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Book Review: The 4-Hour Workweek

July 4, 2013

I hated this book.

Rarely does an author actually make me angry, but Timothy Ferriss managed it. I really wanted to like this book. It came highly recommended and it’s been on the best seller lists for ages. Ferriss gives you exactly what the book describes. He really does describe how to arrange your life so that you can have a four hour workweek. I guess it wasn’t the book I didn’t like, it was the author himself that I couldn’t stand.

What I liked
Ferriss is clearly an expert at the topics he addresses. He basically covers how to create an automated online business that requires very little work to maintain. It has to, he wants the rest of the time to sail, or travel, or do any number of exciting and fun sounding hobbies.

The resources he provides are astounding. Many of the computer programs I was already aware of, but he offers personal experience with things like hiring a valet in India to handle much of his day-to-day tasks.

His descriptions of how to pack for a two week trip is amazing. For someone who’s taken three changes of clothing for a 2 day trip, it’s great advice.

And when he gets into the mechanics of how to set up an online business, he breaks the entire process down into simple to understand and simple to implement steps. I’ve taken advantage of his “being an expert only requires you know more than your audience and they think of you as an expert” advice in the past.

I will return to this book at some point in the future to look at setting up an online business. How far in the future? It depends on how long it takes me to stop hating everything about him.

What I didn’t
I meant it when I said Ferriss made me angry. Which, I guess is a complement to his writing, that I felt as if he were talking directly to me. My biggest problem was that I think Timothy Ferriss is the most dishonest author I have ever read.

After two dozen times, I eventually quit marking the pages where he tells his readers to lie. There are small lies, “Take two sick days to practice your work at home plan,” to what is actually unethical. “Decrease your productivity during your in the office days, to make your work at home days look more productive.”

When he’s giving an example of how to test an online business idea, he recommends you set up an eBay auction for your product. Then, cancel it 5 minutes before it closes. You have to, since you’ve just taken bids for a product you didn’t have and had no intention of shipping. Pretty sure eBay has rules against that. In the same chapter he says to create ads for your idea and when people get to your order page, show them a page saying

“Links to PayPal are currently unavailable. Please try back later.”

Of course, he’s happy to keep those people’s contact information (not their credit card info since that would be illegal. Apparently he does have some lines he won’t cross at least in print.)

Ironically, he tells the story of offering 110% money back guarantee for one of his products. He calls it the lose-win guarantee.

“The lose-win guarantee might seem like a big risk, especially when someone can abuse it for profit. . .but it isn’t. Most people are honest.”

Fortunately, he wasn’t selling to people like himself.

There were other issues. Like his belief that he owes his coworkers no help, or consideration. They are distractions to be eliminated, or marginalized as soon as possible. (No, he doesn’t advocate killing any of them.) He talks about getting fired. I would have fired him too. He’s the small forward who believes the best way to play basketball is get the ball, shoot the ball. After all, the others on the team are probably just out for themselves as well.

I found myself so disgusted by Ferriss’ slippery morals, that I had trouble finishing the book. And certainly trouble focusing on the truly valuable information and resources he provides.

What it means to you
If you want to start an online business. This is a great book to start with. The list of reference tools and contacts alone is worth the cost of the book. In addition, Ferriss maps out a blueprint that anyone can follow for how to start an online business while still going to a 9-5 job every day.

He’s also a very engaging writer. If your goal is to get to the point where you can work 4 hours per week, he can certainly show you how to get there. Personally, it sounds like a very lonely way to run your life. And requires way too many compromises for me to seriously consider it.

This was a tough one to rate. The content is worth four or five stars. However, a book is more than just the information it contains. Based on the author and my likelihood to recommend this to a close friend, I’d rate it one or two stars.

I’ll compromise and give it 2.5 stars.

Rodney Bliss is an author, blogger, IT consultant and occasional book reviewer. He works more than 4 hours per week and lives in Pleasant Grove, Utah with his lovely wife and 13 children.

  1. Reblogged this on Rodney M Bliss and commented:

    Merry Christmas. Best of 2013. In keeping with the theme of book reviews on holidays, here is the most popular book review I wrote last year. Not my fVorite book, but you guys seemed to like the review.

  2. At last, someone else who has business ethics! A great review – not just for what was wrong with the author’s recommendations, but going past it to glean useful information. A good lesson for us all.

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