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The Four Hour Work Week
Old 11-14-2007, 09:47 AM   #1
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The Four Hour Work Week

Has anyone read the new book, "The 4 hour work week", by Timothy Ferriss? There was a long article about it in the New York Times (it's on the best seller list) and seems particularly popular with Silicon Valley types. About how you can "outsource your life," work 4 hours a week and travel the world without waiting to retire.

Any thoughts?
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Old 11-14-2007, 10:00 AM   #2
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Has anyone read the new book, "The 4 hour work week", by Timothy Ferriss? There was a long article about it in the New York Times (it's on the best seller list) and seems particularly popular with Silicon Valley types. About how you can "outsource your life," work 4 hours a week and travel the world without waiting to retire.

Any thoughts?
I haven't read the entire book, but researched it quite a bit.

I don't buy it. It is a lot of hype. The reason he was able to do it is because he has an online business selling brain supplements. He was able to outsource a lot of the work to run the business.

He talks about firing your problem clients and not checking email very often. I suppose this might work for about 1% of the population but not for the rest of us.
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Old 11-14-2007, 10:00 AM   #3
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I read about half of it, before the super-hyper tone got to me.

The gist of what I remember (which isn't much) consists of figuring out what you want, and how much that costs in terms of cash flow, and then ... ?? Not much else stayed with me, because too many of my skeptical alarm bells were going off.

I wish I could give more information, but I consider that book one of the biggest wastes of money I've made this year.

ETA: "Super-hyper" refers to the breezy tone and the amount of hype, both.
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Old 11-14-2007, 10:02 AM   #4
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Didn't read the book, but may look into it. Here's his blog...Tim Ferriss's 4-Hour Workweek and Lifestyle Design Blog
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Old 11-14-2007, 12:18 PM   #5
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Four hours a week of real work is too much for me.
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Old 11-14-2007, 10:19 PM   #6
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I read it (at book store) and rather liked it. I agree, it's geared towards the type of business that could be moved (or started) as a web site. But there was something for a wide audience there. He has a few pages devoted to web resources for figuring out what to do with all your freed up time, etc. I liked his assertion "Reality is negotiable." ( = Think unconventionally). As for myself, I don't have an entrepeneurial bone in my body, and am thankfully retired so I am at the "zero hour workweek." Still, worth a quick look ... while sipping a latte at the bookstore at least.
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Old 11-15-2007, 03:34 AM   #7
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I read it recently. His personal outsourcing idea doesnt make sense for me. I did use his "eliminate then delegate" model and other work cutting measures to effectively cut back to 3-4 work days per week. I'm gone from the office a lot more but communicate via email and phone to get things done without face to face meetings. But Ferriss advises to use email less as well as eliminate meetings. His less email doesnt work for me. Overall, I learned some things that now make me more productive in lesss hours at work, and allow me more personal time.
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Old 11-15-2007, 11:40 AM   #8
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hmmm ... 4 hours/wk is about what I put in managing my remaining (6) rentals. Less if I want to call someone (i.e. the plumber); More if I want to pudder.
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Old 11-15-2007, 02:50 PM   #9
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I enjoyed the book thoroughly and got a lot of value from it - I think if people stop focusing on the one or two things they don't agree with, and instead look at the book holistically then more people would get value out of it.

I think the adage "Don't judge a book by its cover" really applies here... it's not about having a '4-hour work week,' it's about learning how to minimize the time one works systematically so that one can enjoy other aspects of life.
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Old 11-15-2007, 05:02 PM   #10
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I recall being offended by his business plan - seemed to me that it called for ditching complainers, hiring flack catchers, and doing as little as possible for the greatest reward. Sounded a whole lot like really really crappy customer service. Not to be a broken record, but we reap what we sow: if we laud his theory of business we have no room to cry if we get shunted to some sort of circular phone menu hell based in Lahore when we want our furnace repaired. Sometimes complainers actually have real problems - when they do the problems should be addressed; minimizing the time one works doesn't seem like the way to do that.
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Old 11-15-2007, 05:35 PM   #11
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Sounded a whole lot like really really crappy customer service... Sometimes complainers actually have real problems - when they do the problems should be addressed; minimizing the time one works doesn't seem like the way to do that.
You must have really been put off since you missed the important messages of that overall topic. There really is a wealth of valuable information in his book for people willing to not get their panties in a bunch over very specific items they take issue with.

When 80% of the customer service calls come from 20% of the customers, and that 20% of the customers are only responsible for 20% of the revenues, then there's something amiss when it comes to aligning income vs. expenses.

The first thing he advocates is making more information easily available to others. He created FAQs to direct people to, and trained the customer service people to answer pre-sales questions so that he personally didn't have to.

The second thing he advocates is enabling other people to make decisions on his behalf. At first, any "issue" that needed to be resolved they asked his permission for. He later said, "If it costs $100 or less to fix it, just do it and don't ask me." After monitoring that, he raised the bar to $400.

That, to me, sounds like great customer service - enabling the people on the phones to "just fix it" if it's under $400 can't be a bad thing. How often have you called customer service just wishing they'd deal with the problem instead of give you runarounds?

Lastly, as he noted the majority of his problems came from a small percentage of high maintenance customers who were also responsible for the smallest percentage of revenue.

So he stopped catering to those people, and made sure his business processes and systems were designed to work with people who were low maintenance and high revenue. From a business perspective, this makes a lot of sense.

The problem he had was - how do you implement such processes and systems when you've already had existing problems? His only way to do it was to "wean" the problem customers away.

However, if one were to *start* a business with the right processes and systems in place (as he does advocate), then you could avoid being perceived as having "bad customer service" altogether because those "high maintenance" customers wouldn't be attracted to your company in the first place.
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Old 11-15-2007, 06:38 PM   #12
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he noted the majority of his problems came from a small percentage of high maintenance customers who were also responsible for the smallest percentage of revenue.
I can relate to this ... my last vacancy came from a guy who spent two nights in a MOTEL after finding a drip in the hot water tank. Yup, deducted the stay from the rent. No love lost when they moved.
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Old 11-15-2007, 06:57 PM   #13
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You must have really been put off since you missed the important messages of that overall topic. There really is a wealth of valuable information in his book for people willing to not get their panties in a bunch over very specific items they take issue with.

When 80% of the customer service calls come from 20% of the customers, and that 20% of the customers are only responsible for 20% of the revenues, then there's something amiss when it comes to aligning income vs. expenses.

The first thing he advocates is making more information easily available to others. He created FAQs to direct people to, and trained the customer service people to answer pre-sales questions so that he personally didn't have to.

The second thing he advocates is enabling other people to make decisions on his behalf. At first, any "issue" that needed to be resolved they asked his permission for. He later said, "If it costs $100 or less to fix it, just do it and don't ask me." After monitoring that, he raised the bar to $400.

That, to me, sounds like great customer service - enabling the people on the phones to "just fix it" if it's under $400 can't be a bad thing. How often have you called customer service just wishing they'd deal with the problem instead of give you runarounds?

Lastly, as he noted the majority of his problems came from a small percentage of high maintenance customers who were also responsible for the smallest percentage of revenue.

So he stopped catering to those people, and made sure his business processes and systems were designed to work with people who were low maintenance and high revenue. From a business perspective, this makes a lot of sense.

The problem he had was - how do you implement such processes and systems when you've already had existing problems? His only way to do it was to "wean" the problem customers away.

However, if one were to *start* a business with the right processes and systems in place (as he does advocate), then you could avoid being perceived as having "bad customer service" altogether because those "high maintenance" customers wouldn't be attracted to your company in the first place.
Yep - your restatement of his thesis rings a bell. And yes, the 80-20 rule is common, and empowering your employees is a good thing. Dunno why his work is so offensive to me - guess i just feel that if you're running a business you suck it up and take the good with the bad. Had plenty of bad tenants, and they do detract from cheerful service to the 80-95% of good ones, but i guess my feeling is that in any group there will be some you are happier with and some you are less happy with. If you keep deleting the bottom 20% of your customer base where do you stop? Don't you just keep raising the bar for what constitutes a good customer and getting more and more put off by providing any modicum of service?

Somehow reminds me of the old joke from when i was an auto mech: "No Ernie, first you get their money, THEN you tell them to get the @#*% out".
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Old 11-15-2007, 07:37 PM   #14
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I read most of the book also in a book store. The basic premise is that you need to start a successful business that lets you outsource all of the real duties. It's hard enough to find and start a successful business even if you can't outsource the real work.

I found a lot of it basic B-school BS. A lot of it was self aggrandizing about only flying first class, etc.

If you can figure out something to start you can make big bucks without doing much yourself, go for it. The guy who wrote The Joy of Not Working has a pretty good life writing books about not working. Vitamins/books -- whatever works.
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Old 11-15-2007, 10:29 PM   #15
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Dunno why his work is so offensive to me - guess i just feel that if you're running a business you suck it up and take the good with the bad. Had plenty of bad tenants, and they do detract from cheerful service to the 80-95% of good ones, but i guess my feeling is that in any group there will be some you are happier with and some you are less happy with. If you keep deleting the bottom 20% of your customer base where do you stop? Don't you just keep raising the bar for what constitutes a good customer and getting more and more put off by providing any modicum of service?
I think landlording is a perfect application of what he advocates. The best landlords take various precautions to try and ensure that the tenants they bring in will be low maintenance and high revenue.

So what's a landlord to do when they have somebody just sucking away at their bottom line? Some just bend over and take it, others start looking for ways to get the tenants out.

I think part of the reason why his book offends so many people is because he challenges the way we live life, the status quo, and many things we take for granted. A lot of people don't like having their belief system challenged, and I'm no exception.

As consumers, we've been taught "The customer is always right. Even when he's wrong, he's still right." So it seems wrong to cut out the 20% of our bottom... to just write them off.

But even in that, he's not saying to keep cutting 20% off all the time. He's really just saying, "Find out where your problems are, and fix them one way or another - even if it means losing customers."

The way I see it, he's just targeting his market in a different way to attract the kinds of people that *he* wants to deal with.

We may do business differently... perhaps the 20% at the bottom are the ones we want to reach if we're in a more socially oriented business such as counseling/therapy/etc.

Another issue people take with his book is that he speaks with a tone of authority, borderline arrogance, and with the energy that says, "I am right. I know my stuff." Generally speaking, people don't take well to that kind of attitude... particularly when it challenges their belief system.

I just filtered out the stuff that didn't resonate with me, picked up the things that do, and am running with it.

One thing he doesn't advocate is LBYM, which makes him the anti-FIRE. "Mini-retirements" are great for the soul, but bad for the bottom line with individuals seeking FIRE fiercely.

One thing I really like about the book is the wealth of information he has about different websites. I will likely reference the book a lot, and when he talks about cheap travel.

I don't think he's a saint or anything, and in many ways I view him like I do Kiyosaki. There are certain really solid takeways from the book that I think are lost among people who focus on certain details that don't resonate with them.

I wouldn't advise people to read Kiyosaki for financial advice, but I would advise them to read Kiyosaki for finding inspiration to start making money work for them instead of them working for money. Were it not for Kiyosaki, then FIRE wouldn't likely have been a word I learned.

Similarly, I think Ferriss is great for a lot of practical "how-to" things on nourishing one's spirit and business resources, but I wouldn't recommend advise people to read him for building personal relationships (since his entire style can be summed up as "deal with as few people as possible so I can have as much time to myself as I want.")
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Old 11-16-2007, 12:22 AM   #16
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Yep. Bend over and take it? Do much landlording? Lots of ways to live a life, many ways to measure success - or spirituality.
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Old 11-16-2007, 12:54 AM   #17
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Yep. Bend over and take it? Do much landlording?
More than I'd prefer to.
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Old 11-17-2007, 11:48 AM   #18
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I've read both Kiyosaki and at least skimmed Ferriss, and agree that much of the value of such books comes from the unconventional advice. But God help the innocent who would take all advice literally, without considering it for his current situation. I believe that the average small business has a 20% per year failure rate; with those odds, I'm glad that I'm not in business (and, given my attitudes, so are my potential customers )
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Old 11-17-2007, 12:34 PM   #19
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I've read both Kiyosaki and at least skimmed Ferriss, and agree that much of the value of such books comes from the unconventional advice. But God help the innocent who would take all advice literally, without considering it for his current situation.
God help anybody who takes all advice literally, without considering it for his current situation. It's like that old adage... sometimes common sense isn't so common.

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I believe that the average small business has a 20% per year failure rate; with those odds, I'm glad that I'm not in business (and, given my attitudes, so are my potential customers )
Well depends on the business. With the advent of the internet, it's possible to start a very low cost business that's profitable. How much profit is a different question, though.

I'm currently in the process of setting up a few businesses (websites), and am making sure to factor in various lifestyle choices we make into those businesses to get the tax writeoffs.

Don't get me wrong, we do have profit motives (although social benefit is the primary motive), but if we're going to be doing some things anyway we might as well get the tax breaks while doing so.

For example, we enjoy Spiritual Cinema Circle. We review the movies and promote the product on our site, so we deduct the $25/month it costs us. We also deduct any books / movies that we purchase and also review and promote through the website.
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Old 11-19-2007, 02:36 PM   #20
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Lots of good stuff in the book - most of which has also been said elsewhere.

My only complaint - it could have all been said in 15 pages.
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