The 4-Hour Workweek: Chapter Summary (Chapter 15: Filling the Void)
For those itching to get away from the perpetual whirlwind or the grinding bore of a dull routine, you would think that this chapter would present no issues. But it seems that people go through the equivalent of post-partum depression or empty-nest syndrome. If you’ve been making coffee for two—or three or four—every morning for ten years, and then that other (or others) is suddenly no longer there … what do you do? How do you compensate? Fortunately, human beings are adaptable, and once we get past the initial shock and feelings of emptiness or uselessness, we find that there are actually a great many ways to fill the gap.
The subtitle of this chapter is “Adding Life After Subtracting Work,” indicating that Ferriss is all too aware of this syndrome. In his usual hilarious manner, he describes the relaxed, idyllic scene he imagined would happen on the first day of his first mini-retirement versus the more ambivalent actuality, which included cursing, vague feelings of guilt and confusion, and wandering around in an aimless haze from one museum or botanical garden to the next. Fortunately for the rest of us, Ferriss is brave enough to ask the million-dollar questions:
· “I’ve Got More Money and Time Than I Ever Dreamed Possible …
Why Am I Depressed?” and
· “But This Is What I Always Wanted! How Can I Be Bored?”
Ferriss, of course, encourages us to fulfill our external dreams, but he maintains that these will only fill the void temporarily before gnawing existential issues begin to set in and the lack of social contact once provided by the work environment starts to get to us. He does have some guidelines, though, to help us over the hump.
· Recognize that you’re not alone. Yes, you’re ahead of the curve, and for that reason, comparing yourself to those who stick to a more ordinary routine is probably not very productive. Neither is using the same criterion (money=happiness) that created the issues to begin with as a measuring stick of why you should be happy.
· Don’t avoid the big questions, but also don’t waste your time on questions you can’t answer or that serve no purpose. To this end, Ferriss has two suggestions with an almost Buddhist flavor:
1. Make sure you have defined each term contained in the question. According to Ferriss, this means deciding on a single definition for each word.
2. Once the question has been defined, make sure the answer is
a. actionable and
b. capable of benefiting life in some way.
If it isn’t both of these, it’s not worth asking. This approach, Ferriss believes, will keep people from spinning their wheels and help them to make the best use of their time. For those who were overachievers in their work, the constructive use and appreciation of time are among the challenges of their new existence. Having interviewed many NR on this point, Ferriss has concluded that two things in particular stand out as bringing the most reward—learning and service. Exactly what this means is again specific to the individual and may even change over time. For learning, Ferriss himself likes to focus on languages and some type of kinetic learning, but he acknowledges that the possibilities are limitless. The same is true of service, which can encompass everything from the environment or the arts to the more standard social services.
The Questions and Actions for this chapter also function as a Tools and Tricks section. The focus, as above, is on helping people to make the adjustment from overworked and rushed employee to self-responsible, self-determined, creative human being. Suggestions, therefore, range from learning to slow down and appreciate your time to choosing a charity, learning a skill, or volunteering for an organization. Not being bound to income-earning work also does not preclude exploring work as a vocation. The point is to find what excites you or gives you a sense of meaning and, in the best of cases, to allow it to grow into a larger contribution to the general good.