The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (Timothy Ferriss)

A great book about time management and communication.

Yes as many of you may think, a 4-hour workweek is just impossible, I started the book with skeptic and bunch of curious questions. I read some reviews of this book from Goodreads site before writing this reflection (I would call it a reflection rather than a review), and felt lucky that I didn’t do before reading the book. As much as I can scroll down the Goodreads reviews, the disparagements is 3 times as many as the compliments, not to mention that the length of those negative reviews is always much longer than their counterparts. If I read them earlier, I would never pick this book up. Let me tell you one of my forever belief: the higher you expect from something, the more disappointment it would bring to you.

In many of reviews, people stressed the fact that Timothy Ferriss was only 30 year-old when he wrote this book. Some others used “limited world view” or “a liar” to talk about the author while showing some flaws or inapplicable advices (in their cases). It is therefore worth mentioning my status quo before sharing my view about the book (this is also a part of a reflection).

  • I am 23, student, 0 year fulltime job, 17 year fulltime/overtime student (it’s true)
  • I am not in the need of working only 4 hours per week
  • I did apply many advices from the book while reading it (will tell what they were and how they worked), but it was in my summer holiday (much less busy)
  • I am studying Entrepreneurship, never be an entrepreneur
  • There are bunch of start-up ideas in my mind, but many things mean nothing, lot of priorities means no priority.

Then here we go, what convinced me in this book:

People have their own definitions for everything (whatever they are). If you don’t keep in mind about this, you might not agree with the author about some points from the beginning.  The book is structured in 4 steps (DEAL – Definition, Elimination, Automation and Liberation). In the step Definition, Timothy introduced the term “New Rich” – a community of people who become rich in different way to the rest of the world. They are not working until retirement but distributing “mini-retirements” throughout life. There are 10 rules he listed in the first parts in which I agree some:

  • Less is not laziness. To be honest, I tend to do more to be a hard worker. The feeling of being hard working saves me from the feeling of regret. This book did the good job in convincing and reminding me that I should focus on being productive instead of busy or active. How to be productive would be another story.
  • Ask for Forgiveness, Not Permission. A big thumb up!! From the day I read this sentence, I have more encourage to make faster decisions, and be more confident. Come on, you are smart enough not to make your decisions become disaster.


  • Money alone is not the solution. (Money and me could be *just kidding)
  • Distress is Bad, Eustress is Good. Distress and Eustress are new terms for me, so I cite the author’s explanation here:

Distress refers to harmful stimuli that make you weaker, less confident, and less able. Destructive criticism, abusive bosses, and smashing your face on a curb are examples of this. These are things we want to avoid.

Eustress, on the other hand, is a word most of you have probably never heard. Eu-,a Greek prefix for “healthy,” is used in the same sense in the word “euphoria.” Role models who push us to exceed our limits, physical training that removes our spare tires, and risks that expand our sphere of comfortable action are all examples of eustress—stress that is healthful and the stimulus for growth.

(Check the book if you want to know the rest 6 rules which either I partly disagree or just too obvious to be mentioned)

You may several times be inspired by risk takers, or have heard this sentence: “Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action” (Benjamin Disraeli, former British Prime Minister). You may agree on that, as I do, but there still be something that always holds me back, keeps me stay as a “normal me”. Timothy’s tip is to define the fear. Basically that is asking yourself a question: “what could be the worst case if I do/don’t do this?” Once the worst case is defined, compare the outcomes to that scenario, there is always a way to survive. I don’t know if I could find that way, but I am convinced that at least when you think about the worst case and think about how serious the case is, the fear may not be that big deal.

Step 2 – E is for Elimination is the most applicable part for me. It is also the reason for the first statement of this reflection. I have tried most of tips mentioned in this part. If people see they are tools to manage time and free them up from time consuming tasks, I also consider them as very cool communication guides such as:

  • Instead of spending hours reading news, I started the habit of asking my friends: “What are the heat topics of this week?” (Bonus: For VNese friends, check out “Nhạc Trắng” to be updated with hot news in a relaxing way)
  • Give out some form of written policies e.g. create an auto response to let people know the certain times when you check email.

My brother (my forever short-term inspirer) once said, your time is your most valuable asset. I rarely concern about seeking job while other all have, it is not a big deal as long as I keep using my free time reasonably. As much as I read, I felt satisfied with this book surprisingly. To be able to work only 4 hours per week is not my aim at the end of the day. However, just the step “elimination” convince me one thing: cutting down your wasted time, be more productive, then 4-hour work week is not something illusory. Tell me, would you be happy if you never need to work overtime? Never bring your company’s laptop to home? Never be bothered by colleagues outside 9-5? I definitely will.

L is for Liberation – this is what New Rich aim for. The step of quitting your office job (once you are ready), taking your mini-retirement at 30 and coming back later, traveling around the world, doing whatever you want. The thing is you might not be able to follow this step as advised, or they just don’t work. But then, understand the big notion is more important. If you agree, you would find the way. Basically I agree with two things:

“Why not take the usual 20–30-year retirement and redistribute it throughout life instead of saving it all for the end?”

Why not? My dad started taking his retirement last year, at 58. Before that there was only 1 time my family of 4 having a holiday together, you know, 1 time in the whole life! I still admire his life though. I have observed his energy at work, his joy with friend, his happiness with family and his respectful responsibility with people of his life. By the time of retirement, he built a new house (luxury one), bought a new car (also luxury one), proudly sent his daughter to study overseas. You guess what, I know others also admire dad’s achievement, but he might not be satisfied indeed (wish I was wrong). He lends the new house, drives the new car to our hometown back and forth to visit my grandpas instead of travelling around the world with mom as he wished. My poor 60-year-old daddy now has my mom worry whenever he goes playing golf or driving car alone.

I am up for the mini-retirement.

There is a Goodreads’s reviewer mentioned that as much as she read the book, she felt more satisfied about her work life, then there is no point to apply the book. I agree, and Timothy agrees. Near the end of the book, he answers the question that readers may concern: What if I get bored or depressed with the NR’s lifestyle? After trying to convince that these concern are not depressing but liberating (which is not necessary I think), he stressed the question of questions: “what is the meaning of life?” again. Everyone has his or her own definition, but the author recommended some tools to define the answer as well. At this point, unlike the others’ comments, I like Timothy that he is a dedicated advisor. For every practical suggestion and tip, he always show the step-by-step guide and sources (some of them are not applicable anymore though). Go for the book and you will see how he teaches us to negotiate to work remotely (which can be used to negotiate anything), and then he even suggests the “Proposal to Work Remotely on a Contract Basis”, take 3-different-roles for example!

If you decide to read this book, be sure that you will do the Q&A and the Comfort challenge. They are both meaningful and useful I would say (I do the Q&A with a friend). Let’s check one out:

  • What would you do, day to day, if you had $100 million in the bank?
  • What would you most excited to wake up in the morning to another day?

Don’t rush—think about it for a few minutes. If still blocked, fill in the five “doing” spots with the following:

  • One place to visit
  • One thing to do before you die (a memory of a lifetime)
  • One thing to do daily
  • One thing to do weekly
  • One thing you’ve always wanted to learn

Or this is one Comfort challenge (briefly described) which is also a communication lesson:

In 2 days, try to use the Criticism Sandwich with someone: Make the first praise – deliver the criticism – give a topic-shifting praise to exit the sensitive topic (Thursday is the best time since M-W is too tense and Friday is too relaxed)

What didnot convince me:

The step 3: A is for Automation

The main idea of this part is having every of your tasks outsourced, in both work life and personal life. It is so funny that he let some unknown person (he call virtual assistance) solve his problem with wife!

“Outsources all operations entirely” is a part of the New Rich definition. There would be no team, no vision, no culture, and development is something never happened (of course, Timothy thinks that development is the sale increase)

Being financially rich and having the ability to live like a millionaire are fundamentally two very different things, said the author. And money alone is not the solution, as you still remember. The more important is problems. Let’s revisit the book title, which is impressed to most readers: The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich. The reason why you are not living like a millionaire: lack of time, can’t live anywhere, and lack of money (lot of money). If the step 2 address the first problem, the key for the rest is: you must become an entrepreneur.

Despite the joke that this guy graduated from Princeton University (you know what I mean), being an entrepreneur is now not that much unachievable. 27 million working-age Americans–nearly 14 percent–are starting or running new businesses (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 2015). However, to be able to follow Timothy, you should better create something informative (e.g a yoga tutorials program then sell DVDs), something that you can do wherever you are so you for example produce the content and let the others do the rest. If this is impossible for you, back to step 2 and be happy with your increasing productivity, stop dreaming.

Many reviewers ironically say that Timothy became a New Rich because of what he did: selling his book, which they cannot do. I don’t oppose, but well, what a coincident I have some motivation to produce something informative thing right after I finish the book :))

All in all, as many useful takeaways I got from the book, I still recommend it. It truly does a good job in challenging readers to rethink about their life, no matter how big the aspect is. Thanks to this book, I changed or started changing some thoughts:

  • Before I do more, now I do less
  • Before I am an active person, from now I will be productive one
  • Before I can work in anytime, now I dont work on Friday (now is in summer holiday though)
  • Ask for forgiveness, not permission (I did this well)
  • Eliminate before delegate, set priority
  • Spend less time online, talk to people more, catch their interests
  • Trust people more, let them make decision, don’t make responsibility clear from the beginning
  • More important, be inspired with the New Rich lifestyle :>

That’s it. See you in the next one. Feel free to recommend books to me!


One thought on “The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (Timothy Ferriss)

  1. Pingback: #Ayearofbooks2016 challenge summary | hatrang

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