4-Hour Workweek Book CoverThis is my quick book summary of The 4-Hour Workweek (by Tim Ferriss). Love him or hate him, Tim Ferriss undeniably created a monster self-help franchise when he launched this book. Even though a lot of the information is outdated, I think the main concepts still apply (humans are still humans, and we’re easy to sell to). The book is available on Amazon.

Summary notes below. All emphasis mine.

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a more persistent one.” – Albert Einstein

“Once you say you’re going to settle for 2nd, that’s what happens to you in life.” – John F. Kennedy

“Everything popular is wrong.” – Oscar Wilde

New rules:

  1. Retirement is worst case scenario insurance.
  2. Interest and energy are cyclical. Aim for 1 month of overseas relocation/training for every 2 months of work projects.
  3. Less is not laziness. Be productive instead of busy.
  4. The timing is never right. “Someday” is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you.
  5. Ask for forgiveness, not permission.
  6. Emphasize strengths, don’t fix weaknesses. Focus on better use of your best weapons.
  7. Money alone is not the solution.
  8. Relative income is more important than absolute income.

Doing the unrealistic is easier than doing the realistic!

  • Fishing is best where the fewest go.
  • Ask yourself: “What would excite me?”
  • Boredom is the enemy, not some abstract “failure.”


  • 1 place you’d like to visit
  • 1 thing to do before you die
  • 1 thing to do daily
  • 1 thing to do weekly
  • 1 thing you’ve always wanted to learn

Calculate Target monthly income (TMI) and Target daily income (TDI)

Set 3-month and 6-month goals. Tomorrow becomes never. No matter how small the task, take the first step now!

“One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.” – Bruce Lee

Maximum income from minimum number of customers is the primary goal.

Lack of time is actually lack of priorities.

Solution: identify the few critical tasks that contribute most to income and schedule them with very short and clear deadlines.

“Love of bustle is not industry” – Seneca

Am I being productive or just active? Am I inventing things to do just to avoid the important?

Real friends: if someone isn’t making you stronger, they’re making you weaker.

“If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day?”

Complete next day’s priorities the night before (on small piece of paper) or notebook

Rescue time. Do not multitask.

“Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits.” – Albert Einstein

Read relevant magazines only.

“Will I definitely use this information for something productive and important?”

Practice the art of non-finishing.

Get phone numbers from strangers (builds confidence):
“Excuse me. I know this is going to sound strange, but if I don’t ask you now, I’ll be kicking myself for the rest of the day. I’m running to meet a friend, but I think you’re really cute/gorgeous. Could I have your phone number? I’m not a psycho – I promise. You can give me a fake one if you’re not interested.”

“Do your thinking independently. Be the chess player, not the chess piece.”

Learn to be difficult when it counts. Be assertive, and you’ll receive preferential treatment.

“The best defense is a good offense.”

Check email twice per day, once at noon and once at 4 pm. Move to once per day ASAP.

Use 2 phone lines – urgent and non-urgent.

Don’t encourage people to chit chat and don’t let them chit chat.

  • Try to steer people to this order if possible: 1.) email 2.) phone 3.) in person meetings
  • Respond to voice mail with email

Amazing how someone’s IQ seems to double as you give them more responsibility and trust them.

Outsourcing life.

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can leave alone.” – Thoreau

You must build a system to replace yourself.

Delegation. Unless something is well defined and important, no one should do it. Eliminate before you delegate. Define rules and processes before adding people. Each delegated task must be time consuming and well defined. Have some fun with it. Don’t be too serious about it.

Income Autopilot

Why you should limit the number of stores that have your product: the more competing stores there are, the faster your product goes extinct.

1.) Pick a niche market.

  • Be a member of your target market and don’t speculate what others need or would be willing to buy.
  • “If everyone is your customer, no one is your customer”
  • More profitable to be a fish in a small pond than an undefined fish in the big pond.

2.) What social/industry/professional groups do you belong to?

  • List all of them out on a piece of paper (e.g. computer gamers, photographers, marketing pros, engineers)

3.) Which of these groups have their own magazines? Find and list the magazines.

4.) Brainstorm – do not invest in products.

  • Pick magazines with full page advertising of that costs <5000$ and with >15,000 readership

Main product benefit should be encapsulated in 1 sentence.

Should cost the customer 50$ – 200$. Price high and then justify. Aim for 8-10x markup. Should take no more than 3-4 weeks to manufacture.

Product Creation

Information products are great! Offer a combination of formats: 2 CDs (30-90 mins), 40 page transcription, 10-page quick start guide.

  • How can you tailor a specific skill to a market? Think narrow and deep. Add to what’s being sold in the magazines already.
  • Interview experts and record the calls
  • Do you have a failure to success story that can be turned into a how-to product for others? Consider problems you’ve overcome in the past, both personal and professional.

Product/niche research:

  • Join 2-3 related trade organizations (online, fast).
  • Read 3 top selling books on the topic – summarize each on one page.
  • Give 1 free 1-3 hour seminar at university, using posters to advertise.
  • Optional: offer to write 1-2 articles for trade magazines. Join ProfNet.


Don’t ask people if they would buy – ASK them to buy!

Use PayPal / Stripe (keep it simple!) instead of bank merchant accounts etc.

The process:

  1. Market selection
  2. Product brainstorm
  3. Microtesting
  4. Rollout and automation

Save time with tools such as Shopify / LegalZoom / Typeform / 99 Designs (logos) / FreshBooks (accounting) / Zoho (CRM)

MBA = Management by Absence

“The system is the solution.”

The more options you offer, the more indecision you create, and the fewer orders you’ll receive:

  • Offer 1-2 purchase options (i.e. basic or premium) and no more.
  • Don’t offer multiple shipping options. Offer 1 fast one and charge a premium.
  • Eliminate phone ordering (keep everything online).
  • Don’t offer international shipments.

Not all customers are created equal. Offer low priced products instead of free products to get contact info.

Offer a 110% guarantee to satisfy customer (“you get a 110% refund”)

How to look Fortune 500 (Perceived size DOES MATTER):

  • Don’t be the CEO/Founder. Instead, call yourself:  Director of Sales, Director of Business Development, etc.
  • Put multiple e-mail / contact #s on the website
  • Use a virtual receptionist
  • Get a PO Box


“It is far better for a man to go wrong in freedom than to go right in chains.”

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most mean dread it.”

“If you must play: decide (first) on the rules of the game, the stakes and quitting time.”

“Success? Simple. Double your rate of failure.” – Thomas Watson, IBM

“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” – Gandhi

Booking cheap airfare:

  • Use a credit card with reward points for ad & manufacturing expenses
  • Purchase either 3 months in advance or last minute (last 4-5 days prior to departure), departure and return Tues/Wed/Thurs
  • Consider splitting it up into a few flights

Minimum Packing list for travel:

  • 1 week of clothing for the season, 1 semiformal shirt/pants for customs. Think t shirts, shorts, multipurpose jeans
  • Backup photocopies of all important documents
  • ATM card, credit card, and US$200 in local currency
  • Small cable bike lock for baggage
  • e-Dictionaries for target languages (Google Translate, Duolingo)
  • 1 broad strokes travel guide

Filling the Void

“People say we’re seeking a meaning of life. I think what we’re truly seeking is the experience of being alive.” – Joseph Campbell

You have to find a focus – someone or something to do.

If you can’t define it or act upon it, forget it.

“What a man needs is the striving and struggling for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task.”

Life exists to be enjoyed and the most important thing is to feel good about yourself.

Quick answer: continual learning & service.

  • Language acquisition and learning new skills (anything that gets you out of the house)
  • Service is an attitude – find the cause or vehicle that interests you most and make no apologies.

Other ideas:

  1. Try doing nothing. Slow down – simply cut out anything nonproductive. Meditation and yoga.
  2. Make an anonymous donation to the service organization of your choice.
  3. Take a mini retirement in combination with local volunteering (6+ months)
  4. Revisit and reset dreamlines:
    – What are you good at? What could you be the best at?
    – What makes you happy? What excites you?
    – What makes you feel accomplished and good about yourself?
    – What do you enjoy sharing or experiencing with other people?
  5. Consider testing new part/full time vocations. Recapturing excitement of your childhood is required.

Top Mistakes of the New Rich

  1. Losing sight of your dreams and falling into work for work’s sake.
  2. Micromanaging and e-mailing to fill time.
  3. Handling problems your coworkers/outsourcers could handle.
  4. Chasing customers when you have enough money.
  5. Working where you live, sleep, or should relax.
  6. Not performing a thorough 80/20 every 2-3 weeks for personal and business life.
  7. Striving for perfection instead of great or good enough.
  8. Blowing small problems out of proportion as an excuse to work.
  9. Making non-time sensitive issues urgent in order to justify work.
  10. Viewing 1 project/job/product as the be-all end-all of your whole experience. When in doubt or overwhelmed, do a 80/20 for business and for relationships
  11. Ignoring the social rewards of life.

The only rules and limits are the ones we set for ourselves.

Be bold, don’t worry about what people think.

  • What is one goal, if completed, would change everything?
  • What is the most urgent thing right now that you “must” or “should” do?


  • Don’t expect large/costly favors from strangers
  • Impress only the right people – those you want to emulate
  • Slow meals = life
  • Money doesn’t change you. It reveals who you are when you no longer have to be nice.
  • Fuck the naysayers. There are no statues devoted to critics.
  • Eat a high protein breakfast within 30 minutes of waking and go for a 10-20 minute walk outside, bouncing a tennis ball
  • Usually better to keep old resolutions, instead of making new ones
  • Set rules for yourself so you can automate your decision making as much as possible
  • Don’t postpone decisions just to avoid awkward conversations.
  • Set true limits (< 20 minutes to make decision) and option limits (3 options).
  • Routine enables variation when it’s most valuable
  • Eliminate complaining to minimize regret.

Bad Habits to Stop Right Now:

  1. Don’t answer phone calls from unrecognized numbers.
  2. Don’t email first thing in the morning or last thing at night.
  3. Don’t agree to meeting w/out a clear agenda and end time. Don’t let people ramble.
  4. Don’t check email constantly.
  5. Don’t over communicate with low profit, high maintenance customers.
  6. Don’t work more to fix overwhelmingness – prioritize.
  7. Don’t carry a cellphone 24/7
  8. Don’t expect work to fill a void that non-work relationships/activities should.

Margin Manifesto – How to Double Profits

Profit in the least time with the least effort. Not with more customers/revenues/employees/offices.

  1. Niche is the new big
    Who you portray in marketing doesn’t represent who buys it – it’s the demographic that people aspire to be or belong to. No one aspires to be bland average, so if you water it down to appeal to everyone, it will appeal to no one.
  2. What gets measured gets managed – measure everything
  3. Pricing before product – plan distribution first
  4. Less is more – lessen distribution to increase profit (exclusivity). Partner with 1 or 2 key distributors: controlled distribution allows you to negotiate better terms (less discounting, pre-payment, preferential placement, marketing support)
  5. Net zero – creating demand vs. offering terms. Don’t offer terms! Get end-user demand, then force resellers/distributors to pay up.
  6. Repetition is usually redundant – good (well designed, well-targeted) advertising works the first time. Cancel everything that can’t be justified with traceable ROI
  7. Limit downside to ensure upside – sacrifice margin for safety. Scale carefully, making sure you’re staying profitable as you scale up
  8. Negotiate Late – make others negotiate against themselves. Never make a first offer when purchasing – be silent
  9. Hyperactivity vs. Productivity – 80/20 and Pareto’s Law: duplicate all your strong areas instead of fixing your weaknesses
  10. The customer is not always right: “fire” high maintenance customers
  11. Deadlines before details – set reliability before capability. Skills are overrated. Get decent products, delivered on time!

Read other reviews and notes on the book’s Amazon page.