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Ask HN: Is Anyone Living “The 4-Hour Work Week”?
105 points by Dejital 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 92 comments
A book popular in our industry is now a decade old.

Has anyone put the advice from the author Tim Ferriss into practice?

If so, how did you manage to do it and what have you learned from the experience?

No, but my grandfather owned a successful restaurant. Invested all the profits into real estate. Built an empire of 5mil+ as a Mexican immigrant. Towards the end, he had everything pretty automated by people he hired. Property managers for the rentals and a mix of family and a good restaurant manager for the restaurant. He would just come in on Sundays to count the money/accounting.

Side note. Our entire family has been destroyed by fighting over money. Money isn't everything. :)

That turned dark real quick.

It definitely did. I feel for OP – my family has also had its issues with money. Particularly money grabbing individuals who don't mind walking over bodies, family or otherwise, to get what they perceive as "theirs" by some metric. Whether or not these people are technically correct doesn't really matter when in the end, people who truly used to love each other are now sworn enemies. Cliché as it may be, it's very sad to see and be close to.

My mother's family went through the same dispute over my grandparents' real state and destroyed the family. Keep in mind that it is a lower middle class family in a developing country (Brazil), not that much money. One of the most vicious aunts in the dispute had actually the same or more wealth than my grandparents.

Money has a way of being the perfect "excuse" for vicious people to expose their viciousness.

My case isn't very different from yours, except we're in a well off country and individually pretty well off also. Goes to show vicious greed isn't necessarily a class thing.

In my case, a certain person did things so despicable that in my view until they atone for their crimes (actual crimes, not just wrongdoings) in prison, I will never be able to even start forgiving them. Instead, they're living the high life. It's very sad.

I hope you and your family are ok, if nothing else the ones you still care for. These episodes in my life have certainly made me appreciate my immediate family in a different and stronger way.

At the end it was for the better (except for my mom's and grandmother's - when she was alive - deep suffering of course). We divorced from the vicious part of the family, no contact at all with a few aunts and cousins, my parents fortunately could afford to give up of their part of the inheritance and it was totally worth to buy our freedom of any need for future contact with them.

For me, it was a lesson that absurd unethical behavior within a family happens in real life, it is not a thing of soap opera.

Fortunately, there was no crime committed in my case. "Only" obnoxious behavior, greed, and extreme selfishness.

Humans do not need an "excuse" for being vicious. Viciousness is a part of our nature. If the game involves sex, power or money your fellow humans will show their real nature.

Yea, how on earth is that just a 'side note'...

What specifically did they fight over? If it can be assumed that your family is rational and reasonable, why does it sound implied that somebody felt they deserved or were owed money from your grandfather, just because they were family?

Were good quality standards maintained when your grandpa started his Sunday routine?

The book is about being "the new rich". The new rich is not about having a billion dollars in your bank. Its about having enough money and most importantly the time and brain space to enjoy your time.

In the book Tim, emphasises that burning through 90 hour work weeks are pointless if you are not able to enjoy the $$$ it will bring in. Rather spend some money to reduce your workload and focus on things that excite you.

While most the examples he cites are not very useful for me. (I am from India and outsourcing the boring jobs to India isn't very effective ). It helped me focus on what I want in my life. And what is the $$$ amount which will help me achieve that. Its a hard conversation which most of us don't have with ourselves.

I sum up the book as; "There is no point in feeling like shit in your 20s and your 30s for a great life in your 40s which might not even come." Its not exactly YOLO as it emphasises to have a great time and not just let life happen.

I've never tried to work less tbf; I'm 31 years old and if I was given more free time, I wouldn't know what to do with it. I'm not the hipster adventurous type, traveling somewhere exotic doesn't appeal to me (I'd be more afraid of getting robbed and scammed), I'm not very social, etc. I prefer my 9-5 life so far. Just bought a house too.

Obviously spend your life however you like, I just want to put it out there that it sounds like you don't like to put yourself outside of your comfort zone (like pretty much everyone, even the hipsters).

There is nothing 'hipster' about doing something outside of your normal routine, like travelling or yoga. I'd recommend you try it more often, you'd be pleasantly surprised at what sort of things (good and bad) will happen.

I recently went on a trip, and when the plane landed my first thought was that I wished I stayed home. Good and bad things happened on this trip, but boy am I glad I did it.

While I am sure it comes from a good place, I wonder why there is a prescription being given when he states he is happy the way he has it and has no interest in living any other way? Coulent he be genuinely happy with his life and in no need of change?

I am 31 too! :D And although I like travelling I haven't done much of it in the past year because guess what, I am getting a house too. But I am getting it built which prevents me from moving until its completed. So, I did the layout, interiors, etc. I enjoy it!

Working on an automation system for the house using ESP8266 behind every socket and learning Elixir, React Native, etc. along the way.

I also get to work on Self-Driving Cars, Hydroponics and other stuff I like.

This would not have been possible if I was stuck at a 9-5. I work remotely and independently.

Tim did Tango and Vagabonding because maybe thats what made him happy. Being a te(/a)cky guy I am doing all things geeky to make me happy. :)

wait until you have kids...they fill up a lot of your time (if you don't outsource the job to nanny, etc)

I just started reading this book yesterday, and today I see this thread on HN. What are the odds...

Tim's method is to approach maximum joy in life. Although money is not everything, I don't think joy is either. I tend to think of life as an optimization problem of 2 variables: joy and meaning, sometimes you need to do something unpleasant, yet meaningful.

I saw a flash of it once. I was in the middle of vagabonding in the philippines (Cebu) where breakfast on the corner was $1 and a private room $15/night. I got a contract for 8hrs at $120/hr = $960.

So I rented a desk for $10 overnight (EST hours) and billed the hours after 2 nights.

In Cebu, $960/month is more than enough to live comfortably. So I realized I made an entire months living (traveling) expenses in one day of work. That's almost like the "2 hour work week"

I'm fairly sure you'd have broken the terms of your visa doing that.

Yes, but so would checking work email on vacation abroad. It's all a matter of risk tolerance.

The point of this book like many other books "get rich quick and work less", is to make the author richer. If you're successful, people will most likely listen to you. So, you need to be successful in some way in real life and if you do, Tim showed you how to leverage a success into a great business model. This helped him generating more income by documenting his journey to a larger audience. So, the content of his book is not the point I think. It's the existence of that book in itself. So, to me it's still about luck and about taking risks in life. It doesn't answer the question: "how to become rich?". More like "how to create a business model based on your success".

Like any other book... There is no recipe for success. But there are a lot of techniques on how to maximize your income.

This is one of the reasons I preferred Scott Adams' "How to Fail At Everything and Still Win Big." In it, he notes the absurdity of taking life advice from a career cartoonist, notes the impact of luck, and discusses the ingredients for a successful life (including cultivating 'luck'), and why they work. I find it a far better approach than 4HWW.

That's not to say 4HWW is without value, but you're right and we should be clear about what it is.

I think the main value of books like these, including books on diets or exercise, is inspiration. After you've read 4 hour work week you probably come away with an increased determination to run your own business. That more than any concrete advice it contains would be what recommends it to readers I think.

I've certainly "fallen victim" to this. I label it as that because -- for me at least -- the determination fades very quickly. Maybe I just have to find enough of these books to read consistently so I can keep my determinism up for long enough to succeed?

Except then your main determination is to read more books, not to "succeed" whatever your definition of that is.

The problem is that people read books and get a short spurt of inspiration and desire, but said inspiration / desire is for the end goal - to get there you need to do a journey first. Ferris didn't write his book overnight or even in a few weeks (maybe the summary), nor did he just have the ability to write books - that stuff takes time. It's just that looking at people who got to the end result make it look easy.

Or make sure to read them right when you are in a position to make the leap!

This is why I consciously avoid absolutely anything Ferris is involved with. You can immediately know that it will be something of no real substance designed to sell subscriptions to a monthly razor service.

It's rather unfair to call Ferris out as disingenuous or a snake-oil guy. I believe he genuinely thinks he is helping people, and there are actually some pretty fascinating interviewees and conversations on his podcast. If I have to fast-forward over some ads then so be it.

I mean, the only good podcast ads are Bill Burr's anyway.

For a lot of people, 4WW was a "think and grow rich" kind of pressure cooker. Sure, you may be able to do with if you combine the highly marketable skills of being a certain kind of programmer with a low-rent country. Those folks are corner cases. The main beneficiary of the book was Ferriss, who's just selling the dream, like a lot of people in the "information business".

The TL;DR of the book is basically "If you want a 4 hour work week, write a book about achieving a 4 hour work week"

And even that will take more than 4 hours per week.

While he probably indeed was the single biggest beneficiary of his book Tim Ferriss likely also helped a lot of people to change their respective lives for the better.

Who cares if you're not "living the dream" as long as you're doing better than before? 4HWW can be a real eye-opener in many respects and it's certainly not just about selling cheap info products while making use of cost of living arbitrage.

In fact, Ferriss has stated several times that the 4HWW is neither about literally just working 4 hours nor is it necessarily about constantly travelling through low-rent countries (though that certainly can be a beneficial option). It's much more about making efficient use of your time and doing so according to your own standards instead of somebody else's.

Some of the comments here depict him as some kind of snake oil salesman. I think he genuinely wants to teach and help people but that's just my personal opinion.

Consider this though: Who are the real snake oil men here? The one who tries to teach you to live a better life by your own standards or the ones that try to sell you a "> 40 hrs of work per week; consume as much as you can; don't enjoy life until you're too old to actually enjoy it;" lifestyle as the 'proper' way of living your life?

The best conmen are the ones who fool themselves. In a sense, his sincerity is beside the point. But if he really was sincere, why did he title his book The 4HWW unless it was to sensationalize his work, and draw more attention to himself, and make more money. Tim has other aspects of a conman, and it's not just the way he practices martial arts. Rebecca Mead wrote a great profile about him here:


> The 4HWW unless it was to sensationalize his work, and draw more attention to himself, and make more money.

It's called 'marketing'. That title was specifically chosen for its performance in a Google AdWords experimental run, which is a commonly recommended approach for testing MVPs.

I have a deep loathing for the whole self-help industry, 99% of it is nonsense and the majority of their customers seem quite vulnerable.

I lived it for a couple of years based on the framework from the book. Living on an island in Thailand diving everyday, hanging out in Bali or Barcelona.

Eventually I got a little bored with it and wanted to create bigger companies so I dove back in, but I still attribute a lot of my success to stumbling across that book one day.

As a somewhat obsessive relationship with that book, I'm looking to get into entrepreneurship soon. From everything I've read and researched about the 4HWW, people say its better to first have a working business and/or income stream, then focus on ways to automate or make single processes more efficient; As opposed to trying to start a business using the 4HWW from the 'get-go'.

What would your advice be? As someone who's lived the success, do you think its possible to start from the ground up with 4HWW in mind?

No I don't think that is usually possible. I think your first idea is correct. Work like crazy to get something working and profitable, and then work to automate it (which is frequently harder than you might think).

Doing this has helped me create bigger things as well. I create a business, more or less automate it, and then use that cashflow to work on other businesses. Eventually creating a portfolio of cashflow businesses, with a few exits in the middle.

What product?

I have lived the 4 hour work week for the last 2 years. I created a course online and earned half a million dollars from it in the first year alone, after spending 3 months creating it (I was 29 when I created it). Many of the ideas from that book (4hww) were ideas that came naturally to me prior to reading that book. I think anyone who considers themselves resourceful (particularly with utilizing Google search) would say the same thing. Most of the world's information is on the web, so if you want to create a lifestyle that optimizes for high earnings and low work hours, you should start by searching Google.

It's striking to me how people seem so baffled about anything anymore these days. Is there a God? The best framework humans have discovered for figuring things out is the scientific method, and according to that, the answer is: not as far as we can tell. Why is this even a question anymore and why do religions still exist, 20+ years after the internet has been around for the public? Again, the answer to that is on the web as well (the answer probably has to do with how longstanding institutions take a long time to die without meteoric disruption - and physics research/the discovery of the Higgs boson clearly wasn't enough to disrupt religion, nor was the recent rise in popularity of Nick Bostrom's simulation theory which happens to be my favorite theory about what this universe is, etc.).

Anyway, I digress...the point is that nearly anything can be figured out via Google. Want to become a rocket scientist? Google it. Read the best books out there. Don't sell yourself short. Want to be an engineer? Google it. And then do it. You can also learn almost anything with very low cost, thanks to the Internet.

I just gave you the secret to the 4 hour work week. Google + determination.

If you're struggling with accepting this answer - start with getting better at searching Google. You can get good at it like any other skill.

A digression straight out of r/iamverysmart.

By definition, science can test and prove natural phenomena by identifying laws of physic etc.

Science is useless in testing or proving supernatural phenomena but that doesn't necessarily mean it can't exist.

I'm working on launching a course this year, was wondering if you'd be willing to share more details. Do you have an email we can contact you @?

Cool, was it a video course or some ebook?

How did you do the marketing?

It was a video course. Without divulging too much, I Googled around and found some sites that had massive audiences that were similar to the audience I was targeting with my course. I contacted them and they cut me a deal to distribute my course to their audience. That brought in tens of thousands of students in the first year alone.

How much was your course priced at and what was the split like?

Why not divulging too much? Anyway thanks for your story.

I also included a free ebook.

Awesome, thanks for the answer.

It is a great way to make some money for live and launch ideas.

I already read something about courses to sell (video/ebook) in the book called Launch (Jeff Walker).

I am living in a country from Latin America, so I will try something for here. Thanks again. :)

that's a very simplistic view of religion and its historical role in society.

I have not, but I know a friend who did this for a while directly out of high school. I've never read the book, but most of these types of books say "create passive income using ____________" he made a pdf and charged 15 bucks for it. Sold it on his own website and made ~$1500-2000 a month. the money he used to live and built some other not so successful websites. We were straight out of highschool though so this was enough money to live on and he didnt TOUCH the webpage for like 2 years steady income. Sometimes people just get lucky I guess.

Out of curiosity, what was the topic of the PDF?

And how were payments handled? Taxes? I find that to be the most daunting part, I mean there's distributors like leanpub and co but I'm afraid they take a huge cut.

I'm interested as well.

I'm not living the 4HWW but that book kickstarted my journey from employee -> full time freelancer -> part time freelancer + working on my own products -> 100% my own products.

I'm currently transitioning into the part time freelancing phase.

Why are you transitioning in to freelancing phase? Products business is slowing down?

I'm not there yet, I'm currently transitioning from full time freelance to part-time freelance combined with launching some products of my own.

I believe he(?) was saying '100% my own products' was his end goal, he's not yet there.

I’m living 4 hour work week and it’s one of the best books that ever helped me. Just use the advices in the book, pretty simple. I spend most of these days working on side projects, feels great! This also allowed me to earn a lot of money, so definitely not downshifting.

Actually kinda amazed that there aren’t many similar people in the thread...I can email you from a public address, it would prove I have a real reputation and not just Tim’s paid commenter.

As the other request said, please post more information. I want your lifestyle and hope one day I can come up with an idea and put it into action to achieve it.

Dig deeply into some area, become a professional.

Then hire other people and try to optimize your business to work without your control. It's very important to be able to manage the company remotely.

A lot of people are trying to get to some huge expertise to achieve "bigger salary" or something. But no one really focuses on earning a small regular no-hassle income.

That's mostly it...Focus on 20% of stuff which gives 80% of results, like the book said.

What kind of business do you have?

A software development consultancy.

Really? That's the business you've automated??

Care to share some more details on the process?

I work one hour or two every morning to pay the bills. I spend an additional 3-4 hours working on things I want to see happen in the world. The hardest part is self-discipline, so I cut out all social media (no reddit outside of work-related stuff and limit HN). No movies and no porn surfing.

No internet at home helps me stay on track. When I need internet I walk to the coffee shop with a to-do list.

What do you actually do during those couple of hours to pay the bills?

Where in your schedule does answering this thread fit in?

This story is a good example:


Also I have a couple of friends who have done it for a while.

My biz partner and I lived it for about 2.5 years. We finally sold the network we had built up for 7 figures and ended up buying a company with 25 people, so the opposite of 4 hours :)

I wish I had read it sooner, but I have made small adjustments to my day job to improve things.

For those that cannot work remotely, you can still improve your productivity. I have a DND button on my phone that goes right to voicemail after one ring. I funnel everyone into creating a Jira task instead of trying to email, call, or ask in person for some work.

I document commonly asked questions like his FAQ in Confluence so I can point all new hires in other departments to this introduction training material.

Not exactly a '4-hour work week' but after reading the book, I have put in a lot of effort into automating a lot of daily recurring browsing activity for which I used to waste time daily. Since I prefer email as the main mode of communication, I have developed automation to extract and send all the important information (for which I used to browse) to me via email daily or hourly. Activities like tech news updates with word cloud, real estate searches, stock prices of interested stocks and many more. This saves me a ton of time by not randomly starting to browse. I attend to only important emails from these email updates.

4-hour work week no, but I know pretty many people that wait to vest on 4-hour workdays.

I really don't think there are many people at all who are in a position to make use of the advice in the book, and of those who are I really don't think there are any who would actually benefit from it.

Gotta milk that survivorship bias though!

Any success story is going to have survivorship bias. But yeah, 4 hour work week is really the worst example of it.

Yvo Schaap, the creator of Directlyrics.com, recently wrote a detailed article on Indie Hackers about how he's been living the 4-hour work week for the past decade: https://www.indiehackers.com/@yvo/how-ive-lived-the-4-hour-w...

He created product where the brunt of the work took place in the first few months/years, but the SEO traffic paid dividends for years to come.

"Early in 2010 I made the decision to become fully licensed, which significantly cut into my revenue. MetroLyrics did the same before me, and AZLyrics eventually followed suit."

...is a key two lines to me.

Yes. The book sent me in a treacherous path and it wasn't easy but today I can say I'm working remote, 3 hours/day (minimum though) and earning a good living. Problem is, I am ambitious and end up working the whole deal, and investing every bit of earnings while preparing for the future. But happily. Still, I can say this book sent me on the path.

I have two friends who did, independently. I surely doubt that they are still running things as they did way back then. But, at the time, and for almost a decade afterward, it enabled them to travel freely around the globe and have a relatively luxurious lifestyle.

Interestingly, both eventually got married and settled down back in the states. They each seem to be doing well - but have more conventional lifestyles now (i.e. Living in the burbs with kids).

It gave me the dream to work remotely from abroad. I'm relatively poor and working a lot, but almost 2 years in Japan now.

Do you just use a self-sponsored visa? I jump back and fourth but work for a US based company on salary. Curious if I could do the same?

I'm on a cultural visa and am learning a martial art under the guidance of a teacher. I pay taxes in the origin country, but it's not optimal. If you have enough money, found a company, then you won't have any problems and can renew easily.

A friend of mine is - she trained to become a Pilates instructor a number of years ago. Now she does 2 group classes a week (corporate clients) of 1 hour each, earns about $300 per class. That's enough for her to live on.

Where in the world can you change $300 an hour for pilates and live on $600 per month?

30 people at $10 per class, or 15 people at $20. It's not unusual.

Same question, except $2400/mo.

Aha! That's more understandable, though still somewhat surprising.

They're group classes, so each participant is paying only a fraction of the $300.

Even so ...

No, because most of these books are bullshit allowing their authors getting rich by selling them to people who look for some kind of "magic success formula" :)

Yes, i can do it tomorrow with my side project

Yes, but it's about 6 hours.

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