Why the Four Hour Work Week is Bullshit

So, check this out: There’s a bit of secret knowledge out there, right, that if you know about it, you can magically shave down your work week to just four hours a week and live it up the rest of the time.

Sounds pretty sweet, right?

In a culture that has historically venerated lap band surgery, pyramid schemes and… oh I don’t know, scientology, it’s no surprise that the “cheat code” mentality has also seeped into work and business.

The problem with this way of thinking is that it’s plain old bullshit. Think about it: The hidden assumption is that work is ugh, work and that you naturally want to do as little of it as possible. That if you can get the same results while slicing a bit of time off here and there, then you’ve somehow diddled the system and now can be free to surf all day or something.

The kind of person who thinks of work this way is not an entrepreneur… in fact, this work-a-day mentality that finds the Four Hour Work Week so appealing is the opposite of entrepreneurship. It’s like the allure of putting a coin on a string through the vending machine and feeling like you’ve succeeded because you wrangled out a free soda.

Even if you’re working for yourself, buying into the crappy Four Hour mindset is subtly undermining your mission. When you work for someone else, you may be tempted to slack off and still bill the hours, to nick a few office supplies or call in a few sick days when you’re hungover. Fine.

But that’s some immature shit that should stop once you start your own business. You have no boss but yourself, and if you’re working on the assumption that your goal is to reduce your work time down to nothing, then you’ve just internalized your boss. You’re not an entrepreneur at all.

Years back, somebody sent me a link to an article about a surefire way to give a girl an orgasm in less than 10 minutes. Follow the rules, do this, that and the next thing, it said, and boom, orgasm. Every time. While I sympathized with the spirit, it occurred to me that people who thought of pleasure this way were probably the least likely to be good lovers. Thinking of sex as competitive, zero sum and something you can “hack” kinda kills the whole point.

Small business ownership is just like sex. You do it because you want to, not because you can’t wait to get to the end of it. Being efficient about it is quite a different thing from being passionate about it. You’ll need skills for both, sure, but without some deeper guiding sense of purpose and yearning, you’re just going through the motions.

When you’re following your dream and doing it with integrity and enthusiasm, there's no watching the clock. There's no sad division between “work” and “play.” It all becomes “living” and you’re happy to do all of it because it’s what you chose.

Books like The Four Hour Work Week can maybe get you rich quick, I don’t know. Tim Ferriss is a good author, a great entertainer, an even more amazing marketer and – while I did like the book and most of the tips in it – taking the title at face value is just wrong.

I do know, however, that when it comes to purpose, there is no shortcut.