The 4-Hour Workweek: Chapter Summary (Chapter 2: Rules That Change the Rules)
The type of rule-changing that Tim Ferriss advocates is not an exercise in being different. His philosophy is that rules, though not necessarily made to be broken, should be discarded or reworked when they’re no longer useful or fun. “Different is only better when it serves a purpose,” when it brings superior results—not for its own sake. If it’s stupid, don’t do it.
Ferriss seems to be addressing those who know that something is wrong with the current setup but who either haven’t dared or known how to break free from it. He knows that the rules that govern the NR lifestyle are “surprisingly uniform and predictably divergent from what the rest of the world is doing”—regardless of the form the particular lifestyle takes. Those who try it will have to take the plunge into the unknown. But, as previously stated, LD is not about being stupid or reckless, and its expression varies widely according to individual circumstances and goals.
Here are its basic rules:
1. Use retirement planning as a worst-case scenario.
Ferriss asserts that the whole idea of retirement has issues to begin with, namely, it assumes that
· you spend the healthiest, most physically able years of your life doing something that you dislike;
· as Ferriss puts it, “The math doesn’t work”—retirement forces most people to lower their standard of living to a “hotdogs-for-dinner” level; and
· the type of person who does make the math work is not the type to enjoy an idle retirement, which defeats the purpose of planning and waiting.
Ferriss sums things up by saying that it’s not a matter of not planning for retirement (he mentions that he himself has several maxed-out retirement funds) but that it shouldn’t be mistaken for the goal.
2. Plan according to waxing and waning levels of interest and energy in order to maintain health and fitness and maximize productivity. According to Ferriss, life doesn’t function in a steady stream; instead, interest and energy go up and down. He advocates keeping this in mind when planning our lives.
3. Substitute busy work with efficiency and productivity, and resist calling the former “hard work” and the latter “laziness.”
4. Don’t wait for the “perfect time”—it never comes. Ferriss’s advice: “If it’s important to you …, just do it and correct course along the way.”
5. Move on your goals regardless of whether you have the support of your surroundings. If you really screw up, you can always apologize. People are less likely to oppose you if you’re in motion.
6. Maximize your strengths, and don’t worry about your weaknesses. Focusing on weaknesses will at best lead to mediocrity whereas fostering strengths will help you to move ahead quickly.
7. “Things in excess become their opposite.” This specifically refers to time. The goal, according to Ferriss, is “not idle time … but the positive use of free time, defined simply as doing what you want as opposed to what you feel obligated to do.”
8. Money is neither the goal nor the sole answer to our problems. Money and work should not become excuses to avoid facing the deeper issues in life, i.e., the hard self-analysis that really leads to a more meaningful existence.
9. Relative income is worth more than absolute income. Absolute income is measured by dollar amount alone. Relative income uses both time and money as its measuring stick, calculating worth in terms of income earned per hour rather than total income per month or year. Ferriss acknowledges that the total dollar amount still has to be sufficient to meet a person’s goals but also that goals should be set according to personal ideals, not socially accepted norms.
10. Stress comes in two forms: eustress and distress. The latter is unhealthy and should be avoided; the former challenges and inspires us to grow and should be sought out. The NR do both.
To sum it up, Ferriss encourages us to question social and business norms and to dare to create a meaningful life by taking a hard look at ourselves and then tailoring and maximizing our resources to match our dreams instead of accepting the norm as the necessity. Questioning standard assumptions and revamping our ideas is the first step to removing our mental and emotional blocks toward redefining our values and our attitudes towards money, security, and work-life balance.