15 Reasons Why the 4-Hour Work Week Is a Lie

17 June 2021

A 4 Hour Work Week Sounds like a Dream Come True but Sadly It’s Just a Scam. Find Out 15 Reasons Why.

Since 2007 Tim Ferriss, author of “The 4 Hour Work Week” has been one of the big names in self-help and time management. When it was released it was seen as an alternative approach to work-life balance – and has been both lorded and loathed since. 

What is all the hype around the 4-hour work week, is it possible to amass a fortune and only work 16 hours a month? Or is the whole thing just a scam?

We’re about to unpack some of the mystery around the 4-hour work week, stick around to the end, because the truth is a real doozy. 

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There’s no lie in the fact that reading this boring article is a difficult task. Switch over to the fun video version instead:

With that said, let’s start with some of the facts.


4 Hours of Work Was Never Tim Ferris’s Point

The truth is that Tim Ferris never set out to offer a plan to reduce your work life to just 4 hours a week after reading one book. Even the title was proving his point that research and google ads can bring you success. The actual name of the book was incidental. He chose it based on how many clicks it got in a google Adwords test.

He tried many names including Dealing Drugs for Fun and Profit. But “4 hour” outperformed the competition, so he stuck with it. 

Tim Ferriss’s gospel is actually about lifestyle design. It boils down to the old saying: do what you love, and you won’t work a day in your life.


Consider the Context of When It Was Written

Ah 2007, it feels like a million lifetimes ago. But actually it was just 14 years ago.Facebook was just taking off, MySpace was still a thing. Youtube was barely global, and we still called people using minutes.

It was also a bright and hazy time when the world was on the cusp of newness. The economy had steadily climbed and people had jobs and could move around upward or sideways and even take sabbaticals. All of this was the context that Tim Ferris wrote “The 4-hour work week” in.

A year later in the 2008 crash all of that changed, and since then jobs have been scarce. The hustle is real, and we can’t imagine a world without social media as an influence. He did revise it in 2011, but the concept has roots in a pre-2008 world.

 Stick around to find out what Tim Ferris advises for reading the book today. 


He Hasn’t Practiced What He Preached

Tim Ferris made his fortune selling brain and muscle supplements by fully automating and drop shipping the system. He sold a product. He also worked a horrible round the clock work schedule to make it successful. It was this burn out that inspired him to write the 4-hour work week in fact.

But in the book, despite his success with drop shipping, he promotes selling e-books as your roadmap to overnight freedom. This is pretty curious.

 We’ll circle back around to this overnight expert stuff later on.

Even now, Tim Ferris openly admits that he doesn’t work just 4 hours a week, he works a minimum of 60. So, if his instructions work so well, why doesn’t he follow them? Let’s put a pin in this one and get back to it later in this article.


Being a Millionaire in the “New Rich” Sense Isn’t about Money

The full title of the book is actually: The 4-hour work week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich.

What is this “New Rich” he refers to? Is it the kind of millionaire that eats gold capsules? Yup it’s a real thing, watch our video: 15 Dumbest Things Only Rich People Buy. 

According to Ferris, “Being financially rich and having the ability to live like a multimillionaire are fundamentally two very different things”. What does this mean? Here’s Ferris with another one-liner: “$1,000,000 in the bank isn’t fantasy. The fantasy is the lifestyle of complete freedom it supposedly allows.”

It sounds wishy washy, but what he is proposing is lifestyle design. Ferris explains that living your ideal lifestyle doesn’t only rely on your monetary wealth. It relies on how, when, and where you utilize your resources. If you are able to travel when you want, you can buy the best priced tickets, so traveling costs less. Or no more expensive readymade meals when you have time to enjoy cooking from scratch. 

This is starting to sound more sensible.


It’s Not about Becoming a World Class Entrepreneur

One thing for sure is that by the end of the book you won’t have a condensed version of a business degree. It is not a “hack” to get to be the next Warren Buffet or Elon Musk.

Reading this book won’t even help you become an entrepreneur. What it does, is shine a light on one type of business and show you how you could run it so that you have free time to pursue work or hobbies that you are passionate about. 

If you are looking for some real business advice, check out 10 Ways to Minimize RISK in Business


4 Hours Doesn’t Include All the “Non-work” Work

Right, so about this 4 hour a week business, or 240 minutes if you break it down.

If you think back on a typical 40-hour work week, how little of that is hard grind?

You’re not comparing 40 hours to 4 hours. It’s more like 30 or 20, depending on how much time you waste. Tim Ferris suggests distilling this even further by automation. In other words, outsourcing all the easy stuff. Which in theory means you are still “doing” the work because you’re paying for it to be done. It doesn’t just disappear. 

Ferris’s method is to minimize the tedious, repetitive and soul sapping work from you, leaving you with the creative, inspiring and productive stuff. This is the stuff that doesn’t feel like work, that you don’t clock watch while you do it.

So what does happen during the 4 hours of work? 


You Can’t Automate People 

In the chapter “Outsourcing Life” Tim Ferris says that you should never do a task that you can delegate. Never delegate a task that you can automate, and don’t automate a task that you can eliminate. Strong minimalist values here!

You can now spend your time only with productive and creative work. Not the hum drum of running an online business.

So now you have an army of underpaid assistants across the globe doing your work, and you have automated all the rest. You can just sip mojito’s and check your emails for 4 hours a week, right? Nope!

And here’s why:


Responsibility of Running a Business Never Ends

The reality is you don’t clock out and wash your hands of responsibility until your next 4 hour a week shift when you own a business. 

People run into snags, automated drop shipping doesn’t always work, and even virtual assistants will let you down. There will be times that you will still get an angry phone call in the middle of dinner, or have a heart sinking email just before a big life event. Because that is the reality of any business owner, no matter how much you outsource. 

Aluxers, don’t forget to listen to Ferris’s book yourself. We’ve got a free download waiting for you through Audible. Head to alux.com/freebook.


Remote Work Doesn’t Mean Less Work

As 2020s covid crisis has shown us, working from home isn’t the dream it is cracked up to be.

Remote work felt like a dream before it became everyone’s reality. It isn’t chilling in beach bars with your laptop doing a few hours work and then being off all day.

It’s often stressing to find fast enough wifi to meet a deadline or struggling to schedule a Zoom meeting. In truth, it is stressful because our attention is shared with laundry, kids homework and the dog barking, all the things that are a world away at the office.


Not All “Time off” Needs to Be Completely Off

Time off comes down to lifestyle design again, the idea that if you design your life better like Ferris proposes, you won’t need such a “break” from it. 

Time off can be in between, alongside, and even during a regular workday, week or year. Polarising work and life is an unnecessary balancing act. You can research while on vacation, or read while on a flight, or drop into a meeting while exploring Prague.

Rather leverage your vacation to make your work more interesting, fulfilling and what you want to be doing. Make time in the workday to do the things you love, like train for a sport or master a craft.


Not Everyone Hates the Corporate Office Environment

One thing that needs to be said is that for some people, the corporate office life has many benefits. Perks like travel, or time off and even funding to study. The guarantee of a set income every month is quite appealing. Healthcare benefits, retirement funds and the like all have their place. And sharing the responsibility with a team suits many people more than shouldering all the responsibility and risk as much as going it alone.

This last point is the kicker — going alone and setting up on your own is way harder than being a small cog in a big machine.


9-5 Is Arbitrary, or Is It?

“How is it possible,” Tim Ferriss wrote in The 4-Hour Workweek, “that all the people in the world need exactly 8 hours to accomplish their work?”

Ferriss goes on to declare it an arbitrary number. And yes, it could be any number, but ironically even the automated and outsourcing system Ferris suggests requires some form of clocking in and out for it to work.

The truth is that blanket statements might be headline grabbing, or make good chapter titles, but office hours have a purpose. It would be hard to grab a bottle of wine on your way home if you didn’t know if the shop would be open or if they felt they had sold enough so they closed shop for the day. The same goes for many employees.


Setting up a Business Doesn’t Work for Everyone

There is always the chance that you can lose job, but for the most part it is a better option that taking a risk on business. Ferriss and friends were successful in setting up passive income streams, but it takes a ton of luck, perfect timing and capital before you succeed.

You could make some decent pocket money, but there aren’t a ton of people making a LIVING through passive income.

Many of the tasks like building a website or writing an E-book sound like they will take an evening or maybe a weekend to complete. But that isn’t the reality. Not a decent website or E-book, or a decent passive income. The book contains too many uncertain and unconfirmed timelines. All these MAYBE’s make the 9 to 5 of your job far more attractive.


Selective Ignorance Isn’t as Great as Ferris Makes It Sound

Something that Ferriss strongly markets is the idea that much of our time is taken up with acquiring information that doesn’t apply to us. We’re not talking about social media scrolls, this wasn’t even a thing when the book was written in 2007. He means things like…. oh, you know…the news! There is a low information diet, but this is mal nourishment.

Ferriss prefers to get the news of the day from people he interacts with! It’s like an IRL echo-chamber. Or maybe a terrible version of broken telephone.

Whatever the motive, leaders and successful people all speak about being plugging into various sources of information regularly and consulting various sources for their news. 


Reading 3 Books Won’t Make You an Expert

One of the biggest “lies” in the 4-hour work week that gets the most criticism is that of becoming an “expert” by reading 3 books. Ferriss advises that by reading the top 3 books on any topic, joining trade organizations, giving a seminar or two and offering free articles to trade magazines you will be an expert. Not quite!

What he actually means is that this approach will allow you to appear like an expert. According to Ferris this isn’t about being something that you’re not, but rather about presenting yourself in the best possible light. For this you have to give it to him, he is an example of his own gospel, or at least at the time of publishing in 2007 he was, 14 years on he is somewhat of a guru.

Speaking of reading, we’ve got a video of 15 Books TIM FERRISS Thinks EVERYONE Should Read, which you should also watch.


What do you take away from the 4-hour work week, and what do you take with a pinch of salt?