Matt Forney
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The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

4-hour-workweekNOTE: This article was originally published at In Mala Fide on March 28, 2011. I’m re-posting it here because I’ve taken the site off-line. I’ve replaced the text of the (inferior) review that was previously at this URL.

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I read a lot of books, around four to six a month, but I usually don’t blog about them because most of them simply aren’t worth the effort. They don’t inspire me, they don’t make me mad, they just go onto my bookshelf where I forget about them. The last time I attempted to write a book review was last summer, when I had just finished Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story and was bitterly disappointed, especially since I used to be a fan of Shteyngart’s. Six paragraphs in and I realized I was blowing the whole thing out of proportion. Super Sad True Love Story is an awful novel, but it’s awfulness is entirely ordinary; the self-licking ice cream cone of modern publishing that Mencius Moldbug once expounded about. A book has to be extraordinarily good or bad to inspire me to write about it.

The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss is such a book. I first found out about Ferriss a few months ago, when I was winding down at my old job and researching the burgeoning, pretentiously-named field of “lifestyle design,” the art of living a life that isn’t confined by a 9 to 5 work existence. I began reading Ferriss’ blog, figured he knew what he was talking about, and eventually went to Barnes & Noble looking for his book. When I first got my mitts on a copy of The 4-Hour Workweek, I was so enthralled I spent a good half-hour reading through it before I even bothered heading up to the cash register. I found it that compelling.

And what I found compelling about The 4-Hour Workweek is its underlying philosophy, which is so subversive I can’t believe Ferriss actually got the book published. The book is ostensibly about how to join the ranks of the “New Rich,” a class of entrepreneurs who spend most of their time traveling the world, having fun and goofing off and still make more money than you, but here’s the less PC summation of Ferriss’ beliefs:

The only way to survive and make money is to rebel against the system, even if you end up screwing over your fellow man in the process.

Now, Ferriss doesn’t advocate breaking the law or doing anything illegal. He’s not stupid. But most of his advice is based around cutting corners and bending rules to your advantage and everyone else’s disadvantage. For example, in the second chapter, Ferriss details how he won the Chinese Kickboxing National Championships in 1999 by exploiting two of the competition’s rules:

  1. Since the weigh-in was the day before the competition, Ferriss used the time between the weigh-in and the championship to hyper-hydrate his body above the max weight limit after hyper-dehydrating to meet it.
  2. His principal tactic when fighting was to try to push his opponent off of the elevated platform, as any fighter who fell off three times in a round lost by default.

Nothing Tim did was against the rules, but no one with a sense of fair play would dare argue that he was behaving in an ethical fashion. He didn’t train harder, he didn’t fight better, he didn’t go beyond his sciolistic understanding of the sport he was competing in. He was the equivalent of those annoying brats who, when we were kids, would invade our personal space to annoy us. When we told them to stop touching us, they’d start waving their hands an inch in front of our heads and holler, “I’m not touching you! I’m not touching you!” And in Ferriss’ case, “not touching” his opponents won him the gold:

The result? I won all my matches by technical knock-out (TKO) and went home national champion, something 99% of those with 5-10 years of experience had been unable to do.

He then goes on to brag about how his methods have become standard tactics for kickboxers competing in the CKNC. The lesson? Being aggressively passive-aggressive gets you what you want.

Virtually all of The 4-Hour Workweek’s practical money-making advice follows this formula: read the fine print, identify the loopholes and jump through them on the road to riches and glory. The very first chapter of the “A is for Automation” section is devoted to the wonders of virtual assistants, outsourcing all your busywork to a drone in India so you can free up time for yourself on the cheap. Ferriss even relays the personal story of one New Rich sadsack who used his virtual assistant to settle a dispute with his wife:

I can’t tell you what a thrill I got from sending that note. It’s pretty hard to get much more passive-aggressive than bickering with your wife via an e-mail from a subcontinent halfway around the world.

What a pussy.

This ethos of subtly ripping people off continues right down to Ferriss’ ideas of starting new businesses. For example, one of his suggestions is to create an info product (like an instructional DVD) by stealing paraphrasing information from other, authoritative sources. If that isn’t the definition of a con, the word has no meaning. But never fear, the rationalizations are here, as Tim explains why masquerading as an expert on a topic is no big deal:

First, “expert” in the context of selling product means that you know more about the topic than the purchaser. No more. It is not necessary to be the best – just better than a small target number of your prospective customers…

…Second, expert status can be created in less than four weeks if you understand basic credibility indicators. It’s important to learn how the PR pros phrase resume points and position their clients…

Sorry all you folks who’ve spent years becoming experts on particular topics the old-fashioned way, any yahoo with an Internet connection and a copy of Microsoft Office can do what you’ve done in the span of a month. I can’t help but think that most of the seduction community hucksters hocking overpriced, bogus PUA advice followed this method to the letter.

The really sad thing about The 4-Hour Workweek is not that it could get published by a major company, or praised by anyone of importance (like Jack Canfield of Chicken Soup for the Soul, a quote from whom is proudly featured on the inside of the book jacket), it’s that there’s very little to disagree with in its philosophy of living. Oh sure, there’s plenty to nitpick with its practical advice. During the chapter about virtual assistants, I was rolling my eyes every other paragraph: outsourcing tasks to a half-literate foreigner on the other side of the world is a really stupid move if you care about getting things right. But no one who has descended into the rabbit hole of this part of the blogosphere can disagree with Ferriss’ core beliefs.

Over a year and a half ago, I wrote this explaining why I christened this site In Mala Fide:

When the pseudonymous Asia Times Online columnist Spengler unmasked himself last April, he stated his reason for choosing that nom de plume was as a joke – the name of the German scholar who wrote The Decline of the West appropriated for a column in an Asian newspaper. A bad joke, but it has a point. The name of this blog, In Mala Fide, can be thought of as a jab in that vein. The moral configuration of Western society, as chronicled on this blog and others, requires its best citizens to rebel, to go against the grain, to behave in mala fide in order to secure their own fortunes.

That’s the central point of The 4-Hour Workweek: screw conventional wisdom and ethics to get rich. Leverage go-fuck-yourself Calvinist capitalism for your own benefit. Plagiarize other peoples’ work and pass it off as your own. Outsource your work to India like a good little free marketeer. Then spend all your newfound free time on vacation instead of raising a family, creating a useful invention, or otherwise contributing to society in any way. Be a parasite, a tick burrowed in the hairy ass of Western civilization, getting fat from sucking blood and giving nothing but Lyme disease in return.

You can argue that Tim Ferriss is a degenerate whose advice would bring the country down if enough people followed it, and you’d be right. But at the same time, he’s got the freedom to go tango dancing in Buenos Aires, scuba diving in Panama, or anything else he wants, whenever he wants. You, on the other hand, are working eighty-hour weeks doing a monkey’s job, with a dictatorial boss pulling on your nuts and IT weirdos reading your emails, all for a comparative pittance. He broke the rules and he’s happy and enjoying life, while you followed them and are a miserable sack of shit. Whose lifestyle sounds more appealing?

Examples of entrepreneurs going in mala fide to great success abound in our world. For example, take the infamous music video “Friday” that went viral two weeks ago:

Everyone agrees that there’s nothing redeeming about this video. The first time I watched it, I had to stop around the 1:30 mark, Rebecca Black’s droning and the awful lyrics were so grating to my ears. Hell, the part at 2:06 with the strobe light notebook gave me meningitis seizure flashbacks. What sort of moron would give this nauseating wench a microphone, let alone an entire music video?

Turns out that “Friday” was produced by the record label Ark Music Factory, whose business model revolves around bilking the rich parents of snotty suburban brats out of their hard-earned cash. For a mere $2,000, Ark will write a song for your little pumpkin, film a music video starring her, and then Auto-Tune the shit out of her voice to make her sound like a tone-deaf robot. It’s the brainchild of Patrice Wilson and Clarence Jay, the two black guys seen from 0:30 – 1:00 of this video:

I simultaneously want to punch those guys and buy them beers. The punch is for inflicting talentless munchkins like CJ Fam on the world, making my eardrums bleed with their bullfrog-like throat noises masquerading as genuine music. The beers are for discovering a way to make easy money off of wealthy idiots who spoil their lazy kids. I can’t think of a demographic who so richly deserves to be dicked over in the most insulting way possible. And our two captains of conning literally filmed themselves in that video laughing and smiling over their cleverness.

Or take this story that Chic Noir tipped me off to about a American who fled to Canada to avoid having to pay off his onerous student loan debt:

Bottom line – there are many, many people who, like me, feel they have done the right thing all of their lives.  We went to school, studied hard, started at the bottom and worked crap jobs for starvation wages.  We did this all in exchange for the promise of a better life down the road.  Those promises have turned out to be empty.  We now have nothing to show for it but massive amounts of debt with little to no hope of ever repaying.  We don’t even have access to basic, affordable health care!  Since they haven’t held up their end of the bargain, I don’t see why I can’t opt out of holding up mine.

“But but welching on your debts is immoral and unmanly!” Fuck you, wage-slave! Fuck you and your masters with a rusty pitchfork! The student loan scam is highway robbery, and anyone who kicks those assholes in the nads is doing the right thing.

In a corrupt world divided between suckers and those who do the suckering, your only duty is to yourself and your kin. You can choose the sucker’s path, the normal path, the path your parents and friends and co-workers took. Or you can break free, flip the bird to convention and do what YOU want, on your own terms and nobody else’s. Freedom is within your grasp; you just have to reach out and take it.

In the meantime, if you want fuel for your dreams, The 4-Hour Workweek is a must buy.

Click here to buy The 4-Hour Workweek.

Read Next: The Freedom Twenty-Five Lifestyle Guide by Frost