The 4-Hour Work Week: Summary & Review

the 4 hour work week book cover

The 4-Hour Work Week is a book for solopreneurs and digital nomads seeking to escape the shackles of a corporate job, create an online business, and live the life of their dreams.

Bullet Summary

  • You don’t need to be rich to live like a rich
  • Working a job you don’t like is a waste of life
  • Time and freedom are equally important as money -and you can have them all-

The 4-Hour Summary

About The Author: Tim Ferris is an American author, entrepreneur, investor, and a big celebrity at the intersection of “self-development” and “solopreneurs”.


Tim Ferris calls the new generation of people who earn money while enjoying the freedom of no fixed place and time “the New Rich”, abbreviated to NR.
These are the overarching steps to becoming a New Rich for The 4 Hour Work Week:

  1. Definition: what do you want? In the 4-hour work week it’s a good life of experience free of grueling work and rigid structures. I’m in!
  2. Elimination: cut all distractions, material clutter, and useless tasks, and focus on the 20% producing 80% of results
  3. Automation: outsource, hire VA, and build processes that run without you (read The E-Myth)
  4. Liberation: now… You’re free.

Millionaire Without Millions

Do you need to work like a slave to live like a millionaire?

Tim Ferris says that the common-sense rules of the world are nothing but fragile collections of socially reinforced illusions.

Meaning: no, being a millionaire and living like a millionaire are two different things. You don’t need to slave away at a desk on a grueling, soul-crashing 9-5.

Most people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty

Money Isn’t Freedom

Tim Ferris makes a compelling point that lots of money and much ownership is not great and that sometimes it ends up being enslaving and oppressing.

They have riches, but the riches actually have them

Money Multipliers: WWW

Money is multiplied in life depending on the quantity of “W” you control in life, such as:

  • When you do it
  • Where you do it
  • With whom you do it

The 10 Commandments

Tim outlines 10 rules that you need to consider and keep in mind;

  1. Retirement Is Worst-Case Insurance. Working your whole life to enjoy the last years is a fool’s errand
  2. Interest and Energy Are Cyclical.  Alternating work and rest is necessary to work at your full potential
  3. Less Is Not Laziness. Our culture glorifying sacrifice over productivity is bogus
  4. The Timing is Never Right. It’s never the right moment for significant changes, and that’s the exact reason why you should do them
  5. Ask for Forgiveness, Not Permission. Don’t give anyone the opportunity to stifle your growth opportunities
  6. Emphasize Strengths, Skip Weaknesses. Also espoused by StrengthsFinder 2.0
  7. Things in Excess Become Their Opposite. As in the example of money, as also explained in Taoist philosophy
  8. Money Alone Is Not the Solution.
  9. Relative Income > Absolute Income. The per-year income is arbitrary and misleading. Time is equally important and it becomes more important once you reach the minimum amount for your goals
  10. Distress Is Bad.

Conquering Fear

Tim Ferris uses some techniques from How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.
Here’s his recipe to beat fear:

  1. Define what’s the worst-case scenario
  2. Identify how could fix or improve on that worst-case scenario
  3. Define the benefits

You’ll see most of the time that the worst-case scenario is not that bad or you can take steps to either prevent it or fix it.
And the upside potential will still be there.

Conquering fear = defining fear

It’s Crowded In The Middle

99% of people in the world are convinced they cannot achieve great things, so they aim for average. It’s crowded and the level of competition is the fiercest for mediocre spots.

If you’re insecure, don’t worry: that’s what everyone else is. Don’t overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself.


There’s less competition for bigger goals and it will provide an adrenaline infusion -read The Magic of Thinking Big-.
Ferris defines “dreamlining” because it puts a timeline on what sounds like unrealistic goals.

Don’t overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself.

Don’t Get Stuck Making More & More

The 4-Hour Work Week introduces a slight variation of the hedonic treadmill.

Ferris says that people keep working when they use a financial goal instead of defining what they want and how they will remove themselves from their business.
They will keep repeating themselves “I’ll work till I make X money”, but X is a moving target and keeps increasing.

Until I make X money is code for “fat man in BMW

Tim Ferris then says how he escaped the US after he was fired to avoid taking an Uzi into a McDonald’s and becoming a fat man in a BMW (hilarious).

NR is doing exciting things, not just owning enviable things

The Busy Myth

Tim Ferris says we live in a world where “busy” is more important than “productive”.
Being busy is a form of laziness: lazy thinking and indiscriminate action. And being overwhelmed is as unproductive as doing nothing and far more unpleasant and unhealthier.

Busy is a form of laziness

Escape the Office

In an office environment, you are expected to work 40 hours minimum no matter if you can produce the same results in 5.
But a 9-5 is not the kind of place where you want to be productive, because the expectation will be to produce 8 times more to fill the 40+ hours.
9-5 is arbitrary, a collective social agreement, and a dinosaur of old legacies: you don’t need that.

Doing less is the path of the productive

Pareto & Parkinson

Tim Ferris introduces the Pareto and Parkinson’s law to be more productive:

  1. Focus 80% of your time on the 20% that produces the most results (Pareto)
  2. Shorten the work time to limit your tasks to the important

Don’t be busy: be productive!

Outsource & Delegate

The goal is to free your time to focus on better and bigger things, so even when you can do it yourself more cheaply it can still make sense to outsource.

Delegation dangers:

  1. Automation to inefficient operations magnifies the inefficiency
  2. Automation applied to efficient operations will magnify the efficiency

And don’t forget:

  1. Eliminate before you delegate: never delegate something that can be eliminated
  2. Never delegate something that can be automated

Picking a Market

And here are Ferris’ top tips for picking a good market:

  • Know the Market

Don’t speculate about your target market. Be a member of your target market instead, so you know it inside out.

  • Pick a Niche

Don’t go broad: too much free information, too many competitors. Don’t do dogs and pets lovers, do training German Shepard instead.

  • Be First

The author recommends you become the largest, best, or first. Be a big fish in a small pond instead of a big fish in a big pond.
Tim Ferris prefers first.

  • Price High

Less competition, more customers with money who will return and complain less. Between 50 and 200, higher customers need to speak to someone.

  • One Clear Sentence

Your main benefit should be one sentence. And clear.
Tim Ferris uses Apple’s example of “one thousand songs in your pocket”, which later Sinek will also use for his equally great Start with WHY.

People can dislike, but should never misunderstand you

Getting Fired is Great

Tim Ferris quit 3 jobs and got fired from all the rest.

He says that it’s a God-sent benefit to you.
Most people won’t quit, but someone else makes the decision for you so you don’t have to sit in the wrong job for the rest of your life.
I can only quit Tim Ferris here because it’s so eloquently beautiful:

Most people aren’t lucky enough to get fired and they die a slow spiritual death over 30 to 40 years of tolerating the mediocre

God, I can’t even start on how much I love that quote!

The average man is a conformist accepting misery with the stoicism of a cow in the rain

Ferri’s path into entrepreneurship has been similar to my own path, where I just couldn’t take working for mediocre people anymore.
I discuss the motivation behind ThePowerMoves’ business here:

Effectiveness & Further Tips

  • Don’t finish what you start if it’s not worth it
  • Don’t read it unless you need it immediately
  • Learn to be difficult and assertive
  • Don’t worry to offend someone when requesting effective communication: hard feelings pass, and foolish behavior sticks
  • Check emails only once a day
  • Batch things together and address them all together

The 4-Hour Workweek Criticism

There is much criticism of Tim Ferris online, including many of the claims he makes about his awards, successes and

I don’t have enough free time to investigate his background and pick sides.
One of the reasons Ferris attracted criticism though is that both his advice and personal background sometimes fall into a gray area.

For example:

  • 4 Hour Expert

I didn’t like the tips on how to sell your expertise by faking it.

Yes, Tim Ferris doesn’t exactly tell you to “fake it”, but let’s not BS each other here, what he proposes is basically to build some easy reputation to then pitch your products.

It reminds me of some snake oil salesman who hit it big without having the expertise:

how to fabricate an identity

  • “Brain Quickening Pills” background

Also, Tim Ferris was selling “brain quickening pills”, and… Oh well, let’s not get down that rabbit hole now :).


  • Time Wasted in Details

The 4-Hour Work Week wants to be a how-to book, so the details suit the goal.
But in my opinion, it gets too much at times when he provides URLs and phone numbers (!) of companies, or talks too long about virtual assistants.

  • Scatterbrained

From the meaning of life to speed reading to getting cheaper tickets: I had the same feeling as for The 4-Hour Body. Such as a bit too many topics in one book.
But I have to add this: I enjoyed them all.

  • Genetic, Mass Tourism Travel Tips

Tim Ferris says that your destination is as safe as your place and that worries are overplayed. But that’s a wild generalization only valid for virgin first-time travelers -and even there, are plenty of exceptions-.

  • Misleading Information on Favelas

Just a little later Ferris says he avoided favelas because of civilians with machine guns and pedestrians wielding machetes. Where did he get that idea?
The movie City of God.
Far from me to say favelas are safe -they’re not- but Ferris isn’t combating generalizations with that.
You can enter favelas in relative safety, they have electricity and running water.

  • Imprecise Travel Tips

Travel tips tend to be quick and dirty, not adding much value in my opinion. Ferris mentions Taipei mentioned as part of his Chinese recommendation, but only Chinese people believe Taipei is in China :).

  • Sound Self Aggrandizing

Oh well, Ferris:

I could be racing motorcycles in Europe, scubadiving on a private island in Panama, resting under a palm tree between kickboxing sessions in Thailand or dancing tango in Buenos Aires.

He’s just telling a story, but it does sound a bit like tooting his own horn at times.

  • Less Applicable Today

As of today (2019), some of the advice and “how-to” information in The 4-Hour Workweek is oldish.
I live in Berlin and the cheap rent Ferris boasts is double what he mentions, if not triple.
I’m not sure his business ideas are also as relevant, I’ve met plenty of people who did the same as Ferris did in supplement and nutrition stuff.
But there’s certainly a lot of information that is valid anytime, anywhere.

  • Poor Pick Up Advice

The advice he gives to ask women for numbers is reminiscent of bad PUA style -Ferris is a friend of Neil Strauss- and not really that effective.
But the goal is just to overcome fear and not really to pick up so it doesn’t matter in that case.

  • Poor Feedback Technique

Ferris shares quite a few great communication insights, including negotiation techniques. But I was really surprised when he introduced the old “sandwich feedback technique” to deliver feedback.

It’s not a good technique. Everyone knows it and everyone’s waiting for the negative part, completely disregarding your compliment (example below).

Read “Thanks for The Feedback” for more information.


  • Autobiographical Description: Hilarious!

The autobiographical description of Tim Ferris is one of the best I’ve ever read. It’s funny, exciting, and self-deprecating at the right point. Perfect.

  • Lots of Power Moves

The 4-Hour Work Week has plenty of smart power moves and great social skills tips. For example, how to build authority and avoid the “founder” title as it screams startup.

  • Great Communication Tips

Similar to the above, plenty of great sales and influencing techniques, both to negotiate with bosses and with providers.

the 4 hour work week book cover

The 4-Hour Review

Guys, I listed a lot of cons and sometimes Tim Ferris’ advice can sound “gray area”.

But don’t get it wrong: “The 4-Hour Work Week” is a masterpiece for me and I listed it in my best entrepreneurship books list.

It’s not just about the actual advice though, which by now has already aged quite a bit.
It’s the mindset behind that I vibed with (which is also similar to “The $100 Dollar Startup“).

I see quite a bit of myself in Tim Ferris. That guy is me, but just a bit brighter, smarter, much more successful, and taller. Albeit that last one is easy :).
Yeah, basically we’re not alike at all :D, but I see many similarities and he really speaks my mind when he talks about the way of life of the New Rich.

Read more summaries or get the book on Amazon

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