When I first read Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Work Week I was in between jobs and looking for my “next big thing.” The book should have been inspirational, or at least motivated me to find my own way to work less and earn more. Instead, what I got out of the book were two very important lessons:
- In order to work a 4-hour work week, the author first put in multiple years of 80-hour work weeks
- By purchasing the book, the only one who was getting a 4-hour work week was the author
The first point is a no-brainer to anyone who’s worked hard during their career, but the second point is the real kick-in-the-pants.
While I was in high school, a family member went to a seminar that was supposedly focused on helping people start their own home-based business. That family member came back from this event with a few items they purchased there and were supposed to be ideas to help them get started. I remember thinking, “the business I want to be in is the one where people pay to hear me talk, and then pay again to buy my crappy products.” Even at that young age, I could see that the seminar was only earning extra income for one person: the organizer.
Fast forward to 2008, when I read The 4-Hour Work Week, and those thoughts were so overpowering I couldn’t even finish the book. I was so disgusted by the sham I bought into–one that I could see so clearly as a 12-year old, but was now wasting money on as a 30-something–that I put the book down and never picked it up again.
This week, when one of my favorite authors, Jeffrey Gitomer, wrote a post bashing the 4-Hour Work Week, I couldn’t help but laugh and applaud. I couldn’t agree more:
…all you have to do to get the deep-dark secret they want to share with you is give them some of your money, so THEY can work less and earn more. Funny – in a pathetic kind of way.
Sell a System
I have a few key business philosophies; things that I believe make for great businesses. After I read The 4-Hour Work Week, I added “selling a system” as my second key business philosophy. (The first being “middle a transaction” which I’ll get into at another time.)
The irony of Gitomer’s rant is that he, Ferriss, and this seminar host of my childhood, all do the same thing. They all sell a system. Some are better at it than others–I wonder where that seminar guy is now–and some have better advice than others–which is why I love Gitomer’s work and feel dirty when I see Ferriss’ book. But at the core, they sell a system.
There plenty of examples out there of people who sell a system. Kathy Smith pioneered the home workout video: she sells a system, a great system that is constantly changing and adapting to market conditions. Tony Robbins… well I think it goes without saying that he sells a system. Steve Kamb at NerdFitness sells a system.
In fact, Steve at NerdFitness idolizes Tim Ferriss, and might be the best example of someone who has taken the true message of the 4-Hour Work Week, embodied it, and mastered it.
What is that message?
It’s not that you can work 4 hours per week and be wildly successful, it’s this:
if you have a smart system for doing what you love, and you work your butt off selling it, you can be wildly successful.