Life coach and author "The Four-Hour Workweek"
I'm no judge of business books: I once read Donald Trump's Art of the Deal, and couldn't think for a minute why anyone else would want to read it, except as a curiosity -- all he seemed to say was that he was usually very busy, and he was a square dealer, and I read it in an hour. I tried telling someone else this, and they said it was an "invaluable business tool" and that he referred to it daily. (Did we read the same book? I wonder.) I read "It's Your Ship" by Captain Abrashoff, of the USS Benfolds, and thought it was the best military comedy since "Mr. Roberts", but told from the point of view of the captain. I like Andy Grove's writing...but then, I feel warm fuzzies about Andy Grove. He could make anything sound interesting, and I'd like to have him over for dinner.
But along with my Google Reader account came a few preset modules, among which was "Geeky". Being a long-time cyberculture watcher, I soon found myself immersed in GTD, 43 Folders, Lifehacker, making fun stuff from scrap electronics, knitting, playing the ukulele, baking no-knead bread, contemplating my chances of someday owning my own chicken yard, kittehs, Boing Boing, Craft, Make, Bre Pettis, and a whole new generation of highly interesting and attractive people. Among these is Tim Ferriss.
His bio is interesting. He bears two of the names connected with St. Timothy of Springfield and a noted astronomer. He is also a "lifehacker". He'd gone on spiritual quests. He works only four hours a week, spending the rest of his time having adventures, learning esoteric Japanese arts, and dancing the tango (hey, to each his own. Tangoing bores me...I love waltzing, preferably with a few cotillions-German!). He also was pitching a show "Trial by Fire" on the History Channel in which he'd learn something in a week that ordinarily took years. Since I have some knowledge about a few oddball, showy, yet easily learnable subjects (bobbin lace, anyone?) myself, I was all ears.
Well, the TV show was fun. He got to be a Japanese mounted archer for a week, and it was cool watching that. The fact that a yumi is a far different weapon in the hands of a fellow a full head and a half taller than his teachers I found semi-significant. I also got to see the fellow, and he looks like what I always thought a Marine should be like: a St. Matthew's face with a fine body, again, awkward in a Japanese context, since he's just so darn tall!
So, I decided to take a look at his book, during a particularly interesting weekend.
It has taken me a month to grok in fullness.
On the surface of it, there are several areas of it I might try. The idea is come up with a niche-market product, like French sailors' shirts or humorous golfing wear, push it in one of those little ads like you find in The New Yorker, sub-contract manufacturing, distribution, and pretty much everything else, take the money, and run to some exotic locale (he favors cheap spots like Buenos Aires and Berlin) for a "mini-retirement" spent having the kind of adventures ordinary wage slaves only dream about. There, you'll spend about four hours a week on the phone (or computer) getting all your ducks in a row before disappearing yet again. He only checks his email twice a day, never carries a cell phone, and lives in blissful ignorance of the daily news.
His personal "muse" is a nutritional supplement called BodyQuick, or MindQuicken (which, as an Anglican makes me think of a fetus growing in the brain) a "athletic neural enhancer" of the sort that you see on infomercials, claiming to give you superhuman strength, a sharper than average mind, and a giant whangdoodle for only three payments of $39.99. On one level, not too different than what Dirk Pearson and Sandy Shaw have done for about twenty years, on the other...
At the age of thirty, with no wife or children, his ideas on retirement probably sound reasonable, right and good: instead of working in a cubicle dreaming of owning a fast car, a boat and going to Hawaii, surrounded by hot chicks, for X many years while raising a family, merely to settle for a lower-middle-class existence eating "mini-dinners" from the Seniors Early Bird menu at 4:30 with the Old Grey Mare, why not figure out how much it would cost to rent a boat, or a car in Hawaii here and now, rent a house or an apartment there (cheaper than a hotel), and disappear for six months, asking hot chicks for their phone numbers, as he tells you to do in one of his "step outside the box" exercises? (With his looks, he could probably score a few. Your mileage, however, may vary.) While he was there, he'd naturally be checking up on his business, but not really working per se, but learning new sports while brushing up on the local lingo and doing various other stunts to trumpet the greatness of his non-Nestle's Quick. (Somehow, this seems more and more like work, however.)
Along towards the end of the book, he begins to show his hand a bit, telling you how to become an "instant expert" on any given subject (hint: Wikipedia), then market yourself with a padded-out resume and then sell CD's and other materials as a public speaker, "guru", or consultant, giving Carleton Sheets as a prime example of a teacher making money off his accrued wisdom. (Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's a little like calling Jim Jones a successful preacher.) He also tells you that he always got good grades in college, since every C would mean that he'd be by the professor at Office Hours, to laboriously teach him privately, line by line, until either one or the other gave up. He became World Kickboxing Champion by losing 28 pounds to qualify for a class three levels below his usual weight, then rehydrating himself to nudge his opponents out of the ring, therefore disqualifying them. It seems true to form that his book is printed on newsprint and has a table of contents that starts on the left-facing page (thus saving the cost of yet another sheet of paper), and is padded out with lots of Web references, including a tutorial on how to use Google. Even his prowess at yabusame was merely a re-creation of some study he'd made earlier. In other words, when in doubt, cheat, go for the easy win, rephrase loss and failure as success, and always make yourself look good.
Life's good, once you understand you're a sociopathic loner whose Hero Quest is to add yet another line to the resume.
I'd bet money that his TV show "Trial By Fire" won't ever be picked up by History or any other network, if only because he'd made his point ("recognized TV personality in his own show, Trial By Fire") or write any other books ("author of a New York Times #1 best-selling business and life-coaching book"), so long as he can use these achievements to get more speaking/coaching gigs. Life for him isn't the white-hot fun of working on cool projects that just happen to make money, as most real-life hackers do, or the joy of making people happy (he tells you to "not sweat charity"), or even living like that legendary NYC school teacher who died one of the world's most influential collectors of modern and contemporary art (while living in a one-bedroom apartment solely on her salary and occasional auctions), simply by following her passion for the art scene. It's a comparatively tepid wade through the shallow waters of not working hard to get to not playing all that hard to not really achieving much...all the while making it look like riding The Perfect Wave.
I'd like to see him at fifty, when he brags about his 20-year-old mail-order Thai sweetheart ("The women are different over there"), living in a motel ("cheaper than rent") somewhere in the Sun Belt, and rephrasing his increasingly less impressive athletic achievements ("Greatest Ever Senior 1-Pood Kettlebell Jerk Champion") as being "significant breakthroughs for the over-50 crowd". He'll still brag about his "mini-retirements", but only because the lifestyle he's chosen doesn't admit of a real retirement, while he spends most of his time chasing yes, mini-dinners on the Seniors Early Bird menu ("Got to keep those pounds off. And it's smart to use the System to save money.") and trying to latch on to the next GetRich Quick scheme. Sad.