The 4-Hour Workweek, by Timothy Ferriss

Second paragraph of third chapter:

He held his breath on the final step, and the panic drove him to near unconsciousness. His vision blurred at the edges, closing to a single pinpoint of light, and then … he floated. The all-consuming celestial blue of the horizon hit his visual field an instant after he realized that the thermal updraft had caught him and the wings of the paraglider. Fear was behind him on the mountaintop, and thousands of feet above the resplendent green rain forest and pristine white beaches of Copacabana, Hans Keeling had seen the light.

Ferriss believes that he has found the answer to happiness in life. It is to outsource all the stuff you hate doing in your working day to long-distance personal assistants in developing countries, and then do only the stuff you like for as long as you want to. He reckons that he can have a princely lifestyle with only four hours of actual paid work per week, and that you can too if you follow his advice.

This is one of those evangelical self-help books which is written by a very confident person with very little self-awareness. He admits towards the end that he has resigned from three jobs in his career and been fired from all the rest. This comes as little surprise to the reader; I think it’s clear that Ferriss and office culture are a poor match, and both sides are winners now that he is no longer there.

Perhaps I’m weird, but I actually like my office and my workmates. I enjoy going to a physical location where you can drop by someone else’s desk (and other colleagues drop by mine) to discuss the latest ideas for transforming our collective brainpower into a paid product. My life would actually be poorer in quality if I didn’t have an interesting place to go and earn money every day separate from where I live. It’s not to everyone’s taste, of course, but I think Ferriss doesn’t quite see that his priorities are not universally shared.

Having said that, he has some very good ideas about productivity and personal branding which are relevant no matter what your working circumstances. I nodded with approval at his evangelical endorsement of Evernote, which admitedly I use more for leisure activities than work but which is a really powerful tool. His tips for cheap travel (including travel with children) are also of general relevance.

Still, I fear the packaging is just a bit annoying. I think I will recommend extracted chapters to colleagues, but counsel caution with regard to the whole thing.

This was both the most popular non-fiction book on my unread shelf, and the most popular unread book that I acquired last year. Next on both lists is The Cuckoo’s Egg, by Cliff Stoll.