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The Hard Truth About the 4-Hour Workweek

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bored at the office

Think about it: four hours of work a week. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But it’s not for you. It’s not even for Tim Ferriss.

What makes you happy?

You’re ambitious, desire success and won’t settle for just any job when you could be doing something meaningful that would make you happy.

To quote Stephen King, who could easily kick back on the beach or drink fancy cocktails by the pool for the rest of his life:

“I always wonder two things about these folks (writers with scanty legacies like Harper Lee — one book): how long did it take them to write the books they did write, and what did they do the rest of their time? Knit afghans? Organize church bazaars?… If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it?”

King writes every day, without exception, because it makes him happy. He’s a successful guy.

If you think about success in life and still have a problem nailing it down, listen to Richard St. John. In his “8 Secrets of Success” TED talk, he shares the elements of success he compiled after interviewing 500 successful people:

  1. Passion. Though recently a buzzword, it’s also a major happiness factor.
  2. Work.
  3. Expertise. Get good and own your skill.
  4. Focus. Practice it like a muscle.
  5. Push. Push yourself through self-doubt and inhibitions. Even great people think they’re not good enough.
  6. Serve. Serve people something of value because it’s how you get rich.
  7. Ideas. Follow through with your ideas; we all have them. Creativity isn’t magic.
  8. Persist. Persistence, according to St. John, is the number one reason for success. Persist through failure and CRAP (criticism, rejection, assholes and pressure).

Does a four-hour workweek fit into that picture? Probably not. Take a close look at those who advocate the passive income lifestyle. They work their butts off and sell the idea for the big bucks.

“Get rich quick” and “do nothing and accomplish everything” recipes are like the Holy Grail. They exist in legends and fairy tales. (Click here to tweet this thought.) But the basis for your decision should be what the easy money advocates do, not what they say. Who walks the talk?

It doesn’t work in reality

The messages you’re exposed to can cause headache and confusion: find your passion, help others, seek fulfillment and happiness. But on the other hand: be smart, delegate all tasks, macromanage, work four hours a week, become financially independent.

What’s the right thing to do?

Listen to your gut and these facts

According to Scott Dinsmore, Tim Ferriss, the author of 4-Hour Workweek, works a minimum of 60 hours a week. And so do other financially successful business people. Business Insider dedicated a section to their schedules and lists by name who gets up earliest and how long they work.

Why would somebody work so hard if they’re already financially free and could do virtually anything?

If the answer doesn’t come easy, imagine you created something. Perhaps you set up your own business or launch an innovative project and, after a tough period when you work hard and see no results, you finally begin to see it catching on.

People start talking about it. There’s interaction, revenue and satisfaction. Even if your idea or creation isn’t a huge hit from day one, you watch it bud and blossom to life. It’s your pride and joy. It’s who you’ve become and how you define yourself.

Then you step down, say goodbye and go trekking through the Peruvian Andes, leaving everything to your employees and a host of virtual assistants.

Even if you’re an inexperienced newbie at the start of your career, you can see that’s rather unrealistic.

The magic behind success in your career lies in the development of your personality. You become someone new, someone who’s fulfilled and has a purpose. It drives and energizes you, and once you’re inspired, new ideas and improvements will come to you.

Another reason why successful people enjoy working longer is the rewards, both financial and social. Your income will rise and people will seek out your expertise. And once you become important and valuable to others, they’ll respect and follow you. You’ll have a purposeful and rewarding life without giving up anything.

And you’ll find the life of adventure and exotic travel even more accessible with your growing income. Everybody needs time to recharge their batteries, and accomplished people desire to develop their personal lives, too. They’re the ones climbing high mountains, dog sledding in Alaska or sailing through the Atlantic because they’ve discovered how great it feels to push your limits.

Sylvia Rytarowska is an entrepreneur, coach and English philology graduate. She is an advocate of making science more accessible to regular readers and is obsessed with psychology, self-development and sports. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook and visit her site here.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • Ibrahim

    My problem with the 4 hour work week is Tim Ferris knowingly sales an over simplified dream. The book has some good nuggets of information but it primarily plays on people’s longing to escape boring, unsatisfying work by telling them “you can do these simple things and live the life you want just like me!”

    • Sylvia Rytarowska

      Thank you Ibrahim. I agree.
      Personally, I don’t agree with many of Tim’s ideas.

      As for his recent work, I teach speed reading and memory techniques, plus I’m a linguist, so I’ve been practising the things he writes about on a daily basis. I felt disappointed when I read his latest book and listened to him speak about learning. Tim Ferris experiments with his abilities and writes about his experiences and observations. That is definitely the profile of all his endeavours so far. The essence and gist of his books is being advertised in an oversimplified way, as you said. I don’t believe his tips are practical. Especially about learning a language. They’re out of context for people like me.

  • http://internetdreams.com/ Samuel

    A thought-provoking post right here on Brazen.

    It made me think and I could see myself agreeing with some of the points.

    When you love what you do, you can’t go one day without working on your goals.

    Look, I find it amazing how Tim Ferris’s book became a huge success. He worked hard for it and I only congratulate him.

    Thanks for the post!

    - Sam

    • Sylvia Rytarowska

      Thanks Samuel,
      Tim Ferris is a very diligent guy and he believes in his ideas. He likes experimenting and pushing his limits. I like that. The books, however, are not for me.

  • MrTimesizingdotcom

    Here’s a comment from the viewpoint of economic design (like the framers of the Constitution except they were into political design). One of the big mistakes of previous attempts to design a full-employment economy based on workweek reduction (to spread the diminishing human employment as automation and robotization takes over more and more types of jobs) has been the idea that we have to stop absolutely EVERYbody from working any longer than the workweek ceiling, whatever it comes down to. But we do not want to stop the people who love their job, like Stephen King as Sylvia mentions. So how do we separate them from the others? Easy. People who love their job aren’t doing it for the money. They’d do it for less. Soooo, just require reinvestment of overtime earnings in the job, in sharing the job, the passion, with others = in overtime-targeted training and hiring. This is the core of Phase 3 of the Timesizingdotcom Program on page Timesizing.com/1jobins.htm – enjoy.]

    • Sylvia Rytarowska

      Hi there, thank you for the comment.

  • Pinar Tarhan

    Actually I love the book. I can imagine he’s not working just 4 hours a week since he does run a successful blog, writes bestsellers and does some other stuff, but I never took 4 hours so literally. For most people, even 4 hours a day would be a dream come true, especially since they can do it remotely. And not everyone can or should work only 4 hours a week. I agree with King, but then writing is a passion, a compulsion. I don’t consider it working, especially if I’m writing fiction. But Ferriss does have great pointers, explained step by step, on how to cut back your working hours significantly, how you can have a “rich” person’s life without being rich – and he does include real life experiences about that. The main idea is that you shouldn’t devote yourself to a job you hate or wait until 60 to have a retirement check.

    • Sylvia Rytarowska

      Hi Pinar. Great comment! Personally, I don’t like his books (it seems like cherry-picking* to me) but I appreciate his freshness and originality. They were definitely a new phenomenon and how they sell says a lot about our modern society. How we struggle with our lives and seek ways out. I think the only way out is through.

      • Pinar Tarhan

        Hi Sylvia, sorry to respond so late. I’m still figuring out how Disqus works. Personally I prefer the good old Commentluv or just leaving your URL, name, address.:) I like his tips and how many things he has accomplished. What I find next to impossible, however, is his tips for learning a new language. I think it takes years, unless you are trained by Jack Bauer under extreme circumstances or something…:)

  • Fab Farn

    Type on Google: Tim Ferris charlatan and you’ll get a lot of results!!

    Why?

    Because the truth is very, very different:

    http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2012/05/how-to-make-money-online.html

    Hence, type on Google: Seth Godin charlatan and you won’t get any result!!

    What a weird coincidence…!!

    All the best

    Fab

    PS congratulations for your very good article!

    • Sylvia Rytarowska

      Thank you Fab Farn. I read Seth Godin’s blog and after each post I’m impressed withe the simplicity and truth :-)

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