The 4 Hour Work Week

Every once in a while a book or an idea comes along that has such a massive impact on those that read it, that it actually changes the course of how people, individually and collectively, think and act. This is what I think the 4 Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris has done. You can get it here:

The 4-Hour Workweek, Expanded and Updated: Expanded and Updated, With Over 100 New Pages of Cutting-Edge Content.

It has caused many people to change their way of life, and has certainly had a massive impact on how others look at how we view our work and the time we put into it.

Is it possible to go from a hectic full time work schedule to 4 hours per week?

I say yes.

No, I have not managed to do that yet. What I have managed to do, however, is question my ingrained assumptions about life and how to live it. I have been working to create a more meaningful existence that does not blindly follow the Jones model of success.  

The Jones model of success being what our western consumer culture deems as success.  We buy more and more stuff, create more and more obligations, get more and more stressed, ignore your relationships (or make them suffer), ignore your health, and relentlessly pursue the next goal with no end in sight.

Just like Chris Guillebeau does in his book:

The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World

Ferris suggests we do something other than what is expected of us.

If you experience a 4 hour work week, no matter what, it is possible to think about the way you spend your time and ensure that the way you spend it does one of the following things:

  • Contributes to others
  • Helps you grow as a person
  • Or is just plain fun
  • Or is important for your long-term health (like exercise or meditation)

There was a lot of information packed into that book, but for the non conforming professional what is striking is that it says you do not have to wait for retirement, that you can automate or honour your income, and that you can live outside of the full-time job/Jones paradigm. There is no reason for deferred life or deferred happiness.

Although the concept of the 4 Hour Work Week is not necessarily to be taken literally, this book talks about living more and working less.

It was only after reading Ferris' book that I realized that I was living my life barely treading water, being completely stressed financially, and overcommitted in general. That was my only reality. I didn't even realize that there was another way to be. Thankfully, the book made me realize that I had a choice to live another way. 

I was on my 2009 Christmas ski holiday and had taken Ferris' book for some "light" holiday reading. Back in the real world I had just purchased and renovated a $1,000,000+ commercial property that would house my law firm. Upon my return, I would commence practising law in this new (admittedly stunningly gorgeous but not very large) space.

Yes, the project cost in excess of $300,000 more than I was expecting. And no, I did not have any extra money socked away to fix the problem of the excess cost. I had created and built an office that would take up a considerable amount of my waking time and energy in the years to come.

Uh oh.

I sure wish I knew more about non conformity then.

I couldn’t image the timing being worse.

Yes, the several years that followed have been the most stressful and painful I have ever experienced in my life.

Reading the 4 Hour Work Week is certainly what got me to first question my place within our culture and had me realize that I was keeping up with the Joneses and not even realizing it.

The debt associated with my office put my life on hold. I got good debt and bad debt mixed up. What is the difference between good debt and bad debt? If the debt you have creates money in your pocket  it is good debt (you borrowed $100,000 and after you pay the interest, the net result is that you have $100 to spare each month -- that is good debt). 

Bad debt is when it takes money out of your pocket (yes, the mortgage on  your house or condo). I thought the bad debt I created was good debt. I had purchased a really expensive ‘investment” (some investment, one that has been a crushing financial burden) and I would pursue what I was really meant to do.

The amazing thing is that human beings want to work. They want to work on something that is meaningful.

The problem is that in our pursuit of success so many of us get tangled up in the pursuit itself, as well as all the "extras" that seem to come with it. We accrue more payments, real estate, expenses, and "stuff" without doing an analysis of whether or not those things support our values in life.

These days, before buying anything, I decide if it is something that will enhance the experience of my life (like a tent for camping or a plane ticket) or if it is just a “thing” that will ultimately clutter up my home and life.

These days, before I commit to scheduling anything extra in my life, I ask myself if it will help me grow as a person, contribute to others, be for my long-term health, or is really just plain fun. If it does not fit any of these criteria, I don’t do it.

In essence, even though I still do things that conform, I don’t do anything to conform without thinking about it.

Written by Val Hemminger, the nonconforming professional

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