Is 4-Hour Workweek a Scam?

by Tim Francis on September 17, 2013

5 years ago I drank the 4HWW Kool-Aid DEEPLY and was a part of the aspiring “New Rich”.

A bunch of real-world experience since then, plus loads of marketing education and experience, and I have a whole new outlook on the book.

In this episode I reveal a few insights I think you’ll find valuable, including a little-known fact about The 4-Hour Workweek.

The 4-Hour Workweek – Scam?

Back in 2008 I read the 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss.  The book shook my world.  5 years (and a lot of experience) later, I’ve got a distinct new opinion on the book.

1.  Cal Newport’s book So Good They Can’t Ignore You identifies something called “Courage Culture” (popular amongst 4HWW disciples) which says you just need the balls to take a “leap of faith” (to quit your job, start that business, etc) instead of getting really good at something FIRST.

But the reality is when we get good at something, people want to work with us more than ever, which gives us the credibility and position to start calling our own shots.  This is the time to transition to the new career or business.  And – with a beefy list of in-demand skills in place – making the switch typically seems like a logical transition, not a leap of faith.  If it feels like a huge leap of faith, you probably need to build more career capital (skills, knowledge, experience, connections, etc).  This is reality, and this is not the vibe of The 4-Hour Workweek.

Tim Ferriss basically says you’re an idiot for following a “deferred life plan” of watching life pass you by as you grind out a cubicle existence.  If you’re sitting in that cubicle doing the same thing the same way for 40 years, I generally agree with him.  But if you’re constantly building your skills day-in and day-out (whether in that cubicle, after-hours, or both) then you’re no fool for taking a number of years to build your expertise.  In fact, years spent honing your craft are a pre-requisite to successfully leaving that same cubicle.

2.  To Tim Ferriss’ credit, he mentions in the preface that he spent around 3 punishing years developing his product Brain Quicken.

Yet nobody wants to remember or even acknowledge that.  The vast majority of readers (my former self included) prefer to indulge in the fantasy of kickboxing, tango dancing, and knowing 9 languages.

Another reason most people skip the “Tim Ferriss worked really damn hard for awhile FIRST” part is that Ferriss doesn’t give this part of his journey that much real estate in his book.  It’s essentially one paragraph in 285 pages.

3.  The 4-Hour Workweek is a FANTASTIC example of stellar copywriting.  The whole book paints a mind-expanding, thrilling idea of what is possible.  It’s one long sales letter.  If the book ended with an offer of a “how I did it” product at the end, he would have sold TONS.

The crazy thing is the whole book – if we stripped away the storytelling and personality bits – is probably a 70-page book.  But we wouldn’t have read that book.  Instead, it’s loaded up with stories and personality, it’s 4x as long, and we can’t get enough.

The power of long copy!  The power of storytelling!

4.  In many ways it’s a marketing book.  He teaches market research, split-testing, google adwords, and tips on buying print media.

Actually, given the limitations of a hardcover book – only 285 pages – he courageously tackles quite a wide range of marketing topics, and gives us a glimpse into how each element plugs into the overall machine.  Nifty.

That said – be very careful.  A tool like Google Adwords can easily bankrupt you.  It’s a loaded gun that can kill an animal to feed you for weeks, or it can just… plain… kill YOU.  I would NOT take Adwords lightly.  Be sure to check out Perry Marshall’s Definitive Guide to Google Adwords (available in the “Links” section of my site here) if you’re even thinking about using Adwords.

5.  It’s also a book with some solid productivity tips, such as: batching, the Pareto Principle (80/20 Rule), Parkinson’s Law, Outsourcing, Limiting Interruptions, and Avoiding Meetings.  I’ve used a lot of this in my own marketing business with amazing results.  Thank-you Tim Ferriss… much appreciated :)

Summary: Don’t take The 4-Hour Workweek at 100% face value.

Read it, be inspired and excited by it.  Then read “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” by Cal Newport.  Then read, study, and implement Direct Marketing stuff like Dan Kennedy and what I teach through my 1000% Marketing Club.  Perry Marshall’s Definitive Guide.  The 4HWW is a beginning, but far, far, far, from a total roadmap.

Onwards and Upwards,

Tim :)

Resources Mentioned in this Podcast:

Cal Newport Blog: Remarkable Success Requires Overcoming Mediocrity Not Fear

Cal Newport Book: So Good They Can’t Ignore You

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