A Four Hour Workweek you say? Is this even possible? I must admit the title certainly did appeal to my inherent laziness and loathing for high stress responsibility. Obviously, Timothy Ferris and his bestseller,The Four Hour Workweek, have already been discussed ad nauseam in the blogosphere for quite some time now. I do like this book though.
It has a lot to say, and I found myself reading along and nodding my head in agreement throughout a lot of it. But there’s plenty of fluff to wade through too, and I think the title probably tends to turn people off as sounding a bit too “Snake Oil Salesman” or “Selling The Dream”.
I liked the line where Ferris talks about how skeptical he is of the old hackneyed concept of “Just Find What You Love And You’ll Never Work A Day Again in Your Life”. That there some sort of endlessly satisfying vocation out there just waiting for every single person on Earth to discover it and transform their lives into a daily passion project.
Ferris writes: “for most people, somewhere between six and seven billion of them, the perfect job is the one that takes the least time.” Nicely put, and certainly something makes more sense to me- although it flips conventional career counseling wisdom on it head in more ways than one.
The core principle of the book is this: to create small scale, online businesses that don’t take up too much of your time. Thereby enabling you more of your own life outside of work to enjoy and make the most of while you still have the health and energy to do so.
By making the internet your launch platform, you can run your online business from anywhere in the world wherever there is an internet signal- foregoing the headache of paying rent, bills and regulations on a traditional “brick and mortar” store. Ferris even suggests outsourcing a lot of your work to freelancing sites like Fiverr and even using remote personal administrative assistants in India.
And the businesses that Ferris describes don’t even have to be large scale. So much of our stereotypes about being an “Internet Entrepreneur” conjure up images of a Mark Zuckerberg-type start up Guru; reinventing the wheel and becoming billionaires by the age of 17.
However, most of us don’t really want (or need) to work the kind hours it takes to be the CEO of some overnight million dollar company- replete with employees, payroll, lawsuits etc etc. What if you could simply create a low maintenance business that paid you your current monthly salary of say $3000-4000 per month? How would that change your life?
This of course leaves you not only more time in your life to travel and do the fulfilling things you’d really like to do, but also endows you with flexibility of location, personal independence and even a lifestyle upgrade. He calls this concept “Geoarbitrage”.
By taking your laptop on the road, to say, Thailand, the money you earn in dollars from your work obviously goes a lot further than it would in any Western country. You get the double benefit of not just traveling the world, but also paying for the kind of luxury apartment and lifestyle you couldn’t afford back home. $3000 a month in many Third World Countries would certainly put you in the top 1% socio-economic class.
Do you need to be a Millionaire, or could you instead live in a small town in Costa Rica with your current salary coming in every month? I know I certainly could. I’m a tightwad by nature and don’t need “a lot” to be happy. Breaking it down even more, could you get rid of your material possessions and simply coast from cool backpacker hostel to a hammock on a beach in Turkey, soaking it all in and living the dream?
Indeed, Ferris and his acolytes have even coined a name for this new kind of worker: the “Digital Nomad” or “The New Rich”. People who have forsaken the capitalist/materialist/suburban paradigm and choosen to fill their lives with experiences rather than things.
The old American capitalist model to aspire to was “live to work”, but Digital Nomads aspire to simply “work to live” and stop wasting their hard earned money on the maintenance of silly possessions they can’t take with them to the grave anyway. Inherently, the idea of the 4HWW is Lifestyle over Money. I would certainly call that “Wealth” by any measure of the word…
These are some heady, and perhaps revolutionary concepts. And I’m sure Ferris wasn’t the first to put these ideas into use, but he seems to have been the first to tie them all together in a catchy popular book format. His story seems to have stemmed from his own experience as an entrepreneur selling energy drinks.
His business took off, but Ferris was soon reaching the edge of a nervous breakdown clocking in 80 hours per week just trying to run it all. This led to his creation of an “automated” remote system whereby he could take a step back from his business and let other underlings take care of the smaller details.
And not to say the 4 Hour Work Week is the be all, end all Bible of how to do all this. Reading through it, I felt that the chapter dealing with starting and testing an online business idea was somewhat vague. I’m afraid it makes the whole endeavor sound just a little too easy- at least for someone like myself with no business experience.
And for those out there with little technical computer acumen, running an online store or web platform is going to require a huge learning curve. However, what is inspiring is that there are actually people out there in the world doing this and living this type of life. The possibilities are illuminating, and certainly make me interested to learn more about how its done.
I did find an interesting blog post by Alexander Heyne over at Milk The Pigeon where he breaks down in a lot more detail how one actually tests a potential online business idea for it’s viability. It’s basically Timothy Ferris’s concept of a Muse, but going into far greater depth than the book does. Very useful at any rate.
If I did achieve a smoothly running web-based business that paid me enough for a basic comfortable life, how would I spend my time? Honestly, I do need a little more focus in my life. I’m think I’m actually perfectly happy to work 40 hours per week (it’s the commute that kills me). And much like a lottery winner, I think I would quickly drink myself into oblivion with having pretty much nothing to do every day.
Freedom, Independence and Time Flexibility: these appeal to me greatly though. I’d be willing to put in the hours to achieve those goals. The rewards, to me at least, would be beyond the riches of my wildest imagination…
What about you: what would you do with a minimal workweek? What about a remote workplace: could you make it happen?