A 4-hour workweek is lifestyle p*rn.
It became popularized when Tim Ferriss launched his famous book “The 4-Hour Workweek.”
Many people misunderstood the key message. It was more about doing work you enjoy and automating repeatable tasks than actually working only 4 hours a week.
If we only worked 4 hours a week we’d be bored out of our minds. We’d find ourselves scratching our heads and saying “Is this all there is?”
I tried the 4-hour workweek a few times in my career. Never worked. All I felt was empty inside, like I was living a lie. Don’t live a lie, trust me.
Financial independence isn’t what you’re chasing either
Financial independence sounds nice in theory.
The truth is you’ll never have enough money. You’ll always want more. Lifestyle creep will guarantee that the goal posts keep moving as you make more money throughout your lifetime.
To be “independent” sounds lovely. You know what else it is? Lonely as freaking hell.
Getting rich is another bear trap
Rich people are snobs.
They earn money to elevate their status. They’re selfish. They think money is the goal. They treat money like a game of football. Whoever has the most wins. Whoever has the least is a loser.
That’s no way to live.
Pretty soon, if you choose this life, you’ll find yourself full of hate, jealousy, and envy. You’ll fall for the comparison game and InstaGlam will have you by the curly ones, ready to make you jealous of all the things you don’t have.
I fell for this trap. In my 20s I had some success and more money than I could spend. So I became a terrible human for a few years until life b*tch slapped me (thankfully) back to reality.
Failure really is humbling.
The FIRE Movement isn’t it either
This one blew up on Reddit. Mr Money Moustache spread the idea like wildfire through the Western World.
All you have to do is work your face off now, even if you do work you hate, so you can be happy at some point in the future when you retire early.
You’ll have to be a giant tight ass too. Save every dollar. Have no fun. Lack generosity so you can save money, which means not shouting friends drinks or gifting presents when they have a kid.
Again, sounds too much like selfishness.
It doesn’t work for me. In 2015 my life flashed before my eyes when I had a near-miss with cancer. Had I kept delaying my future happiness in return for the “work hard now” mindset, I may never have lived those good years.
After the diagnosis I stuck up my middle finger at this live-for-the-future BS.
Here’s what we (secretly) want instead of a 4-Hour Workweek
(A short list of what we really want to light a fire under your ass.)
To chase your obsession
Most people acquire skills in their careers, then turn them into an income.
When they attempt to make money online they choose these skills as their niche. The problem is professional skills require external motivation. You picked those skills to make money, not do work you’re obsessed with.
What we’re dying to do is scratch that itch that’s been planted deep inside our brain for all those years. For me, it was writing online. For you, it might be something else.
An obsession is different from passion. We’re addicted to obsession whereas we are mildly entertained and pleasured by addictions.
Passion peaks your interest.
Obsession is your only interest.
Passion is a boat.
Obsession is burning the boats.
Passion is a thread.
Obsession is a world.
You’re dying for excitement
A lot of work is boring as hell.
We tell ourselves we enjoy it or it’s our career goal, but half the time we’re lying to ourselves. We just say that because we don’t know any better or have never tried anything else.
Waking up again to be excited by our work is something most of us crave. It’s the kind of excitement that makes for restless nights and makes you feel like a kid on Christmas again.
You want work that pays all the bills
The sad reality is that wage growth has been slow for years. And with record high inflation (9.1% in America) many of us are barely covering our bills.
The allure of the 4-hour week isn’t the number of hours. It’s the idea that for once we could pay all of our bills with our income and not have to stress so much. Less stress is an addictive fantasy.
You want work that compounds and has leverage
A standard job requires you always to input more effort. As you get better at work, more work is given to you. Your boss always wants you to have a full plate so they make as much money as possible off you.
The type of work the 4-hour workweek promotes is work that has leverage. You input time once and the results grow over the long term.
Publishing content online is one such form of work that has leverage in-built. You create content each week and, as the number of subscribers grows, the same effort brings more money over time.
That money can then be reinvested into financial assets that store time and compound the sweat of your labor to create more money without you having to do anything.
Without leverage and the law of compounding, work is simply a hamster wheel that never ends. And if you wait until legal retirement to finally live, you’re taking a huge bet that Wall Street didn’t gamble your 401K/Pension (surprise, they did).
Work from anywhere
Location freedom is another thing we want more than a 4-hour workweek.
The idea of having to live close to an office is a nightmare. Maybe you want to live close to family. Maybe you want to live in the country or on a ranch so you can be away from the busyness of the city.
Or maybe you want to frequently live in different locations. Why can’t you? Because traditional work often prevents it. Many of us are trying to escape this reality.
The ability to chase curiosity
Curiosity is a powerful drug. It leads us down all sorts of rabbit holes. There’s no plan. But all we know is we want to explore like we did as kids without limits like time. Work that enables one to do this is appealing.
Meaning from work
A lot of work is a means to an end. Widget gets designed. Widget gets shipped. Customer happy. Me not happy. Back to work.
Work that has an impact is addictive. Work that goes beyond profit and changes lives or helps shape humanity gives us true fulfillment. Imagine helping get humans to Mars. Or helping solve the clean water crisis in Africa. Or teaching people who have nothing how to bounce back.
There are so many possibilities in life when meaning becomes more important than work done to earn a salary to buy stuff you probably don’t need.
When we have meaning, everything else becomes secondary.
Freedom of choice
When I worked in banking it felt like a prison sentence. At the start of meetings with new colleagues we used to say “how long ya been here, mate?”
“Oh, three decades.”
“So you’re a lifer, right?”
A “lifer” is a one-career salary worker who never quits. They keep going until they die or retire with a gold watch that isn’t made of real gold.
These lifers deep down are dying to have choices again. To not be told what to think, what to say, or even what to eat and drink. Choices are easily overlooked. Yet once you start having them again you realize what you’ve missed.
Since I quit my job last year I have choices. I can finish work early. I can work different hours. I can choose to prioritize my family when they catch coroni-rona, like we all have now.
We all want to have more choices even if we’re afraid to admit it.
Time with family
I know far too many parents who’d give an organ away to a stranger just to get their kid’s childhoods back again.
They were never there. They didn’t see the first steps or hear those magnificent first words. When my daughter is born in a few months there’s no way I’m missing any of this.
Deep down if bills didn’t cloud our decision-making we’d spend more time with family. But we don’t because the work life we choose doesn’t enable it.
Bringing it all together
Once you analyze the idea of a 4-hour workweek — or what’s commonly referred to as being a digital nomad — you see that it’s an illusion.
What we’re looking for is freedom, choices, time with family, money to cover basic expenses, meaning, location freedom, excitement, work that has in-built leverage and compounds, and a chance to chase what we’re obsessed with regardless of how unconventional it might be.
Think deeply about the work features you actually want. Then change your career to align with them.
If money is at the top of the list then you’re probably lying to yourself.