Lifestyle Design and the Four-Hour Work Week

Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”

Albert Einstein

Lifestyle guru Tim Ferriss is a bit of a modern genius when it comes to common-sense and mastering freedom. Common-sense being, understanding that slaving for 40–60 hours-per-week at something you don’t really enjoy, for 45+ years in efforts to simply afford shit and retire is a terrible life-blueprint. In fact, it’s fucking awful, yet it’s what so many of us resort to. It’s definitely the example that was laid-out for me, and pushed like hard drugs. The truth is, were meant to achieve great things. Actually doing so means doing your thing, but it also requires learning to think a bit differently then we were necessarily raised about ourselves and our place in the world.

Tim Ferris is also rich out of his mind and after a number of out of the box’ failures has managed to turn it around and then some. A lot of some. He’s gone from working 80-hour weeks and earning $40,000 a year to working 4-hour weeks and earning $40,000 a week — simultaneously traveling the world for 15 months, mastering a few foreign languages, becoming a competitive tango dancer in Buenos Aires and winning a national kickboxing championship in China with just four weeks training. Out of the box thinking can go a long way if you’re methodical about it. These are just a few of the many cost-effective yet luxurious adventures he’s pursued. Most importantly, Tim’s approach has been all about challenging the common self-defeating assumptions most of us hold around career and lifestyle — and yours and mine should be too.

“Living like a millionaire and having a million dollars are two very different things.” — Truth

Tim started and sold a multi-million dollar brain supplement company which is where he cut back from working 80-hours a week to four by applying two simple economic theories: The 80–20 rule and Parkinson’s Law. He’s also now an angel investor and start-up advisor to Facebook, Uber, Twitter, Stumbleupon and Evernote. Since then, however, he’s taken a more vocational approach to career which is where I personally resonate. He’s written two #1 New York Time’s Bestsellers and a third that hit #1 on the WSJ’s list. His long-time podcast that breaks down the mindsets and habits of very successful people has peaked at #1 on I-Tune’s charts many times and currently sits at #26 overall and #3 in Business. Additionally, Tim guest- lectures a class on on entrepreneurship at Princeton, created two prime-time TV shows and gives high-level keynotes and speeches including a TED Talk.

But enough of jerking Tim off. I want to talk about Tim’s work mainly because of his research and experimentation within a field called Lifestyle Design and a rising working-class he’s termed the New Rich. The New Rich include the countless individuals who have re-written the rules around career and live creative, purpose-filled, autonomous lives that ebb and flow — and pay — on our own terms. The New Rich include those who have automated their income, work-remotely, as well as have incorporated passions and greater causes into their income streams. Regardless, the NR have thrown out the default-mode slave → retire → die blueprint for a variety of more fulfilling recipes we’re going to explore right now.

Some examples:

– The L.A. lawyer who worked 80+ hour weeks and quit in middle-age to start a surf and scuba adventure company in Brazil. None of his massive fears came true and his best is no longer stuck inside.

– The some 300-odd families who independently set sail for 12 month trips around the world — kids included — for less then a year’s rent. Julie and her husband quickly discovered that all their rationalizations against forging their dream were nonsense and all three of their kids’ grades and ability to get along improved significantly.

– The 20 year old who quit his job, wrote two books while backpacking through South America and hosts a yearly convention of the world’s top dating instructors (primary business venture).

– The 33 year old office employee who applied the productivity principles and exercises in Tim’s book (the 4-Hour Work Week) and went from working 9 hour days to negotiating a remote work arrangement. He now works 4ish hours a week from home, increased his overall output, takes one week of travel a month and earned a $10,000 raise. He also gets to pursue his music and theater passions nearly full-time. At this point, I’ve personally read about 50 people’s stories that are nearly identical to this one via Tim’s book and blog.

– The recent UNC grad who created Communigift with his friends. Communigift is an online platform for donating birthday and holiday gifts to kids around the country whom otherwise wouldn’t receive any. The kids get create their birthday invitation and upload their wish lists online. The charity has partnered with many major non-profits and retailers such as Target.

– Scott Hansen, the famous electronic musician also known as Tycho who worked for 15 years as a software developer and designer while growing his music production craft on the side. His music endeavor took over full-time in his mid-30’s and he does all the graphic design involved with his now enormous brand.

I decided to write about lifestyle design because I see too many friends, peers and loved one’s enduring non-ideal existences — myself included. We do it because it’s what’s been done before, whether we like it or not, and going a different road means discomfort. In fact, when I open up about my dreams to the people in my world I’m often met with trepidation and opposition. So I no longer do, and it kills me. Our ceilings our low. Most of us seek safety over doing what we really want. Truth be told, the dreams we hold and things we really want to do are why we’re here to begin with. That’s how we communicate with God. It’s how the universe, higher power or however you like to view it moves through us and interacts with the world. Like Rumi said, “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.”

We should not be doing anything less then living lives we’re passionate about, lives that excite us and inspire others. Here are some of the basic values that exist within the field of Lifestyle Design:

RELATIVE INCOME IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ABSOLUTE INCOME

These individuals have riches just as we say we have a fever, when the fever really has us” — Seneca (4 B.C. — AD 65)

Not all income is created equal. By 2016, most of us have figured this out. In this case,the value of money is multiplied by the amount of W’s you control: What you do, When and Where you do it and with Whom. Working remotely, flex-time, automated-income, incorporating purpose and passion into your income-streams, outsourcing tasks you don’t like — these all multiply the value of your salary.

Someone working 80 hrs/wk and earning $200k/yr or someone working 60 hrs/week and earning $150k/yr may technically make less then someone who’s working from home — or abroad — 25 hours a week, doing something they really enjoy and earning$55k. Options, free-time and self-expression are power. Your boss owning your ass is not.

RETIREMENT IS FOR WORST-CASE SCENARIO

This one has always reigned common-sense to me, but I often feel alone in it. A major issue with our typical views around retirement is that they presume you do not like how you are living on a day-to-day basis now. That is the huge problem. We were put here to thrive and enjoy, not to trade ourselves away for lives that don’t suit us. We dream ahead 4 months to a week’s vacation that’s going to end before your beard even fills-in or to getting obliterated three days from now just to forget our weekdays. I don’t blame you, much of the modern blueprint actually is really unpleasant and that’s the problem.

Retirement is also unrealistic to begin with. If you save a million dollars and retire for say 30 years — you’re living on $33,000/yr. If you retire and kick the bucket in 25 years, that’s $40,000/yr. Did you really just slave all those years to not live comfortably and travel around a bit? Say you’re the minority who’s managed to save 5 million dollars, kudos to you my friend, but chances are you’re such a workhorse and you’re going to need another job to stay “happy” i.e. busy.

MINI-RETIREMENTS THROUGHOUT LIFE

The alternative discussed in Tim’s book, which I’m particularly fond of, is taking mini-retirements and extended vacations throughout life. This is something we should all be doing anyways. Energy and effort are cyclical. In fact, many millennials have already been taking advantage of this, but the idea is to make it sustainable over the long-run. The world is meant to be enjoyed at all ages — especially when we’re in our prime and extra-available for learning, growth and exploration. It may be initially challenging to get 2–3 months vacation time per year — despite that hundreds of thousands of people are already pulling it off, but it’s not hard, it’s just less commonly sought after. In the book, Tim gets very in-depth with methods he’s used to help thousands of people (likely more — it was a #1 NYT Bestseller after all) achieve this, whether you’re an office-worker or an entrepreneur. The book is well worth your time. He covers the very specific methods for achieving this in the office — automating email, getting out of meetings professionally, increasing productivity and getting remote work etc etc.

LESS IS NOT LAZINESS

This is a big one. That’s what she said. Doing less meaningless work so that you can focus on things of great personal importance is NOT laziness, it’s incredibly smart and healthy. We often validate people who stomach the most horse-shit around the office while sustaining their productivity. when in reality, they’re trading away too much personal power for material comforts. Maybe I lean this way because I recently left the banking industry, but regardless, too much of our culture tends towards rewarding personal sacrifice and admonishing those who are out making things happen for themselves and others. We love to see people thrive, but hate to see people starting out.

Achieving ‘maximum results with minimum effort’ is another goal here. We’re working on cutting out ‘work for work’s sake’ and we’re all guilty of it — every day. See my linked posts on the art of productivity: 80–20 Rule and Parkinson’s Law.

ASK FORGIVENESS, NOT PERMISSION

Most people are quick to stop you before you get started, but hesitant to get in the way of a moving freight train. Choose you, fuck the naysayers.

EMPHASIZE STRENGTHS, DON’T FIX WEAKNESSES

The difference here is between multiplying your fruits and seeing yourself soar or patching up the holes in your bucket. The choice is yours, but rewards are better ← don’t choose the bucket.

EUSTRESS IS GOOD, DISTRESS IS BAD

“Distress refers to harmful stimuli that make you weaker, less confident and less able. Destructive criticism, abusive bosses, and smashing your face on the curb are all examples of this. We want to avoid these. Eustress, a Greek prefix for “healthy”, is used in the same sense in the word “euphoria”. Role models who push us to exceed our limits, physical training that removes our spare tires, and risks that expand our sphere of COMFORTABLE ACTION are all examples of eustress — stress that is healthful and the stimulus for growth.” — Tim Ferriss

BE THE THINGS YOU WANT TO BE

Chances are you know what material goods enliven you and increase genuine joy and self-worth. Go for those, but don’t get caught up in seeking things that fill a false-sense of worth. Thus, becoming the person you genuinely want to be is way more valuable then going after awesome stuff. It sounds silly, but so many of us get caught up. Being>Having. Like I mentioned, stuff isn’t bad, but know the difference.

TO MAKE A TON OF MONEY….

Is a really vague goal. Calculate what you need to earn to live your desired lifestyle and learn how to earn that in fulfilling ways (a vocation) — or via automated income (a muse), thus creating more time to do the things that are personally meaningful and exciting to you. If you want to make a ton of money — right on — but do so with defined dreams, timelines and steps included. What are you living for? Do you influence positive change in the world? Are you getting fulfilled on a daily basis?

This post was long. Longer then what’s to come, but I’m just getting my footing. I hope you liked it. I’m also studying my ass off for the most effective and practical ways to help you achieve your goals. Much, much more to come.

MJ