Saturday, October 13, 2007

Book review: The 4-hour work week

Tim has a blog to promote his book. I was reluctant to write a review on his book or his blog, because a book once I trashed, kept rising fast on the Amazon rank. His did get a lot of publicity everywhere, including TV. His book did get to the top of the New York Times best sellers' list. I was really disappointed by the non-fiction buying public. Don't they watch enough infomercial already?

I do agree with him on a few things. His favorite cities were San Francisco, Tokyo, Frankfurt and Buenos Aires, in descending order of living expenses. I would add London on top though. I also share his taste of Trade Joe's wine, well received by wine experts, but at only a few dollars a bottle.

First, let's look at his qualification. He called himself a serial entrepreneur, but never reviewed what his past or current business were. Understandably, his wasn't proud of his businesses, otherwise he wouldn't use the term serial. If you get something big going, you want to build it up to rival Bill Gates, Google or many other smaller flies that the big guys will acquire.

He's in the business to make money. Not that much obviously, because he is arguing that he's the new rich. He has plenty of leisure time, a very high quality of living. That's not surprising if he enjoys wine at a few dollars a bottle, while in a classy restaurant you don't even get a glass.

How does he qualifies to write such a book? He does have an ivy league education, and a short time as a corporate slave, that's about it. Obviously to work 4 hours a week to need to get some business going. But then you don't even need to work 4 hours. I think there's a misunderstanding by the book buyers. He's telling you the methodology to work 4 hours a week, not how to make enough money so that you don't need to work so much hours!

It's so obvious to me that the book is another of his business. He's doing it to finance his working 4 hours a week. But he's not telling you how to find money. Do I need somebody to tell me how to work 4 hours a week when I have enough money?

It look so like infomercial, for example, the bald guy who sell you a stock market analysis and trading software tool that guarantee you to make money. But if you get an edge in the stock market, do you really need to tell others charging $50 each? But who cares, USA is a self help country. If you have something to say that will improve people's life, earnings, or wrinkles, the infomercial will work, books will sell.

But I understand. The infomercial guru, who wrote books about non effective drugs, and effective alternative treatments that the drug company don't want you to know. He was investigated by the FDA, banned from doing many things. He found a way to get back to American satellite TV via a British broadcasting company. He sells new books about weight loss, but bundled with his old alternative medicines books for free, but most of the time he talked about the old books rather than the new one. Obviously he got around some loop holes to continue his ways. Accidentally finding myself watching him when his ad popped-up, he did have some points. But it was like brain washing.

So how many people will treat books and infomercial as brain washing Trojan horses. Your teacher says you always have to have a critical mind. You should be critical before you open yourself to possible brain washing. It's easier to be critical before watching or reading than while you were being brain wash. When you were eating popcorns, you will be much less critical about the movie. But then, if you don't read it for yourself, you may never know, or miss out. That's the whole point. People are afraid to miss out big, but not afraid to to lose a few dollars to buy a book. That's how authors earn big money.

As for the content, he doesn't review much outside of the book, or he doesn't have much to offer. I didn't read it, don't want to buy it as a principle. The big things he used for promotion was - read email only twice a day! Oh my god! I couldn't agree more. People used to do it when they login first thing in the morning, and logout when they go home, before Windows or Dos. But do I need to buy a book for this? Get a paperless life by opting for online statements. Who doesn't? Pay a dollar to get yourself off junk mails. Well, I don't know that. Maybe the book is worth it after all. Wait a minute, what's that to do with working 4 hours a week? Light years apart.

As for the underlining big picture, there's nothing new as opposite to what Tim says. Living simple was already a movement, or a trend, since the last boom and bust economic cycle, maybe a lot earlier than that. Maybe the boom of the late 90's made people forget all about it.

Outsourcing is big, but he promotes it down to personal level. Pay somebody to do your laundry for you for each piece of work. Pay a peanut salary for an well educated Indian as your remote personal assistant. Advertise on Craig's List to find somebody to cook authentic Curry Vandaloo for you for a few dollars a meal. Most of these won't work for the majority of people, or, it wouldn't worth it.

I think he's big because he used the Internet quite well. He has a huge geek following as he called himself the new rich of the digital age. Every webmaster big and small dreams to be him, harding working at all, spent most of his time flash packing all over the world. So he got great exposure on the net, all giving him positive mentions without discussing substance of the contents.

Excuse me, but I have to pick on him about his substance. He made videos and that's suppose not to be easy to forget. One video is about teaching pen flipping, that's what all students in Asia do. Is he real? They are doing it for generations already. If you give a Japanese retired CEO a pen, he will flip it unconsciously. The other video is about how to wear a tie properly - the Windor knot. Oh please! Every British male do that, as do all males the world over except for Americans. It's the same thing that the American turn cricket to baseball, and soccer/ruby into football. You won't find any other men if the world who would wear an unsymmetrical tie. If you do, he is the sort of person who would be proud of the American way, and he will call it the American style.

Let me share with you a practical proverb. Doing most things is like paddling against the river flow, if you don't go forward, you will be carried backwards. By all means look for a balanced life, but trying to keep still on a flowing river is not wise.

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