I just finished reading ‘The 4 Hour Work Week’ for the second time. The first time was probably 9 years ago and it was interesting to revisit. Here are a couple of thoughts:
The World has Caught Up to Tim Ferris
Since the book was written, there are so many things that make the tasks Tim recommends much easier.
AirBNB is a great example of this. It’s easier to find cheap and reliable housing abroad because of this site
Upwork is another one. It’s easy to find remote work or to find contractors to outsource to because of platforms like Upwork, making digital nomads a very common thing these days.
Working remotely is very common now, and fewer people will have to jump through all the hoops that Tim describes in his book to escape being in the office all the time.
But The Empire Struck Back
In spite of Tim’s vision being easier to implement than ever, most people still get stuck on the hamster wheel, whether or not they are working remotely or staying in AirBNBs.
People are still letting their work take over their lives.
Why is that?
I think a couple reasons:
- People are afraid to admit to themselves what they really want, so they just let their employers and peers decide
- People feel that they are being selfish and letting people down if they do what they really want to do
There may be others, too.
It doesn’t matter how easy it is to become a digital nomad if you can’t decide if that’s really what you want, or if it feels too self indulgent to make the leap.
What’s the Point of working 4 hours a week?
Perhaps an even bigger reason than fear of getting what you want or feeling self indulgent is that work, even miserable work, gives people something to do and provides a modicum of meaning. Even if there might be something better, people aren’t willing to take the risk that there isn’t
In the last couple chapters, Ferris admits that he didn’t know what to do with himself once he created his brilliant system of making money without working.
Ferris acknowledges this in his chapter ‘Filling the Void: Adding Life after Subtracting work’.
Apparently, you should learn languages and learn to tango and perhaps volunteer.
Staring into the void and having to fill it with something meaningful is a terrifying leap. Many would rather just take their passionless work instead.
4 hours or 10,000 hours?
What the book is really about is eliminating worries about money so you can pursue your passion. One could argue you could just pursue your passion and take whatever compensation that might earn you and avoid the intermediate and difficult step of creating an automated wealth machine.
You might also skip the step of traveling the world and learning tango and focus on honing your craft.
That would be the advice of another self-help school of thought, the famous ‘10,000 hours of deliberate practice’ rule made famous by Malcolm Gladwell in Outliers (although the meme has gained a life of its own and no longer represents the research that produced this rule).
Money and Meaning
Ultimately a person needs both money and meaning. Sometimes a career will give you both. Sometimes you can create an elaborate automated system to give you money and then go looking for meaning.
For most of us, we’ll just take down a few tips for finding both when we read a book like ‘The Four Hour Work Week’ and a few when we read ‘Outliers’ and continue to live our messy lives.