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4 Misconceptions About The 4 Hour Work Week

Doing a little bit of searching online, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of doubters, skeptics, and haters out there that think that the 4 Hour Work Week is somehow a scam or that it isn’t possible for a variety of reasons.  But from reading all of their complaints, as far as I can tell, all of their diatribes are based on incomplete understandings of the book, which only proves that they didn’t read the book or weren’t pay attention when they did (possibly because they were reading it at work and trying to keep an eye out to make sure their boss didn’t catch them).

Here are 4 Misconceptions I’ve seen about the 4 Hour Work Week.

You Can Build a Business on 4 Hours of Work per Week

One thing I have noticed many people complain about is that the 4 Hour Work Week is unrealistic because it isn’t possible to build a business on 4 hours of work per week.

This is true.  Unless you become a master of outsourcing, it will take much more than 4 hours of work per week to build your profitable business.

But, Tim Ferriss does not write that your muse will take 4 hours of work per week to build.  Only that it will require 4 hours of work per week (or less) to maintain once it is up and running.  Right out of the gate, you will probably have to slave away like I did to build a low-maintenance business that shoves wads of cash into your pockets on autopilot (especially if you don’t have much money to get off the ground).

Sure, maybe doing all the SEO and other mischief I do is boring, takes a lot of time, and makes you want to jump off a bridge, but it gave me enough money to run off to Thailand for two and a half months.  The 4 Hour Work Week is very real.  My first month in Thailand, I only worked about 5 or 6 hours total.  That’s much less than 4 hours per week.

If you insist on bootstrapping everything yourself on 4 hours per week, it will probably take an extremely long time for you to get off the ground or you will probably give up from lack of results.

Your Muse Should Be Something Fun

There is also a misconception that your muse should be a source of unending joy, that it should be something you are passionate about and love doing.  There is nothing wrong with building a muse around something you enjoy, but that is not a requirement in muse design as described in the 4 Hour Work Week.

The idea behind a muse, is not to make a business that you enjoy and fall in love with.  I cannot imagine that Tim Ferriss felt BrainQUICKEN was his highest calling in life and that selling supplements brought him an unending, orgasmic amount of satisfaction.

A muse is simply leverages something you know or are good at to create an automated source of income.  For example, bad ass blogger, and fellow architectural job captain turned internet marketer Pat Flynn (who knew there was more than one of us?–except he is significantly more successful than me…) made a muse called Green Exam Academy that helped design professionals pass the LEED exam (a ridiculously challenging exam that theoretically equips designers with the knowledge to create more environmentally sustainable buildings–if nothing else, it looks cool on your business card and resume).

A muse as Tim Ferriss would call them, is essentially what Clay Collins would call a “Freedom Business.”  A Freedom Business is something that can pay the bills and give you enough cash to be free from working a job, but is not necessarily your calling in life.  But a Freedom Business can pave the way for you to create a Mission Business, which is something that brings you an unending source of joy and satisfaction.  It’s called a Mission Business, by the way, because it encompasses your life’s mission.

Work = Anything That Does Not Involve Chilling Out on the Beach

This is a typical complaint that people have with the 4 Hour Work Week.  Tim Ferriss has said on many occasions that he “works” more than 4 hours per week, but based on his own definition of the word, he works less than 4 hours.  He himself as said that he defines work as anything that he does not enjoy doing.  Meaning that he may technically “work” for more than 4 hours per week doing things that he likes such as posting on his blog, conducting odd experiments on himself, or whatever.  But he limits the time he spends on boring and tedious tasks.

Many skeptics out there take this as proof that everything he writes about is impossible and a day dream only accessible to trust fund babies and lotto winners.

Personally, I believe there is nothing wrong with Tim’s definition and that this complaint comes from frustrated office workers that spend 8 boring hours per day in a cubicle slacking off at least 50% of the time on websites like Facebook, playing Farmville, or talking to coworkers about football.  These activities do not count as “work” no matter what you may log them as on your time card come Friday afternoon.

Sure, you may rather be out skydiving or road tripping instead of entertaining yourself on company time, but that doesn’t mean it counts as work.  If you enjoy doing it, it isn’t work.

The Goal Is Inactivity

Many people also seem to think that the message of the 4 Hour Work Week is to stop being productive and to spend your time in idle relaxation.  Sure this may seem very attractive to your average worker who has to wake up at 7:00 AM or earlier every morning to do things he doesn’t enjoy day after day and spend 8 hours per day imprisoned at a desk.

At first, you will probably feel great when you leave your job and can finally do what you want.  If the spirit moves you, you might even enjoy a trip to a tropical paradise where you’ll lounge in a hammock and drink pina colladas all day.  But you will eventually get bored of that.  I certainly got bored after bumming around Bangkok for too long without any real and tangible goals.

The goal isn’t inactivity, but it is to do things that matter to you.  You can spend your new-found free time traveling, writing, playing a sport, improving some kind of other skill, starting your Mission Business, or whatever else you want to do.

Looking for reasons why something won’t work is easy.  There is no challenge sitting on your high horse and criticizing the world.  Any one can do that.  It takes courage to try something new and to believe in yourself.  In my opinion, the world needs more people getting out and doing things and less people criticizing the ones that are out making their dreams come true.


  1. Nice post Clayton. I think it’s easy to mistake the marketing spin (eg the title and subtitle) for a literal description of what will happen if you read the book.

    I was taken in by it when I first read it but if you re-read the book whilst bearing in mind it’s essentially a marketing document then it makes much more sense.

    The building a muse chapters would sound pretty dull if they were called “how to build a business online through trial and error and months of hard work”. But that’s the truth.


    • @Keith, Hey! I haven’t heard from you in awhile. Hope you’re doing okay these days.

      Anyway, yeah, sometimes all the hype is way too over the top… especially in the IM arena. “Discover how a mentally challenged idiot accidentally made $4,577 in ten minutes. All while sitting on the toilet.” Once you realize it’s all hype, you can just enjoy the entertainment part of it without taking it too seriously.

  2. That’s a great post there Clayton mate! Hit the nails on their heads haha.
    It really just pisses me off when haters run their mouths over crap they have no idea about, because they simply cannot do it. So it seems they don’t want others doing it either, and just would rather diss it.
    Good job mate, and thanks for the great post.

    • @Ashton, Yeah, I guess I end up working a lot more than 40 hours a week these days, but it’s so much more fun than working at a desk! Plus, pretty much all the money I make is coming from stuff I did last summer. If I was happy with my current earning, I suppose I still could be living the 4 Hour Work Week. I think the real value of the book though, is that it really gave a lot of people the courage to try something that they maybe had been thinking about for awhile. Sort of like “holy crap! Maybe I really can do this!”

  3. Great post fella!

    To echo Ashton, you hit the nails on their heads.

    I regard work as something I don’t enjoy doing.
    At the moment I do too much work.
    Getting into the IM game has become much more of a hobby/new direction in life, and I don’t actually class it as “work” (unless I’m talking about it to others who have absoultely no concept of IM…and I have to explain it as ‘work’ so they understand).

    Have you had a read through the 4 Hour Body yet?? I’ve had a quick flick. VERY interesting.


  4. What surprises me is the backlash from people who HAVEN’T EVEN READ THE BOOK. Just check out some of the negative reviews on Amazon. I believe that these people are just screaming for personal recognition without wanting to admit it (“Look at how many hours I work during the week! It’s not fair! I go to work every morning! And I don’t even complain about it!”). The sad truth is that popular opinion will keep perpetuating the lie–that suffering is a virtue.

    • @Ron Lee, Yes, there is a quote from John Updike in the 4 Hour Work Week that goes : “The average man is a conformist, accepting miseries and disasters with the stoicism of a cow standing in the rain.”

      To be fair, I’m sort of doing that now with all the work I’m putting in, but I know that it will pay off in the long run and sometime around the end of this year or next year, I’ll be able to run off to somewhere awesome and chill out for a bit.

      I guess it’s like Tim says “Retirements reward work; Mini-retirements justify it.”

      (PS: Wow two quotes from the book in one comment? Did I mention that after listening to the audio book over 40 times, I essentially have it tattooed on my brain?)

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