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Tim Ferriss wrote The 4-Hour Workweek. Then I wrote Why We’re Failing the 4-Hour Workweek. Now Jonathan Mead has written The Lie of The Four Hour Work Week. And I in turn will respond with The Lie of the Lie of the 4-Hour Workweek.
Just like Jonathan isn’t really accusing Tim of lying, I’m not really accusing Jonathan of lying. It just makes for a nice title. Plus, it sets up my critics to call their rebuttal post The Lie of the Lie of the Lie of the 4-Hour Workweek.
Tim says that we should find a way to not have to work so much, so we can do what we want. Jonathan says we shouldn’t think of work as something to avoid, but something that’s sacred, that lets us provide value and make a difference.
I agree with much of what Jonathan said. In fact, the only thing I really disagree with is his contention that what he and Tim are saying is really all that different.
We have a semantics problem here, in that people don’t really agree on what constitutes “work.” How can Tim not consider writing and marketing a best-selling book as work? What about doing his own TV show, being a champion tango dancer, building schools in Vietnam, etc? Don’t these things take a lot of effort? Yeah, but none of it is “work” to him.
I’m guilty of using the word “work” to mean two completely different things:
1. slavery, drudgery, tedium, burden, toiling, punishment, monotony
2. freedom, purpose, contribution, self-expression, making a difference, fulfilling your dreams
People are sometimes confused when I say something like “I want to retire so I can get my work done.” It’s because we have two definitions of work that are as different as night and day.
While I don’t feel like starting a movement to get the dictionary updated, let’s see if we can paraphrase Jonathan and Tim in terms of the definitions above.
Jonathan says: “Don’t think of what you do as work1, think of it as work2.”
Tim says: “Get your work1 done in just four hours a week, so you have more time for work2.”
These sound very similar to me!
While I agreed with much of what Jonathan said, some of his commenters really got to me. I’m going to quote them anonymously not because I’m stingy with link love, but because I’m going to be mean to them. Not just for the sake of being mean, but because they’re spewing nonsense like this:
“I actually had the four hour work week for about 18 months… I got so bored that I went and found a real job that paid me much less than I was earning from my four-hour work week business just because I wanted something to do.”
“I don’t believe he works 4 hours a week. I don’t believe anyone on their death bed will be satisfied with a life like that. That isn’t authentic happiness.”
“Most people would freak out with all the ‘psychic entropy’ if they had a 4-hour workweek. I know several rich entrepreneurs who did exactly that.”
“Tim Ferriss has some interesting ideas, but the key is NOT working LESS, but instead working MORE on things you LOVE.”
“I was a stay at home mom for while and could not take it after about 6 months. The lack of people interaction was mind numbing and I missed going to the office and taking trains. Nothing like a cup of joe from a cart on the corner. For those who like to go out, meet people and feel passionately about everything they do, that lifestyle would not be ideal.”
Did anybody actually read the book? Where is everyone getting the idea that Tim prescribed a life of sitting around and doing nothing all day? Is there some law that jobless people are not allowed to ride trains, get a cup of joe from a cart on the corner, go out, meet people, and feel passionate about everything they do? Tim specifically suggests pursuing a life of excitement and service, and his life is far from boring.
What bothers me the most about these comments is the insinuation that life is inherently worthless unless you have a master giving you assignments. Newsflash: if you can’t figure out what to do with your time, THE PROBLEM IS YOU.
Say you suddenly had complete time freedom. In this world of countless wonders, unprecedented technological advances, and critical problems to be solved, could you really not figure out a way to keep yourself occupied? I can’t imagine ever being bored with life no matter how long I lived, as long as I had the freedom to do what I wanted.
If you ever run out of things to do, you’ve overstayed your welcome on this planet. If you’re bored, I’m happy to give you some sacred work to do. But really, if you have nothing to live for until your boss tells you what to live for, you’re done. You’re already emotionally dead, so as a formality, you just need to complete the process by becoming physically dead. It should be a seamless transition for you.
I agree that one’s work should be sacred. Freud said “Love and work…work and love, that’s all there is.” But Freud’s work was a lot more exciting than putting cover sheets on TPS reports. Most people aren’t so fortunate, and it’s much more of a challenge for them to make a living from work that’s meaningful to them.
The commenter who missed going to the office actually touched on a good point. What if the job you already have is meaningful to you? Great! You don’t need to avoid your work because you like it. Do your work and be happy.
I agree that a job can be great. I’ve even been there myself. But in my experience, things always change. If you like your job now, will you still like it when you have a new manager, or they transfer you to another department, or the company goes out of business? I’d rather be in control so that I know I’ll like my work every day.
And yeah, Tim and I are a little more job-averse than most. I came across a very interesting study through @phdbre and @thembti on Twitter, in which job dissatisfaction was compared among different Myers-Briggs types.
The study found that the types most likely to be very dissatisfied with their job are ISTP (like Tim), INTP (like me), and ENFJ. None of the INFJs, INTJs, ENTJs, or ESTPs were very dissatisfied with their job.
What ISTP and INTP have in common is that they’re the two types whose dominant function is introverted thinking. I’m not sure why the ENFJs are in that group. They’re called “the great communicators;” maybe there aren’t a lot of jobs for great communicators out there.
Anyway, people all want to do different kinds of work, including kinds that might not be readily available in a traditional job. And the point of the 4HWW is to put your income generation on auto pilot so your time is freed up to do what you want…which in many cases will be work, just work that doesn’t pay so much (or you’d already be able to do it).
Let’s take a look at one more comment:
“My dream job would actually require working probably 60 or more hours out the week since I would like to manage a hotel. Someone like myself would find the book and that lifestyle very unsatisfying.”
Well, if that’s her dream job, why isn’t she doing it? There must be something that’s stopping her, and I don’t know what that would be other than time or money. So if she had enough time and money to manage a hotel, then she could be doing the work she wanted to, right? THAT’S WHAT THE 4HWW IS ALL ABOUT! So why are we disagreeing?