and for what? These are questions we should be asking ourselves regardless of whether we agree with Tim’s advice or decide to take it.
So, what are the downsides to Tim’s book? I’d say that the first few chapters may rub people the wrong way. They might come across as being a bit arrogant or repetitive, but if you can get past those, he has great, concrete advice, resources, and ideas that I think most of us could use (if we dare). And don’t let the title put you off….it turns out he titled the book as such because Tim did some microtesting by putting up a few Google AdWords ads using different titles to see which one got the most clickthrough rates, and this one won by far.
Finally, as a friend pointed out, there seem to be quite a few parallels between this book and another, out-of-print one called The Entrepreneur’s Manual, one of the most highly recommended books by successful entrepreneurs. I’d say the latter one has a much more direct, no-nonsense tone (and focused specifically on entrepreneurship, while Tim’s advice can apply more easily to workers as well), but both books are dissimilar enough that I will continue to use them both in my ongoing endeavors to improve my life and start my own business.