Book Review: The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferris

Heidi Resting in Nepal after Exhausting Travels through Tibet

George and I finally read “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferris and highly recommend it to those looking to make a change in their lives. We read the expanded 2009 edition for Kindle after noticing the book while browsing through the bookstore and thinking, “that’s the book so many bloggers were inspired by, we should probably read it.” I am surprised we did not read it back in 2007 when it was first released and we were preparing for our first extended trip, but I suppose I had enough school books to keep me busy back then.

Lifestyle Design

“The 4-Hour Workweek” is the backbone to a movement among our generation known as “lifestyle design.” With lifestyle design, instead of doing what society, your family, friends, or anyone else thinks you should do, you choose to do whatever it is that you want to do. Many of us were raised to believe that we should go to college, get a job, settle down, buy a house, work 30 years, and then retire and enjoy life. But why not start enjoying life before retiring? Why not travel or do whatever else makes you feel alive throughout your life, instead of putting it off until the distant future? Lifestyle design is an idea that George and I are totally on board with, but for some it may seem radical, crazy, or even irresponsible.

How to Achieve the 4-Hour Work Week

Instead of just preaching an ideal that may seem unattainable to the masses, Timothy Ferris presents a step-by-step approach to freeing oneself from the typical 9-5 job. He provides a blue print for starting a business that will eventually bring in automated income, while working few hours per week. This will free up enough time to pursue other activities besides working.

I think this part of the book is too narrowly focused. You could use his method to start a business just as a source of income and then use that income to find fulfillment in other activities. But I think that there are also possibilities of working a regular 9-5 job that you enjoy and find rewarding or starting and running a business that you really believe in, doing what you love. The ultimate goal I agree with- freeing yourself from working long hours just for work’s sake and letting precious years of your life slip right by. Ferris supports his method with his own individual success story as an entrepreneur and also examples of readers who have successfully followed his advice. If you do not already have a plan for gaining mobility and decreasing time spent at work, you could try his suggested method, and maybe it will work for you, as well.

What to do with Your Free Time

Ferris advocates minimizing time spent on work for work’s sake not just to have free time to kill, but to be able to fill that time with enriching endeavors. What would you do if you didn’t have the excuse that you don’t have enough time?

Travel is one of many options for a lifestyle-designer. There are so many possibilities of what you could do during your lifetime! One quote I love from the book is: “The heaviness of success-chasing can be replaced with a serendipitous lightness when you recognize that the only rule and limits are those we set for ourselves.” Take away your own self imposed rules, and you are free. Free to be a dancer, a traveler, a writer, a magician, anything you want to be!

If you took the time to research what it would cost and how you could go about accomplishing your dreams, you would probably realize that they are much more attainable than you thought. Many people brush off traveling because it is expensive. In reality, long term travel in many countries can be cheaper than renting an apartment and paying for food in the U.S. If you always wanted to run a marathon, you could look up a training program online, find a race to enter, get a new pair of shoes, check in with your doctor, and start training.

When deciding what to do, you don’t have to figure out all the details up front. First decide that you are going to do something. Then figure out the steps to achieve that goal.

Designing Our Lifestyle

For George and I, our first extended trip- our seven month voyage throughout SE Asia, China, Tibet, and part of Europe permanently changed our perspective on life. Before the trip I would have considered myself a home-body, happy to have our own place and stock it with material necessities and desires. After traveling we realized that while we are out on the road we are so much more aware and the experiences we collect are something that can never be taken away from us. A house can burn down, material possessions can be stolen, but no one can ever take away the time we watched elephants paint in Thailand, took a hot air balloon ride in rural China, or saw wild orangutans in the Borneo rainforest. Those experiences also brought a deeper lasting happiness than a new purse or pair of shoes. Sure I love to get a new purse, but after a while it ends up on a shelf almost forgotten. Ask me about it and I will say, “oh yeah, I ought to use that sometime.” Ask me about Thailand and my face will light up, my speech will become animated, and it will be hard to get me to stop talking.

I’m all for the idea of lifestyle design- choosing what you want to do with your life, instead of following an outdated mold, and now with the tools learned from the book, perhaps we can turn it into a sustainable lifestyle, instead of just a once in a lifetime experience.

It Just Might Open Your Mind to the Possibilities

I recommend reading The 4-Hour Workweek whether you are already a firm believer in lifestyle design, and just need some tips on how to increase the cash flow, or if you are new to the idea and still a bit skeptical. It may change your mind about how to plan your life and help you escape from the 9-5 grind.

The book is worth its price for the links to numerous resources, alone. Did you know there is a service that will check your mail, scan it, and store it online, so that you can read your snail mail even while abroad? We will be looking into that the next time we go on an extended trip. There are so many technologies today that can help us achieve a mobile lifestyle, or just help us minimize time wasted on tasks we don’t care to do.

Before you write the lifestyle design concept off as crazy, give it a read.

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