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