The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9–5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich — Book Review

Jose Casanova
Oct 11, 2015 · 7 min read

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9–5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich

Rating: 6/5

TL;DR: The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9–5, Live Anywhere, And Join The New Rich is my favorite book. Buy it if you want to learn about lifestyle design, automation, passive income and life hacking.

Psychologist Walter Mischel conducted an experiment in the 1960s that has become the standard for tests of willpower.

Mischel and his team at Stanford University met with some 600 preschool-age students and offered them a simple proposition.

The four-year-olds could have a marshmallow, placed in front of them, immediately, or they could have two marshmallows if they would wait for 15 minutes.

When Mischel first tested the kids, and in many comparable experiments in the ensuing years, some of the youngsters consumed the marshmallow or another treat before the experimenters even finished explaining the options. So much for self-discipline.

Writing about the classic experiment on Live Science, contributor Charles Q. Choi noted that the researchers continued to track the kids over the following decades. Those four-year-olds who sat on their hands or found other tactics to distract themselves for the 15 minutes went on to achieve higher SAT scores in college and generally became more successful in life.

The clear inference is that the ability to delay gratification is a valuable life skill and one that can be detected from an early age.

Except that the practice of delayed gratification is an idiotic life strategy. Or at least that’s the premise of Timothy Ferrisss 2007 instant classic — and his 2009 update — The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9–5, Live Anywhere, And Join The New Rich.

Ferriss’s contrarian life philosophy is that rather than toiling for hours on end, dreaming of an eventual retirement, savvy adults should use their money to fund “mini-retirements” throughout their lives. There’s no need to delay gratification awaiting a single prolonged retreat at life’s conclusion.

In other words, why wait 15 minutes when you can have a marshmallow now and perhaps barter with your less-sophisticated classmates for theirs as well?

When I first saw The 4-Hour Workweek on the Amazon top sellers, I was definitely skeptical. After going through the reviews my skepticism turned into a “let’s see what these people are talking about” and thankfully I did.

The 4-Hour Workweek was a complete game changer. I motivated me to start taking ACTION into being an entrepreneur. I always had entrepreneur tendencies, but never took ACTION. I was quite the wantrepreneur, but after reading the The 4-Hour Workweek I was able to stop “playing business” and started DOING business.

Ferriss is a self-described serial entrepreneur. In the introduction to The 4-Hour Workweek, Ferriss walks readers through his life story, starting with his insubordination towards a teacher in kindergarten, multiple job failures, a business success, a panic attack, and then the Zen-like epiphany of four-hour workweeks.

His biggest financial success prior to the publication of his bestselling book was a sports nutrition company called BrainQUICKEN. Ferriss worked on that enterprise for 80 hours a week and the effort consistently drained him.

The secret to achieving financial happiness (though not necessarily financial stability), asserts Ferriss, is to free yourself from the stress that overpowers your daily life.

Successful execution of Ferriss’s 4-Hour Workweek relies on a four-part foundation that he calls DEAL: Definition, Elimination, Automation, and Liberation.

DEAL: Definition, Elimination, Automation, and Liberation

Definition, which he covers in the first section of the book, spells out the new rules that are governing the American workplace.

Gone are the days when dollars, deposited in savings accounts and certificates of deposit, slowly compounded, growing into large amounts at retirement.

The “new rich”, as Ferriss calls those who embrace his methods, do not believe in working a 9–5 job. They believe in building their own lifestyle business to support themselves. Wealth is not the ultimate goal; rather, life experiences & freedom are the aim. Whether the activity entails driving a luxury car, vacationing in an exotic location, or spending weekdays lolling in the park, experiences should be both inspiring and fulfilling.

The second section of the book is Elimination. In it, Ferriss speaks of the need to eliminate unnecessary tasks from your work life.

He proposes doing so largely by outsourcing: instead of taking the time to manage your schedule, hire a virtual assistant. Instead of spending time going over cumbersome reports, hire a manager to brief you, and then only when necessary.

The general concept is to pay others to do any work that taxes your time.

To conserve funds, Ferriss advises hiring non-essential personnel from regions of the world where people are willing to work remotely and for much less than their American counterparts. Outsourcing is a huge theme in The 4-Hour Workweek.

Ferriss’s next foundation is Automation. He recommends investing your initial efforts in establishing an infrastructure that will function without you, and then assigning your employees to do the rest of the work. Essentially, build a system that works for you.

The more hands-off you are as an employer, the happier you will be. Having your business run automatically leaves all of the day-to-day decisions in the hands of your employees. You work only on big-picture tasks and those parts of the business that you enjoy.

This allows for plenty of time to embark on mini-retirements while still receiving a paycheck.

The final section of The 4-Hour Workweek is Liberation, where Ferriss reviews the importance of being able to work from anywhere.

Weaning yourself from a confining office location allows for maximum flexibility. Relying on nothing more than wireless Internet and a smartphone, you’ll free yourself up to travel to exotic locales, attend professional workshops, and meet other entrepreneurs face to face, regardless of where they are located. Best of all, no matter where you are, you’ll still be contributing to — and profiting from — your business.

For practical reasons, Ferriss suggests that readers disregard the order in which his book chapters are arranged. The best way to execute his strategy, he argues, is: Definition, Elimination, Liberation, and then Automation.

Among the best actionable The 4-Hour Workweek takeaways are:

  • IF NOT NOW, WHEN? There is always a pressing reason not to pursue your dreams. Spending a lifetime working 40+ hours each week can make you skeptical of working only four hours a week — you’ll feel as if you aren’t doing your job. But you are — you just need to redefine what that job is. Don’t wait for the right time, as it will never come; start the DEAL process now.
  • CHOOSE FRIENDS WISELY. Surround yourself with ambitious people who will push you to follow your dreams and be happy. Don’t spend time with people who are negative and discouraging; their attitude will rub off on you and you will decide against doing what is in your ultimate best interest.
  • JUMP IN. Choose the “devil” you don’t know over the “devil” you do. If you are unhappy now and you change your position, the worst that can happen is that your dissatisfaction levels remain the same. More likely, you’re going to find much more fulfillment than you are currently experiencing.
  • DON’T OVERESTIMATE EVERYONE ELSE. Whatever insecurities you have, so does everyone else you encounter. Those who are happy and successful had to confront the same mental demons that you are facing before they took the leap to a more satisfying lifestyle.
  • SLOW DOWN. If you work until a final retirement point without stopping periodically to enjoy life and its little moments, you will have irrevocably short-changed yourself. By taking mini-retirements throughout life, you will be treating yourself the way you are meant to be treated: well. Ferriss also advises entrepreneurs to rethink their business goals.
  • DON’T BUY; EXPERIENCE. Goods are ephemeral, but experiences are eternal.
  • DON’T MAKE MONEY FOR ITS OWN SAKE. Do something, in your lifetime, with the money you earn. Don’t die a millionaire who never spent a dime on life’s many pleasures.
  • DON’T WORK FOR YOURSELF. Have others do the work for you. True “entrepreneurship” — as first described by J.B. Say more than two hundred years ago — means “one who shifts economic resources out of an area of lower into an area of higher yield.” Be that type of entrepreneur and delegate.
  • BUILD SYSTEMS. Outsource menial tasks and build a system where you aren’t needed. This ‘system’ should operate without in place.
  • PRODUCTIVITY. It is not lazy to do less work if you are focusing on the most productive
  • DON’T ASK FOR PERMISSION. Ask for forgiveness.
  • Focus on your strengths instead of trying to fix your weaknesses.
  • STRESS. Stress is good if it stimulates personal growth.
  • ESSENTIALISM. Eliminate the unnecessary.
  • PARETO PRINCIPLE. Roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Focus on the 20%.
  • PARKINSON’S LAW. Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Set deadlines, hit them.

Grab a copy of The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9–5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich on Amazon.

* All links are affiliate links


Originally published at Jose Casanova’s Thoughts.

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