Friday, December 21, 2007

4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

i was blown away by the content and succinct representation of said content. i thought it was going to be a fair amount of fluff, robert kiyosaki type 'one good picture and 250 pages of big font double spaced obviousness', but i had some vacation time and what better way to spend vacation time than figuring out how to get more vacation time?

tim ferriss is smart. he's also quit witted and a good writer, or at least he convinced me of that (heck, for all i know he outsourced the whole book). better yet, he had one person do the actual content and then paid a comedian in india to add ' 3 funny parts in each chapter' for 4.50 an hour....i wouldn't be able to tell and the result would probably have been just as good by taking his own advice.

if you are interested in how to get the most out of the time you work, whether trying to reduce your time at work or not, his points are excellent and good to hear, although most producers i know (about 1 in 10 employees) practice these tools regularly already. he discusses points about when and how to read email, tactics on how to spend less time in the office and more time working where you want (for many that is moving from place of low productivity to high productivity), and how to outsource many components of your life. He talks about dreamlines, essentially mapping out a plan of what you want to do and a step by step plan on how to do it.

i had a fairly strong emotional reaction to this book. it has a ton of appeal to me, mostly because i hear what tim is saying and strive to practice much of his advice already. so i had these strong feelings of 'yes yes, that's exactly what i've found to be the best way to do it', to other moments of his missing the point of some of the interactions that take place on a day to day basis in the hallways of business.

it seems tim's end goal is to spend less time in the office and therefore get more time to do what he wants, and i like his idea of pursuing one kinesthetic and one intellectual goal in each of the places he lives for awhile, but i'd like to counsel him on a few things about the work environment as i see it. it sound like he's been in some bad job situations, and not understood what the point of some of the interaction that takes place on a daily basis. in america, the corporation has become one of the social tribes. it is within these tribes that a significant amount of mentorship and stewardship is practiced. we leverage our time in the 8 hour day in these interactions helping those around us with making a better life through understanding how to achieve their goals. we're not there to produce products. we're there to produce better people. to produce those better people, we work on a shared goal, a product of some sort. through this shared goal, we all end up learning more about ourselves and how to relate to others. during that process we pick up tools that we leverage not just in our jobs but in our personal lives as well. likewise, many of us actually are still naive enough to believe that the tools we produce will raise the standard of living of people throughout the world.

all the points stated above seem to be lost on the author who seems to be a fairly typical self absorbed mid 20s guy on this front. his goals seem to be purely to optimize time utilization for himself and its not clear that he understands the stewardsship or mentorship roles many people have in those big offices.

this book has no one single overall message, instead he has lots of interesting ways to think about life, what its meaning is, and good advice on how to pursue those things whether within the confines of the corporation or striking out on your own to sell vitamins or whatever is your ticket out of corporate servitude.

while i'd advocate many of the ideas put forth in this book, i'd also say i doubt anybody could seriously take them too literally. the origins of his feeling the need to search so hard for something else and have such a disdain for meetings, etc. were due to being enveloped in a culture that fostered useless meetings and had some magnetic attraction to non-type A personalities to sit around and talk about random stuff all day. in general, i just don't work in that type of environment. its fast paced, people are succinct and to the point, and when the meeting is over and its time to go people get up and walk out (or in many cases hang up). you have to foster and build a culture like that in your business, and his time at TrueSAN just wasn't like that. his career experience in the middle of the internet boom was at a surreal time for all of us in tech, and its no wonder he thinks its such a soulless experience, but i disagree with him on the implication that because his experience in the middle of hiring everyone with a pulse for whatever they wanted to do applies when all the excess capital gets washed to the next boom industry.

highly recommended reading, very good use of time, and fun. 5/5. estimated reading time: 2.5-3.5 hours. thanks to brent insko for the recommendation.

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