Monday, March 16, 2009

Book Review: Tim Ferriss - "The 4-Hour Work Week"

Snork-Maiden somehow convinced her employer to buy this book for their library :) I have mixed reactions. It's not one of these books that just drearily pads out a single idea in to book length format like Zilliak and McCloskey. So that's good.

1. I'm all for the don't defer life approach. Instead try to make money at something you like to do anyway and have fun doing it. That's pretty much what I've done most of my life as much as I can, so no problems with the basic premise.

2. Then there is stuff on focusing and cutting out useless or less useful work. This is good in principle.

3. "Low Information Diet". Taleb also says he doesn't read newspapers. This is a non-starter for an economist like me who is expected to have an opinion on what is happening in the political and economic spheres. Well anyway I enjoy reading news and opinion. I occasionally read fiction but prefer to read current affairs stuff for fun. I'm a social scientist. But there is another problem with it which also features in the next item...

4. "Interrupting Interruption and the Art of Refusal". It's certainly good to think about how to streamline routine interactions with people. But if you did half of what Ferriss suggests you'd come across as a total jerk who I wouldn't want to do business with. People who seem to have no interest in anyone else. And, though many meetings and interactions are a waste of time, you never know what might happen just as you never know what you might read that might be useful and give you a great idea. In other words, you need to be open and receptive to "positive Black Swans" not be some narrow-minded overplanning idiot.

Of course, what works for you will depend on what your personality type is. In the Myers Briggs system I guess that Ferris is an INTJ - Introverted, intuitive (but could be S sensing), thinking, judging. Certainly not an E-P (extroverted, perceiving) type who is open to learning and adapting to experience. Well, that's the impression his book gives.

5. The core of the book is very detailed information about setting up an internet based business which looks like it would be very useful for someone who wants to do that. It's never interested me enough to want to do it. So this section eventually got me rather bored and skimming through. My life has been based around being an employee who is least like an employee. The ultimate job I found was being a research only academic. In many ways that is great on the other hand I found myself getting stressed out worrying about how I could justify myself receiving money from the government as salary at times when my research wasn't going well. But that's because I am very conscientious. For someone like Ferriss who is willing to pretty much cheat to achieve his goals (i.e. his method of dehydrating to get into a very low weight class in Chinese kick-boxing and then inflating up again before the fight) it wouldn't be a problem. Being a trader also sounded cool but turned out to be hugely anxiety producing and not suited to my personality really.

6. The final part is all about planning travel and international relocation. I'm pretty much an expert at the latter so I skimmed pretty fast through this bit.

Don't get me wrong, there's lots of good stuff in all the chapters but don't think you should implement all of it and not all of it might be for you. I think my opinions differ because Ferris can't really imagine making money from doing what he wants to do anyway. So he is still in the mode of work is separate from life and you should compartmentalize. That's not at all where I'm coming from.


Rafi (S) said...

There seem to be so many people writing about how to make a living selling on the Internet...

BTW about compartmentalizing work and life, not everyone has the luxury of being able to make a living wage at what they enjoy or are able to even actually get paid for what they enjoy. Depends what you enjoy doing and whether anyone will pay you for it. Other people actually believe in compartmentalizing. A guy called High MacLeod who I used to read his blog called it "sex and cash". You have a day job to make money and then you do interesting things in your spare time. Don't mix them or else you will stop enjoying your hobbies and then need to find another.

mOOm said...

Well, I'm not saying everyone should or can aim to be paid for something they would want to do anyway. But if you are in that category your strategy will likely be different to what Ferriss is suggesting, though there is still plenty you can learn from him on how to be more effective.

And I've admitted before that what you say about your hobby becoming a job and then you need another hobby (which I think was originally said about a man's "mistress" becoming their wife) is to some degree true. Perhaps some of Ferriss' approaches to dealing with pointy-haired bosses (department chairs, Deans, gallery owners etc.) can reduce the downside there too.