Posted on Apr 10, 2020

The 4-Hour Work Week Summary

Chapters, PDF & Review of Timothy Ferriss’ Book

The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5. Live Anywhere. And Join the New Rich

Author: Timothy Ferriss

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For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. “Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way.

Step I:  D is for Definition

Chapter 1 – Cautions and Comparisons

NR vs. D

NR = New Rich

D = Deferrers

For example, a goal for a Deferrers would be to retire early or young whereas the goal for New Rich is to distribute recovery periods throughout life, inactivity is not the goal doing what excites you is.

Eliminate work for work’s sake.

If you free your time and location money is worth 3 to 10 times as much.  Referred to as the freedom multiplier, money multiplies in practical value based on your control over the what, when, where, and whom in your life.

The first step is replacing assumptions.

But you are the average of the five people you associate with most, so do not underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends. If someone isn’t making you stronger, they’re making you weaker.


Chapter 2 – Rules That Change the Rules

Everything popular is wrong, Don’t follow models that don’t work.

  1. Retirement is Worst-Case-Scenario Insurance
  2. It’s based on the assumption that you dislike what you are doing and want to stop.
  3. The math doesn’t work – most likely it’s lower middle-class existence
  4. You will be bored.

Interest and Energy Are Cyclical

  • Capacity, interest, and mental endurance all wax and wane.  Distribute “mini-retirements” throughout life, such as overseas relocation or high-intensity learning events.

Less Is Not Laziness

  • Society tends to reward personal sacrifice more than productivity because it’s easier to measure.
  • Focus on being productive, not busy.

Timing Is Never Right

  • Conditions are never perfect, “Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you.
  • If it’s important to you, do it.

Ask for forgiveness, not permission

  • People deny things on an emotional basis that they would accept after the fact.
  • People are more hesitant to get in your way if you are moving.

Emphasize Strengths, Don’t Fix Weaknesses

  • It is far more lucrative and fun to leverage your strengths than it is to try and fix your shortcomings.

Focus on being productive instead of busy.

Things in Excess Become Their Opposite

  • In excess, most things take on the characteristics of their opposites.

Money is not the Solution

  • “If I only had more money.” is the easiest way to postpone the intense self-examination needed to create a life of enjoyment.

Relative vs. Absolute Income

  • Absolute income is based strictly on dollar amounts, someone making $100,000 is twice as rich as someone making $50,000.
  • Relative income pegs dollars to time so your level of rich is based on the money you make per unit of time invested.

Distress vs. Eustress

  • Distress is destructive, it makes you weaker.  Criticism, abusive bosses, etc.
  • Eustress is constructive.  Role models, risks that expand our level of comfortable actions, exceeding limits.

The more Eustress we can find the fast we move toward living our dreams.

What if I did the opposite of the people around me?

To enjoy life, you don’t need fancy nonsense, but you do need to control your time and realize that most things just aren’t as serious as you make them out to be.

Chapter 3 – Dodging Bullets

“Many times a false step was made by standing still”


Conquering Fear + Defining Fear

  • On a scale of 1 to 10 career-related worst-case scenarios have a temporary impact of 3 or 4.
  • On the same scale, best-case scenarios have a permanent positive impact of around 9.

Fear can be disguised as optimism.  i.e. Things will getter with time.   This is especially true  with boring or uninspiring jobs.  Optimism can become an excuse for inaction.

“You don’t need fancy nonsense but you do need to control your time and realize that most things aren’t as serious as you make them out to be.”

Excitement is the more practical synonym for happiness, and it is precisely what you should strive to chase. It is the cure-all.

Chapter 4 System Reset

99% of people are convinced they are unable to to great things.  They aim for mediocre “realistic” goals which therefore have the most competition because everyone else has the same goals.

The bigger your dream the more energy you will be willing to expend to achieve it.

Think big and “unrealistic”, there is less competition and you will add adrenalin to your pursuit.

The opposite of love is indifference, not hate.  The opposite of happiness is boredom.


Chase excitement –> don’t ask “What are my goals?” ask “What excites me?”  The worst thing that can happen is not crashing and burning, it’s terminal boredom.

The goal can’t be to ‘not work’, you have to replace what you are currently doing with something else or you will naturally keep working even if you can eliminate the financial need.



  • well-defined steps
  • Unrealistic goals
  • Focused on activities to fill the vacuum
  1. What would you do if you could not fail?
  2. What would you do if you had $100 million in the bank?
  3. What would make you excited to wake up in the morning?


Start by listing the things you want to have.  Then list the things you want to be.  Then list what you would have to do in order to be those things.

Tomorrow becomes never.  Take the first step now.

To live an uncommon lifestyle you need to develop the uncommon habit of making decisions.  There is a direct correlation between an increased sphere of comfort and getting what you want.

It’s lonely at the top. Ninety-nine percent of people in the world are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for the mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for ‘realistic’ goals, paradoxically making them the most time and energy-consuming.


Step II: E is for Elimination

Chapter 5 – The End of Time Management

You should not be trying to fill every second with a work fidget of some type.  Being busy is often a guise for avoiding the critically important but uncomfortable actions.

Efficiency is important but useless if not applied to the right things.

The 80/20 Principle

  • What 20% of sources are causing 80% of my unhappiness.
  • What 20% of sources are causing 80% of my desired outcome and happiness.

Being busy is a form of laziness- lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.

Lack of time is actually lack of priorities.

Use these two approaches together:

  • Limit tasks to only the important things in order to shorten work time.
  • Shorten work time in order to drive the limiting of tasks to important only.

If you had a heart attack and could only work 2 hours a day, what would you do?


Chapter 6 – The Low Information Diet

Just as modern man consumes too many calories and calories of no nutritional value, he also consumes data both in excess and from the wrong sources.

Most information is time consuming, negative, irrelevant to your goals, and outside of your influence.

The news is the main culprit.  No more newspapers or websites.  If you want news related information, strike up a conversation with someone and ask them what’s new.


Chapter 7 – Interrupting Interruption and the Art of Refusal

Doing the important and ignoring the trivial is hard because typical work-related environments will continually force interruptions on you.

There are 3 principle offenders:

  1. Time wasters-Things that can be ignored with little or no consequence.  (meetings, phone calls, email.)
  2. Time consumers-Tasks that need to be completed but often interrupt high-level work.
  3. Empowerment failures – instances where people need your go-ahead to make things happen.

Time Wasters

  • Check email twice a day, never first thing in the morning.  Move toward checking it only once a day.
  • Answer phone call with an “I’m in the middle of something” approach.  This will reduce idle chit-chat.
  • Use “if-then” statements in an email.  “Can you meet at 4, if so…if not then please advise what times work for you.”


  • Avoid Meetings that do not have clear objectives.
  • Meetings should be held to make decisions about a predefined problem, not to define a problem.  Ask for an agenda.
  • Define meeting end times, cite other appointments at odd times to make them believable.  (3:20 as opposed to 3:30)
  • To get out of meetings – suggest you have pressing needs that prevent joining any meeting and explain how you will get up to date with the information shared in the meeting.


  • Batching is a solution to time consumers, repetitive tasks that interrupt the important.
  • Batching saves setup time.

Examples:  Checking email, pay bills.

  • Test batching frequency to minimize the time you need do the task.  If problems cost more than hours saved then scale back to the next-less-frequent schedule.

Empowerment Failures

  • Tasks that cannot be accomplished without permission or information from someone else.
  • Allow access to information.  Setup guidelines and give people responsibility and trust.


Step III: A is for Automation

Chapter 8 – Outsourcing Life

Hire a personal assistant.

Teaches you to give orders, to be a commander instead of command.

Since the assistant will most likely be overseas this teaches remote management and communication skills.

It’s about building a system to replace yourself.

Remember to eliminate before you delegate.  Don’t hire someone to read through your email if a spam filter can do the same.

Assigned tasks must be time-consuming and well defined.

(Don’t be afraid to have some fun with it.  Harass friends with odd phone calls in strange accents from unknown numbers.)

Examples of tasks: Schedule meetings, web-research, proofreading, document creation, website moderation, voicemail transcription, industry analysis.

Chapter 9 – Income Autopilot I

Most of the ultra-successful companies in the world do not manufacture their own product, answer their own phones, or service their own customers.

The goal should be to create a vehicle for generating cash without consuming time.

Pick an affordably reachable niche market.

  • Find a market, define your customers, develop a product for them.
  • You have to understand the customer’s needs.
  • If everyone is your customer, nobody is. Focus.

Which industry and professional groups do you belong to?  What can you associate yourself with?  Look for groups.  Look for industry magazines.

Create a product for them

Expert Status

  • requires that you know more than the purchaser.

How to become an “expert”

  • Join 2 or 3 related trade organizations
  • Read 3 top-selling books on your topic
  • Give a free seminar at a nearby university
  • Give a free seminar at a nearby well-known business or branch
  • Offer to write articles for trade magazines
  • Join ProfNet or expertclick

Chapter 10 – Income Autopilot II

Micro-Test your Product

  • Build a basic website
  • Setup Google Adwords to test response

Chapter 11 – Income Autopilot III

Remove yourself from the equation

  • Contract outsourcing companies that specialize in one function to minimize interruption when people switch or leave jobs
  • Ensure outsourcers are willing to communicate among themselves to solve problems.  Give them written permission to make most inexpensive decisions without consulting you.

The infrastructure must be scalable.  It should handle 10 orders per week as well as 10000.

Phase 1 – Do it yourself

Use this time to track common issues and customer service questions that have to be dealt with.

Phase 2 – Add automation

Create an FAQ

Find a fulfillment company

Phase 3 – Upgrade

Use cash flow to add for sophisticated services.


Keep it simple by reducing options:

  • One or two (basic and premium) products
  • One fast shipping option only
  • Eliminate phone orders (online only)
  • No international shipments


Clean out unwanted customers:

  • No checks money orders
  • Require tax ID for wholesale, establish minimum
  • Never negotiate pricing on high volume orders
  • No free trials
  • No orders from common mail fraud countries



Step IV: L is for Liberation

Chapter 12 Disappearing Act

Being bound to one place is the new defining feature of the middle class.

The New Rich have more than just cash – they have unrestricted mobility.


How to for employees:

  • Increase your value.  One way is to have the company invest in training.
  • Call in sick for two or three days and showcase remote working productivity.
  • Prepare to show significant advantages for all parties through working offsite.
  • Propose a revocable trial period.
  • Expand remote time until you reach your desired level of mobility.


The fishing is best where the fewest go and the collective insecurity of the world makes it easy for people to hit home runs while everyone is aiming for base hits.

Chapter 13 Beyond Repair


Pride is stupid.  Being able to quit things that don’t work is an integral part of being a winner.

The average man is a conformist, accepting miseries and disasters with the stoicism of a cow standing in the rain.  -Colin Wilson


Common Misconceptions:

  1. Quitting is permanent. – You can always pick up a chosen career track or start another company.
  2. I won’t be able to pay bills. – You won’t starve.  There are many ways of surviving temporary income loss.
  3. No insurance – You have a legal right to keep your insurance.
  4. My resume will be ruined. – Not if you use the time to your advantage.  Take a class, volunteer.


Chapter 14 Mini-Retirements

Mini-Retirement’s involve relocating to somewhere for 1 to 6 months

These are not one time events, they can be reoccurring

It takes time to free yourself from materialistic addictions and the time-famine mindset.  Two or three months minimum to free yourself from obsolete routines because we distract ourselves with constant motion.

Relocation brings down cost.  One month in an apartment costs as much as 4 days at a decent hotel.


How to mini-retire:

  1. Eliminate belongings, especially ones that cause stress to maintain.
  2. Automate, setup automatic bill pays, cancel paper bills, etc. give trusted family member power of attorney.
  3. have mail forwarded to someone how can transcribe them into a weekly email
  4. Scan all identification to a USB drive
  5. Adjust cell phone plan or get a new one.
  6. setup a hostel to use while you find an apartment
  7. Move everything into storage and stay with friend or family until you leave
  8. Put automobile in storage
  9. Upon arrival at mini-retirement location
  10. -Take a bike tour of potential apartment neighborhoods
  11. -purchase unlocked cellphone, set up viewings of apartments
  12. -book an apartment for the shortest time (one month) and sleep there
  13. -get local health insurance
  14. -eliminate anything you brought with you but don’t need (give it away or mail it)


Chapter 15 Filling the Void

If you have money and time, as much as you need of both, you start to go a little crazy.

We need things to do, meaning and purpose.

“Man is made so he can only find relaxation from one kind of labor by taking up another” Anatole France

The first rule, don’t think too much.  If you can’t define it or act upon it, forget it.

Learn.  Language acquisition is a good place to start.

Service. Do something that improves a life other than your own.


Chapter 16 New Rich Mistakes

  1. Working for work’s sake
  2. Micromanaging and emailing to fill time
  3. Handling problems others can handle
  4. Chasing customers when you already have enough
  5. Answering email that will not result in a sale
  6. Working where you live and sleep
  7. Not constantly performing 80/20 analysis
  8. Striving for perfection instead of good enough
  9. Justifying work
  10. Viewing one thing as the end-all be-all of your existence
  11. Ignoring the social rewards of life


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