You Read the 4 Hour Work Week. You Failed. Here’s What You Can Do About It.

You Read the 4 Hour Work Week. You Failed. Here’s What You Can Do About It. post image

As many of you know the 4 Hour Work Week was a huge inspiration for me. I read the book a few weeks after it came out and literally started my business the very next day. I even printed and filled out a dream line as advocated in the book.

In retrospect the book hit me at a great time. Although I was making what I thought was excellent money, I hadn’t really ramped up my commitments or my lifestyle requirements. I didn’t have a family. I didn’t feel I had tons to lose.

How much do you have to lose? Take a look at the guy 10 years ahead of you. Do you want to be that guy?

So I wasn’t yet locked down to the traditional American dream. That said, I wasn’t fresh out of the kitchen either. I was far enough along in my career to have some real business chops to draw on. I knew growing a business was going to be tough.

Because of my pervious business experience, I didn’t read the 4 Hour Work Week with rose tinted glasses. I knew intimately from having run a business that the stuff Tim was talking about was difficult. Many people who read the book simply aren’t aware of the realities of growing a business– and that’s not all bad. Sometimes a little bit of “f it I can do this!” is a powerful thing.

There is no question that Ferriss glorifies the benefits of entrepreneurship– and he should. The benefits are insane.

But so is the amount of work you’ll need to do to reap them.

The “I’m sold on the lifestyle now what….” comes up for a bunch of readers. After a few years of helping people through this stuff, here are some of the most common missteps I’m seeing in getting their 4HWW business off the ground.

  1. You don’t take it seriously that entrepreneurial skills and experience are the #1 way to achieve a location independent lifestyle (read: own/build valuable stuff). I can understand this one is tough to start to hack away at, and that’s why it’s first on the list. The absolute best way to learn entrepreneurship is to go work for an entrepreneur who you admire. This is surprisingly easy to do, especially if you employ Charlie Hoehn’s brilliant approach (and justification for) “free work.” I wish I could make a time warp so I could have watched that video when I was 22. This is truly one of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard from anyone in a long time. If you know anyone in college, recently graduated, or even if they are older and exploring new career options, I strongly encourage you to share this video link with them.
  2. You are continuing to seek permission from your friends, family, and professional colleagues. Those closest to you will generally not understand or care about all the new entrepreneurial stuff you are excited about. Even worse– many will feel threatened by your new passions. Lifestyle design fundamentally forces people to ask some hard questions. Further, you are amplifying your problems by rattling on about your projects, it’ll make you less likely to execute on them (listeners of my podcast will for sure recognize this one!). Those closest to you are often those who feel like they have the most to lose if you do manage to make a big life change. Expecting your friends and family to sign off on your new life is asking too much. Worse– it has a high probability of derailing your plans.
  3. You are unable to create meaningful relationships with other entrepreneurs. Don’t try to do this thing alone. It takes forever and you are going to want to have some fun in the process. Ever hear the one about being the average of your 5 best friends? It can be tough to “friend up.” You’ll do it by building out a particular expertise, focusing on doing great work, and reaching out to people. When you do, for bajezuses sake don’t try to metaphorically sleep with them on the first friend date. Check out this fantastic post by Tynan about contacting and developing relationships with influencers. I think his advice is spot on. Most people are too insecure or uncaring to follow it. If you are one of the few who understands what he is on about, and is able to embody it, you’ll be able to improve your network fast.
  4. You don’t know what a business idea looks like. Here’s the outline: Solve a simple problem. Articulate what you do in one sentence. You should be able to create your prototype product, service, or land your first client within 8-12 weeks. DO ONLY THAT. Do it often. Figure out if it’s going to work ASAP. Try not to blog too much in the process. Please don’t give me projections. Drop your business plan. One URL. One employee. One product. One sale. THEN we’ll talk scale.
  5. You refuse to use a phone to get clients and business. Seems innocuous at the beginning. You chose to avoid telephones because you want to travel the world. This has the potential to be a disastrous mistake. I believe it’s a very real possibility that I would not have a business right now if I would have relied solely on my online shopping cart for sales and Google Analytics for customer data and perspective. In most businesses, and in particular at the beginning, the phone is the absolute best way to acquire customers, users, sales, and information. I’m serious about this one– a phone isn’t just a matter of maximizing profits, it could be the difference between having a business and having a job.
  6. You don’t work very hard. Many people I meet underestimate the incredible amount of effort required to get a business off the ground. If you aren’t clear on the effort required, me quoting you a figure would probably make you uncomfortable.
  7. You focus more on business gurus than you do on potential customers. If you’ve never had a customer, you don’t need a guru. Trust me on this. You need to work your tail off, find some problems that are interesting to you, and sell your solution to somebody. Learn from the process. Treat your potential customer like the guru. If you aren’t interested in asking them endless questions about what they want, you are probably in the wrong market.
  8. You don’t really want to be an entrepreneur. I see this one a lot– the spoils go to those willing to do the hard work. It’s not a disgrace if you aren’t willing to hustle up business, cold call prospects, teach yourself difficult programming languages, sell stuff to people, deal with customer service, work your ass off for years on end, compete with others, hire and fire employees and contract workers, manage people, lead people, clean the bathrooms and anything else that comes down the pike. If you are failing it could be you are over focused on the spoils and not on the process. Find me somebody who says building a profitable lifestyle business is a walk in the park, and I’ll subscribe to their blog. :)
  9. BONUS POINT: YOU HAVEN’T REALLY FAILED. It’s never too late to start over. It’s never too late to learn more. When you start to seek out failures for the information they give you, you are thinking like an entrepreneur.

Good luck, and let me know if I can help.

Cheers from Bali,


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Published on 05.25.11
  • It’s all about NUMBER FIVE, as far as I’m concerned.

    The problem nowadays is that people do not want/like to use the photo, basically we live in this very ‘connected’ world now.

    When I first got into starting and building my own businesses, yes, the internet was around – but, not in the form that it is today with all the blogs and social media, etc.

    You pick up the phone. You make a cold call. You MAKE SOMETHING happen. Plain and simple.

    Great set of insights on this, Dan.Keep rockin’.C

  • Great post Dan. All great points. Picking up the phone to make a traditional business transaction is how real relationships and trust is built. Mastering the skill of simple conversation is key for entrepreneurs…(as I wrote this I closed a deal on the phone..not kidding)

  • Thanks for belling the cat. The 4-hour workweek is a great thought starter, but as actual advice, it is basically silly.

    Your point about family/friends is particularly important. Worth a separate post.

  • Once again, people don’t get the idea of how much actual work it takes to be successful. There is no magic bullet, its just hustle and connecting plain and simple.

  • Dan

    I think this is probably the most under talked about point in the internet marketing world…. part of the reasons VSF took off like a bang is you got to know your clients on the horn… thats a pro move IMO (done by a pro of course :)

  • Dan

    Top candidate for the magic bullet is currently Diet Coke. :)

  • Dan

    A lot of the advice is good in there… I think in general he didn’t qualify his assertions which is something that makes me giggle in this case… but cringe more in others… this family friends issue was a huge one for me, will pull together some thoughts there.

  • Dan


  • Awesome awesome post Dan. Thank you for sharing this, it’s honest and realistic and spot on.

  • Dan

    You got it man! Thanks for stopping by the blog I appreciate you taking the
    time to read our stuff :)

  • Chris Ducker leaving a comment on your blog is wicked social proof, you are so on my radar, right now. Plus I loved the article. I feel as I didnt take myself seriously for a past week…

  • Justin Miramontes

    Nice, these are all right on the money. If I could put a #10 it would be “You didn’t strike while the iron was hot” I’ve had many ideas that were right on the money and the timing was good, but I didn’t act on those ideas as fast as I could and I fell too far behind competition and ending up regretting it. If you have a hunch, get something out there and get it out quick! You’ll learn tons along the way and you might even strike gold. :)

  • Dan

    haha Bojan I totally agree with you there. Chris is one of those types of entrepreneurs who could succeed in any environment, in any market. He’s just solid at providing value and building great companies… I love to learn from him.

  • Dan

    That’s a spot on extra point. Timing is such an interesting topic and so difficult to talk about. I was trying to articulate this earlier this week in an article but failed. I think some of the reason our business succeeded (in the short term!) was just dumb luck, we benefitted from some quality timing that we probably didn’t notice too well before we got started. I like the idea here of getting it out quick and fast, and trying to open yourself up for more ‘lucky’ breaks.

  • You have just inspired another cold call!

    Solid advice nonetheless and #6 is dead on.

    It isn’t quite the walk in the park as many perceive. Real, tough, nose to the grind work is involved. But the harder you work, the greater the rewards!

  • Dan

    haha i’m turning in to a voice spammer by proxy! that’s great… thanks for stopping by Simon… yeah #6 is pretty simple… it’s tough to find ways to get rubber to the road… good news is i think its something you can get better at.

  • Hi Dan

    First time on your site and leaving directly a comment :)
    I especially like 3 and 4. IMHO it can’t be said often enough that one needs to surround her/himself with like minded people. Not that I know much about it, I am still on my quest to reaching the 4HWW. Yet, I know how it is not to have like minded people around me, but only the nay sayers… surely doesn’t help. 

  • Dan

    Naysayers will abound. Thanks for stopping by and saying hi David! Good luck with your business. 

  • Business definitely takes a lot more work than is portrayed in that book. But can you really give a genuine account of how hard it is in a short book? I don’t think so.

    Plus, Tim is a business man and pure marketer. Who would want to buy his book if he claimed that everything in there was difficult? :)

  • Dan

    I agree with you there. If he focused on that people would undoubtably complain too– plus he’d run the risk of coming across as patronizing and even just boring.

  • Payman

    You’re right on the money again with this article Dan. All points mentioned can be deal breakers or makers by themselves. For me, the most challenging aspect right now is the to make my business produce as predictably as possible. I mean, one month, I am killing it, the next month, barely any $. I guess that comes with the territory if you will of being involved with high end/big ticket items. I agree with you wholeheartedly that being self motivated and learning new skills on your own is vital in your growth and of your business’s growth.
    thanks for those rocking articles Dan.



  • Great LBP episode on this, loved the Yankees analogy!

    I admit that sometimes Mr. Ferris rubs me the wrong way, BUT his book is life-changing IF you let the content sink in and find ways to apply it to your life. Don’t get caught up in his braggadocios writing style.

    Also, in my personal experience most haters of the 4HWW are guilty of number 6. They are lazy and want the “magical bullet” path of least resistance, when in actuality creating a lifestyle business is HARDER work than punching a clock, but the benefits are far greater too.


  • It is indeed a life changer (as probably any book of that sort could be, I guess). It has infected me like a virus two years ago and sometimes I curse the day I picked up that book at the airport… :D

    I think that another problem is that many people, after reading Tim’s book, suddenly think that all is extremly easy and just anybody can do it, without any bigger efforts. And THAT’s where many get it wrong or follow an illusion that doesn’t exist that way, at least not in most cases. It’s still hard work, although the book helps to go from working harder to working smarter.

  • Dan

    Appreciate the feedback Payman. I feel your pain trying to piece this stuff together and keep it going– if you are feeling the burn you are probably doing the right things :)

  • Dan

    Totally agreed with you there. And the comments to this post have forced me to reflect on this– I don’t think the quality of the book or the fallout for the audience would have improved if Tim would have really belabored the point of how difficult it is to get a business off the ground. You know I have met some people who just put up an ebook and BOOM! presto! 

  • Dan

    Thanks on that :D

    In some critical ways its harder– like you’ll need to be more brave and break conventions and stuff– in some ways I find it easier– for example I love to work everyday. That used to be a chore.

  • Sean

    Hi Dan – great post. I read that book for the first time a few years ago and while it infected me and made me desperately want the lifestyle, I was too chicken to do anything about it. I really like your point about coming up with a solution and then focusing only on selling that. Then growing from there. I think I missed that at first by trying to come up with an entire business model first and doing too many non-money making activities.

    I came across this post from Cody McKibben and his awesome blog. Anyway, glad to have discovered your blog!


  • Dan

    Sean, thanks for stopping by I really appreciate your comment :) Hope you’ll stick around a bit, if you’ve got ideas on what I can write about in the future just drop me an email. Cheers and best of luck with your online ventures. 

  • Crucible

    Spot on Chris, my current business is live or die by the phone, we use any method possible to take leads from online to phone line. Thanks for reminding me how important this really is!


  • Thank you, this post lighted me up and inspiration :)

  • Dan



    Dan…my gosh man! Reading this was like looking into the mirror. I launched my first muse a week after reading 4HWW in between leading combat patrols in Iraq. I don’t think it’s possible to relate to someone the sweat equity required to build a location independent business–especially when you have a day job!

    I love your point #4–you don’t know what a real business looks like. May I add “the problem contains the solution”?

  • Dan

    :D Thanks for the shout sir! You may add!!! :)

  • james

    excellent article Dan, failing is not a permanent position, pain is temporary success is permanent. However I think there are two difficulties for people aiming to achieve anything, for this situation its as you call a location independent business, number one is lack of experience and two is info overload. Tim Ferriss certainly makes it all sound very easy but in most cases its not, not for everybody anyway, what works for Tim, does not work for everybody, that said it can be done, people can create this type of business but ti does not happen over night, it takes effort, persistence and a big learning curve as well.

  • Dan

    thanks for reading and commenting James! I agree Tim often makes it sound easy, that’s part of his charm and influence (and probably why jokes like me took action) but yeah I learned it was damn hard :)

  • james

    Very true Dan, I think it was very brave of him to take the steps he did to automate his business when nobody else would have dreamed of it, and he certainly reaped the rewards from it, but we have to remember i’m sure it took a mammoth effort from him to set up his mail order business (he pretty much glosses over this part) before he could automate it, however he speaks about his friend in the book Douglas Price who by all accounts quite easily set up his drop ship business which became successful, so in all there is no real set formula or end result, on Tims blog he has case studies where some guys set up a profitable business within days, others took years, if we all persist, the right result will happen, we learn, make mistakes, persist and keep focused but the only way something will happen is if you go and try it, be smart and learn from others.

  • Dan

    agree re: no set formula. If you find it let me know!!!! :)

  • Blake Tiggemann

    This was the list I was looking for. Thank you.

  • :D

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