8 life & business lessons learned from "The 4-Hour Workweek"
I just finished up reading the 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris for the second time, and this time around I had even more lightbulbs than the first! (That’s an affiliate link btw!)
When I first read the book I was in university and didn’t have a blog or a business or any game plan at all.
The title just sounded pretty intriguing. (I mean let’s be real, it’s catchy and curiosity-inducing, you can’t deny it.)
So while going through the book the first time I was pretty impressed by Tim’s totally out of the box ideas, there wasn’t a whole lot I felt like I could implement.
At the time, my eyes were definitely wide with the prospect of the life Tim explained, but of course I immediately thought, “well, that could never be my life.” His ideas seemed pretty far fetcher and not like anything I figured I could realistically obtain for myself.
And yet here I am a few years later, writing to you while living in Europe and making passive income daily. (Though admittedly, I work far more than 4 hours a week.)
Regardless, reading the book this time was a whole other ball game! Now with a business running, there was so much more I could take away.
And today I’m going to share some of the takeaways I had, as well as some of the lines that just shook me to my soul because I believe so deeply that they are true.
Btw, if you haven’t read the book, I do highly recommend it. You can grab a copy here.
1. The goal is excitement
Tim explains that 5 years before writing the book, if someone had asked him his goal in life it would have been… happiness.
And wouldn’t you know it, that’s the goal he heard from many other people over the years too.
I myself assumed that that was my goal in life as well. Until I had a few revelations that maybe happiness isn’t the be all an end all and that happiness directly conflicts with the experience a lot of people go through when making significant change in the world for the better.
But then what is the goal? What are we striving for?
(Fact: Once you take care of all of your ‘money problems,’ ‘life problems’ start appearing. Great video explaining that here. Like the questions, “What am I going with my life? What is my purpose? What is my goal in life?”)
Here’s what Tim says about what our goal really should be, and why happiness isn’t the answer.
“What is the opposite of happiness? Sadness? No. Just as love and hate are two sides of the same coin, so are happiness and sadness. Crying out of happiness is a perfect illustration of this. The opposite of love is indifference, and the opposite of happiness is - here’s the clincher - boredom.
Excitement is the more practical synonym for happiness, and it is precisely what you should strive to chase. It’s the cure-all. When people suggest you follow your “passion” or your “bliss,” I propose that they are, in fact, referring to the same singular concept: excitement.
This brings us full circle. The question you should be asking isn’t “What do I want? or “What are my goals?” but “What would excite me?”
I find answering the question “what do I want and what are my goals?” to be pretty overwhelming and hard to nail a good answer to.
But what excites me? That I can answer easily and make progress on! It’s hard to work towards something you’re only half-sure about.
2. If you don’t define the alternative, you’ll keep working
The book starts off the book by getting you to “dreamline”. Basically a timeline, but with dreams.
He starts it this way because there’s one very true fact of life he learned.
If you don’t define an alternative of what you’ll do every day once you get the amount of time your job is taking up in your life down, you’ll go right back to working!
In the book it says,
““I’ll just keep working until I have X dollars and then do what I want.” If you don’t define the “what I want” alternative activities, the X figure will increase indefinitely to avoid the fear-inducing uncertainty of this void.”
Ain’t that the truth!
So Tim has readers define the alternative. What would you do if you actually had time?!
Here’s a few of my dreamlines:
Be in a calm, zen flow
Be a donator to the Tim Hortons Children’s Foundation
Paraglide in the Alps
Spend weeks at a cottage on a lake in Canada
A week at this hotel on Lake Como in Italy
Fluent in German
Meet penguins in Antarctica
Ski & apres ski in the Swiss Alps
If I just cut down on work, but then chill around my apartment all day, more than likely I’ll think up something that needs to be worked on and go back to working. (Sad truth of running your own business, there’s always more that could be done.)
But those dreamlines above, they get me excited! Excited enough to work towards them and actually plan my life and business in a way which enables me to achieve those goals.
They’re the motivation needed to actually work less.
3. Effectiveness over efficiency
I had always thought of myself as a very efficient person. But Tim put me straight, efficiency without effectiveness is useless.
“Effectiveness is doing the things that get you closer to your goals. Efficiency is performing a given task (whether important or not) in the most economical manner possible. Being efficient without regard for effectiveness is the default mode of the universe.
I would consider the best door-to-door salesperson efficient - that is, refined and excellent at selling door-to-door without wasting time — but utterly ineffective. He or she would sell more using a better vehicle such as e-mail or direct mail.”
4. Some results just aren’t worth the work
Tim sat himself down when his business had taken over his life and did an 80/20 analysis of everything in it; his business, friends, customers, etc. So he asked himself two questions:
“Which 20% of sources are causing 80% of my problems and unhappiness? Which 20% of sources are resulting in 80% of my desired outcomes and happiness?”
And he found that
“Out of more than 120 wholesale customers, a mere 5 were brining in 95% of the revenue. I was spending 98% of my time chasing the remainder, as the aforementioned 5 ordered regularly without any follow up calls, persuasion, or cajoling.
In other words, I was working because I felt as though I should be doing something from 9-5. I didn’t realize that working every hour from 9-5 isn’t the goal; it’s simply the structure most people use, whether it’s necessary or not. I had a severe case of work for works sake…
All, and I mean 100%, of my problems and complaints came from this unproductive majority.”
I’ve been asked many times to offer an affiliate program for my courses, and the answer I give every time is “I don’t have one yet, but I’ll keep you posted if/when that changes.”
I know that having 100+ affiliates means communicating launch details with 100+ people, answering 100+ questions, preparing scripts and graphics that fit different vibes, paying out each and every one of the 100+ people, and maybe writing tax receipts for 100+ people from potentially manyyy different countries which all have different tax requirements.
Basically, running an affiliate program well is a lot of work. Again though, I do think it can be a genuinely useful marketing tool, and truly a win-win-win for myself, affiliates and new students.
BUT if/when I run my affiliate program, I have a game plan that puts the 80/20 rule to use!
I’ll allow anyone who seems to have a solid following into the first round of affiliates to give everyone an opportunity. And from that first affiliate launch, I’ll see who the top few affiliates are, and cut all the rest in the future.
I can then spend my time in future launches really working closely with those top affiliates to collaborate and create content, do lives on social media, host webinars, etc.
If someone generates 1 sale but takes up hours of time with communication, questions, co-creating content, motivating, paying out, and writing receipts, it’s just not worth it.
5. Offering fewer options is of service to your customer and yourself
I’ve had a few experiences which has proved this to be true.
If I learned one thing in running a business, it’s this, “confusion kills conversion.”
I also learned in Ashlyn’s Copywriting for Creatives course that “clear converts over clever.” (Also an affiliate link!)
Basically, all the fancy, clever things and options you’re putting out there only make decision making harder.
I also was recommended to only have 2 options on a sales page from my course-building mentor Mariah. So I have a ‘pay in full’ and a ‘payment plan’. I had other ideas for offers and options with bonuses and VIP options, but eventually determined that the page looked like a hot mess and was confusing, so I eliminated those ideas.
I also remember in The Defining Decade by Meg Jay (fabulousss book! - affiliate link!) she gave an example of marketers selling jars of jam. I don’t remember the story word for word, but the general idea was that some marketers were doing an experiment and they set up a stand at the front of a grocery store.
At first they had 26 flavors of jam on the table. They offered customers to try them and then get a discount coupon to buy a jar. They tracked how many customers came to the table, tried the jam and eventually bought a jar.
Then they did the same thing but with just 3 flavors of jam on the table, offered customers to try then, get a discount coupon to buy a jar and tracked the results.
Their finding was that when they cut down the options from 26 to 3 (and therefore made the decision easier for customers) more customers bought a jar of jam.
Tim reinforced this idea in his book.
“Joseph Sugarman… was once recruited to design an advertisement for a manufacturer’s watch line. The manufacturer wanted to feature nine different watches in the ad, and Joe recommended featuring just one. The client insisted and Joe offered to do both and test them in the same issue of The Wall Street Journal. The result? The one-watch offer outsold the nine-watch offer 6-to-1.
Henry Ford once said, referring to his Model-T, the bestselling car of all time, “The customer can have any color he wants, so long as it’s black.” He understood something that business people seem to have forgotten.” Serving the customer (“customer service”) is not becoming a personal concierge and catering to their every whim and want/ Customer service is providing an excellent product at an acceptable price and solving legitimate problems (lost packages, replacements, refunds, etc.) in the fastest manner possible. That’s it.
The more options you offer the customer, the more indecision you create and the fewer orders you receive — it’s a disservice all around.”
A prime example of a company getting this really right at the moment is Away with their suitcases.
In comparison, Samsonite has - get this - 157 suitcase options on their site right now.
Which site is easier to make a decision and buy a suitcase on? Away! Hands down.
Basically, through all of these different stories, I learned not put the hard work on my customer to make a decision.
We know our product/service best because we created it, and we (should) truly understand our customers problems.
We should give customers the exact, fabulous quality thing which will solve their problem, and eliminate all the other confusing options.
6. You don’t have to recoup losses the same way you lose them
Tim lists this as a lesson he learned in the book, and I was there nodding along as I read.
“I own a home in San Jose but moved almost 12 months ago. It’s been empty since, and I’m paying a large mortgage each month. The best part? I don’t care. But this wasn’t always the case. For many months, I felt demoralized as others pressured me to rent it, emphasizing how I was just flushing money away otherwise. Then I realized: You don’t have to make money back the same way you lose it. If you loose $1,000 at the blackjack table, should you try to recoup it there? Of course not. I don’t want to deal with renters, even with a property management company. The solution: Leave the house alone, use it on occasion, and just create incoming revenue elsewhere that would cover the cost of the mortgage through consulting, publishing, etc.”
7. It doesn’t matter how many people don’t get it. What matters is how many people do
A few months ago I had a conversation with an old friend. He’s a true character. An out-of-the-box thinker. A guy who says the stuff we’re all thinking, but that nobody has the backbone to say. He’s someone who is so genuinely beating to the tune of his own drum and DGAF’ing (definition here if you’re unfamiliar) what others think, it’s fabulous to behold.
The fact that’s he’s so truly and unapologetically himself is what makes him a fabulous human that you want to spend time with.
He was the first of my friends to have a blog, and I encouraged him to start one again recently when we spoke. Why? Because I felt like the world would be a better place with his blog, and therefore his fabulous self available on the internet for all to enjoy.
But, he works in a corporate job and knew that he couldn’t write on his blog what he would really want to share because of clients and bosses.
Basically, he didn’t want to be a watered down version of himself online, and I agreed. His magic is his true self, not the watered-down-PG version of it.
He has plans to quit corporate in the future, and then he said, when he’s his own boss and therefore can go all-in with putting out content he believes in online, then he’ll start the blog back up.
I’ve often thought about, as a personal brand, is it okay to take a stand on a cause? To share your thoughts on tough topics? To be authentically yourself? To share the parts and thoughts that some might not like? Or is it better to stick to the vanilla, always positive raw-raw messages that anyone and everyone will get behind?
Here’s what Tim said on the topic;
“If you strive to do anything remotely interesting, just expect a small percentage of the population to always find a way to take it personally. F*ck ‘em. There are no statues erected to critics.”
After that conversation with my friend and the line from Tim’s book, I also decided, f*ck ‘em, I want to be authentically me online, because it truly is the best me. So I am making a conscious effort to do so these days.
With this of course comes a bit of criticism from the people who don’t get it. I’ve received my fair share of rude emails, and I’ll be honest, I’m just in the beginner stages of showing up authentically online. But I’ve got this go-to quote for anytime someone rains on my parade.
"I for one have never received a piece of hurtful criticism from someone who's actually out there accomplishing things in the world...
Most successful people are too darn busy creating things in the world, and actually living their lives to have time to harshly criticize and judge you.
The majority of the time the people who are the harshest critics are creative cowards. They are bystanders on the sidelines of life who risk nothing and create nothing."
- Marie Forleo
8. Eliminate buyers regret & make use of your limited attention wisely
This one ties into the jars of jam and too-many-options point so well.
“I was stressed out … over dog cartoons.
It was 9:47 PM at Barnes & Noble on a recent Saturday night, and I had 13 minutes to find a suitable exchange for The New Yorker Dog Cartoons, $22 of expensive paper. Bestsellers? Staff recommendations? New arrivals or classics? I’d already been there 30 minutes.
Beginning to feel overwhelmed with a ridiculous errand I’d expected to take five minutes, I stumbled across the psychology section. One tome jumped out at me as all too appropriate. The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen or read Barry Schwarz’s 2004 classic, but it seemed like a good time to revisit the principles, among them, that:
The more options you consider, the more buyer’s regret you’ll have
The more options you encounter, the less fulfilling your ultimate outcome will be
This raises a difficult question: Is it better to have the best outcome but be less satisfied, or have an acceptable outcome and be satisfied?
For example, would you rather deliberate for months and get the 1 of 20 houses that’s the best investment but second-guess yourself until you sell it five years later, or would you rather get a house that is 80% of the investment potential of the former (still to be sold at a profit) but never second-guess it?
Schwarz also recommends making nonreturnable purchases. I decided to keep the stupid pooch cartoons. Why? Because it’s not just about being satisfied, it’s about being practical.
Income is renewable, but some other resources — like attention — are not. I’ve talked before about attention as a currency and how it determines the value of time.
For example: Is your weekend really free if you find a crisis in the inbox on Saturday morning that you can’t address until Monday morning?
Even if the inbox scan lasts 30 seconds, the preoccupation and forward projection for the subsequent 48 hours effectively deletes that experience from your life. You had time but you didn’t have attention, so the time had no practical value.
The choice-minimal lifestyle becomes an attractive tool when we consider two truths.
1. Considering options costs attention that then can’t be spent on action or present-state awareness.
2. Attention is necessary for not only productivity but appreciation.”
I give that entire section of the book a serious 🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻.
There have been so many times when my fiance and I have booked vacations on booking.com, knowing full well we have the option to cancel almost right up until the vacation itself, and in the process we’re always debating, “Is there a better option? Maybe we should look some more.”
Talk about ruining your own vacation and willingly walking down the road of buyers regret.
If you’ve already read it and had any other light bulb moments, I’d love to hear them! Leave ‘em in the comments friend!