It was only this past week that I found Tim Ferriss has naysayers. There are actually people who believe the 4-hour workweek model is just hype and hyperbole. Even while they validate what they call “the real point” — which is something along the lines of breaking out of arbitrary boundaries — they declare the title-theory itself invalid.
I disagree. There are varied lifestyle design lessons in the book, to be sure. But the fundamental idea imbued in the title is also completely possible. If the leader of the free world can spend two entire months golfing in his first two years in office — along with numerous other retreats — then maybe “the rest of us” can squeeze a few (or most) hours out of our “work” week as well.
Is Passive Income Real?
Passive income isn’t imaginary. It’s defined as “income received on a regular basis, with little effort required to maintain it.” It’s an official IRS income category. Most of us earn some. Here are possible examples:
- Earnings from a business that does not require direct involvement from the owner or merchant
- Rent from property
- Royalties from a book, licensing a patent, or other intellectual property
- Earnings from internet advertisements
- Residual income from renewable sales
- Interest and dividends
Just expand this passive income notion until you have enough to cover your expenses. Poof! You have a minimal workweek and a financially-designed lifestyle!
If the idea of getting out of the 9–5 rat race really seems foreign and scammy, get Cashflow 101 and play it a few dozen times. Yes, the price is mind-boggling — and I’m no fan of the pants-on-fire tall tales of the author (talk about hype and hyperbole!) — but the underlying passive income message in the game is worth the price (especially if you can get a bargain).
When my oldest daughter — then seven-years-old — challenged me to homeschool her in 1994 I was appalled. Homeschooling was so weird, so freakish, so…well…wrong. What turned out to be one of the best things about our lifestyle came about only when I considered the words of a child and allowed myself to question all the things I thought were appropriate and normal and valid about education.
Most of the assumptions I held weren’t educational principles I’d ever analyzed. They were general memes I’d picked up along the way — based on what public school kids were required to do. Only when I was willing to look critically at what I had always accepted as correct, were the real educational possibilities open to me. And only then did I realize that most school policies were downright silly.
In the same way, looking at work and money with new eyes — questioning the assumptions you’ve accepted — will bring a world of possibilities into view.
At least ask yourself these questions:
- Why do you work 40 hours per week? Why not 20? Why not 60?
- Why do you take one two-week vacation each year? Why not three? Why not one?
- Why do you work until you are 65 and then stop?
- Why do you spend your healthiest years killing yourself with the goal to lie on a hammock for the last 20?
If you come up with some convincing answers to these questions, keep doing what you’re doing! It must be working for you. If not, read on.
Can you see how arbitrary these timelines are? Who decided for the majority of us, that this is the way to live our lives? The very essence of our lives and the bulk of our time was co-opted before we were even born and dictated to us as we grew. Why do most of us accept these limitations without even questioning them?
Living your life on your own terms really is possible. Designing a life with less drudgery — even 36 hours less — can be achieved.
Overcoming the Fatal Flaw
So why do I say the 4-hour workweek idea has a fatal flaw? Because it has a built-in failure path. It has a downside that cannot be overcome. It has the same flaw multi-level marketing does: it requires someone, somewhere (in MLM it’s those at the bottom) to actually do the work, to spend the time, to sell the product for you — so you don’t have to — or the ponzi-scheme aspect of it all falls apart.
So why do I promote the 4-hour workweek model and not MLM? Because the 4-hour workweek model isn’t ever, ever likely to trigger the flaw. Why? Because so many millions of people are duped into believing that the only way to get ahead is using the old work-full-time-until-you-are-too-old-to-live model. So few even question the typical work model that there will always, always be plenty of people willing to do the work. Not just willing, but anxious, wanting, hoping, and applying to do the work.
Most people in the world won’t believe Ferriss. They’ll claim it’s a trick, snake oil, sleight of hand. They will say it cannot work. And so, while you find your muse and figure your way into a 4-hour workweek, they will be filling out an application for their 40-hour workweek, taking care of your business.
You don’t have to overcome the flaw. You have self-selected protection in the typical worker bee mentality.
Is the 4-Hour Workweek Ethical?
Many members of my extended family are involved in multi-level marketing. Some have been excessively successful. But aside from one, publicly skeptical venture into a relatively well-designed system, I’ve been an outspoken critic of the model.
Multi-level marketing structure generally favors “first-responders” over those who actually bring in the money, if any, even though they continue to promote the same benefits to those who join later. Add that to the fact that myriad MLM companies offer a mystery meat compensation model with mathematical impossibilities, and you end up with an industry that is rife with ethical failure.
The 4-hour workweek model depends on a similar willing workforce. The difference is that the 4-hour workweek model never sells its subcontractors or employees on a minimal schedule. Creating your muse never requires you to lie or misrepresent.
My freshman year in college I looked for a job to help pay expenses. I applied to work at Burger King — and happily landed the job. While I didn’t love the brown/orange/yellow polyester uniform with pull on pants, I was happy to be doing menial labor to make a few bucks. No one every said it would be otherwise.
Along with the part-time crew, there were managers for day and night shifts — who worked longer hours, made more money, and got benefits. Then there were the owners. They showed up at the establishment a few times a year to eat and see how we were doing. Of course, they did some work behind the scenes, but the day-to-day operations and headaches were in the job description of the managers — even though the owners got all the profits. (Trust me on this. My Christmas bonus was a free Whopper Junior and the manager got an amazing Burger King turtleneck. True story.)
Was it unethical that I was the one sweeping the floors and smelling like rancid grease at the end of every shift — for a paltry minimum wage — while the owner barely showed up in her designer clothes to rake in the dough? Of course not! I asked for the job! It’s what I wanted and, frankly, what I was prepared for at the time.
A few years ago, in a conversation about business, a friend said this:
Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I just feel like I should work a little harder than that for my money. That’s probably a really archaic idea, but I just feel like if I get all this money for not really doing much, am I making an honest living?
To my friend money is earned and deserved by “working hard.” I don’t find that archaic, as much as sad and misinformed. Was writing Harry Potter harder than being a garbage man? Only in the sense that most people on the planet are capable of throwing some trash in a truck and not as many of composing an riveting novel.
The virtue of making money isn’t measured by longer hours. It’s not determined by doing more physically demanding work. It’s not about who gets the most sweaty or dirty. It’s not decided by whose work is ickiest. It’s about producing something good that has value to those who are free to choose — or not — what you offer.
If your value is in long hours of labor, so be it. Earn your honest living that way. But if your value add is singularity, excellence, innovation, knowledge, resources, creativity, leadership, risk — those are equally honest offerings.
What amazing things do you have to offer the world?