Work and Business

Review: The 4-Hour Workweek

Cover of "The 4-Hour Workweek," featuring the pink silhouette of a person in a hammock between two palm trees on a pale orange background
Image from Tim Ferress

Title: The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9 to 5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich

Author: Tim Ferriss

Genre: Work and Business

Trigger Warnings: Strong language, gendered slurs

Back Cover:

What do you do? Tim Ferriss has trouble answering the question. Depending on when you ask this controversial Princeton University guest lecturer, he might answer: “I race motorcycles in Europe.” “I ski in the Andes.” “I scuba dive in Panama.” “I dance tango in Buenos Aires.” He has spent more than five years learning the secrets of the New Rich, a fast-growing subculture who has abandoned the “deferred-life plan” and instead mastered the new currencies-time and mobility-to create luxury lifestyles in the here and now. Whether you are an overworked employee or an entrepreneur trapped in your own business, this book is the compass for a new and revolutionary world.

Join Tim Ferriss as he teaches you:
– How to outsource your life to overseas virtual assistants for $5 per hour and do whatever you want
– How blue-chip escape artists travel the world without quitting their jobs
– How to eliminate 50% of your work in 48 hours using the principles of a forgotten Italian economist
– How to trade a long-haul career for short work bursts and frequent “mini-retirements”
– What the crucial difference is between absolute and relative income
– How to train your boss to value performance over presence, or kill your job (or company) if it’s beyond repair
– What automated cash-flow “muses” are and how to create one in 2 to 4 weeks
– How to cultivate selective ignorance-and create time-with a low-information diet
– What the management secrets of Remote Control CEOs are
– How to get free housing worldwide and airfare at 50-80% off
– How to fill the void and create a meaningful life after removing work and the office

Review:

If you’ve ever heard of Tim Ferriss, you know he has a Thing. That Thing is doing something spectacular, writing about how he did it, and making grandiose claims about how everyone can become spectacularly wealthy/pro athlete-level fit/a pro chef/whatever with minimal effort by following these steps. Pretty much everything he says sounds too good to be true.

And yet I was curious. I tried reading his The 4-Hour Body and got overwhelmed about a quarter of the way through. I tried reading his The 4-Hour Chef on audiobook and stopped two CDs in because the audiobook cut out half of the content in favor of saying “refer to this in the print or ebook copy.” And then I found this as an audiobook and decided to give it a shot.

In the beginning, Tim says this book is about “lifestyle design” – freeing yourself up for independence so you can make conscious decisions about doing what you want, not just what you have to do to make money. It’s not really about lifestyle design. It’s really about two things: starting a business and extended travel. Oh, sure, there’s stuff in there about negotiating a remote work agreement with your boss and reducing unnecessary stuff and whatnot, but the bulk of the book is spent on entrepreneurship and long-term travel advice.

Was it good? Well, yeah. Besides the grandiose claims that Tim Ferriss makes, there was a lot of solid advice about starting a business, including a lot of resources for all types of businesses. I especially liked his idea of a “muse” product, and I’m probably going to implement some of the stuff he brings up in my business and in product creation. I don’t have a lot of experience with travel, so I can’t judge a lot of that advice, but it sounds reasonable and actionable. And it was also inspiring – I know that I’m not interested in travel for as long as Tim talks about (6 months or more), but I am interested in shorter-term travel and listening to this book made me want to travel more (and get more excited about an upcoming trip I have planned).

There are two main drawbacks to this book. One, Tim makes a lot of assumptions about his target audience – mainly, that they’re a lot like him. This book is not written for disabled people, blue-collar workers, or poor people. And Tim is a little out of touch with regards to what’s affordable – before he started his lifestyle design and travel stuff, he was making $70,000 per month (yes, there are 5 figures in that number, and yes, it is per month. That is more than I have made in my entire life combined in a single month).

Also, I would not recommend reading this as an audiobook, at least not if you want to reference the many, many resources that Tim recommends. The audiobook spends a lot of time reading URLs that don’t do much good if you are listening while driving, like I do, and can’t write them down.

Overall, this was a pretty good book. The business section had some great advice, and if you’re interested in long-term travel, there’s probably some good stuff there, too. But take what Tim says with a grain of salt – he makes grandiose claims, but it’s highly unlikely everything is as easy (or as affordable) as he says it is.

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Work and Business

Review: Creativity, Inc.

Cover of "Creativity, Inc.," featuring the silhouette of Buzz Lightyear holding a conductor's baton on a red background
Image from Ed Catmull

Title: Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Author: Ed Catmull

Genre: Work and Business

Trigger Warnings: None

Back Cover: 

What does it mean to manage well?

Creativity, Inc. is a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation—into the meetings, postmortems, and “Braintrust” sessions where some of the most successful films in history are made. It is, at heart, a book about how to build a creative culture. The joyousness of the storytelling, the inventive plots, the emotional authenticity: In some ways, Pixar movies are an object lesson in what creativity really is. Here, in this book, Catmull reveals the ideals and techniques that have made Pixar so widely admired—and so profitable—based on philosophies that protect the creative process and defy convention, such as:

  • Give a good idea to a mediocre team, and they will screw it up. But give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they will either fix it or come up with something better.
  • If you don’t strive to uncover what is unseen and understand its nature, you will be ill prepared to lead.
  • It’s not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It’s the manager’s job to make it safe for others to take them.
  • The cost of preventing errors is often far greater than the cost of fixing them.
  • A company’s communication structure should not mirror its organizational structure. Everybody should be able to talk to anybody.
  • Do not assume that general agreement will lead to change—it takes substantial energy to move a group, even when all are on board.

Review:

Apparently I only pick up books in the “Work and Business” category by accident.

Well, I didn’t pick up this book on accident. I heard Ed Catmull speak on creativity at the Global Leadership Summit in 2016, which I thoroughly enjoyed. So when I found this book among the library’s slim audiobook selection, I picked it up without really reading the back cover.

To be clear, this wasn’t a bad book. Not at all. But it wasn’t what I expected.

I was expecting something about personal creativity, maybe about how to get inspired or how to solve problems creativity or just about how to be creative in general. What I would have realized if I’d read the back cover was that it was more about how to manage in a way that inspires creativity in your employees.

Interestingly enough, that management aspect was only about 30% of the book, though. The other 70% was a history of Pixar and how it came to exist and later to become a pioneering animation company. Which, again, was very interesting – I didn’t know really anything about Pixar before, and it was so full of ups and downs that it made for a great story in itself.

The downside of this book is personal – I’m not a manager or in charge of any employees. And that means there isn’t a lot in Creativity, Inc. that applies to me. The applicable part of this book is focused on employees and managers, corporate dynamics, and working teams. I’m sure if I looked really hard, I could find ways to apply some of the principles to me as an individual, but with just an initial read (well, listen), I didn’t see anything.

Like I said earlier, this is actually a good book, and it’s very interesting. It just wasn’t super applicable to me (and you know I’m all about the practical application). If you want to know about the history of Pixar, you’ll get a lot out of this book. If you’re a manager or business leader looking to inspire your employees, this will be helpful. But I’m not really the target market for this book.

Did Not Finish, Work and Business

Review: Drive

Cover of "Drive," featuring red text on a white background
Image from Daniel Pink

Title: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Author: Daniel Pink

Genre: Work and Business

Trigger Warnings: None

Back Cover:

Most people believe that the best way to motivate is with rewards like money—the carrot-and-stick approach. That’s a mistake, says Daniel H. Pink (author of To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Motivating Others). In this provocative and persuasive new book, he asserts that the secret to high performance and satisfaction-at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.

Drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, Pink exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does—and how that affects every aspect of life. He examines the three elements of true motivation—autonomy, mastery, and purpose-and offers smart and surprising techniques for putting these into action in a unique book that will change how we think and transform how we live.

Read to: CD 3 of 7

Review:

I thought this book would be similar to The Power of Habit in that it would teach me the psychology behind motivation and how to motivate myself. And I read Daniel Pink’s book on creativity, A Whole New Mind, back in high school and it was the book that made me realize not all nonfiction was boring. So I had really high hopes for Drive.

The bad news is it’s the wrong genre.

If you look up at the genre I put at the beginning of the review, it’s “Work and Business.” I picked it up thinking it was “Personal Development.” I was wrong. The good news is Daniel made it very clear at the beginning of the book that he was going to focus more on motivating employees than motivating yourself.

I was pretty disappointed, but I stuck it out for a bit, hoping that I could find something valuable that I could personally use. And there was some interesting stuff (for example, that people tend to be more motivated when they have more freedom and flexibility) – it just wasn’t really applicable to me. It just got boring for me since I wasn’t getting much out of it.

On the flip side, though, if I was a business leader and had employees, this probably would have been immensely valuable. After all, that’s the audience this book was written for. I just happen to not be in that audience.