What can you learn from the 4-hour workweek? by mark suster on january 10, 2010

A couple of years ago I read the popular book, “The Four Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss. It was recommended to me by my friend, Net Jacobsson, who was trying to do some basic Life Hacking. If you’re not familiar with the term it’s basically trying to help all of us who are deluged with technology to find ways to cope with the masses of information without having it ruin our lives.

Let me start by saying I’m a huge business book cynic. I think too many books are written by charlatans and have too much management jargon / double speak that I can’t stand. So I don’t read too many of them. You can imagine my reluctance to read a book with a title full of such bluster. But Net had told me that he picked up some valuable lessons from the book, so I thought, “WTF? Can’t hurt.”

I’m sure many people have many take-aways (positive and negative) from the book. But on balance for me the positive messages far outweighed

the negative ones. I didn’t go back and re-read the book or double check my exact language but the thoughts below are directionally correct (the fact that I remember anything a few years later from a business book is already a huge positive sign).

My 2 biggest positives:

1. The Deferred Life (DL) Plan – This point alone makes the book worth reading. The concept is that in the “information era” the overwhelming majority of employees in the world have meaningless jobs pushing papers from one side of their desk to the other side from 9am to 5pm and really don’t have much of an impact on anything. The problem is that most people in this situation know they are stuck in the position and never try to change or to do anything about it.

In America being in this type of job means that you get 2 (maybe 3) weeks of vacation per year. So people diligently put in their hours every year, brag about how little vacation they’ve taken and try to save up for 45 years so that one day in their late 60’s (or in today’s era 70’s) they can do what they’ve always dreamed of. They can travel the world, take classes in interesting subjects, spend time with loved ones or start new hobbies. Of course when they get there those individuals are no longer young and after years of mental and physical atrophy they lack the ambitions to get these things done.

Tim Ferriss’ assertion is that you should try to pursue an entrepreneurial job where you can take control of your life and your hours. You should make a list of the ambitions that you have in life and accomplish many of those things now. Want to spend a year or more in Argentina? Andrew Warner from Mixergy is doing it. He’s not on the Deferred Life plan.

With the exception of rare circumstances most people could do this if they chose to. I’m not saying there would be zero sacrifice but if it’s your dream what are you waiting for? Want to take a year pursuing your dream to write a screenplay, travel through Asia, run a triathlon or start your own fashion line? If not now, then when?

Of course the 4-hour work week and DL plan is a gross over generalization and meant to be shocking. So in that context let me use it. I often encourage people to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. I wrote a blog post related to this called Is it Time to Earn or to Learn? If you don’t have entrepreneurial dreams no problem. But if you do and if you sit on the sidelines waiting for the day when the circumstances are right for you to start a company you never will. You’re on the DS (deferred startup) plan.

What can you learn from the 4-hour workweek? by mark suster on january 10, 2010