The 4-hour workweek: Thoughts after reading

by Mark on March 30, 2010

As you may have seen on twitter, I’ve been reading the famous (maybe close to legendary) “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferriss. I won’t turn this post into a book review so I’ll just keep it short: It’s a truly inspiring book that changes the way you look at jobs, making money, vacations and retirements and pretty much the entire way you live your life. I truly recommend reading this to broaden your horizon and give yourself a glimpse of how great your life could be. Just go read it and convince yourself.

Now back on topic; what did it leave me with after reading?
Even while reading it I noticed myself getting inspired and fired up to take inventory of my life. I started examining the things I was doing that I never really questioned. Naturally there were some that I already noticed before but it got them back in the spotlight.

Cultural Malware
For example; something that I spoke to Toomas about at our Dutch/Belgian bloggers “meetup” a few weeks back. People seem to have a cultural program running that makes them feel obligated to work their asses off for about 40-to-50 years in order to be finally retire when they reach the age of 65. Actually, I wouldn’t even call this a program that we’re running. A program is something that enables us to do something-, that adds some form of value. Now that I’m thinking about this, it’s probably call this a piece of “cultural walware”. (Malicious software that enables other “evil” people to take advantage and-/or control of your computer to use it for their own advantage)
Isn’t that strangely close to the truth? Going to work every day, performing tasks appointed to you by your direct supervisor. Of course you’re getting paid for it, but essentially you’re working to increase your boss’s income. Someone is (ab)using and-/or controlling your time to their own advantage.

The 4-hour workweek brought back to my attention that it’s perfectly okay to question the concept of a job as a whole. A job is not an obligation, it’s a choice! Just like everything else in life, it’s a choice and you are completely free to pick the answer. If you feel fine with the concept of a 9-to-5, providing you with the money and stability you crave, that’s perfectly fine. But it’s just as fine to feel confined by the 9-to-5 concept and crave more freedom to choose how you spend your day.

Passive income & outsourcing
Something that Steve Pavlina has written out plenty of times before is the concept of passive income. Essentially it is the idea of receiving money for value that you provide, but that is no longer directly tied to time you put in. Things like royalties on books or music that you’ve created for example. The same goes for ad-revenues if you run a successful website. I’ve always been fascinated by this concept because, if arranged well enough, it completely eliminates the need for location dependant work. It provides a state where your financial state is no longer directly tied to the maximum of 24 hours that you have to spend per day.
Timothy Ferriss introduces “Muses”, companies that you set up to run as automated as possible, generating income for you. He provides several real-world examples of these and gives tips on how to create your own. A large part of these muses revolves around stripping things down to the bare essentials and then outsourcing the remaining work as much as possible. This really got me thinking about the things I do on a weekly basis. Which parts of my work do really rely on my personal unique qualities to get done and which parts could I potentially get someone else to do? The internet really enables miraculous things for those that are willing (and perhaps daring) to dive into them. 4 euro’s an hour might not great pay in The Netherlands or Belgium, but people on the other side of the world would gladly work for that reward. Why would you do the same work for i.e. 15 euro’s an hour if you can get yourself a virtual personal assistant to do it for you for 5 euro’s an hour? The results: Either you do nothing and still get the 10 euro premium each hour or you decide to focus on other tasks to increase the value you provide to your company. (Yes, you can even do this is you have a boss)

I’m currently exploring the possibilities the many concepts in this book can provide me with, since I touched only a few in this post. Without a doubt there’s more to come!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Bert Meert March 31, 2010 at 02:28

A very timely post Mark. I made a review for myself today on how “having a job” has paid off for me in the past and I have to say, the result were pretty disappointing. I realize I did a truly disgusting amount of work in comparison to the actual pay off and just thinking about it didn’t arise a lot of positive emotions.

You’re right, the main reason why a job will never pay off the way you want it to is exactly how you put it: you’re paying to have a boss. You’re losing income by putting yourself in a position where somebody else has the right to determine how much you can make. And it’s true, it is so common, most people don’t think about it anymore.

To compensate for not having a job right now, I’ve been working for months (on average 8 hours a day, for zero pay) to finish http://www.blogkermis.be (the project I briefly mentioned to the group at the bloggers meetup). A project that will not only help dutch bloggers get in touch with each other and help them raise their traffic levels, it will also function as an online system to generate a stream of passive income. It will still take some time to finish it, but as soon as it’s online and I have actual results, I’ll definitely write about it on my blog, because setting up a passive income stream is something that interests a lot of people.

So more on that later… or… if we get a chance, we can talk about it at the next meetup.

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Mark March 31, 2010 at 12:13

Thanks for the comment Bert!

I didn’t realise the BlogKermis project was taking so much of your time mate. I sure hope we get a chance to discuss it the next time indeed.

Good luck with the progress and we’ll be in touch.

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André February 6, 2011 at 21:49

@ Mark: Very interesting. I love this book too. The only “muses” I can think of though are information products and affiliate marketing. I’m reading a lot about this lately.

I think as soon as you are able to make money from one website – i.e. more income than hosting/domain costs, it’s time to launch another. I have read about “experts” of passive income who literally have hundreds of websites. All these together add to a nice monthly income.

@ Bert: Love your muse. Just signed up. Keep up the good work!

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