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Why I’ve never read “The 4 Hour Work Week”

Rockstar Lifestyle!

“Living the dream in Hong Kong”

I have never read the 4 Hour Work Week.
Chris and I have spent 5 years travelling round the world whilst making enough money from a mix of passive income and consultancy business to live what could look like a ‘rockstar lifestyle’ (Yes, it IS an annoying phrase, its not mine! But it is true in that it costs so much less than you might think to do cool things in other countries!) The passive income business is what sustains us month on month. It probably takes us less than 4 hours every week to personally maintain. All this and we have never had the wisdom of Tim Ferris to guide us.
I have to confess, I’ve felt a little smug about never having read the book. I know, no one likes smug. But there, I’ve said it now. I’ve resisted reading it probably for the last year or so out of some dumb sense of pride. If it was anything else I would have devoured it, but with that many recommendations seemingly about something that promised to teach me stuff I already knew, why bother? It became a matter of principle. I was being daft.
So why is it that during a week of mixed spring weather, wonderful company and a lot of barbeques from a tiny cottage in the Loire Valley did I decide to check it out?

The circuitous route to opening my mind

Last week, quite unexpectedly we found ourselves at a book signing by writer and traveller, Chris Guilleabeau. I’d seen his name about but was pretty non-clued up about his whole ‘Art of Non-conformity’ community. Anyway, we found ourselves at his London basement ‘The $100 Startup’ book signing. This being my first such event I wasn’t quite sure on the protocol but assumed that buying the book was polite. We even queued to get it signed by the man himself, again, it seemed to be the done thing plus he struck us as a nice chap. Anyway, back to France and I settled myself down on a lounger to have a read.

Another good book

This book is very engaging and flows well with the clever mix of advice I assume was sifted from years of trial and error and a generous helping of case studies of normal folk who had an idea and pulled it off. What was gratifying personally about the book was that, in terms of marketing tips and general ‘micro-business’ know-how it confirmed that we were on the right track, although I have to own up to being woefully ill-equipped when it comes to some of the terminology. I’ve only embraced the phrase ‘micro-business’ since being introduced to it here. I’m still a little hazy on ‘boot-strapping’ although feel I really should know what the hell this refers to.(I’d like to adopt ‘hustling’ but I think I’d definitely have to be American to carry that one off). Whatever your experience level being reminded of the business, lifestyle and attitude basics/intermediates is always very useful and there is always room for scribbled notes of things you should be doing but are letting slip through the net. The main take-away I got from the book? We know a LOT of people teetering on the edge of starting up, and a few still finding their feet who could do with giving it a read.

good books

A natural progression

So after a pleasant couple of days in Chris Guillebeau’s company I decided to bite the bullet and dive into Tim Ferris, so to speak.

My huge misconception I had was that the ‘4 Hour Work Week’ is about the ‘you can quit your job, you can work from wherever you like, you can run a business remotely, you can design your life to look how you want..’ credo that I’d already understood. The point I missed was that this is actually a book about a very savvy approach to productivity. It’s about challenging expectations and spinning your perspective around so your norm doesn’t have to be the same as everyone elses. It’s hilariously audacious (I can’t begin to imagine being on the receiving end of some of that brutal logic), particularly the lack of tolerance Tim shows for the societal excepted norms which don’t make sense, but which most people just go along with anyway. We live in a world where contradictory rules coexist apparently without conflict (of course it’s ok to eat one sort of animal but consider another to be one of your immediate family; lying to your kids about who gives them presents at Christmas and where their loose teeth go makes perfect sense..’); this book reminds you that some of them probably aren’t ok; I was surprised how refreshing I found this.

Another ‘4 Hour Work Week’ convert, but for the same reasons?

I’m not sure I got the same from this book as everyone who has spoken to us about it, although maybe there is enough in there that everyone takes away something a bit different. The travel and lifestyle elements do seem to be the ones that come across most loud and clear when acquaintances make reference to it. The biggest benefit I’ve gained from reading the book is that I feel like someone has sat me down, stared at me long and hard and said ‘you know it’s ok that you don’t have to work 80 hours a week to make money, don’t you?’ This might seem not to be a huge revelation, but to me, it is. Like a lot of people, I grew up observing work to be something that is incredibly hard. You have to make sacrifices and you have to suffer. Imagine being in a position to work in a way that feels like a hobby? To make money based on work that was done a fair while ago but keeps making steady, unsolicited payments? To be able to try new ventures and express your creativity, some of which yields financial rewards, some doesn’t, but without it being too much of an issue either way? To be able to take extended breaks to different countries, hang out on the beach, schedule snowboarding in as an essential activity and still put away savings ever year? We don’t make as much money as most of our friends but somehow we’ve pulled off this incredible lifestyle. It should feel great, but honestly, sometimes it just feels wrong.  
So thank you Tim Ferris. It isn’t wrong, it’s smart. And it’s nothing that anyone else can’t do either.

Our home on the slopes!

“There’s always time to hit the slopes”


Have you read either of these books? What did you take away from them? Have you ever had a revelation you didn’t expect from reading a book?


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15 Responses to “Why I’ve never read “The 4 Hour Work Week””

  1. Thanks for the recommendation, Hannah. I’ve not read the 4 hour work week either, because of the hype, but I’ll give it a go now – or at least add it to the list!

    • Know what you mean Julia, we have quite a long list of books we want to read at the moment! Let us know what you think of the 4 hour work week when you do get a chance to read it though.

      • Hannah and Chris
      • Reply
  2. I’ve read 4-hour and I’m about to read $100 startup. 4-hour & Chris’ First Book, “The art of nonconformity” have really caused a shift for my wife & I. We aren’t there, yet, but we are moving toward location independence and building our own businesses. I can attest that if it wasn’t for Tim, Chris, and Loral Langemeir, I wouldn’t be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
    Don recently posted..Energy Under Construction!

    • Thanks for the comment Don, it is amazing that when reading a book or even meeting a specific person can change the way we think. So glad you are making that change and good luck with you business and location independent journey.

      • Hannah and Chris
      • Reply
  3. I haven’t read “The 4-Hour Work Week” or “The $100 Startup”, but I discovered Chris Guillebeau recently and I was at the book launch in London as well! I started reading “The Art of Non-Conformity” though and it is a great read so far. The other books have been added to my ever-growing list as well.
    Carminelitta recently posted..Newness for your ears: Evil Round That Corner, Fabian Akilles

    • Thanks for your comment Carminelitta, it’s a shame we did not get to talk at Chris’s book reading. We too have started reading some of Chris Guillebeau’s older books, he covers so much great content plus has given us some BIG ideas for some new projects. Has the “The Art of Non-Conformity” given you any ideas for Carminelitta.com?

      • Hannah and Chris
      • Reply
  4. Hi I have read both the books, I personally prefer the 100 dollar start up, I find it more personal and more focused on developing something with passion.

    Tim Ferris book on the other hand has great tips, but as much as its cool to only work 4 hours a week, I want to work on something I believe in, and dont necessarily mind the work, just like some of the ways to reduce the boring admin things.
    Yasmine Khater recently posted..4 Lessons from Change Makers

    • Hi Yasmine, Thanks for joining us and sharing your perspective. I agree! I liked the start of Tim’s book but struggled to finish it. I like that Chris does talk about passion and projects that you love in a very practical way (ie it has to make money otherwise its a hobby!) ‘Passion’ started to get a bit of a bad reputation in marketing circles for a while there so its good to see it getting some validity back. The funny thing is when you do something you love it doesn’t feel like work, so hours can fly by productively without seeming like a hassle. Love it!

      • Hannah and Chris
      • Reply
  5. 2 weeks ago I started reading the 4-hour workweek. I was very skeptical at first, but i have to admit it’s better then I thought. I still don’t believe in the idea of only working 4 hours per week to make a living, but the book offers good ideas on how to be more productive and stay focused on what really matters.

    But from what I read here I think that I might like Chris Guillebeau’s books more. Someone else recommended me The $100 startup too, so I just decided I will order both Chris’ books.
    Wouter recently posted..Time to get serious: My summer challenge

    • Hi Wouter, regarding the 4 hour work week I guess it could be possible if a) you have business with enough turnover and b) you have enough team members to run it for you! Hope you like the $100 startup and do let us know what you think of it.

      • Hannah and Chris
      • Reply
  6. You know what’s funny? I recently got the opportunity to visit Las Vegas for the first time and every single time I travel to the USA (I’m from Mexico) I try to get a few books with me since Amazon delays up to two months for delivery in Mexico.

    One of the books on this occasion was Tim Ferriss’ 4HWW and even though I did read the first pages and was interested to carry on reading the whole thing, I chose to put it down and not re-start reading it until I’m done with a few tasks I need to do such as creating my first information product and others.

    The reason I did this is because I have been involved with IM for two years now and haven’t created one single thing to sell (apart from monetizing services).

    The 4HWW for some is like a big awesome manifesto, for others is just a great and entertaining book and for others is just a flaw and you’ll be “better without reading it”.

    After reading your article here, I’ll open a time gap to continue reading it and come up with my own conclusions.

    I remember than from what I read, Tim wasn’t an ordinary guy so I’m not surprised his results weren’t ordinary either.

    Sergio Felix recently posted..Stop Learning And Start Implementing

  7. I haven’t yet read either as i got a bunch of books for xmas but I have played with the idea. The $100 Startup appeals to me more. The 4HWW feels like a slightly paradoxical book to me (though i have not read it) as it sounds like it is aimed at promoting a more relaxed life/work balance but at the same time reinforcing the link between productivity and self worth which as a therapist i’ve found to be a common problem (including myself). It would be interesting to know whether those who read it have developed a more balanced lifestyle or in fact have ended up using it to increase their output but effectively work the same or longer hours.

    • Phil Haigh
    • Reply
    • Hi Phil
      that’s a great point, really made me think. The productivity/ self-worth thing is so insidious. We’ve found the efforts we’ve made to create a life that makes us happy isn’t quite valued by some because it doesn’t look like we’ve had to sacrifice enough to get here. In some ways the 4HWW is massively misleading because most people simply can’t earn enough in that short a time. And actually, nor do they want to, which is probably more to the point. Chris and I do have one income stream that pays the equivalent of a decent wage for something that probably does take less than 4 hrs a week to manage. But it was a LOT of hrs to get there! And now? We just noticed yesterday that despite being in Australia for 6 weeks there is so much we haven’t done. But we have spent an awful lot of time on our laptops. People who are location independent always work a whole load more than they let on. If you are drive by goals and achievement, its a challenge to step back and enjoy what you’ve got wherever you are. But it’s that drive that gets you into the position to complain about it from a beach side office!
      thanks for your interesting comment

      • Hannah and Chris
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