I've been aware of Tim Ferriss' bestseller, The 4-Hour Workweek, since it hit the shelves in 2007 because his whole philosophy is so well suited to bloggers, especially us travel bloggers. As a result, it received a lot of online publicity. I knew the basic precept, but didn't sit down to start reading it until this past weekend.
While I've only read the first three chapters, it is reassuring to see how he has developed a structure and lexicon for something I was already doing. Not that what I was doing was groundbreaking. Plenty of people before me had quit their jobs to travel the world. But it is certainly far from the norm, especially in the United States. It can only be a good thing for such a radical book to reach bestseller status.
Here are a few key concepts he lays out in Chapter 2 which have paralleled my thought process and experience regarding life since 2002.
Interest and energy are cyclical:
Alternating periods of activity and and rest is necessary to survive, let alone thrive. Capacity, interest, and mental endurance all wax and wane. Plan accordingly.
The New Rich aim to distribute “mini-retirements” throughout life instead of hoarding the recovery and enjoyment for the fool's gold of retirement. By working only when you are most effective, life is both more productive and more enjoyable.
Going through a layoff in 2002 was a blessing in disguise. It gave me the time to reassess my values and nerve to think I could liberate myself from debt, save more than I spend, and travel around the world. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself that I've done all that already, and a whole lot more!
The timing is never right:
For all 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 be all green at the same time. The universe doesn't conspire against you, but it doesn't go out of its way to line up all the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. “Someday” is a disease that will take yoru 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.
I recently received an e-mail from an American reader over on my Medellin Living blog. The person was questioning whether to use a recent layoff as an opportunity to travel and work in Costa Rica or Colombia. The crux of the concern was tied to a lack of money to take on such an adventure. But the beautiful thing about backpacking and budget travel and being up for the challenge of carving out a new existence in a country with a lower standard of living than the USA (or Europe, or Australia, etc.) is that it doesn't cost a lot. Really. And what you stand to gain as a person is far more rewarding than you'll probably be able to imagine.
Retirement as worst-case-scenario insurance:
It should be viewed as nothing more than a hedge against the absolute worst-case scenario: in this case becoming physically incapable of working and needing a reservoir of capital to survive.
He goes on to say that this attitude doesn't mean you shouldn't financially plan for retirement. Instead of contributing less to my 401k as I earned more money, I contributed more. I didn't want to shortchange my long term situation for my short term trip abroad. This definitely delayed my departure, but the end result would've been the same, writing you 18 months later from South America!
I'm looking forward to continuing with The 4-Hour Workweek over the next week or so, and I'll be sure to share any additional observations that strike close to home.
If you've already read it, leave a comment and let me know what you thought!
PS – As far as I'm concerned, reading e-books will never replace the experience of holding a paper book in one's hands (something I truly began to appreciate while reading books abroad last year), yet reality in Colombia dictates I read them. Someone really needs to open an English bookstore in this country!