The 4-Hour Fallacy and the Zuckerberg Effect
Why Millennials May Feel Like Shit About Their Lives (Like I Did) and How To Get Over It
I felt like I was on drugs.
At the time, I had never tried a drug before, but I thought, “This has got to be what it feels like.”
I was reading The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss in an airport on my way to a week of on-site client work, and I honestly knew life would never be the same.
I walked around on a perpetual high for months — having had my understanding of life and work blown open — as if someone had just proven to me that we are all actually living in an alternate reality.
If you haven’t read The 4-Hour Workweek just yet, it’s a book about creating an online business that brings in sky’s-the-limit income while only working a few hours a week. At first glance, it sounds like a scam but when you read the book, you see that it’s all about outsourcing, leveraging systems and creating something people want to buy.
Since then, I have followed Tim and his work closely, never having created the type of business described in the book, but instead fantasizing about implementing it in some way.
The fantasy goes like this, “One day, I will create a business selling widgets online while traveling the world working only a few hours a week.”
I walked smugly around the office like I had a dirty little secret. “These schmucks have NO IDEA what I know. They plan to work here for the rest of their lives! HAH! I’m out of here in six months tops.”
I would ask colleagues if they were happy doing what they were doing and whether they were currently planning their escapes. They all looked at me dumbfounded and backed away slowly while retaining eye contact.
After a few of those interactions, I decided to keep my fantasy-life under wraps.
I would sit up late at night watching videos on Tim’s blog about others who had successfully escaped their corporate 9–5’s, all the while feeling a strange mix of ecstasy, jealousy, and desperation as my mind raced to figure out how I would do the same.
Meanwhile, my world was filling up with idyllic Zuckerberg-esque heroes, as I dove ever-deeper into the world of online marketing. I read endless Forbes, Inc. and Fast Company articles about the men and women who had “made it”, having capitalized on the most disruptive, innovative, and amazing time planet Earth has ever seen — the age of the internet.
In case you haven’t noticed, the internet has connected 3.5 billion of the world’s population. You can create, market, and sell anything in the world to anyone in the world from your couch.
And in Tim’s model, you can design, drop-ship, and outsource 99% of your business while keeping your pinky finger on the pulse of it all — preferably while swaying from a hammock in Thailand and enjoying $5 massages from Thai girls in coconut bras.
(Okay, I made that last part up — but just the part about the bras.)
I was incredibly intoxicated by the whole thing.
Going to a job immediately soured.
I lumped employees into what Ramit Sethi calls “the unwashed masses”.
It felt depressing to me as an A-Type overachiever.
Once I realized a new bar had been set that I now call “The Zuckerberg Effect” (read: earn a billion dollars before 30), I felt depressed every day I had not yet achieved it myself.
Time-freedom was the new measurement of success, replacing grades in school, where I was near-insane about achieving perfect scores.
I read The 4-Hour Workweek in 2009, and now that it’s 7 years later, I’m still not in Thailand. I’m not saying it can’t be done. I’m just saying I didn’t create it that way.
As I searched for the product or widget I would sell to millions of people, I began to actually believe that life was about escaping from “work” and running to a fantasy world where responsibility was near-zero.
I wanted freedom FROM life and responsibility. I wanted to avoid the deep, dark work of actually becoming someone. Instead I ran to where I didn’t have to be anything for anyone.
At the time, I was dating a guy who was raised on diligence, focus and becoming wealthy little by little. His family had raised themselves up from working class to wealthy class by distributing compressed air.
He was completely uninterested in the fly-by-night fantasia of my newfound Taiwanese-inspired world, and instead focused on getting better at what he did day by day. To me, this was the equivalent of treason, and we went our separate ways.
But not without first having a child together.
From there, I spun myself into a maniacal downward spiral. The desperation and obsession with creating an escape from life through my widget-selling fantasy-engine only intensified. The confusion and loneliness of finding myself untethered in the real world, with child, a mountain of student debt and a job that appalled me (for no good reason other than it was 40 hours a week and not in Thailand) ultimately ended my pseudo-marriage, and regretfully, a lot of friendships.
I feel like it was the 2000’s-version of Amway for millennials, without the meetings.
But it doesn’t have to be that way for you, which is why I’m writing this article.
The incredible times we’re living in do, in fact, have unlimited opportunity and an incredible upside to being the first to create…
Or whatever other software company Silicon Valley is birthing today.
The internet is incredibly powerful.
But I think millennials, myself included, who are predisposed to want it all now and eschew the long-slow path of building credibility and skill may fail to realize that these are anomalies.
They breed a kind of opportunistic hunt for the “thing” that will make you rich instead of becoming the person that will make you feel fulfilled on an everyday basis.
By dedicating myself to the study of a powerful personal development strategy called the Self Discovery Techniques, I became aware that life is meant to be lived every day. Not waiting for some day.
I mean spending each day wishing you were the next multi-billion dollar Amazon or the next Elon Musk is the quickest way to let 10 years of your life go by unhappy, disappointed, and thinking you’re stupid — especially if you’re like me and want to be the best at all things #LIFE.
I think Tim’s book was revolutionary and ahead of its time, and I don’t discount the sound principles he describes — Pareto’s law, Sunk-Cost Fallacy, Taking Mini-Retirements, and The Value of Relative Income Versus Absolute Income.
I also don’t believe my experience will be everyone’s. There are many who have succeeded wildly by implementing what he has taught.
My belief, at this point in my life, is, as Kahlil Gibran put it, “Work is love made visible.” Whatever you choose to do with your one wild and precious life should not be about running away from responsibility but wholeheartedly embracing it.
It should not be solely about chasing riches but treasuring each tiny moment of your life. Whatever you choose to do, let it fuel you, engage you, transform you and satisfy you.
Let the work you do in the world be a reflection of your unique gifts and talents. Let it reflect what you desire to impact about the world.
The world needs YOU, no matter the widget, service, or investment you ultimately deliver. They need your inspiration, your ingenuity, and your commitment to a world where more people live a life they love.
And that has to start with you.
You don’t have to build the next Facebook or “live the laptop lifestyle” to be incredibly happy and fulfilled with your life. It certainly won’t happen by chasing an easy-way-out fantasy where you avoid making an impact and doing the gritty work of answering the question, “How can my natural gifts make a difference?”
Mr. Ferris and Mr. Zuckerberg certainly have made a difference, but I now see it’s because they were being themselves.
You be you. Become the person.
Julie Cabezas is the owner of Ideal Marketing. Contact her at Julie@idealmarketing.us to connect with her personally or professionally or to get more information about how she unraveled her obsession with finding a way out — and instead, found a way IN.