Does The 4-Hour Workweek Actually Work?

Click here to listen to the audio version of this post with additional commentary on the podcast.

Or watch the video I created around this blog post on my YouTube Channel:

In 2007, New York Times best-selling author, entrepreneur, and podcaster, Tim Ferriss, published his first book, The 4-Hour Workweek.

The book’s provocative title drew a massive global audience…

I mean, who doesn’t want a 4-hour workweek?

You might be thinking, how is it even possible to run a business and generate a comfortable income from just 4 hours of work per week? I want to show you why, even if you want this kind of lifestyle, it’s probably not a good idea for the long term.

The Internet Lifestyle

Reclining in your sun-lounger on the pearly white sands of a quiet beach, sipping ice-cold Mai Tais while your business spits out cash––that is the pipe dream for many aspiring online entrepreneurs.

It makes sense, right? Your business, your products, and your team are all managed online without any physical location. You can bask in the sunshine all day long.

When I first started running my own business, all I could think of was the amazing adventures that would be possible when my business was operating efficiently without me. But I quickly realized this was no trivial task. It was going to take countless hours––day-in, day-out––building a scalable product or service, figuring out how to make sales consistently, and recruiting and training a rock-star team.

What most people fail to understand––and what Ferriss does a great job of emphasizing in his book––is the incredible amount of effort needed to reach a point when you’re only working a few hours a week. If it’s your first time venturing out into the world of online business, it could take a couple years to finally get enough knowledge and experience to create something that requires only a few hours per week to manage.

The Real Message Behind The Book

I firmly believe that the 4-hour workweek is possible. It took me about five years and countless failed businesses to finally create something that requires only about an hour a day to keep my clients and bank account happy.

When you launch any new business, you need to find a product or service that people are willing to pay money for––usually to solve some kind of problem––and that you can deliver. You have to create a way to acquire new clients to funnel into your online business machine, which should be able to operate autonomously.

If you’ve never done any of this before, it’s going to take a lot of time, trial, and error. But once you figure all that stuff out, you might eventually be in a position where you’re working 4 hours or less per week.

But what’s more important is the wisdom you gain from every setback and failure. You are, after all, launching an online business from scratch, possibly for the first time, with no way to know for sure that it’s all going to work out. This is the real value you get from becoming an entrepreneur and optimizing your business. You learn so much about yourself and what you’re working on, even if everything comes crashing down.  

Why No-One “Really” Wants a 4-Hour Workweek

I have always said to myself, “I’m building this business so I can have the money to pursue all the crazy adventures I have been dreaming about.”

This kind of financial motivation is great when you’re just getting started, but once you’ve reached a certain level of financial freedom, your attention shifts towards purpose and mastery.

So, what if your life WAS your work?

Let me explain what I mean by that.

What if you could set-up your life up in such a way that you get to do all the things you love, and money turns up as a by-product of your creative expression? For me this would include writing, playing guitar, paragliding, or freediving.

How do you create a life that ensures almost everything you do is some form of creative expression?

I know that’s a pretty big leap, but once you make enough money to do all the things you want, you start to think about how to turn your work into play. Doing something just for the money quickly becomes unfulfilling.

Finding Your Creative Outlet

Most people are happier when they work on projects, ideas, or businesses that they are passionate about. They will happily “work” 15 hour days without question. How are you ever going to get good at something if you don’t put in the hours refining your craft?

If you really want to work 4 hours per week, I’d seriously be questioning why you want to spend as little time as possible working on your business? It might be a good idea in the short term so you can tick off some things on your bucket list, but at the end of the day, humans thrive off challenge, creativity, focus, and commitment. You are not going to experience these things if you’re not more involved in your business.

Take your experience and skills for building a self-sustaining business and apply it to something you love and want to master, and go all in on it.

Yes, you will have to work more than 4 hours per week.

Heck, you’ll probably be putting in long hours almost every day of the week.

But when your work becomes your creative outlet, you are no longer hustling or grinding to make money, you are operating in your sweet-spot, doing what you love.