Summary of The 4 Hour Workweek. The majority of people remain employed throughout their lives. They work from 9 to 5 for 40 years before retiring at the age of 60 (or more). In the bestselling The 4-hour workweek, Tim Ferriss explains how to break out of this paradigm, by significantly reducing our work time. By freeing ourselves from geographical constraints. Thereby, allowing us to live anywhere in the world. By automating our revenue, to enable us to take mini-breaks whenever we feel like it and to fulfill our dreams.
The 4-hour workweek by Timothy Ferriss, 2006 (first edition), 2009 (current revised edition), 380 pages
What’s new for those who have already read the first edition of The 4-Hour Workweek? Approximately 80 additional pages, essentially listing dozens of case studies from reader testimonials, pending my own testimonial. A selection of the best articles published on his blog, and an update to the tools and resources data. Is it worth buying the second edition if you have read the first one? Yes, definitely, considering the ridiculously low price of The 4-hour workweek in comparison to the value it offers.
Chronicle and summary of The 4-Hour Workweek
Step 1: D is for Definition
Tim Ferriss begins by telling the story of an encounter he had with an American tycoon named Mark. At several thousand meters in altitude, in the first-class cabin of an airplane.
Mark owned service stations, grocery stores, and casinos. He and his friends had been known to lose. Between 500,000 to one million dollars in a single weekend in Las Vegas, he told him.
When Tim Ferriss, whose curiosity was aroused, asked him which of his businesses he preferred. Mark was quick to answer: “None of them”.
Mark explained how he had spent 30 years of his life with people that he did not like, doing business. He did not enjoy to buy things which he did not need.
Mark was one of the living dead. And this is precisely the purpose of The 4-hour workweek: to avoid becoming like that.
What is the difference between what the author calls the New Rich, and the Deferrers. Those who save up everything for the end only to find that life has slipped through their fingers?
A number of things, which define their philosophy of life and therefore their objectives and priorities:
Deferrers: Work for yourself.
New Rich: Have others work for you.
Deferrers: Work when you want.
New Rich: Avoid work for work’s sake and do the minimum required for maximum effect.
Deferrers: Take early retirement.
New Rich: Take mini-retirement periods throughout life. Do what we are passionate about.
Deferrers: Buy everything you want.
New Rich: Do everything we want, and be all the things we want to be.
Deferrers: Be the boss rather than the employee.
New Rich: Don’t be the boss or the employee, be the owner.
Deferrers: Have more.
New Rich: Have better quality and fewer useless things.
Being financially rich and having the capacity to live like a millionaire are two separate things.
The value of money is multiplied by four things that you need to check:
- what you do
- when you do it
- where you do it
- and with whom you do it.
This is the multiplier of freedom.
Because freedom – the capacity to choose – is real power.
Chapter 2: Rules That Change the Rules: Everything Popular Is Wrong
Very often, we don’t question things that already exist. Because if millions of people are doing things this way, then it must be the best way to do things. But it’s not the best way; it’s just the usual, average way.
Earl Nightingale, Lead the Field
The author tells us about how he won. A gold medal for Chinese boxing 4 weeks after taking up the sport. By analysing the rules of the championship and finding the flaws that allowed him to win the medal easily. Something that 99% of those who had 5 to 10 years of experience had never been able to do.
Tim Ferriss uses this story as a departure point to explain to us the importance of challenging the status quo.
The average, what everyone is doing. Obviously, it must be challenged intelligently. Just because everyone around the world walks on their feet doesn’t mean that we should start walking on our hands.
Walking with our feet is working pretty well. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. The author tells us what he considers to be the 10 basic rules of the New Rich. Which call the consensus into question:
Retirement is rainy day insurance.
It should be viewed as capital to be used in the absolute worst-case scenario. In other words, the total physical inability to work. The vision of retirement as the ultimate redemption is flawed from the outset because:* it asks you to sacrifice the best years of your life on tasks that you do not enjoy
* in the majority of cases people who retire have to adopt a mediocre middle-class lifestyle
*and if, on the contrary, you ensure that you have a good lifestyle for your retirement. There is a strong chance that you are an ambitious work machine. That one week after you retire you will be so bored. That you hop on the first opportunity to take on a new job.
- Interest and energy are cyclical. You have to alternate between periods of activity and rest. Because capacity, interest and mental endurance ebb and flow. That is why the New Rich aim to sprinkle a series of mini-retirements periods throughout their life.
- Less is not lazy. Doing less meaningless work to allow you to concentrate on the things that really matter to you is not laziness. Laziness is the fact of putting up with a life that is not made for us. Letting circumstances and others decide for us. And being busy and being productive have nothing in common: as Stuart R. Levine said in Cut to the Chase. If you and your team spend the day pushing the Eiffel Tower. Hoping to move it, you will have been very busy but not very productive. Do not confuse the two.
- It is never a good time. For most important things, the timing is never right. Because if the universe has nothing in particular against you. It is still not going to align the stars just to give you the green light. “One of these days” is a disease that will take all your dreams to the grave.
- Ask for forgiveness and not permission. If it is not going to devastate everything around you, then get started and justify yourself afterwards. People often reject on an emotional basis things that they would accept once they are faced with the “done deal”. Learn how to become a troublemaker, and to apologise if you mess up.
- Focus on your strengths rather than trying to fix your weaknesses. As the authors of Strengths Finder say. Most people are good at a handful of things, and very bad at everything else. It is much more lucrative and fun to take advantage of your strengths. Rather than attempting to fix all the chinks in your armour.
- Taking things to excess turns them into their opposite. you can have too much of a good thing. Therefore, what we want becomes what we do not want if we have too much of it: lifestyle. The art of living, is therefore not meant to create too much free time. But to increase your free time and allow you to use it positively.
- Money is not the only solution. “if only I had more money” is one of the most commonly used excuses. In order to procrastinate and prevent people from living their dreams. Being obsessed with money is a convenient way of making it look as though it is the answer to everything. It cleverly creates a constant distraction. That prevents us from seeing how vain everything is. The problem goes much deeper than money.
- Relative income is more important than absolute income. absolute income is defined with a single variable of annual and monthly gain. Frank earns €100,000 per year and Marie earns €50,000 per year, so Frank is twice as rich as Marie. Relative income brings a new variable. Time, so look at the hourly wage. Frank makes €100,000 per year, but works 80 hours a week for 50 weeks. Which equals an hourly wage of €25, while Marie earns €50,000 per year. But only works 10 hours per week over 50 weeks, so she makes €100 per hour. Marie is therefore 4 times richer than Frank. Obviously, the relative income has to be sufficient to achieve our objectives. This is difficult if we work just one hour per week, even at a €100 an hour.
- Stress and Eustress (positive stress). stress is not always a bad thing. It is important to distinguish between negative stress which weakens us, lowers our self-confidence and our capacities. Eustress – from the Greek prefix “Eu” which means “healthy” (as in “euphoria”) – which exerts positive pressure on us. Like models that push us to excel, constructive criticism or the excitement of risk-taking. That takes us outside our comfort zones. There is no progress without Eustress.
Chapter 3: Dodging Bullets – Fear-Setting and Escaping Paralysis
To do or not to do? Most people prefer dissatisfaction to uncertainty. Tim Ferriss tells us that for years, he set objectives and took resolutions to change direction, with no effect. He was as unsure of himself and frightened as everyone else.
So, in 2002 he found himself at the head of a company. That he had founded and which brought him much more money that he could spend. Approximately $70,000 per month – but which took up absolutely all his time. And with defects in its design that made it unsellable (he went on to sell it in 2009, as he points out the new edition).
He felt both stupid and trapped and wondered why he was not smart enough to find a solution to escape his 15 hour work day, to escape the prison that he had built for himself.
Then he had an illumination: a trip. It was just what he needed. But for 6 months, he engineered his way to find thousands of excuses and reasons why this project could never work.
A period that he describes ironically as “his most productive”. And one day, he had an idea: why not try to precisely define his worst nightmare – the worst thing that could happen because of his trip?
And then something happened: as he imagined all the disasters which could befall him, he also began to imagine simple solutions to all these problems, and to put them into perspective.
None would be fatal, far from it, and on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being “my life is completely and utterly turned upside down for ever”, his worst “my life is ruined” scenario got a score of just 3 or 4. And there was probably only a one in ten million chance that it would happen.
So he made his decision, and bought a one way ticket to Europe. This was the starting point, not of the ultimate disaster that he had envisaged, but of the fairy tale that his life would become.
His businesses thrived as he almost forgot about them over the course of the 15 months that they paid for him to travel around the world. In fact, he took a risk of 3 or 4 to make a profit of 9 or 10 on the positive side of the utterly and completely turned upside down scale.
So, define your fear, and give it a score between 1 and 10 on the scale of “my life is completely and utterly turned upside down for ever”, then imagine solutions to prevent the worst from happening and weigh up the expected benefits. Then: What are you waiting for to act?
Chapter 4: System Reset – Being Unrealistic and Unambiguous
The highest summits are pretty deserted places: 99% of people are convinced that they are incapable of achieving great things, and therefore set themselves low objectives. That is why, paradoxically, there is much less competition for unrealistic objectives than for realistic objectives (Note: This is what David J. Schwartz professes in The Magic of Thinking Big).
What’s more, Tim Ferriss confesses that he doesn’t know what he wants: if he is asked the question “What do you want?” he is incapable of answering. Why? Because the question is not specific enough.
If you ask him what he wants to do over the next five months to learn new languages, now he can answer much more precisely. But the question goes deeper than that: in the end, this general question asks what we are fundamentally seeking. Most people will answer: happiness.
But according to Tim Ferriss, happiness is a concept that has become too ambiguous from overuse. You can buy happiness with a bottle of wine. And what is the opposite of happiness? Sadness? No. They are two sides of the same coin, like love and hate.
The opposite of happiness is boredom. What do they mean when people say “What counts is to live your passions”? They mean: “What counts is to do what you are enthusiastic about”.
So, according to the author, the question we must ask is not “What do I want?” or “What are my goals?” but “What am I enthusiastic about?”
But this is not enough: we must answer the question precisely, and ensure that our objectives are no longer vague desires, but specific steps.
To do this, the author proposes a 6-step methodology that consists of defining your “chrono-dream”, namely 5 things that you want to own, 5 things you want to do, 5 things that you want to be in the next 6 -12 months, calculate the cost of each of these things, then choose 4 dreams and define 3 steps to achieve them.
Step 2: E For Elimination
Chapter 5: The End of Time Management
Forget the concept of time management. The goal is not to fill every second of every day with a ton of work, and to do more and more every day.
Being busy is often just an extremely common way to avoid doing the important, yet unpleasant things that we should be doing. Being busy is therefore one of the most common and subtle ways of procrastinating.
And there are thousands and thousands of ways to be busy, and overwhelmed: making cold calls by telephone to a hundred unqualified leads, fiddling with your iPhone or your Galaxy, reorganising your inbox, walking the length of your company to get a document that will be of no use to you, etc.
Because there is a fundamental difference between efficiency and performance: efficiency brings you closer to your objectives, while performance involves accomplishing a task using the least amount of resources. And performance without worrying about efficiency is the basic operating mode the world over.
That is why a top door-to-door salesman performs well but he is inefficient: he could make much more by sending a postal or email mail shot.
So, what we need to remember is that doing something that is unimportant well does not make it important, and that an unimportant task that requires a lot of time… is still an unimportant task.
Here the author introduces the Pareto Law or the 80/20 law, discovered by the Italian economist and sociologist Vilfredo Pareto. It posits that 20% of the countries in the world share 80% of the wealth, and that within those countries 20% of people share 80% of the wealth.
This law can be generalised to the extreme, with the following formula: 80% of results are produced by 20% of causes. Obviously, this specific ratio of 80/20 is rarely exact, but there are often results that are in the vicinity of this distribution, and it is possible to have even more unbalanced results, like 90/10 or even 95/5!
When I discovered The 4 Hour Workweek in March 2008, I analyzed the distribution of my business income among my clients, and discovered that 17% of my customers represented 81% of my company’s business!
Even if I knew confusedly that some clients were more profitable than others, this distribution took me totally by surprise and become the point of departure for a great many changes in my business and in my life.
Richard Koch has written a whole book on the subject, Living the 80/20 Way, a practical book that is easy to read, and I recommend it over his first book The 80/20 Principle, which is more theoretical and complicated.
When Tim Ferriss discovered this principle, he asked himself two questions:
What are the 20% of sources that cause 80% of my problems?
What are the 20% of sources that cause 80% of my happiness and the results that I want?
He spent a full day analysing everything using these questions, from his customers to his communication strategy, not forgetting his leisure activities and his friends. Then, over the course of the following 24 hours, he made various decisions that were emotionally difficult, but which changed his life overnight.
In particular he stopped contacting 95% of his customers (and he even fired 2%), to focus on the most productive 3%, a productive minority whose characteristics he analysed to find other identical clients.
The result? In one month, he went from managing 120 customers – many of whom were a pain in the neck – to 8 customers who placed orders all by themselves without ever bothering him, and his monthly income increased from $30,000 to $60,000, while at the same time his time spent working each week dropped from 80 to 15 hours.
Not quite a 4 hour week, but a pretty good start! And he felt at peace with himself, more optimistic and freer than ever. Magic, right?
Tim Ferriss goes on to share Parkinson’s Law, invented by the British historian and essayist Cyril Northcote Parkinson, who stipulated that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. In other words, if you assign two hours to complete a task that only requires one, then you will still spend two hours accomplishing this task.
The author Tim Ferriss shows us that it is possible to use these two laws together to 1) identify the small number of essential tasks that offer the greatest return, and 2) assign them a deadline that is very precise and very close in time.
Chapter 6: The Low-Information Diet – Cultivating Selective Ignorance
Tim Ferriss begins this chapter with a confession: he never watches the TV news, and in five years he has only once bought a daily newspaper (in an airport, to get a free Pepsi). He practices what he call a low-information diet, by carefully selecting his sources of information and his reading, and leaving other people to tell him about the rest.
This allows him to free his mind from information which otherwise would only transit through it without triggering any action and which would be forgotten after a few weeks or even a few days.
Note: I detail how I applied Tim Ferriss’ media diet and what it brought me in the article “3.5 simple techniques for less nonsense and more intelligence with the media diet”. This kind of diet is also excellent to avoid being influenced by pessimism and the prevailing gloom of the media, as I explain at the end of my article The Recession: Why It Doesn’t Touch ME – And Why It Affects YOU.
Chapter 7: Interrupting Interruption and the Art of Refusal
An interruption is any element that prevents you from completing a task in one go. There are three main categories:
Things that waste your time: all the things that can be left to one side with little or no consequences, such as meetings, phone calls and emails that are not important.
Things that take up time: all the repetitive tasks or queries that you need to handle properly but which interrupt more important work.
Included among these are: the obligation to respond to clients when you are focused on another task, reading and replying to your emails, surfing the Internet, etc.
The failures of delegation: when one of your employees needs validation from you for small things that s/he could very well manage all alone, such as resolving a client’s problem, small expenditures, etc.
Every task requires some preparation time, “a warm-up” which we have to go through before we become fully focused and productive. Any interruption can break this focus and compel us to go through the whole preparation time again.
For example, if you need a quarter of an hour before you are really focused on a task and productive, any 2 or 3 minute interruption will in fact make you lose more time, since you will need to re-focus on the interrupted task.
For each of these categories of interruptions, there are ways to prevent them. Let’s examine them:
Things that waste your time. Solution: become ignorant.
Interruptions in this category are the easiest to prevent and eliminate. You must make yourself less available, and ensure that all communications only serve an immediate action. In particular, Tim Ferriss recommends:
Cutting off the audible or visual signal from your messaging software, so that you will no longer be informed automatically when you receive a new email.
Disabling the automatic receipt feature in your email software (Note: you can read the article Kicking Your Email Addiction to find out how to do this).
Only check your inbox twice per day. Tim Ferriss recommends at 12 noon and 4 pm. Then only go through it once a day as quickly as possible.
Filter telephone calls, ideally using two phone numbers, one desk phone – non-urgent – and one mobile – urgent. Always leave the office phone on silent and answering machine mode.
If it’s a call to your mobile, then it must be urgent. Pick up, but make sure to minimize the interruption time as much as possible by getting straight to the point – don’t let your correspondent start chatting about the weather.
Spend as little time as possible on meetings; they are the most widespread time thieving activities in companies. Tim Ferriss offers a 6-step program to avoid taking part in meetings without your colleagues minding too much if you work at a company where meetings are very commonplace.
Things that take up time: group things together and do not falter.
Many entrepreneurs fall into this trap and face huge difficulty delegating (it’s not for nothing that nearly 55% of French companies have only one employee.
The aim of delegating is to ensure that employees can carry out as many tasks as possible without employer intervention. The latter has a supervisory and monitoring role.
Rather than being a one-man band and doing everything poorly. You take on the role of orchestra director.
Overseeing everything so that all the instruments play together harmoniously.
Tim Ferris says that when he outsourced his customer order monitoring department in 2002. He kept all the answers to the questions about the product in his head. And because of that he had to handle 200 emails per day, with volume that increased 10% per week.
And why was it not scalable? Because there was a bottleneck in the system: him.
All the more so because many of the emails that he received were from the people to whom he had delegated the order management!
He then took a radical decision: he sent an email to the new company handling the emails and the basic message was: “Make the customer happy”.
They were to solve any problems that cost less than $100 by themselves. The result? The number of emails he received dropped from 200 per day to fewer than 20 per week. At first he analysed the results every week, then every month, then every quarter.
Note: the book The E-myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What To Do About It describes this trap in an absolutely brilliant way. A trap that catches too many entrepreneurs, who create a job rather than creating a business and who end up working 70 hours per week for a poverty wage.
Step 3 – A for automation
Chapter 8 – Outsourcing Life
Tim Ferriss starts by telling us about an average Monday morning. He was in Argentina, and after breakfast he checked his emails for 1 hour.
One of his assistants in India had found one of his former classmates.
Another assistant had sent him an Excel file synthesizing research that she had performed for him.
His meetings for the week were already organized by a third Indian assistant, who had already previously found the best Kendo schools in Japan and the best Salsa teachers in Cuba.
Another email informed him that his American assistant had resolved 20 customer problems last week, and had coordinated with the accountant for the payment of taxes on sales in California.
A quick glance at his bank account allowed Tim Ferris to see that his account had gained more money than the previous month.
It was a good start to the day. His breakfast cost him $4 in total, his assistants in India cost him between $4 and $10 an hour.
His assistants in the United States were paid either on results or when a product was shipped.
This created something wonderful: it was impossible to have negative cash flow.
This is the kind of happiness that intelligent outsourcing can bring.
Tim Ferriss points out that finding your remote personal assistant is a giant first step forward.
It means that you become the person giving the orders rather than the one taking the orders. The boss instead of the employee.
Engineering things so that someone else does the tasks that you are currently doing is a litmus test for any entrepreneur who wants to create something other than his or her own employment.
Would you be willing to pay $40 to only work from Monday to Thursday? The author would, without hesitation.
Tim Ferriss points out that outsourcing is even possible for employees.
And if you think that your boss would not be okay with this, as long as you choose non-sensitive tasks, there is no reason to bring it up.
There are two categories of tasks you can delegate:
✔ personal tasks
✔ professional tasks
But there is one golden rule before delegating: eliminate and automate.
You must never be delegate a task that could be eliminated (because it is unnecessary anyway) or automated.
For example, Tim Ferris does not use his assistants to schedule meetings and conference calls, because he has completely eliminated these two things from his life.
After this golden rule, there are two others:
- Delegated tasks must be time-consuming and precisely defined.
- Have fun.
It’s fun to be at the helm for once. Ask your assistant to send emails to your friends saying that s/he is your personal concierge and that you want to throw a party.
Inundate your boss with strange phone calls with foreign accents. You will soon feel less self-conscious about your new role as boss.
Tim Ferriss also strongly recommends that you call on a company with a relatively large team rather than relying on a single assistant.
If you have scheduled a 15 day holiday in French Polynesia and 2 hours prior to boarding the plane, you receive an email from your assistant saying that s/he is going to be in bed for a week with a bad case of the ‘flu, you are going to be in trouble.
Depending on just one person is always dangerous.
Note: It is much easier for English speakers to have virtual assistants and to outsource all kinds of tasks, even for individuals, because they have access to abundant, qualified and inexpensive labour in India and the Philippines.
Chapter 9: Income Autopilot I: Finding the Muse
Tim Ferriss gives us the example of his friend Douglas Price, who initially founded a start-up, but after the euphoria of the launch and the development of his company.
He no longer felt passionate about it despite its resounding success.
His prospects see his Google Adword campaigns or on other search engines, and they click on them if they are interested.
Three times a week, Doug clicks on a button that will debit his customers’ credit cards and send the money to his account.
This is called drop-shipping – for a price equivalent to 45% of the final price, which Doug pays 90 days after the order.
Savvy entrepreneurs will have immediately recognized the elegance of this system.
Doug is paid immediately by his customers, but he pays his suppliers after 90 days, so he cannot have negative cash flow.
Everything is automated through advertising.
At the time Tim Ferriss wrote The 4-hour workweek, Douglas was working two hours per week.
This site and the products he sells are not things that he is passionate about.
But the little time he spends on them and the income they bring in allow him to do absolutely anything he wants. Welcome to the world of muses.
A muse is different from a traditional business: it’s not about running a business, it’s about owning a business.
To own a muse, you need a product.
If you are currently working in services, don’t panic, your expertise can be turned into an information and training product that you will be able to sell (that is what I have done with my club Agir & Réussir (Act & Succeed).
The product should cost less than €500 to test, and it must be possible to automate it in less than 4 weeks. And of course, once it is launched, it should not require more than one day of management per week.
The objective of a muse is not to change the world.
The first step is to find a market and customers, and then to create a product for them – you must never, ever do the opposite.
Use your areas of expertise and your passions to determine what needs exist in the area that you are familiar with and what product you can create to respond to these needs.
For example, Tim Ferris was an athlete and a student, so he created Brainquicken, a food supplement for athletes and students.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What groups, clubs, associations, networks do you belong to? Are there specialist magazines in these groups? If the answer is yes, then there is a market. Go to a newspaper stand and browse through the magazines: the ads inside will give you a good overview of the products that exist for this market.
- The second step is to find a product. Take two markets that you are familiar with and that have their own magazines running advertising, printed at a minimum of 15,000 copies. Then brainstorm to find ideas for products for these two markets.
Summarise in one sentence the benefits of your product for your customers, and set a price range between €50 and €200.
Above all, set a high price range compared to the market prices: low prices attract customers who require time and will prevent you from fully automating your business.
Make sure that your product can be manufactured and delivered in less than 4 weeks.
Its main characteristics can be explained in a good FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions).
Obviously, the ideal is to create an entirely digital product. In this case you won’t have to manage the manufacturing, storage and distribution, and won’t even have to outsource.
You can also offer products by other manufacturers on your site, and receive a commission for this: this is known as affiliation (check out Clickbank and 1TPE for digital products, and Commission Junction for physical products).
Income Autopilot II: Testing the Muse
Less than 5% of the 195,000 books published each year in the United States sell more than 5,000 copies.
The Pareto Law is well and truly in action here. And these results are achieved by teams of publishers who have decades of experience.
What lesson can be drawn from this?
Intuition and experience are very bad compasses when it comes to knowing whether or not a product is going to work. You have to test.
To do this, there’s nothing better than placing your leads in a real situation by taking them to the sales page that encourages them to buy your product (the one that doesn’t exist yet).
This is completely legal. Let’s see how.
– Create two or three sales pages whose conversion rates you can automatically compare using Google Website Optimizer.
– The sales pages will describe the product and contain “Add to basket” or “Order” buttons. Leads click on the button, then they land on a page on which they have to enter their electronic or postal contact details.
– When they confirm the form, they are taken to a page that says “Sorry, this product is no longer available due to [give a reason], you will be notified as soon as it becomes available again”.
– Create a Google Adwords campaign with different ads. To find keywords, use the Google keywords generator.
– Count each contact entered by a customer as an order.
Note: This method is very simple and amazingly effective. I tested it on an idea for products designed for business entrepreneurs (again!)
Chapter 11: Income Autopilot III – MBA (Management By Absence)
Tim Ferriss explains to us that in 2003, when he was being interviewed for a TV documentary, he and the journalists were interrupted every 30 seconds by beeps, pings and other ringtones announcing the arrival of emails, notifications about instant messaging and phone calls.
After this painful experience, he set himself the objective of entirely reviewing the architecture of his business.
Six months later he was interviewed once again. Something had changed: everything took place in complete silence.
And yet Brainquicken has no employee apart from its creator. But Brainquicken in fact gave work to 200 to 300 people, as subcontractors.
Tim Ferris provides a diagram of the operation of his business in The 4-hour workweek. And does he appear in it? Absolutely not.
He is the ghost in the machine, and simply asks that his service providers provide logistics reports that he checks every Monday, and detailed reports that he checks every month.
How can this be applied? To get from a cottage industry to the industrial scale, by designing a system that can manage between 10 and 10,000 products sold per week, there are 3 phases:
– Phase 1
Applies to your first 50 products sold, and for as long as you sell fewer than 10 products per week.
The concept is simple: do it all yourself.
Put your phone number on the site to be able to respond directly to questions from your potential customers and customers.
This will allow you to identify all the common questions and place them in a FAQ on your site.
It not only reduces the number of calls, but is also the basis for training the future employees of the call centre who will be answering the phone.
It also allows you to identify advertising that is too vague, and which will bring you a wave of unqualified leads.
– Phase 2
Applies from 10 products sold per week and upwards. Add the FAQ that you have developed in Step 1 to your site, then look up the Yellow Pages or the Kompass for businesses capable of handling the administrative and logistical operations of your company.
Under the heading “ancillary services to enterprises” on Kompass and “haulage, transport and logistics (services, advice)” in the Yellow Pages.
Choose companies that do not charge fees for opening an account and do not impose a monthly minimum.
You will need to negotiate skillfully, and make sure that you can pay at 30 days net, perhaps after one month working with them, to show that you are a trustworthy person.
At this level of volume, it is not easy to get good conditions, which is why it is preferable to choose small companies that need to bring in customers.
– Phase 3
Applies from 20 products sold per week and upwards. You should have enough cash to pay for the costs of opening of the account and to reach the monthly quotas set by the best providers.
Try to find a provider that takes care of everything, and find a call centre that will answer calls from customers.
When it comes to products, Tim Ferris follows the advice of the marketing genius Joe Sugarman, who recommends limiting the number of products as much as possible, along with the delivery and payment options.
Too many options creates confusion among your prospective customers and may turn out to be a brake on the purchase.
Also, this fits the 80/20 logic and allows us to automate our muse. He therefore recommends only offering one or two purchase options, only offering one delivery option.
And above all, no 24 hour express delivery as it only leads to hundreds of calls from worried customers.
Totally eliminating telephone orders and only offering online orders (like Amazon) and not offering international deliveries to countries that require customs documents and whose taxes could lead to customer complaints.
Once you have reached phase 3, it is time to sort through everything: apply the 80/20 principle to your customers.
Identify the categories that create the most problems and bring in the least money and get rid of them.
Use techniques to prevent the appearance of demanding customers who want everything for nothing: do not accept payments by cheque or postal order.
Place the price of your product at the top of the basket in relation to your market and don’t give free products to attract sales – it is the best way to attract people who want something for nothing.
Instead, make a product that offers good value for money and offer a full Satisfied or Your Money Back guarantee for 30 or 60 days, as Jay Abraham‘s advises in Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got.
Tim Ferris went one step further by offering a 110% guarantee for all his food supplements. This can double or triple your sales while increasing returned goods by only 2 to 3%.
Step 4: L is for Liberation
Chapter 12: Disappearing Act – How to Escape the Office
The joys of ultra-mobility are not reserved for entrepreneurs.
You can remain an employee and still escape the obligation of the 9 to 5 along with geographical constraints.
Remote working is booming and you too can make the most of it.
To do this, you can either find a job that allows you to work remotely or all of your scheduled working time does not have to take place at the office.
To negotiate this under the best conditions, there are two things you have to do:
- Demonstrate how advantageous it is for the company to accept you working from home, in particular by doing more than your colleagues during the allotted time.
- Do what has to be done to ensure that it is more profitable and advantageous for the company to accept your request than to refuse it.
The second point is easy to put in place. Ask to follow intensive training lasting two to four weeks.
It will be expensive for the company, but you will demonstrate the enormous benefits for the company.
After you have completed the training, it will be much more difficult for the company to let you go, considering how much it has invested in you.
For the first point, it is better to take things slowly: rather than suddenly declaring that you want to start working from home, take two or three days of sick leave.
Over the course of these few days, work from home using the 80/20 law and Parkinson’s law and by avoiding interruptions like the plague.
It is much easier at home that at the office – to significantly increase your productivity and do more at home than you would have done at the office.
Basically, double your performance and make sure that your supervisor notices.
If you need to have access to your desktop computer – if specific software is installed.
For example, or if you need to have access to documents stored on the company’s secure server – use software like Teamviewer or Crossloop to access them from your personal computer.
Then prepare a well-reasoned report backed up by figures on these 2-3 days spent working from home.
Give concrete examples of how much work you got through in comparison to a regular workday at the office. Then go and see your supervisor.
Tell him or her that as s/he knows, you have been sick, but that you decided to take it upon yourself to work from home and that you were surprised to discover that you were more productive at home.
This is where you produce your figures and the arguments you have outlined in your report.
Then tell him or her that as a trial, you would like to work from home on Monday and Tuesday for a couple of weeks – definitely don’t ask for the full week at the beginning.
If s/he refuses, ask for one day. If s/he still refuses, bring the specter of your resignation into the picture; as the company has just invested a significant amount of time and money in you, your supervisor will think twice before steadfastly refusing.
Once the trial period has been accepted, continue to use all the productivity techniques to get more results. Then negotiate 4 remote workdays – you will come to the office on Fridays.
Then, say you want to go and see your family at the other end of the country, and ask that all of your work be carried out remotely.
When you get to this stage, you will be free to go wherever the wind takes you.
You’ll be able to work however you want, as long as the results come in.
If you encounter a categorical refusal at a given stage of the process, the next chapter will help you with this.
Chapter 13 – Beyond Repair – Killing Your Job
To improve them would be tantamount to adding lacy curtains to the bars of a prison cell.
And this applies both to traditional jobs and to companies that become prisons for those who have built them up.
In these cases, the best thing to do is to get yourself fired or resign.
This can be hard to accept, especially if you have been putting up with a job that does not suit you for 10 or 15 years.
But simply because you made bad decisions a long time ago doesn’t have to prevent you from making good decisions now.
If you don’t do it, then you will go on suffering for another 10 or 15 years.
There are a number of fears that could prevent you from doing this, including:
If you go, you’ll be leaving forever.
Do you really believe in it?
How will you pay the bills?
The ideal would be to find a new job or to create a muse during your free time, in order to have an immediate source of income. And you can also live off your savings or unemployment benefit for a while by eliminating unnecessary expenses.
It will look bad on your CV. Really?
If you left a job to go on a round-the-world tour, volunteer for a humanitarian cause or start a business, do you believe that this will be frowned upon?
It’s up to you to sell it and show it under a positive light.
Chapter 14: Mini-Retirements: Embracing the Mobile Lifestyle
You must know the famous story, author unknown, about a conversation between a Mexican fisherman and an American banker:
At the water’s edge in a small coastal village in Mexico, a boat returns to the harbor carrying several tuna. The American compliments the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asks him how long it took him to catch them:
“Not very long,” replies the Mexican.
“Well then, why didn’t you stay out at sea longer to catch more?” asks the American. The Mexican answers that he has enough fish to meet the needs of his family.
So the American asks: “But what do you do the rest of the time?”
“I sleep late, I fish a little, I play with my children, I nap with my wife. In the evening, I go to the village to see my friends. We drink wine and play the guitar. I have a busy life”.
The American interrupts him: “I have an MBA from the University of Harvard and I can help you. You should start by fishing for longer. With the profits you make, you could buy a larger boat.
With the money you would get from this boat, you could buy a second one and so on until you owned a fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to an intermediary, you can negotiate directly with the factory, and even open your own factory.
Then you could leave your small village for Mexico City, Los Angeles, and then perhaps New York, and you could run all of your businesses from there. “
The Mexican asks him: “How long will that take?”
“15 to 20 years,” replies the American banker.
“And then what?”
“After, well that’s where it gets interesting,” answers the American laughing.
“When the time is right, you could introduce your company to the stock exchange and you’ll earn millions”.
“Millions? And then what? “
“After, you can retire, live in a small coastal village, sleep late, play with your grandchildren, fish a little, take a nap with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and playing the guitar with your friends. “
In the same tone, Tim Ferris tells us about the time he had lunch with an old friend.
He was about to graduate from a major business school and start working at a major corporate bank, no doubt for 80 hours per week.
After 9 years, he hoped to become an Assistant Director and earn between 3 and 10 million dollars per year. He will have “made it”.
– “What will you do with all this money?” asked Tim Ferris
– “I will go on a long trip to Thailand”
And this sums a cliché that refuses to die.
“Once I have one million I will put it in the bank and I will have €60,000 in interest per year which is enough for me to live a quiet life in the Caribbean.”
Nothing could be less true. Life in developing countries such as China, Thailand, the Philippines and many countries in Latin America costs next to nothing.
What have you recently treated yourself to that cost $100 or even $150?
At the beginning of 2004, Tim Ferriss was overworked and decided to travel for one month.
He chose Spain, before deciding that three months was what he needed.
He took advantage of the situation to go and explore his ancestral roots in Scandinavia.
In the end, his trip lasted 15 months, and he said to himself “Why not allocate the 20 or 30 years of retirement all through my life?”
Taking mini-retreats means really enjoying them and living them at a slow and soothing pace, which gives us the opportunity to change.
It takes time – at least 2 to 3 months according to Tim Ferriss – before you are able to cast off your old routines and become aware of the futility of certain things.
Economically, it is bliss because it is possible to live very well without spending very much in many countries around the world. The important thing is to rent an Airbnb and not to go to a hotel or stay in a hostel.
If you haven’t found an Airbnb before you leave, or insist on visiting it first, register with The Couch Surfing Project, which enables its members stay almost everywhere in the world for free and allows you to immediately get to know local people.
Map of members of the Couch Surfing Project. As you can see, there is no shortage of choice!
Tim Ferriss recommends traveling light, with a single bag that you keep with you in the aircraft cabin.
Buy everything else once you arrive (see Tim Ferriss article on this subject.
This allows you to get to the airport at the last minute and to leave the airport immediately once you arrive.
Chapter 15: Filling the Void: Adding Life After Subtracting Work
The happiness and the paradise that he was about to find by going to London turned out to be a little different from what he expected it to be.
He wandered around during his first day there, asking himself the same question over and over again: “What am I going to do?”
His first answer was to buy a sandwich. Then, because he could not imagine a day without a list of things to do to be productive, he picked up a sheet of paper and wrote stuff like “remember to have dinner”…
And this transition period, because that is what it is, is perfectly normal. You can fill it by having the time of your life.
And then you will feel a vacuum, in particular in terms of your social life.
It’s normal. Freedom is like a new sport. There must be a period of adaptation before you can truly enjoy it.
If the big questions are always on your mind, such as “What is the meaning of life?” the author invites you to ask yourself the following two questions:
Does each term of the question have a precise meaning for me?
If I find an answer to this question, will it help me to act?
“What is the meaning of life?” cannot be answered by the first question. Evacuate it. And if the fact of finding an answer to a question cannot be translated into concrete actions, evacuate the question.
How to fill the void? There are a thousand and one ways.
The most precious is perhaps to simply learn to enjoy time passing by, to detox from our culture of speed and performance.
The author recommends that you go through a period in which you learn how to do nothing, in Buddhist, meditation or yoga centers, to help you detoxify.
Note: I highly recommend, if this kind of adventure attracts you, doing this “cure” in the Buddhist monastery at Le Village des Pruniers (Plum Village) led by the famous Thich Nhat Hanh (mentioned in this chapter of The 4-Hour Workweek by the way), which is located in Thénac in the Dordogne region of France.
Afterward, it is up to you to find your way.
Constantly learning new things, by traveling, by mastering new arts and new sports, and learning new languages.
Learning a foreign language, he tells us, is like having a new eye with which to apprehend the world.
There are thousands of other possibilities. The race is long, and when it comes down to it, you run it alone.
Book Review of The 4-Hour Workweek:
What more can I say – The 4-hour workweek totally changed my life. Without it, you would not be reading this blog. For a long time after I read it, almost all the reflections and actions that I have undertaken in my personal life and in my professional life have been as a result of this reading.
Before, I worked many hours per week on my offline business, aware that the beautiful dream that had been so beneficial for me had turned into a prison, but I was incapable of finding a way to escape from it.
Reading The 4-Hour Workweek allowed me to 1) finally find solutions to escape from the prison that I had built, 2) create a burning desire to escape from my situation and fully embrace the 4-hour week and 3) begin to read business books which, for some unknown reason, I hadn’t previously considered and didn’t read.
Since then, I started a new online business, I have sold my first one, and I have been traveling the world for more than 6 months a year since 2011.
I have been on a media diet for years, which saves me a lot of time and prevents me from being influenced by the prevailing pessimism and gloom among the media.
And, it goes without saying that I began to read business books (starting with those recommended by Tim Ferris, such as The E-myth revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What To Do About It which was a huge wake-up call), I discovered the Personal MBA and I started this crazy challenge, while also creating this blog.
Automated business are not a myth. My business and countless others prove it (just look at the case studies on YouTube by typing “4hww” in the search box).
But okay, so The 4-hour workweek has its flaws.
The first stumbling block for many readers will be the author’s somewhat oversized ego (which also shines through during his TED talk). He likes to talk a lot about himself and his achievements, to such a degree that I sometimes wonder whether he isn’t exaggerating somewhat.
But letting this stop you would be tantamount to refusing to taste the sublime cuisine of a 3-star chef on the pretext that s/he is a little too proud of the creation. We are not harming anyone except ourselves in doing this, by refusing to examine what The 4-hour workweek can offer on the pretext of the emotions that the author’s ego stir up in us.
The second flaw, and to my mind the biggest one, is that Tim Ferris does not talk enough about how difficult it is and how much time and energy are required to set up a muse. Because a muse can demand a lot of the above before it will be completely automated.
Certainly, unlike a conventional business, once this time and energy have been spent, your muse will ask you only for the strict minimum of these two resources to keep ticking over, but underestimating the amount of time it will require for your muse to take off and how long before it becomes profitable could lead you to abandon it too soon, while the key is to persevere and stick with it, and once the first results start coming in, the others will follow very quickly.
Tim Ferriss has nevertheless carried out an extraordinary tour de force that balances out this flaw: it is the only book I know that inspires among so many people a burning and fierce desire to change their condition and live their dreams.
Among those around me who have The 4-hour workweek (and they are many), not everyone liked it, but it very rarely leaves readers indifferent, and those that get caught up in it are generally transformed forever, and can accomplish radical changes in their lives, sometimes very quickly.
Because when it comes to overcoming obstacles and moving mountains, nothing beats a burning desire to succeed in achieving one’s objective, and Tim Ferris succeeds in creating motivation the like I which I have never seen in any other book.
This may be enough to get through the difficult stage when you spend a lot of energy and don’t see much in return, but it is better to be well aware that you have to hang in there and not to give up on the idea of owning a muse that will add money to your bank account every week while you get on with whatever you want to do.
Finally, the main criticism that I read on the English-speaking web seems to me both founded and unfair: it is the fact that The 4-Hour Workweek is first and foremost a myriad collection of superficial tips, tricks and methods that are discussed in greater depth in other books.
Having read and reviewed more than thirty books for the Personal MBA and many others outside it, I can tell you that yes, many things referred to in The 4-hour workweek are addressed very superficially while they are handled in much more detail elsewhere (such as the laws of Pareto and Parkinson, Seneca and stoicism, market studies on the Internet, the art of making a sales page, how to use Adwords, how to travel with next-to-nothing, etc.).
It is true, but it is unfair to blame Tim Ferriss.
Because for starters, when I read The 4-hour workweek for the first time, I knew absolutely nothing about all these things and the discovery of all these concepts explained so simply was a revelation for me.
And thanks to the extremely catchy title that he came up with, I think that a lot of people who did not know about or had little knowledge of these concepts have read the book and, like me, felt like slapping themselves on the head, while they would never have read the books explaining these concepts in more detail, in isolation and often with a title that makes you smile grimly at the horrible perspective of the boredom that awaits you.
But above and beyond the fact that it presents all these concepts in a simple and concrete manner, the most interesting thing about The 4-hour workweek, and it is here that it offers something permanent compared to other existing books, is that it creates a relationship between all of these concepts to propose a system which allows people to free themselves from the obligation to work for a living in order to be able to finally live their dreams to the full and to thrive.
Tim Ferriss has integrated into a very coherent and powerful system bits and pieces of knowledge that you would need a lifetime to fully understand, focusing only on what you may find useful in order to ACT, while blowing a wind of motivation that is powerful enough to inflate your sails.
The 4-Hour Workweek, from this point of view, is an absolutely remarkable piece of work, an incredibly intelligent and practical application of a stoic ideal of life applied to the modern-day and entrepreneurship.
In terms of ethics and the individualistic approach of The 4-hour workweek, I find that reading it closely, you can see that Tim Ferris answers these questions quite well and in the end it will be up to you to set your own limits on these questions.
Just like Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever, The 4-Hour Workweek is the very essence of the “rare and demanding life-changing book”. But unlike the former, it is really not difficult to read, but difficult to implement, in particular, because, like all books, he asks that we put ACTIONS in place in order to… ACT.
Act, act, act and act some more: this is the one and only secret to successfully apply The 4-Hour Workweek someday. Believe me, although it requires a lot of time and energy today, we are living all the same in a blessed era in which the Internet is a vast construction site which everything still remains to be built. Because of this, it is without a doubt very much easier to start a muse now than it will be in 10 or 20 years.
And above all, do not flounder in denial as some do: having one or several fully automated muses and fully living the 4-hour workweek is quite possible, and rejecting this very principle will only prevent you from living what could well be your life’s dream.
Even if having a muse or living the 4-hour working week is not your goal, I think that everyone, whether you are a worker, an overwrought manager, a student or a breeder of penguins, will find something to draw on and apply to their life.
You get the picture: The 4-hour workweek is a must-read for me, and even more than that. It holds pride of place on my bookshelf. because it represents the quintessence of what a non-fiction book must push me to do: ACT. A Bible, a reference that everyone should read at least once in life.
Strengths of The 4-hour Workweek:
- Motivating and very enthusiastic.
- A complete system to eliminate the unnecessary, create your muse and live the life of your dreams.
- An approach that puts forward the practical and concrete, action-oriented aspect.
- Many great or very interesting ideas.
- Simple and accessible summaries of much more complex notions.
Weak points The 4-hour Workweek:
- The somewhat individualistic approach of The 4-hour Workweek may put some readers off.
- The full implementation of the system advocated by Tim Ferriss is not as simple as he suggests.
- Not suitable for everyone or applicable to all professions (but there is something for everyone).
- Tim Ferriss somewhat oversized ego.
My rating :
Have you read The 4-Hour Workweek? How do you rate it?
Read more reviews on Amazon about The 4-Hour Workweek.