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With his best-seller book The 4-Hour Work Week, American entrepreneur Tim Ferriss proposes a new way to work and carry out business. A very successful author whose most recent books are The Mentor Tribe and Tools of Giants, Ferriss is now well known among self-employed workers and micro-entrepreneurs. He is part of a group of new influencers that includes other heavyweights in the social media business world such as Gary Vaynerchuck and Seth Godin. In this book, Ferriss recommends more effective work methods that become more efficient thanks to leverage and advice to free up time. The result? A life where you have the time and resources to pursue your passions. Don’t miss my summary of The 4-Hour Work Week.
Excerpts from The 4-Hour Work Week
Text transcript (literal):
You seem to have loved my new concept to read inspirational passages from a book. I recently read excerpts from “Open”, Andre Agassi’s autobiography. Your feedback was 99% uber- enthusiastic.
So I thought we’d continue and what better way to do it than with my favorite book; the one I talk about 250 times a year on this channel, “The 4-Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss.
I have already posted a video summary of “The 4-Hour Work Week” on this channel. But here, the concept is different. I’ll read you passages that I highlighted myself when I last read The 4H Work Week. After that, I will comment on them.
“Fate changes when you dare to kill a sacred cow and question basic assumptions. This is equally true of life and the art of living.
With this sentence, Tim Ferriss really sums up the essence of his approach; which is to have no respect for the rules at all. Not because rules are fundamentally bad, but simply because there are a lot of rules that were implemented that may have been right at some point but are no longer relevant in today’s world.
Sometimes, they were put in place after deliberations that weren’t particularly relevant and it’s also sometimes the case that the rules that do exist aren’t good, it’s merely the fact that there are now even better ones that can be implemented.
“Less is not laziness. Let’s not confuse everything.” Tim Ferriss, The 4-Hour Work Week
He says: Apart from the Law and the Laws of Physics of course; he will always seek to challenge rules in order to understand the background to them and find out what works; whatever the extent to which it contradicts the current accepted view on the subject.
This line of thought interests me because it’s the approach taken by many talented entrepreneurs, scientists and musicians. There comes a time when they feel that they have to push the boundaries and challenge what is already out there in the world.
This is certainly one of the characteristics to be found with the brilliantly talented entrepreneur, Elon Musk, one of the co-founders of PayPal, the founder of Space X and Tesla, because he always speaks his mind, always tries to start from the most basic point, which is what the laws of physics enable us to do.
I will read you a paragraph that I found to be extremely relevant: “Less is not laziness. Let’s not confuse everything.
Working less is not laziness when the work in question is meaningless and you replace it with things that really matter to you. This is hard for most to accept, because our culture tends to reward personal sacrifice instead of personal productivity.
Few people choose or have the opportunity to measure the results of their actions and therefore their contributions in terms of time.
More time means more self-esteem and more support from those above and around you. The new blessed…”
In the original version, the new rich are the new blessed for him. But in French, it is very vulgar to say “nouveaux riches”. So the translator chose to put “the new rich”. So, it’s a bit stale. It sounds a bit weird.
But that’s what he calls people who are prepared to sacrifice long held beliefs and rules and, instead, follow the method he provides in his book.
“The newly blessed, though they spend fewer hours in the office, they produce more meaningful results than a dozen non-newly blessed combined. “
This may be an exaggeration on his part.
“So I propose that we adopt a new definition of laziness: to endure a non-ideal existence and let circumstances or others decide your life for you, or build a fortune whilst you spend your whole life as a spectator behind an office window.”
Straight off the bat, it’s a slam dunk.
“The size of your bank account doesn’t matter, nor do the number of hours you spend on the Internet to sort out all of the unimportant emails. So try to be productive rather than busy”.
Tim Ferriss makes an extremely relevant point here.
You can spend your whole day in an attempt to push the Eiffel Tower in to a different position. At the end of the day, you’ll be shattered and you’ll be able to say that you put in a hard day of work, didn’t just sit on your backside and watch the world go by. However, the end result will be that you actually achieved nothing useful or helpful, as what you set out to achieve in the first place was totally unrealistic.
“Ask for forgiveness not permission. It’s easier to get yeses when you’re already doing something that you know most people would say, I wish today you wouldn’t do that. And if you do it and ask for forgiveness, you’re going to get more acceptance than if you ask for permission.”
Tim Ferriss, The 4-Hour Work Week
And even if you want to move the Eiffel Tower and that’s your true goal; you won’t be able to do it like that.
Unfortunately, many of us spend part of our day in this way, we try to arrange things in a different way with pointless attempts to change them, which makes us feel as if we have actually achieved something when all we have really done is make a smokescreen, which changes nothing.
Then Tim Ferriss says :
“It’s never the right time.”
He says, “I asked my mom one day how she decided to have me, and she said, we wanted a child, we figured that we shouldn’t wait, as it’s never the right time to have a child.”
He takes the opportunity to say that it is never the right time to launch yourself in any project.
“If it’s important to you and you want to do it at some point, then do it today and make any corrections as you go along.”
It reminds me of the title of the book by Michael Masterson, who is a very successful entrepreneur and who has many things in common with Tim Ferriss. However, he has started companies, which now have more than 100 million dollars in sales. These are not insignificant sized companies.
His book is “Ready, Fire, Aim“. Which is also translated as: “Ready, Fire, Aim.
A major part of the approach that Michael Masterson describes in his book is that there are too many people who try to prepare everything in advance, who spend hours, months, sometimes years, to aim at something rather than just shoot at it.
“Being busy is a form of laziness. Lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.”
Tim Ferriss, The 4-Hour Work Week
It’s better to shoot and adjust things as you go along as it means that whatever it is that you do progresses, that you don’t procrastinate and, at the same time, you don’t give off the impression either.
Then, there is a principle that I love and that I often use.
He says :
“Ask for forgiveness rather than permission. It’s easier to get yeses when you’re already doing something that you know most people would say, ‘I wish today you wouldn’t do that. And if you do it and ask for forgiveness, you’re going to get more acceptance than if you ask for permission.”
Obviously, it doesn’t always work. You have to be smart about it. What Tim Ferriss advises us to do is to learn to be troublemakers, to learn to think outside the box and, as a result, sometimes take the risk to break or go beyond some socially accepted rules but, as a result of this, sometimes have to ask for forgiveness. With this approach you get more done than if you ask everyone’s permission to try the smallest thing that might be different.
A better way of life, for him, is the goal that we must aspire to.
“Lifestyle Design is thus not interested in creating an excess of idle time, which is poisonous, but the positive use of free time, defined simply as doing what you want as opposed to what you feel obligated to do.”
He also says :
“The risks are much less scary once you take them.”
He gives the example of a lawyer who, from the outside, showed all the signs of success, but from the inside, he could never enjoy this success as he never had the time to do so.
Sure, he made a lot of money, he drove great cars, he had the respect of his colleagues and was an extremely famous lawyer in Los Angeles. He didn’t really have time to enjoy his life, nor his money.
His dream had always been to travel to Brazil for a vacation. Once he achieved that, he loved it and he realized that, finally, he was much happier with that lifestyle. So he became a surf teacher.
Tim Ferriss shares this lawyer’s experience. He says, “More than a year after he quit, he still received offers from law firms. But by then, he had started up Nexus Surf; a luxury surf vacation business, in the tropical paradise of Florianopolis, Brazil.
He had met the woman of his dreams and spent much of his time chilled out under the palm trees or with his surf clients, who had the best time of their lives. Is this what he had been so afraid of?”
So, I will put this question to you. If you have a similar dream that has been in your mind, for ever, which seems like an impossible dream to you, couldn’t you just try it for a few weeks, like this lawyer did, before you commit yourself to it? And is that not how things would usually work?
When you give it a try, you’ll tell me, this is what I ignored for my whole life, to follow a career that was never what I wanted to pursue
Tim Ferriss concludes this testimony with: “The setting sun reflects off the surface of the water, providing a Zen-like setting for a message he knows is true: It’s not giving up to put your current path on indefinite pause.
He could pick up his law career exactly where he left off, if he wanted to; but that is the furthest thing from his mind.”
The upshot of all this, “make a decision to do something you dread every day.”
When was the last time you did something you were afraid of? Ask yourself. If it was more than a month ago, it’s time to get out of your comfort zone again and do something that scares you.
It could be a bungee jump, a sky-dive, or maybe just chat to a stranger in a bar or on the street or wherever.
Do something that scares you right now, or today or tomorrow. It trains us movers and shakers to get out of our comfort zone and to not get stuck in the same groove for too long.
“Measure the cost of inaction, realize the unlikelihood and repairability of most missteps; and develop the most important habit of those who excel and enjoy.”
What Tim Ferriss says here is exactly what Mark Twain said.
He said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
I don’t know about you. But for me, when I saw this quote from Mark Twain, I thought: it’s exactly the same for me too.
“Sports evolve when we dare to kill sacred cows and question basic assumptions. This is just as true of life and the art of living. “
Tim Ferriss, The 4-Hour Work Week
That doesn’t mean we have to become kamikaze about something and go completely off-the-wall. I believe that as people who take action, as smart entrepreneurs, we are able to take measured risks.
We also have to know how to differentiate between fears that are legitimate and that may lead to a more cautious approach; and fears that may be irrational and that purely exist in our minds.
I am afraid of heights and I try to climb heights as often as possible because I know that it will scare me whilst; at the same time, this fear is completely irrational. So, it teaches me to manage this fear emotionally and to become used to it.
For instance, I made a video in Porto, Portugal, in which I climbed to the top of a bridge that was very high. Obviously, I had a sense of vertigo and was afraid. At the same time, I was attached to a harness that could probably hold 10 times my weight, so, logically, I knew that I was totally safe.
And yet despite this knowledge, it was impossible within my mind to dispel the feeling of terror.
In instances like this, when you’re scared, you do it anyway.
This may sound trivial. It’s hard to imagine the number of people who get stuck at point in their development, not because they’re not technically ready or because they’re actually held back by something, but because of the block they have within their own minds.
For example, in my Blogger Pro training, I pinpointed 6 stages of fear that lead to the failure of a lot of members.
The first is to place a pop-up, a form, that appears in the middle of the screen because they are worried that it may disturb visitors to their site.
The second fear is to produce a podcast or to talk on it themselves, they say: “Oh my God, my voice is so awful. It’s so offensive that people will just run riot in the streets after they hear this podcast. It will be horrible. And the same with the video…”
They had those worries. I had those same fears myself, I’m not superman. All these fears that I have described to you, I’ve had them too.
“Effectiveness is doing the things that get you closer to your goals. Efficiency is performing a given task (whether important or not) in the most economical manner possible.”
Tim Ferriss, The 4-Hour Work Week
Then there is a very insightful section: “What do you want most of all?” A much better question.
Most people will never know what they want. I don’t know what I want.
If you ask me what I want to achieve over the next five months, in relation to my studies of a foreign language, then I do know. It’s all about precision.
“What do you want?” is not specific enough to produce a relevant answer that motivates action. Forget it.
“What are your goals?” is in a similar category, it will only ever be guesswork. To rephrase the question, we need to take a step back.
Let’s say we have 10 goals and we achieve them. What is the outcome that justifies the effort?
The most common answer is the one that I myself would have given 5 years ago: Happiness. But I no longer believe that this is the correct response. You can buy happiness with a bottle of wine. And the concept has become ambiguous because of how much it is used.
In my opinion, true happiness is to be found elsewhere. And the opposite of happiness, sadness, is not.
Happiness and sadness are two sides of the same coin, like love and hate. A good example of this is if you cry, but from happiness.
The opposite of love is apathy, and the opposite of happiness is boredom.
At this juncture Tim Ferriss makes an extremely relevant point.
“Enthusiasm is the most concrete synonym for happiness and that should be the goal of your quest.
When people advise you to follow your passion, I think it is the same singular concept of enthusiasm that they refer to. Which brings us back to where we started.
The question you need to ask yourself isn’t “what do I want?” or “what are my goals? “, but “what excites me?”
Added to this, there is also a very important passage in The 4-Hour Work Week that has the same basic concept.
Tim Ferriss basically says: there’s no point to reduce your work time if you don’t find activities outside of work that you are enthusiastic about because we simply hate emptiness.
In his opinion: the opposite of happiness is boredom. And if you find yourself with nothing to do, you will instinctively try to get involved in activities so that you don’t find yourself with nothing to do.
And if you have cut down on the amount of time that you work, but you haven’t found a hobby to fulfil you, outside of your work environment, which brings you pleasure or excitement, you will just do more work, rather than do nothing, even though someone else could be given the tasks or they are fairly pointless or even irrelevant.
The brain will convince us that we actually carry out a task well, when the truth of the matter is that we just complete pointless tasks just to avoid a state of boredom rather than achieve anything actually useful.
Once this is determined, the next important step is for it to be beneficial.
Tim Ferriss defines effective from efficient.
He says, “If you’re effective, you do things that get you closer to your goals. If you’re efficient you complete a given task, whether it’s important or not, in the most economical way possible.
Performance without consideration of efficiency is the default mode of the universe.”
This is a profound truth of human nature.
“I would consider the door-to-door age efficient but totally ineffective. It would become much more efficient with the use of a different medium, such as email or direct mail. It’s the same story with someone who checks those emails 30 times a day and creates an elaborate and sophisticated filing system for those who need it.
I also used to be the electronic paper pusher who checked and catalogued this type of thing; though it didn’t seem to be too productive.
Here are two things to remember: if you do something unimportant well, it does not make it important. And just because a task requires a lot of time it doesn’t make it important.”
We tend to forget that. Remember the Eiffel Tower. You may spend 15 years in an effort to push it, but it won’t budge an inch. You will have been very busy and you will have accomplished zero.
So, remember this: what you do is infinitely more important than how you do it.
Performance is useless if you don’t apply it to the right things.
To select the most effective solution is where the Pareto law comes in.
Pareto’s law is that 20% of the actions bring 80% of the results. It is a sociological law of wealth distribution, where 20% of countries have 80% of the wealth.
In these countries, 20% of the people have 80% of the wealth.
In the 50’s, there was a well-known Japanese expert on quality control who recognized that the same rule could be applied within that area too. That is to say that 80% of the problems in a company come from 20% of the resource. And it seems that 20% of the customers bring in 80% of the sales.
Of course, this is a principle. It’s not exactly 20%, it’s not exactly 80%, but those are the basic patterns.
When I discovered this Pareto principle, I did an analysis at my first IT services company and realized that, in fact, 17% of the customers brought in 80% of the business. It was remarkable how close it was to this Pareto principle.
One this has been identified, Tim Ferriss invites us to ask ourselves two key questions:
- what are the 20% of resources that cause 80% of my problems and dissatisfaction?
- what are the 20% of resources that produce 80% of the projected results and satisfaction?
This is important to put in your digital diary and set a reminder every 6 months or; at least, every year. It’s vitally important that you ask yourself this question on a regular basis.
And as I say these words, I think to myself: I should do another assessment because it’s so easy to fall back into work just for the sake of it and to carry out meaningless tasks, to shuffle things around on the desk, that these precise questions really help us to focus on what we do.
After this, Tim Ferriss gives some examples of how he has applied this to his company. For example, he says, “The first decision I made, that’s a prime example of a rapid return on investment.”
He contacted 95% of his clients and immediately fired 2%, which left the most productive 3% to profile and replicate.
That’s exactly what I did with my business when I discovered the Pareto principle. I increased my prices, ditched the customers who caused me the most grief and tried to identify the most profitable customers and simply replicate them.
Overnight, the difference was obvious. I got rid of 80% of the stress involved with my business and the profit margins stayed at the same level.
Tim Ferriss continues. He says, “Out of more than 120 clients, just 5 of them generated 95% of the revenue and he would then spend 98% of his time just to follow up on the others.”
He actually says, “I didn’t realize that to work from 9 to 7 is not the goal. It’s just what must people have become accustomed to, whether it’s necessary or not.
I was the perfect example of work for work’s sake; the most hated phrase in the vocabulary of the newly blessed.”
He goes on to say:
“Being busy is a form of laziness. Lazy thinking and blind action.”
If you’re busy it simply means you haven’t taken the time to think about your priorities, to analyze the 20/80: What are the 20% of things that bring 80% of my stress? What are the 20% of things that bring 80% of my happiness?
At times, we find ourselves in the same situation as we haven’t thought things through and planned them effectively. So, it’s also a kind of laziness.
“Learn to be difficult when it counts. In school, as in life, having a reputation for being assertive will help you receive preferential treatment without having to beg or fight for it every time.”
Tim Ferriss, The 4-Hour Work Week
And the cool thing is that it’s an intelligent kind of procrastination. You can feel like you’re extra special.
This makes some people feel like they are valued. They feel this way because when they go on vacation, they get 50 phone calls a day from work because they are so indispensable. But they don’t understand is that it is not at all healthy to feel that they are indispensable. The actual problem is that they aren’t efficient.
Tim Ferriss goes on to say, “Lack of time is nothing more than a lack of priority.”
So, he suggests that you constantly ask yourself this question: am I productive or merely active?
This aligns with the advice from Peter Drucker in his book “The Effective Executive”.
He recommends that over a week, every half hour, you ask yourself the question: is what I do really necessary or can I eliminate it or simply get someone else to do it?
A pertinent question to make you focus on what’s important is this: “If you had a heart attack, after which you could only work for two hours a day, what would you do?” Ask yourself that question.
Then he talks about how you should starve yourself of all access to the various types of media. I’ve talked about this many times before on this channel. It’s simply a media diet, don’t listen to radio, watch TV or read newspaper, etc.
Tim Ferriss says that’s exactly what he does.
You could carry out a 7-day experiment to see. If you do, you’ll see, it’s great, I agree with him because I did exactly that and it works, because everyone turns into a “research” assistant because you will hear all about the important news no matter what.
“Most people don’t even remember what they learnt for an hour or two that morning.
Get in the habit to ask yourself: will I use this information for something right now and is it important?
Information is useless if it is not applied to something that matters or if you forget it before you have a chance to use it.
Focus on what new technology pro Kathy Sierra calls just-in-time information, rather than just-in-case information.”
Then, Tim Ferriss presents us with a trick that he knows. Personally, I love it.
He says, “When I was a student, I had a policy. If I got less than an A on the first essay or test in any subject, I would take 2-3 hours worth of questions to the teacher’s office and refuse to leave until the person I spoke to had answered all my questions or changed my grade upwards.
My goal was twofold:
- To understand the method by which the teacher evaluated my work, which included any prejudices or personal views that might sway them.
- The teacher would think twice before they awarded me with anything but an A, with the knowledge that I would be sure to stick my head in their office for a couple of hours of intense questions and they wouldn’t give me a bad grade unless they had an exceptional reason to do so.
Learn to be tough when it matters. In school, as in life, having a reputation for not letting things happen to you will help you get special treatment without having to beg for it. Better fight for yourself every time.”
This is a strategy I use and it works incredibly well.
Next, he suggests a routine that I have adopted myself and it has completely changed my life:
“Check your email inbox twice a day: once at noon, just before lunch, and again in the late afternoon. This ensures that you are aware of most of the responses to the emails you have sent.
Don’t ever check your email inbox at the start of your day.”
On that, I completely agree with him. Set yourself a 7-day plan. Then, 30 days if you’ve made it to the 7 days.
Then, he talks about how important it is to create an interruption-free environment for yourself. So, disable all instant messaging notifications, which means that you put your phone on airplane mode, or better still, don’t give out your phone number so that you can’t be interrupted and you can then just concentrate on your work with nothing to distract you.
There’s a wonderful quote that’s a bit confrontational: “If you reproach a fool who interrupts you, it’s the same if you reproach or frighten a child. They can’t help it, it’s in their nature.
I must admit that I occasionally succumb to the temptation to invent a distraction.
If you are in the same boat, welcome to the club of temporary idiots. Learn to recognize and fight the temptation to be distracted.”
I will end with this quote from Henry David Thoreau who is an American philosopher who is therefore quoted in The 4H Work Week:
“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone” – Henry David Thoreau
Obviously, The 4H Work Week is a lot richer than that. I’ve only read selected excerpts. Later on in the book, you will find a complete process to form your work life so that it is more like an automated company, to be able to break away from a lousy job or to make it more enjoyable.
There are many different aspects to it and I would really encourage you to read The 4-Hour Work Week. It’s a book that changed my life. I’ve never come across a book that has had such a profound impact on entrepreneurs.
Once you have read it, you then have every right to disagree with The 4-Hour Work Week. But as an entrepreneur or simply as people on their way up, you simply have to read it. Anyway, that is my opinion.
Don’t forget to read my review of The 4-Hour Work Week.