Book Review: The Four Hour Work Week

I just finished reading The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss. There’s some pretty compelling stuff in there. He hypes up his web site, however, as if there were some über-top secret stuff there that only people who buy the book can get. That’s a load. Beyond that shortcoming, it’s really quite an exciting and potentially life-changing book.

Most of what you’ll read about the book is probably positive. There’s a reason it’s a best seller. I’ll just focus on a couple negatives and a silly weakness in the web site. One of the underlying currents to most of what he recommends is to do the minimum to get by. Now, he’s a big proponent of quality, happy customers, and all that sort of thing. However, since the products and web sites and other things he’s doing are all just necessary evils to give him time and money, he’s not going any farther than he needs to.

A few things on the web site stand out this way. We know that Tim outsources as much as he can. It’s 99% likely that he has outsourced 99% of the web site development. These folks don’t really think much about security, or maybe it’s really not important. The whole point of going to the web site is to give Tim your email address so he can start emailing you things. This book is not just about selling copies, it’s about giving him leads for people who might buy other products.

You can actually read the source code of the web for that asks for your email and discover that it’s just going to send you to an unprotected web page. That is, if you know to go to this web page, then you don’t have to give him your email address at all. Before you get too excited, there’s not actually much there. Consider that the person who knows the “password” is supposed to own (and therefore ostensibly have read) the book. A person who has actually read the book and then goes to this password protected section of his web site will be disappointed.

At the time I went, it had six links:

  • Introduction — My Story
  • Outsourcing Life
  • How to Check E-Mail Twice a Day or Once Every 10 Days
  • Hour-long podcast presentation on “The 4-Hour Workweek” fundamentals
  • Lifestyle Design FAQ
  • Interview with Tim and Rolf Potts of Yahoo Travel: “Freeing Yourself From The Daily Grind”

None of it is value add. The first two are sample chapters (remember, we already own the book). The next one is a blog entry you could just navigate to by going to his blog (no need to go to the top secret site). The fourth link is a podcast on someone else’s site (again, googling for Tim Ferriss and the book title will get you there). The fifth is another sample chapter from the book (that we already bought and read) and the last one is a Yahoo! travel news story.

So, pretty disappointing until you realize that he practice what he preaches. He outsourced the development of the web site, reused some content with minimal effort, and hyped it up to make it appear like added value.

Another overarching thought to this theme of joining the “new rich.” If there weren’t a whole lot of “old poor” around willing to do the day-in, day-out work that he’s outsourcing, there couldn’t be a “new rich.” It’s a dessert-before-dinner (or maybe even dessert-instead-of-dinner) lifestyle because it can’t sustain a culture. You can’t have any significant fraction of society living this way, because the trains do have to run on time. Someone has to be a policeman, fireman, doctor, lawyer (OK, maybe we can live without the lawyers), teacher, pilot, etc.

I’ve done a lot of disparaging here. Do I reject it wholesale? No. One of the big things Tim opened my eyes to was the potential I am wasting. I have the potential of creating lots of small revenue streams that will add up to money and time for pursuing dreams much sooner than if I just wait until traditional retirement or the empty nest. Tune in for my incorporation and interpretation of his ideas.