Friday, 31 December 2010

Mash-up: Ferriss & the Four-Hour Workweek

This article is about a mash-up. For those of you who haven't heard that term before, I guess we could call it 'confluence'; where some different ideas, taken together, create something more - or less - unique. It was a term originally used for a web page or app that combined data, material or functions from several sources to create a new product.

I was recently lent a book authored by Tim Ferriss (the 2009 updated version), called The Four-Hour Workweek. I read it, and found many of the ideas within it quite sensible. Probably not necessarily achievable, but certainly sensible.

Tim suggests that we need to focus on the important things in our work, and stop doing the other 3/4s of the junk (à la Stephen Covey); suggests only checking and responding to emails a couple of times a day so we are not continuously distracted (à la Time Management seminar I attended in 1995); re-promoting the 80/20 rule (à la Richard Koch); thinking laterally (à la Edward De Bono); a whole lot of lonely planet travel stuff; create some passive income (à la Lynn Terry); outsource all the ooky bits of your life to India or local specialists wherever possible (outsourcing and contract hiring has been around for a long time, but web-outsourcing has got easier this past decade); and some - my my view - dubious takes on setting and following rules of business engagement. That last part appears to be "all Tim". The outsourcing appears to be largely him too.

You may already have an inkling where this article is going. Tim's novel is a mash-up. What is more, he has cross-promoted the bejazus out of it on his blog, writing for lots of other blogs, got on TV - through lots and lots of hard work on his part - and as a result, has made mega-bucks from it.

The really interesting thing is that Tim says he only spends 4 hours a week working (note the title!). But in reading the book, he seems to define work as 'things I don't like doing'. As much of his income is created via successful marketing, promotion, speaking and writing, I am sure he spends far more than four hours a week on those activities.

Really what Tim is selling us is the dream; same old snake oil salesman, selling the "you too can be great" if you do X. However, Tim does help the reader stop to question their own routine. To make us consider what you are attempting to do with your life, and whether it is time for a change.

An interesting book, but not one that tells us anything new.

It does, however, pull a number of old narratives together into a new mash-up. So if you have a burning desire to travel and work independently, and to eventually create some passive income from running your life that way, buy it. If you don't, get it out of the library instead, then read the original authors quoted above.

We should remember that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Or, to quote Google Scholar, is that stand[ing]on the shoulders of giants?


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