We all know Tim Ferriss and most of us know about the incredibly successful 4-Hour Workweek, which was essentially a book to teach people how to live more and work less. Forbes magazine described him as ‘someone you need to know today’, while Fast Company regards Ferriss as one of the most innovative people in the past two decades.
But is the 4-Hour Workweek still as relevant today as it was 13 years ago?
After all, the online world has changed quite a lot since the book was released and this is also true about opportunities in general. With this in mind, let’s take a look at some advice from this influential book and how these lessons might have changed since 2007:
1. Chasing passive income is no longer a smart strategy
For many people, the biggest takeaway from the 4-Hour Workweek was the prospect of creating a passive income. It’s true, people stress about money and not having to work nonstop for this money is enticing.
In case you might be asking yourself, passive income refers to consistent income that requires little to no effort to maintain. Now, that’s not to say people are lazy. Rather, it explains how enlightening it was for some people to realize that it is possible to earn money, even while they are not working.
Anyway, according to the author, it was possible to create a structure for life in which income becomes automatic and little involvement is needed from the business owner.
In many ways, highlighting the benefits of passive income gives the wrong impression to startups and entrepreneurs. In Tim’s defence, his objective was to inform people that passive income existed. In practice, most people only seemed to be more interested in how they could benefit from earning money without putting in the work.
While it’s not such a bad thing to be motivated by these benefits, recent trends show that passive income is simply not attainable like it was when the book was written. In other words, changes to consumer behavior and marketing have made passive income a much more elusive option than it was ten years ago.
For example, dropshipping is on the decline and in spite of the argument against this point, the number of dropshipping stores up for sale says everything you need to know. What’s more, increased competition means that most new businesses will find it hard to generate an income, never mind a passive income.
But what strategy should these businesses actually take?
It’s more beneficial to focus on creating a unique product that will provide genuine value instead of one that can generate a passive income. In the words of Elon Musk, this product should ideally fix a problem of some kind or at least serve a purpose that is not being served at the present time.
2. Making money versus living your life
Tim is fantastic at driving home some very important points in the 4-Hour Workweek, not the least of which is the importance of living your life. After all, too many people are just too damn busy and money is often a distraction for successful people who choose to work themselves into the ground.
In the book, Ferriss talks a lot about 9 to 5 and tries to influence the reader into better understanding his alternative lifestyle. Most people end up working their entire lifetime for somebody else. According to the author, this no longer needs to be the case.
At the same time, the 4-Hour Workweek is heavily focused on lifestyle and almost devalues the concept of making money from time to time. That is to say, Tim seems to persuade people into believing that money is not really important, and we should focus on living life instead of earning an income.
Unfortunately, most people no longer need convincing that life is not about money. After all, we have all seen those viral articles and videos that teach us how it’s possible to be happy without money. In fact, this content is so common now that most people are desensitized to the point being made.
But what’s my point?
Well, I think that many people are now too focused on the opposite. That is to say, they have discounted the value of money and try to compensate by spending this money on an interesting life. While this makes sense at first, it also seems like quite a poor business model and possibly even irresponsible.
Let’s be honest, money does make the world go round and money is needed to create the kind of security and lifestyle that most people want to obtain. As Grant Cardone often puts it, money is actually a code word for freedom – something that Tim Ferriss wants readers of the 4-Hour Workweek to achieve.
3. Lifestyle design is not all about travel
In the 4-Hour-Workweek, Ferriss loves nothing more than talking about how today’s online world has now opened up the real world for people who love to travel. More specifically, Tim outlines how the internet enables one to embrace a mobile lifestyle and travel to any city or country in the world, whenever you feel like it.
Although the travel lifestyle he paints for us seems overly glamorous, it’s easy to understand why Tim Ferriss was so insistent on talking about it. After all, travelling is certainly an interesting aspect of life and the one incentive that was most likely to help influence his readers.
The truth is, this influential book was also the catalyst that led millions of people to travel in the first place. Even so, this opportunity to travel is now less and less relevant to the average reader.
You see, when you create a nomadic lifestyle, you can literally go anywhere in the world. However, what the 4-Hour Workweek seems to skip or deliberately ignore is the fact that not everyone wants to travel.
With this in mind, many people don’t want to travel anywhere, yet they still want to create their own business. Some just don’t want a boss or a fixed schedule anymore, and the prospect of unleashing their creativity is more than enough reason to chase the 4-Hour Workweek.
And that’s just part of the story…
At the time of writing this, there is likely a legion of ‘digital nomads’ who yearn to settle down, but they got so caught up in the travel lifestyle, that they don’t know where to start. It’s true, travel is not for everyone and for those who love it, it certainly can’t last forever.
For these reasons, it’s important to take the 4-Hour Workweek with a pinch of salt and realize that life is not all about travel. In fact, maybe you don’t even want to travel at all…and that’s just fine, too.
4. How automation has reshaped ‘outsourcing’ and what it means
Outsourcing clearly has benefits and most businesses are taking this approach in one way or another. In the 4-Hour Workweek, the concept of outsourcing was quite a revolutionary idea for new startups and entrepreneurs. After all, outsourcing is often cost-effective and saves time, while delegating menial tasks to a freelancer can also alleviate a great deal of stress.
With this in mind, I’m not about to detract from the benefits of outsourcing. Tim Ferriss was completely right in the book and his theory has successfully helped transform a host of companies.
Having said this, a lot has happened since 2007 and none could have imagined that artificial intelligence would have developed so quickly. That is to say, AI is now capable of automating endless tasks such as emails, reporting, advertising and even customer service. PR agencies such as Pressfarm have also eliminated a lot of tasks that would have required weeks of work. For this reason, there is less and less need for outsourcing and much more reason to focus on automation tools and software – even PR.
It is true that freelancing and outsourcing are still expected to grow at an exponential rate in the near future. However, the 4-Hour Workweek failed to predict how much the current AI and automation would replace much of the need to outsource.
As you might have guessed, learning about this technology is the only way to embrace it. The potential of voice technology is a good place to start. In addition, understanding the power of bots in general could greatly benefit any startup or entrepreneur in the near future.
5. Following practicality instead of passion
Tim Ferriss is a big believer in the power of following your passion and this comes across the whole way through the 4-Hour Workweek. It’s fair to say that passion is a great motivator for a business of any kind.
Tim also states that following a passion is better than chasing happiness, for the latter is vague or most likely connected to some kind of material desire. This is another fair point and totally relevant.
As if that’s not enough, the author explains how passion results in enthusiasm and doing what you love which should be more than enough reason to get up every day and strive for success.
But there’s one problem with this approach…
When a startup or entrepreneur comes up with an idea, it’s not always related to their passion. For example, I’m sure Jeff Bezos has more interesting hobbies aside from online shopping. Does Brian Chesky really have a passion for renting people’s homes? Did Larry page have an intense passion for telephone directories and decide to create Google with Sergey Brain?
You get the point.
Passion is great, but this can create a misconception that an idea will not work if you aren’t passionate about it. On the contrary, if an idea is practical enough, then the work put into this idea can be just as powerful as any amount of passion.
6. Working from home is now an option
Even before the global pandemic, the years after the book originally came out were met with an influx of new ways for people to work from home and make passive income. However, after the initial lockdown phase of COVID-19, many searched for jobs online to overcome job loss, or supplement reduced income. Now that working from home has become some part of everyone’s daily routine, the concept of putting in the same level of output into 4 hours instead of 40 hours each week seems like the best way to go.
Depending on whether one is working on their own business or is an employee in a company, there is a sense of freedom that comes with working from home. 2020 proved that if we keep our minds occupied and find ways to pass the time, we can make it out of this in one piece. Before 2020, the thought of even being late to an office job, let alone asking if we could work from home, was stressful. However, since then, every company has had to shift its ideas and policies to allow people to work from home. Initially, there was some skepticism about whether people could be productive while sitting on their couches. These skeptics were put to shame when people proved they could still work and communicate with colleagues and conduct meetings right from their kitchen table through Zoom calls and FaceTime.
Of course, the remote work landscape has changed drastically from 2007 with advancements in technology and new trends, which can make it challenging to reach clients online. It isn’t too hard for people employed by a big company, because they already have reliable jobs. For freelancers or digital nomads starting out, trying to get noticed can be daunting in the current digital climate.
7. Working at home does not mean more free time
Another thing that has become clear since 2007 is that working remotely does not always result in more free time. There is a common misconception that online workers work whenever they want to. However, that is not entirely the case. Many remote workers work just as long as an office worker, if not longer. While they do have some control of their work-life balance, they still maintain a schedule much like everyone else who has to get up early in the morning and go through rush-hour traffic.
The book makes it abundantly clear that the whole point of a 4-hour Workweek is to get out there and travel more, but it can be pretty stressful. Where there was a clear distinction between vacation and work in the past, they are now intertwined. While this can be a good thing, it can also reduce productivity.
Time zones can put strains on productivity because tasks and work emails are sent at strange hours of the day. However, many digital nomads have learned to take a step back to and realize that it is not necessary to work twelve hours a day. They know that they are in control of their time. For this reason, many people can pack their laptop as well as their passport to jet-set worldwide while also making money along the way to fund their travels or start their own business.
8. Digital decluttering is now a must
While going digital was supposed to make our lives easier, it can feel a little overwhelming at times. Some people get anxious looking at the number of emails they have when they get up in the morning. Much like physical clutter, digital overload can jumble a person’s thoughts. If you experience this, then you need to get rid of unnecessary emails, as well as the insane number of notifications you get from social media, and get back to a clear, organized digital presence.
First things first, get rid of those pesky newsletters for discounted items. Luckily, that means getting rid of half your email inbox and only leaving the essential emails. We are constantly distracted by our screens which can damage our eyes if we do not take the time out to enjoy the sun or shut our eyes. Getting rid of clutter and distractions can help us have more productive work days.
Another part of the declutter process is “The Low-Information Diet,” in his book Ferriss recommends making task lists to keep people on track. These lists help to create a distraction-blocking mindset, and set limits on the information we process. In practice, rather than spending hours exploring different online resources about the same topic, people should choose a high-ranking search result that provides a complete guide of what they are looking for. By doing this, people can avoid falling into the rabbit hole of information.
9. Employ the Pareto Principle
In his book, Ferriss discusses the Pareto Principle, the idea that there is an unequal relationship between input and output regardless of how one works. The principles specify that 80% of results come from 20% of ones actions. This means that in a person’s eight-hour workday, rather than focusing on productivity 100% of the time, they spend 80% of their time distracted by other things like grabbing coffee, scrolling through social media, or chatting with colleagues.
At a time when many have had to sit at home and try to maintain a steady work schedule after years of going to the office, distractions are abundant. For the young businessman or woman, working from home means relaxing in their pyjamas while working, but it also creates a very challenging work dynamic. The comforts they have at home during a workday are unfamiliar to them. While some people are enjoying the luxuries their homes provide, others are struggling to adjust to the new realities of working form home. For working parents out there, self-isolation means staying at home with their children all day every day while also trying to work from home. Their responsibilities have increased as they have had to play the role of employee, wife/husband, housekeeper, nanny, parent, teacher, and doctor all at the same time. Trying to maintain a scheduled work life while also making sure that the kids are entertained, educated, and cared for can be exhausting.
The Pareto principle can be applied in a wide range of areas such as manufacturing, management, and human resources. As before, it can also be applied to time management. As most people tend to spread themselves a little too thin because of possible distractions, the Pareto principle helps them manage their time by focusing on the most critical tasks.
10. Deferrers vs. The New Rich
According to Ferriss, there is a massive difference between those who live carefully only to find that life has passed them by and those who have ambitious life goals, distinct priorities, and the passion to pursue them. Even though the pandemic has turned people into “the new rich” without any knowledge or experience, there are some who took that plunge way before it became the new hip thing to do. From research, many of those brave individuals were working jobs that paid the bills but didn’t give them the opportunity to do what they truly loved. After years of sitting in an office, they knew that they needed something different to boost their productivity and overall quality of life. The hardest part of it all was plucking up the courage to quit the stable job that had kept them satisfied. However, once they took that leap of faith, they found that working for themselves and being their own bosses gave them satisfaction and brought back a passion for life.
11. Quality control and client choice
When working for a company, people generally do not get to choose all their clients. Sometimes, they have to work with clients they don’t get along with or create content that doesn’t fit their aesthetic. While there is more creative freedom when working as a digital nomad, people still need to respect the client’s requests. However, as one gains experience as a digital nomad, they can eventually branch out and start a business of their own where they can create original content while also being in charge of how much they get paid. As they continue to establish themselves as thought-leaders in their industries, clients will look for them and pay the quoted amount because they are confident they will get quality work.
12. Following the trend
While the book was published back in 2007, when influencer marketing, multiple social media platforms and working remotely were all hard to picture, we can adapt many of the principles in this book to today’s world. Through research, many young entrepreneurs and avid readers explored the concepts raised in the book to see whether the 4-hour Workweek was truly possible. Having read the book, they have started trying to implement specific tactics to see whether they can achieve that goal.
Given that most of us need to work remotely at the moment, Ferriss’s book accurately predicted the state of the world 13 years after it was published. While the intention was to guide young entrepreneurs out there looking for that extra push to take the next step to financial freedom, the book turned into a valuable guide for everyone looking to start a business regardless of their age. Continued advancements in technology will continue to demonstrate the importance of Ferriss’s book. With his advice, he will continue to be the pioneer of productivity through the digital age.
It’s still true; everything you read in the 4-Hour Workweek is relevant in the modern world. However, sometimes you need to take a look back to see what lies ahead. With some minor tweaks or changes, these lessons from Tim Ferriss can still be applied to our work lives today.