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Interview with Tim Ferriss of The 4-Hour Workweek – Part 2

Interview with Tim Ferriss of The 4-Hour Workweek – Part 2
Tim Ferriss

In Part 1 of this interview, I asked Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, about his productivity methodology – how can he combine 20/80 rules with Parkinson’s Law to effectively produce the best his can, and how does he focus eliminating on nonessential to become more productive.

Now for this part of the interview, we cover areas on how to plan and live on an ideal lifestyle, work life, and also how to scale the results with outsourcing.

Q: You mentioned about it is all about living the lifestyle with limited income. Do you mean it is all about controlling your input to get the output you really need, and use the spare cycles to do what you really want to do? What are your advice for people to idealize their actual lifestyle?

TTT: It’s actually not so much about living with limited income; it’s about determining exactly how much income you need to have your ideal lifestyle, then leveraging time and mobility (geoarbitrage and such) to get there in as short a period as possible, usually a few months. What would you have and do each day if you had $100 million in the bank and had already retired? This is not BS — this is THE question you have to answer. If you want to drive a yellow Lamborghini Gallardo, visit Fiji once a year, and ski in the Andes each winter for a month, add it all up and determine the average monthly cost. Add your current essential fixed expenses to this (there are free calculators for doing all of this), and you have what I call your TMI — Target Monthly Income — and TDI — Target Daily Income. The first step to achieving your ideal lifestyle is defining it and calculating the actual cost. It’s always less than you think.

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Here are just two personal examples of what’s possible once we reset the rules: for $250 USD, I spent five days on a private Smithsonian tropical research island with three local fishermen, who caught and cooked all of my food and took me on tours of the best hidden dive spots in Panamá; for $150 USD, I chartered a plane in Mendoza wine country in Argentina and flew over the most beautiful vineyards and snow-capped Andes with a private pilot and personal guide.

I’ve done even more outrageous things in places like Tokyo and Oslo. It’s really possible to do these things now, and it has nothing to do with going to third-world countries. There is no reason to wait 30 years.

Q: What advice do you give if one’s idealization on all about luxury which requires a lot of income to support that, and won’t settle for anything less?

TTT: I can show you how to drive a Ferrari Enzo and Larry Ellison’s famous McLaren F1 for $300. No joke. That said, once people create time abundance, showing off shiny objects becomes a far second priority to answering the question “what the hell do I do with my time?” The big existential questions most people face at college graduation, mid-life crisis, and retirement don’t go away with faster cars, bigger homes, and better martinis. I say go ahead and go nuts for a while with material excess, but if people streamline to the point where income generation only takes 4-10 hours per week, the “what to do” is the real challenge… and reward. I’ve never found an exception.

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Q: Do you think this is not suitable to people who are really passionate about their work? I do not mean a workaholic, but someone who is enjoying their work as much as traveling around the world.

TTT: Not at all. The title “The 4-Hour Workweek” is easily misinterpreted, but this book isn’t about idleness at all. It’s actually exactly the opposite. I’m always working on something, but that “something” is damn exciting to me and keeps me up like a kid on Christmas Eve. The 4HWW is about creating an abundance time and spending it on whatever excites or fulfills you most. Take this book launch, for example. I’ve spent a ton of time on it because I’m having an absolute blast. I did none of the really boring stuff, and my learning curve is insanely steep right now. As soon as that plateaus, I’ll disappear to Croatia for a few months or do something else.

But here’s the other issue: there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Ask any pastor suffering from “compassion fatigue” or book editor with too many books on her plate. Even if you love your work, controlling the volume and keeping work and life separate is critical. I think “dream jobs” are a very misleading and dangerous myth.

Q: I have experienced couple outsourcing services and found out I spend a lot of time writing specific instructions for them to complete the work. Do you have examples of task which you have given them to work on? What are your tips to optimize the workflow/process between you and them?

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TTT: Hire teams that specialize in one or two functions, and use them for repetitive time-consuming tasks. If you follow just these two guidelines, you avoid training people more than once, you avoid overtaxing them with non-core expertise, and it becomes more of a “set it and forget it” model. Don’t look for a personal Jack-of-all-trades. Think in terms of departments and teams. If you want a great mix of smooth communication and unreal pricing, find Americans in developing countries. I have virtual American MBAs in places like Croatia and Jamaica who charge $5/hour.

I use one group for web design, another for online research and Excel spreadsheets, and another for researching purchase options and making suggestions (for a Baltic States trip or buying a high-altitude simulation chamber, for example, two recent projects of mine). Prevent expensive miscommunication by asking for a written progress report after three hours on any 10-hour+ task.

The range of tasks is truly mind-boggling. Anything you can do in front of a computer or phone can be outsourced, from white papers for a Fortune 10 conglomerate to your personal life. I outsourced all of my online dating for 4 weeks recently as a joke to win a bet. There were teams around the world competing to set me dates on an online calendar. The result? More than 20 dates in three weeks. It’s amazing what you can do. The options are limitless.

Q: Is outsourcing is the only way to scale? You mentioned productizing expertise on the other interview. What exactly do you mean? Do you have any other ideas to scale your efforts?

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TTT: Outsourcing is just one option, one small piece. It’s actually entirely optional but too fun for me not to recommend ;)

Let me rephrase the question a bit: how do you scale results without scaling effort? You need external products and processes. Get the expertise out of your head. For the business owner or manager, that might mean a comprehensive FAQ and step-by-step operational manual for each role in the company, or simply a small set of principles and rules you use for fast decision-making that others can duplicate. The switch is from adrenalin- or leader-driven to process-driven. For the employee or freelancer, “productization” simply means capturing your expertise in a physical form, whether a piece of software, a DVD, or a book. Only then are you able to totally separate income from time, remove ass-in-seat time as your limiter, and make $10,000 per day as easily as you make $100. Creating a scalable life isn’t as hard or time-consuming as it seems.

Q: Thank you so much for your time, Tim. Oh, and one last question, since you are a reader of lifehack.org, what are your favorite posts since you subscribed?

TTT: Man, that is hard. Here are two just from the last month that I still have around. “Top Ten Sources of Interruptions,” especially the David Spade Blackberry Intervention; and, as a Firefox geek, the “15 Coolest Firefox Tricks Ever” got me embarrassingly excited. Ah, the small pleasures!

Thanks for getting in touch! Keep up the rocking site.

If you want to get more information on how Tim reduces his work hour and enjoys his life, get a copy of Tim’s book – The 4-Hour Workweek.

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Leon Ho

Founder of Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

More About Goals Setting

Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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