Imagine running a half-million dollar company in a few hours a day from your laptop in Mumbai, next month in Rio de Janeiro and after that, maybe, Paris. And after working “hard” for a few months, a mini-retirement would be due, which would involve ticking off the next dream on the list. Maybe the dream is to race motorcycles, win the Guinness world record in tango or to become fluent in Spanish.
The 4-Hour Workweek: Random Crown, 308 pages, Rs754
Most people put off dreams until retirement, when they may no longer have the will or means for such adventures. But that life plan should change, according to barely 30, Princeton-grad Timothy Ferriss, who tells readers how to achieve this dream life (all those dreams above are actually his accomplishments) in his best-selling book, The 4-Hour Workweek—No. 1 in The Wall Street Journal list of best-sellers in the business category in the week ending 11 August.
Somehow, Ferriss makes this too-easy-to-be-true scheme seem plausible with a book that is engaging as a read and provocative as a philosophy, although sometimes ridiculous. He provides inspiration, coaching and specific advice (including worksheets, checklists, inside tips and resources) on getting his life—down to finding a business to start and mentors to help make it successful. His concept has caused a stir in the US, he has appeared on popular shows such as Live with Regis and Kelly, The Today Show and on NBC.
The book is worth reading at least because a) its boldness must be admired b) its philosophy may actually be touching on a cultural shift in the next generation and how it approaches work and c) it has contrarian ideas that are useful. But, for most people, a four-hour workweek or what he calls “Income Autopilot” will remain a dream.
The Juggler: Timothy Ferris is into tango, shark diving, racing and Spanish
Ferriss says email should not control life and instructs that it should be checked twice a day, at noon and 4pm (he even provides the email auto response, so others will know what to expect). Never, he says, check email first thing in the morning, but instead accomplish the most important task of the day. Ferriss also has a chapter about outsourcing life to India (his outsourced secretary, by the way, responds to media inquiries). He advises you to get rid of customers that take up more time than the revenue they provide. On the more ridiculous side, he suggests pushing out of the comfort zone by going to the mall and asking three attractive members of the opposite sex for their number within five minutes—“it doesn’t matter if you’re over 50 years or older.” He provides the script.
The book guides readers through a four-step process (that rings of an efficient version of America’s infamous Alcoholics Anonymous programme) called the D-E-A-L: Definition, Elimination, Automation and Liberation. And it’s all based on his philosophy that the old way of achieving success is out of date. Those “Deferrers” would work hard and look forward to retirement. Ferriss says the notion that retirement is the reward for doing work you hate is a “nonstarter”. He says, be the “New Rich”, live now and care more about doing things and being things, than buying things.
A shrewd marketer, he seems to know his ideas would invite sceptics. So, the First and Foremost section counters all doubts about not reading the book, including the assurance that an Ivy League degree is not required.
With those worries out of the way, he dives right into the inspirational story: his own. In Chronology of a Pathology, Ferriss explains how he quit Princeton out of “the acute fear of becoming an investment banker”, after which he floated from job to job before returning to graduate.
After a stint as an underpaid, overworked salesman, he starts his own business—creating and selling a dietary supplement (his book suggests that a product business is ideal for his lifestyle). But his plan is foiled as he now works harder than ever before. So, when two buyers come along, he happily works himself out of the equation, ready to sell. It works, but the deals fizzle.
At his wits end, he gets on the first flight to London and tries an experiment. Having already worked himself out of a job at his own company, he lets the business run on autopilot and manages from abroad. “As soon as I remove myself as a bottleneck, profits increase 40%,” he says. And so he continues this path and starts taking mini-retirements, such as going off on a trip to dive with sharks.
Finally, he writes The 4-Hour Workweek (after talking to experts about writing a best-seller, of course) to share his success, and likely also to use its sales to keep up his own four-hour workweek.