The Book That Started it All – The 4-Hour Workweek

“The 4-Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferris provided the roadmap that ultimately led us to design the lifestyle that we write about here. I thought I’d tell you a little more about it. — Mr. TNF

I’m late to the party. I admit it.

Timothy Ferris originally wrote and published The 4-Hour Workweek in 2007. Somehow, I managed to avoid the book until 2019.

I knew about the book before 2019, but honestly, I thought it was just another productivity or management manifesto with a catchy title. Sort of like the One Minute Manager. And I just never picked it up.

Even when I finally bought the book and started reading it, I really had no idea what the overall premise of the book was.

I wasn’t far into the book before realizing that this book was talking about a topic that I was unfamiliar with. “Lifestyle Design”, “New Rich”, and “Deferred-Life Plan” were all concepts that grace the first few pages.

And I was hooked.

Ferris wasn’t talking about how to be more productive in your corporate job so that you could get more done, catch a big promotion, and hope for a big raise. He was talking about how silly that lifestyle is in this digital age.

He was talking about how to “stop trading time for money” and how “reality is negotiable”.

Now, he was really speaking my language!

I soon realized that I was what Ferris termed a “Deferrer”; someone he described as “working hard to save it all for the end”. In fact, I had recently created a very detailed spreadsheet outlining our savings towards financial independence. I had it all planned out in excruciating detail. We would be multi-millionaires in retirement! With 401k’s and IRA’s overflowing with abundance.

We were already interested in retiring “early” (before the traditional age of 65 in the U.S.) and my detailed plan would have had us both retired by the age of 50.

But that still meant giving away the most physically capable years of our lives. Spending lots of time away from our kids while they are young. For what? To live big at 65? 75? 85?

By chapter 4, my brain was working overtime to process the idea that maybe, just maybe, we could design a lifestyle NOW that would provide us the ultimate freedom.

Chapter 14 was probably the tipping point. This is where Ferris introduces the Parable of the Mexican Fisherman and how to use geographic arbitrage to make ends meet. My eyes were opened to just how far money can go in some parts of the world.

An American businessman took a vacation to a small coastal Mexican village on doctor’s orders. Unable to sleep after an urgent phone call from the office the first morning, he walked out to the pier to clear his head. A small boat with just one fisherman had docked, and inside the boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.

“How long did it take you to catch them?” the American asked.

“Only a little while,” the Mexican replied in surprisingly good English.

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” the American then asked.

“I have enough to support my family and give a few to friends,” the Mexican said as he unloaded them into a basket.

“But… What do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican looked up and smiled. “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Julia, and stroll into the village each evening, where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, senor.”

The American laughed and stool tall. “Sir, I’m a Harvard M.B.A. and can help you. You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. In no time, you could buy several boats with the increased haul. Eventually, you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”

He continued, “Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing, and distribution, and move to Mexico City, then to Los Angeles, and eventually New York City, where you could run your expanding enterprise with proper management.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will all this take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years. 25 tops.”

“But what then, senor?”

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.”

“Millions, senor? Then what?”

“Then you would retire and move to a small coastal fishing village, where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…”

I was sold. I had a clear vision of what a new life could include if we were willing to hit the RESET button.

Soon I was creating a new spreadsheet. One that would ultimately become the “Secret Master Plan” for our new life.

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