Monday 16 May 2011

The Four Hour Work Week: redefining success

Further to my last post on Richard Koch’s “The Star Principle,” I have also recently read a much more widely known book, “The Four Hour Work Week” by Timothy Ferriss.

The Four Hour Work Week (aka The 4HWW) takes a more revolutionary approach to seeking success than The Star Principle. It describes in detail the four steps you need to take in order to free up your time, yet maintain an income level that will let you live comfortably (preferably travelling the world). The book’s subtitle is “Escape the 9 to 5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich” and as unlikely as that sounds, the text is an audacious step-by-step how-to guide to do just that.

Step 1 Definition: Start out by getting rid of your preconceptions about what is and what is not possible. Define your dreams – and define what is ‘worst thing that could happen’ if you gave up your job to go and pursue them. If the subsequent steps go right, you won’t need to give up your income. But you have to realise that you could start again from scratch if you needed to.

Step 2 Elimination: This is a set of tips and techniques to multiply your productivity. Much of this will be familiar ground to people who’ve read other business classics – the “80:20” principle makes an appearance, as does the importance of not mistaking urgency for importance and the amount of time that can be saved by not reading the news. Ferriss is an advocate of ‘batching’ activities like checking email, voicemail and social networks – cut it down to once a day at first, then once a week.

Step 3 Automation: Ferriss’s sees the aim of entrepreneurship as ‘Income Automation’ rather than building a business empire. This is a notable divergence from Koch’s approach in The Star Principle, which is about building the biggest business possible. This step outlines how to start an online business with relatively little risk, using Pay-per-click advertising to assess demand for a product, then outsourced production and distribution to scale it up. For a budding entrepreneur it contains lots of hints and tips and although it doesn’t make it sound easy, it does come across as achievable.

Step 4 Liberation: This section of the book addresses the part of the title ‘Escape the 9-5 and Live Anywhere.’ Ferriss gives some tips on negotiating a remote working arrangement, and then how to live abroad on a low budget. He recommends taking successive ‘mini-retirements,’ on the basis of ‘why save it up to the end of your life?’

Rather than set out to make you wealthy, the main aim of Tim Ferriss’s method is to free up your time. It is less about becoming a millionaire than about living like a millionaire.

“$1,000,000 in the bank isn’t the fantasy. The fantasy is the lifestyle of complete freedom it supposedly allows. The question is then, how can one achieve the millionaire lifestyle of complete freedom without first having $1,000,000?”

I am more sceptical about this book than I am about The Star Principle. But this message – that the success should be defined in terms of lifestyle and not net worth – is a powerful one that it is easy to forget.

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