December 6, 2018 at 6:31 am #1190
The 4-Hour Workweek
“It’s about time this book was written. It is a long-overdue manifesto for the
mobile lifestyle, and Tim Ferriss is the ideal ambassador. This will be huge.”
—JACK CANFIELD, cocreator of Chicken Soup for the Soul®, 100+ million
“Stunning and amazing. From mini-retirements to outsourcing your life, it’s all
here. Whether you’re a wage slave or a Fortune 500 CEO, this book will change
—PHIL TOWN, New York Times bestselling author of Rule #1
“The 4-Hour Workweek is a new way of solving a very old problem: just how
can we work to live and prevent our lives from being all about work? A world
of infinite options awaits those who would read this book and be inspired by it!”
—MICHAEL E. GERBER, founder and chairman of E-Myth Worldwide and the
world’s #1 small business guru
“This is a whole new ball game. Highly recommended.”
—DR. STEWART D. FRIEDMAN, adviser to Jack Welch and former Vice
President Al Gore on work/family issues and director of the Work/Life
Integration Program at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
“Timothy has packed more lives into his 29 years than Steve Jobs has in his
—TOM FOREMSKI, journalist and publisher of SiliconValleyWatcher.com
“If you want to live life on your own terms, this is your blueprint.”
—MIKE MAPLES, cofounder of Motive Communications (IPO to $260M market
cap) and founding executive of Tivoli (sold to IBM for $750M)
Preface to the Expanded and Updated Edition
First and Foremost
FAQ—Doubters Read This
My Story and Why You Need This Book
Chronology of a Pathology
Step I: D is for Definition
1 Cautions and Comparisons: How to Burn $1,000,000 a Night
2 Rules That Change the Rules: Everything Popular Is Wrong
3 Dodging Bullets: Fear-Setting and Escaping Paralysis
4 System Reset: Being Unreasonable and Unambiguous
Step II: E is for Elimination
5 The End of Time Management: Illusions and Italians
6 The Low-Information Diet: Cultivating Selective Ignorance
7 Interrupting Interruption and the Art of Refusal
Step III: A is for Automation
8 Outsourcing Life: Off-loading the Rest and a Taste of Geoarbitrage
9 Income Autopilot I: Finding the Muse
10 Income Autopilot II: Testing the Muse
11 Income Autopilot III: MBA—Management by Absence
Step IV: L is for Liberation
12 Disappearing Act: How to Escape the Office
13 Beyond Repair: Killing Your Job
14 Mini-Retirements: Embracing the Mobile Lifestyle
15 Filling the Void: Adding Life After Subtracting Work
16 The Top 13 New Rich Mistakes
The Last Chapter: An E-mail You Need to Read
Last but Not Least
THE BEST OF THE BLOG
The Art of Letting Bad Things Happen
Things I’ve Loved and Learned in 2008
How to Travel the World with 10 Pounds or Less
The Choice-Minimal Lifestyle: 6 Formulas for More Output and Less Overwhelm
The Not-to-Do List: 9 Habits to Stop Now
The Margin Manifesto: 11 Tenets for Reaching (or Doubling) Profitability in 3
The Holy Grail: How to Outsource the Inbox and Never Check E-mail Again
Tim Ferriss Processing Rules
Proposal to Work Remotely on a Contract Basis
LIVING THE 4-HOUR WORKWEEK: CASE STUDIES,
TIPS, AND HACKS
Zen and the Art of Rock Star Living
Art Lovers Wanted
Taking Flight with Ornithreads
The 4-Hour Family and Global Education
Who Says Kids Hold You Back?
Killing Your BlackBerry
Star Wars, Anyone?
RESTRICTED READING: THE FEW THAT MATTER
How to Get $250,000 of Advertising for $10,000
How to Learn Any Language in 3 Months
Muse Math: Predicting the Revenue of Any Product
Licensing: From Tae Bo to Teddy Ruxpin
Real Licensing Agreement with Real Dollars
Online Round-the-World (RTW) Trip Planner
First and Foremost
FAQ—DOUBTERS READ THIS
Is lifestyle design for you? Chances are good that it is. Here are some of the most
common doubts and fears that people have before taking the leap and joining the New
Do I have to quit or hate my job? Do I have to be a risk-taker?
No on all three counts. From using Jedi mind tricks to disappear from the office to
designing businesses that finance your lifestyle, there are paths for every comfort
level. How does a Fortune 500 employee explore the hidden jewels of China for a
month and use technology to cover his tracks? How do you create a hands-off
business that generates $80K per month with no management? It’s all here.
Do I have to be a single twenty-something?
Not at all. This book is for anyone who is sick of the deferred-life plan and wants to
live life large instead of postpone it. Case studies range from a Lamborghini-driving
21-year-old to a single mother who traveled the world for five months with her two
children. If you’re sick of the standard menu of options and prepared to enter a world
of infinite options, this book is for you.
Do I have to travel? I just want more time.
No. It’s just one option. The objective is to create freedom of time and place and
use both however you want.
Do I need to be born rich?
No. My parents have never made more than $50,000 per year combined, and I’ve
worked since age 14. I’m no Rockefeller and you needn’t be either.
Do I need to be an Ivy League graduate?
Nope. Most of the role models in this book didn’t go to the Harvards of the world,
and some are dropouts. Top academic institutions are wonderful, but there are
unrecognized benefits to not coming out of one. Grads from top schools are funneled
into high-income 80-hour-per-week jobs, and 15–30 years of soul-crushing work has
been accepted as the default path. How do I know? I’ve been there and seen the
destruction. This book reverses it.
The lectures I ultimately developed, titled “Drug Dealing for Fun and Profit,” began
with a simple premise: Test the most basic assumptions of the work-life equation.
How do your decisions change if retirement isn’t
What if you could use a mini-retirement to sample
your deferred-life plan reward before working 40
years for it?
Is it really necessary to work like a slave to live
like a millionaire?
Here is the step-by-step process you’ll use to reinvent yourself:
D for Definition turns misguided common sense upside down and introduces the
rules and objectives of the new game. It replaces self-defeating assumptions and
explains concepts such as relative wealth and eustress.1
Who are the NR and how do
they operate? This section explains the overall lifestyle design recipe—the
fundamentals—before we add the three ingredients.
E for Elimination kills the obsolete notion of time management once and for all. It
shows exactly how I used the words of an often-forgotten Italian economist to turn 12-
hour days into two-hour days … in 48 hours. Increase your per-hour results ten times
or more with counterintuitive NR techniques for cultivating selective ignorance,
developing a low-information diet, and otherwise ignoring the unimportant. This
section provides the first of the three luxury lifestyle design ingredients: time.
A for Automation puts cash flow on autopilot using geographic arbitrage,
outsourcing, and rules of nondecision. From bracketing to the routines of
ultrasuccessful NR, it’s all here. This section provides the second ingredient of luxury
lifestyle design: income.
L for Liberation is the mobile manifesto for the globally inclined. The concept of
mini-retirements is introduced, as are the means for flawless remote control and
escaping the boss. Liberation is not about cheap travel; it is about forever breaking the
bonds that confine you to a single location. This section delivers the third and final
ingredient for luxury lifestyle design: mobility.
I should note that most bosses are less than pleased if you spend one hour in the
office each day, and employees should therefore read the steps in the entrepreneurially
minded DEAL order but implement them as DELA. If you decide to remain in your
current job, it is necessary to create freedom of location before you cut your work
hours by 80%. Even if you have never considered becoming an entrepreneur in the
modern sense, the DEAL process will turn you into an entrepreneur in the purer sense
as first coined by French economist J. B. Say in 1800—one who shifts economic
resources out of an area of lower and into an area of higher yield.
Last but not least, much of what I recommend will seem impossible and even
offensive to basic common sense—I expect that. Resolve now to test the concepts as
an exercise in lateral thinking. If you try it, you’ll see just how deep the rabbit hole
goes, and you won’t ever go back.
Take a deep breath and let me show you my world. And remember—tranquilo. It’s time to have fun and let the rest follow.
Getting Off the Wrong Train
The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.
—RICHARD P. FEYNMAN, Nobel Prize–winning physicist
Money is multiplied in practical value depending on the number of W’s you control in your life: what you do, when you do it, where you do it, and with whom you do it. I call this the “freedom multiplier.”
The options are limitless, but each path begins with the same first step: replacing assumptions.
Once you say you’re going to settle for second, that’s what happens to you in life.
—JOHN F. KENNEDY
Rules That Change the Rules
EVERYTHING POPULAR IS WRONG
Beating the Game, Not Playing the Game
Challenging the Status Quo vs. Being Stupid
Retirement Is Worst-Case-Scenario Insurance.
Retirement planning is like life insurance. It should be viewed as nothing more than a
hedge against the absolute worst-case scenario: in this case, becoming physically
incapable of working and needing a reservoir of capital to survive.
Interest and Energy Are Cyclical.
Less Is Not Laziness.
The Timing Is Never Right.
Ask for Forgiveness, Not Permission.
Emphasize Strengths, Don’t Fix Weaknesses.
Things in Excess Become Their Opposite.
Money Alone Is Not the Solution.
Relative Income Is More Important Than Absolute Income.
Distress Is Bad, Eustress Is Good.
Q&A: QUESTIONS AND ACTIONS
1. How has being “realistic” or “responsible” kept you from the life you want?
2. How has doing what you “should” resulted in subpar experiences or regret for not having done something else?
3. Look at what you’re currently doing and ask yourself, “What would happen if I did the opposite of the people around me? What will I sacrifice if I continue on this track for 5, 10, or 20 years?”
FEAR-SETTING AND ESCAPING PARALYSIS
The Power of Pessimism: Defining the Nightmare
Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.
—BENJAMIN DISRAELI, former British Prime Minister
Conquering Fear = Defining Fear
Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with
the scantiest and cheapest fare, with course and rough dress, saying to
yourself the while: “Is this the condition that I feared?”
Uncovering Fear Disguised as Optimism
There’s no difference between a pessimist who says, “Oh, it’s hopeless, so
don’t bother doing anything,” and an optimist who says, “Don’t bother doing
anything, it’s going to turn out fine anyway.” Either way, nothing happens.
—YVON CHOUINARD, founder of Patagonia
Someone Call the Maître D’
You have comfort. You don’t have luxury. And don’t tell me that money
plays a part. The luxury I advocate has nothing to do with money. It cannot
be bought. It is the reward of those who have no fear of discomfort.
—JEAN COCTEAU, French poet, novelist, boxing manager, and filmmaker,
whose collaborations were the inspiration for the term “surrealism”
“WOW, I CAN SURVIVE.”
Jean-Marc had passed the point of no return, but it didn’t matter. After two weeks of
adjusting to the breakfast, lunch, and dinner (Mush à la Ghana), he had no desire to
escape. The most basic of foods and good friends proved to be the only real
necessities, and what would seem like a disaster from the outside was the most lifeaffirming
epiphany he’d ever experienced: The worst really wasn’t that bad. To enjoy
life, you don’t need fancy nonsense, but you do need to control your time and realize
that most things just aren’t as serious as you make them out to be.
Now 48, Jean-Marc lives in a nice home in Ontario, but could live without it. He
has cash, but could fall into poverty tomorrow and it wouldn’t matter. Some of his
fondest memories still include nothing but friends and gruel. He is dedicated to
creating special moments for himself and his family and is utterly unconcerned with
retirement. He’s already lived 20 years of partial retirement in perfect health.
Don’t save it all for the end. There is every reason not to.
Q&A: QUESTIONS AND ACTIONS
I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.
If you are nervous about making the jump or simply putting it off out of fear of the
unknown, here is your antidote. Write down your answers, and keep in mind that
thinking a lot will not prove as fruitful or as prolific as simply brain vomiting on the
page. Write and do not edit—aim for volume. Spend a few minutes on each answer.
1. Define your nightmare, the absolute worst that could happen if you
did what you are considering.
2. What steps could you take to repair the damage or get things back on
the upswing, even if temporarily?
3. What are the outcomes or benefits, both temporary and permanent, of
more probable scenarios?
4. If you were fired from your job today, what would you do to get
things under financial control?
5. What are you putting off out of fear?
6. What is it costing you—financially, emotionally, and physically—to
7. What are you waiting for?
BEING UNREASONABLE AND UNAMBIGUOUS
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where …” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
—LEWIS CARROLL, Alice in Wonderland
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
—GEORGE BERNARD SHAW, Maxims for Revolutionists
SPRING 2005 / PRINCETON , NEW JERSEY
Doing the Unrealistic Is Easier Than Doing the Realistic
What Do You Want? A Better Question, First of All
Adult-Onset ADD: Adventure Deficit Disorder
The Fat Man in the Red BMW Convertible
Correcting Course: Get Unrealistic
How to Get George Bush Sr. or the CEO of Google on the Phone
Q&A: QUESTIONS AND ACTIONS
The existential vacuum manifests itself mainly in a state of boredom.
—VIKTOR FRANKL, Auschwitz survivor and founder of Logotherapy, Man’s
Search for Meaning Life is too short to be small.
E is for Elimination
One does not accumulate but eliminate . It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity .
The End of Time Management
Perfection is not when there is no more to add, but no more to take away.
—ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPÉRY, pioneer of international postal flight and
author of Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince)
It is vain to do with more what can be done with less.
—WILLIAM OF OCCAM (1300–1350), originator of “Occam’s Razor”
How You Will Use Productivity
Now that you have defined what you want to do with your time, you have to free
that time. The trick, of course, is to do so while maintaining or increasing your
The intention of this chapter, and what you will experience if you follow the
instructions, is an increase in personal productivity between 100 and 500%. The
principles are the same for both employees and entrepreneurs, but the purpose of this
increased productivity is completely different.
First, the employee. The employee is increasing productivity to increase negotiating
leverage for two simultaneous objectives: pay raises and a remote working
Recall that, as indicated in the first chapter of this book, the general process of
joining the New Rich is D-E-A-L, in that order, but that employees intent on
remaining employees for now need to implement the process as D-E-L-A. The reason
relates to environment. They need to Liberate themselves from the office
environment before they can work ten hours a week, for example, because the
expectation in that environment is that you will be in constant motion from 9–5. Even
if you produce twice the results you had in the past, if you’re working a quarter of the
hours of your colleagues, there is a good chance of receiving a pink slip. Even if you
work 10 hours a week and produce twice the results of people working 40, the
collective request will be, “Work 40 hours a week and produce 8 times the results.”
This is an endless game and one you want to avoid. Hence the need for Liberation
If you’re an employee, this chapter will increase your value and make it more
painful for the company to fire you than to grant raises and a remote working
agreement. That is your goal. Once the latter is accomplished, you can drop hours
without bureaucratic interference and use the resultant free time to fulfill dreamlines.
The entrepreneur’s goals are less complex, as he or she is generally the direct
beneficiary of increased profit. The goal is to decrease the amount of work you
perform while increasing revenue. This will set the stage for replacing yourself with
Automation, which in turn permits Liberation.
For both tracks, some definitions are in order.
Being Effective vs. Being Efficient
Effectiveness is doing the things that get you closer to your goals. Efficiency is
performing a given task (whether important or not) in the most economical manner
possible. Being efficient without regard to effectiveness is the default mode of the
I would consider the best door-to-door salesperson efficient—that is, refined and
excellent at selling door-to-door without wasting time—but utterly ineffective. He or
she would sell more using a better vehicle such as e-mail or direct mail.
This is also true for the person who checks e-mail 30 times per day and develops an
elaborate system of folder rules and sophisticated techniques for ensuring that each of
those 30 brain farts moves as quickly as possible. I was a specialist at such
professional wheel-spinning. It is efficient on some perverse level, but far from
Here are two truisms to keep in mind:
1. Doing something unimportant well does not make it important.
2. Requiring a lot of time does not make a task important.
From this moment forward, remember this: What you do is infinitely more
important than how you do it. Efficiency is still important, but it is useless unless
applied to the right things.
To find the right things, we’ll need to go to the garden.
Pareto and His Garden: 80/20 and Freedom from Futility
What gets measured gets managed.
—PETER DRUCKER, management theorist, author of 31 books, recipient of
Presidential Medal of Freedom
Four years ago, an economist changed my life forever. It’s a shame I never had a
chance to buy him a drink. My dear Vilfredo died almost 100 years ago.
Vilfredo Pareto was a wily and controversial economist-cum-sociologist who lived
from 1848 to 1923. An engineer by training, he started his varied career managing
coal mines and later succeeded Léon Walras as the chair of political economy at the
University of Lausanne in Switzerland. His seminal work, Cours d’economie
politique, included a then little-explored “law” of income distribution that would later
bear his name: “Pareto’s Law” or the “Pareto Distribution,” in the last decade also
popularly called the “80/20 Principle.”
The mathematical formula he used to demonstrate a grossly uneven but predictable
distribution of wealth in society—80% of the wealth and income was produced and
possessed by 20% of the population—also applied outside of economics. Indeed, it
could be found almost everywhere. Eighty percent of Pareto’s garden peas were
produced by 20% of the peapods he had planted, for example.
Pareto’s Law can be summarized as follows: 80% of the outputs result from 20% of
the inputs. Alternative ways to phrase this, depending on the context, include:
80% of the consequences flow from 20% of the causes.
80% of the results come from 20% of the effort and time.
80% of company profits come from 20% of the products and customers.
80% of all stock market gains are realized by 20% of the investors and 20% of an
The list is infinitely long and diverse, and the ratio is often skewed even more
severely: 90/10, 95/5, and 99/1 are not uncommon, but the minimum ratio to seek is
When I came across Pareto’s work one late evening, I had been slaving away with
15-hour days seven days per week, feeling completely overwhelmed and generally
helpless. I would wake up before dawn to make calls to the United Kingdom, handle
the U.S. during the normal 9–5 day, and then work until near midnight making calls to
Japan and New Zealand. I was stuck on a runaway freight train with no brakes,
shoveling coal into the furnace for lack of a better option. Faced with certain burnout
or giving Pareto’s ideas a trial run, I opted for the latter. The next morning, I began a
dissection of my business and personal life through the lenses of two questions:
1. Which 20% of sources are causing 80% of my problems and unhappiness?
2. Which 20% of sources are resulting in 80% of my desired outcomes and
For the entire day, I put aside everything seemingly urgent and did the most intense
truth-baring analysis possible, applying these questions to everything from my friends
to customers and advertising to relaxation activities. Don’t expect to find you’re doing
everything right—the truth often hurts. The goal is to find your inefficiencies in order
to eliminate them and to find your strengths so you can multiply them. In the 24 hours
that followed, I made several simple but emotionally difficult decisions that literally
changed my life forever and enabled the lifestyle I now enjoy.
The first decision I made is an excellent example of how dramatic and fast the ROI
of this analytical fat-cutting can be: I stopped contacting 95% of my customers and
fired 2%, leaving me with the top 3% of producers to profile and duplicate.
Out of more than 120 wholesale customers, a mere 5 were bringing in 95% of the
revenue. I was spending 98% of my time chasing the remainder, as the
aforementioned 5 ordered regularly without any follow-up calls, persuasion, or
cajoling. In other words, I was working because I felt as though I should be doing
something from 9–5. I didn’t realize that working every hour from 9–5 isn’t the goal;
it’s simply the structure most people use, whether it’s necessary or not. I had a severe
case of work-for-work (W4W), the most-hated acronym in the NR vocabulary.
All, and I mean 100%, of my problems and complaints came from this unproductive
majority, with the exception of two large customers who were simply world-class
experts of the “here is the fire I started, now you put it out” approach to business. I put
all of these unproductive customers on passive mode: If they ordered, great—let them
fax in the order. If not, I would do absolutely no chasing: no phone calls, no e-mail,
nothing. That left the two larger customers to deal with, who were professional ball
breakers but contributed about 10% to the bottom line at the time.
You’ll always have a few of these, and it is a quandary that causes all sorts of
problems, not the least of which are self-hatred and depression. Up to that point, I had
taken their browbeating, insults, time-consuming arguments, and tirades as a cost of
doing business. I realized during the 80/20 analysis that these two people were the
source of nearly all my unhappiness and anger throughout the day, and it usually
spilled over into my personal time, keeping me up at night with the usual “I should
have said X, Y, and Z to that penis” self-flagellation. I finally concluded the obvious:
The effect on my self-esteem and state of mind just wasn’t worth the financial gain. I
didn’t need the money for any precise reason, and I had assumed I needed to take it.
The customers are always right, aren’t they? Part of doing business, right? Hell, no.
Not for the NR, anyway. I fired their asses and enjoyed every second of it. The first
conversation went like this:
Customer: What the &#@$? I ordered two cases and they arrived two days late.
[Note: He had sent the order to the wrong person via the wrong medium, despite
repeated reminders.] You guys are the most disorganized bunch of idiots I’ve ever
worked with. I have 20 years of experience in this industry, and this is the worst.
Any NR—in this case, me: I will kill you. Be afraid, be very afraid.
I wish. I did rehearse that a million times in my mental theater, but it actually went
something more like this:
I’m sorry to hear that. You know, I’ve been taking your insults for a while now, and
it’s unfortunate that it seems we won’t be able to do business anymore. I’d
recommend you take a good look at where this unhappiness and anger is actually
coming from. In any case, I wish you well. If you would like to order product, we’ll be
happy to supply it, but only if you can conduct yourself without profanity and
unnecessary insults. You have our fax number. All the best and have a nice day.
I did this once via phone and once through e-mail. So what happened? I lost one
customer, but the other corrected course and simply faxed orders, again and again and
again. Problem solved, minimum revenue lost. I was immediately 10 times happier.
I then identified the common characteristics of my top-five customers and secured
three or so similarly profiled buyers in the following week. Remember, more
customers is not automatically more income. More customers is not the goal and often
translates into 90% more housekeeping and a paltry 1–3% increase in income. Make
no mistake, maximum income from minimal necessary effort (including minimum
number of customers) is the primary goal. I duplicated my strengths, in this case my
top producers, and focused on increasing the size and frequency of their orders.
The end result? I went from chasing and appeasing 120 customers to simply
receiving large orders from 8, with absolutely no pleading phone calls or e-mail
haranguing. My monthly income increased from $30K to $60K in four weeks and my
weekly hours immediately dropped from over 80 to approximately 15. Most
important, I was happy with myself and felt both optimistic and liberated for the first
time in over two years.
In the ensuing weeks, I applied the 80/20 Principle to dozens of areas, including the
2. Online Affiliates and Partners
The 9–5 Illusion and Parkinson’s Law
I saw a bank that said “24-Hour Banking,” but I don’t have that much time.
—STEVEN WRIGHT, comedian
A Dozen Cupcakes and One Question
Love of bustle is not industry.
Am I being productive or just active?
Am I inventing things to do to avoid the important?
Q&A: QUESTIONS AND ACTIONS
We create stress for ourselves because you feel like you have to do it. You
have to. I don’t feel that anymore.
—OPRAH WINFREY, actress and talk-show host, The Oprah Winfrey Show
1. If you had a heart attack and had to work two hours per day, what would you
2. If you had a second heart attack and had to work two hours per week, what
would you do?
3. If you had a gun to your head and had to stop doing 4/5 of different timeconsuming
activities, what would you remove?
4. What are the top-three activities that I use to fill time to feel as though I’ve
5. Who are the 20% of people who produce 80% of your enjoyment and propel
you forward, and which 20% cause 80% of your depression, anger, and secondguessing?
Positive friends versus time-consuming friends:
Who is helping versus hurting you, and how do you
increase your time with the former while decreasing
or eliminating your time with the latter?
Who is causing me stress disproportionate to the
time I spend with them? What will happen if I
simply stop interacting with these people? Fearsetting
When do I feel starved for time? What
commitments, thoughts, and people can I eliminate
to fix this problem?
6. Learn to ask, “If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied
with my day?”
7. Put a Post-it on your computer screen or set an Outlook reminder to alert you
at least three times daily with the question: Are you inventing things to do to
avoid the important?
8. Do not multitask.
9. Use Parkinson’s Law on a Macro and Micro Level.
LIFESTYLE DESIGN IN ACTION
I’m a musician who got your book because Derek Sivers at CD Baby recommended
it. Checking Pareto’s Law I realized that 78% of my downloads came from just one of
my CDs and that 55% of my total download income came from only five songs! It
showed me what my fans are looking for and allowed me to showcase those on my
web site. Downloads are the way to go. iTunes sells the song and CD Baby direct
deposits it to my account. Fully automated once the recording is done. There are some
months I can live off download income. Once I finish paying off debt, it should be no
problem to travel as an artist and create new fans all over the world and have a cyber
As for “outsourcing” your banking, any company that needs to take checks
(cheques) should consider a lock box solution. Just about any bank that does business
banking offers it. All checks go to a PO box at the bank, the bank processes the checks
and deposits them, and according to your instructions can send you a file of all the
checks that are deposited. Normally this can be done in either a flat, Excel or other file
type that can interface with any accounting systems from Excel, to Quicken to SAP.
Quite cost effective.
The Low-Information Diet
CULTIVATING SELECTIVE IGNORANCE
What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of
its recipients. Hence, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention
and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of
information sources that might consume it.
—HERBERT SIMON, recipient of Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics8
the A.M. Turing Award, the “Nobel Prize of Computer Science”
Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative
pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls
into lazy habits of thinking.
Cultivating Selective Ignorance
There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant.
—RALPH WALDO EMERSON (1803–1882)
That’s a simple example, you say, but what if you need to learn to do something
your friends haven’t done? Like, say, sell a book to the world’s largest publisher as a
first-time author? Funny you should ask. There are two approaches I used:
1. I picked one book out of dozens based on reader reviews and the fact that the
authors had actually done what I wanted to do. If the task is how-to in nature, I only
read accounts that are “how I did it” and autobiographical. No speculators or
wannabes are worth the time.
2. Using the book to generate intelligent and specific questions, I contacted 10 of the
top authors and agents in the world via e-mail and phone, with a response rate of 80%.
I only read the sections of the book that were relevant to immediate next steps,
which took less than two hours. To develop a template e-mail and call script took
approximately four hours, and the actual e-mails and phone calls took less than an
hour. This personal contact approach is not only more effective and more efficient
than all-you-can-eat info buffets, it also provided me with the major league alliances
and mentors necessary to sell this book. Rediscover the power of the forgotten skill
called “talking.” It works.
Once again, less is more.
How to Read 200% Faster in 10 Minutes
There will be times when, it’s true, you will have to read. Here are four simple tips
that will lessen the damage and increase your speed at least 200% in 10 minutes with
no comprehension loss:
1. Two Minutes: Use a pen or finger to trace under each line as you read as
fast as possible. Reading is a series of jumping snapshots (called saccades), and
using a visual guide prevents regression.
2. Three Minutes: Begin each line focusing on the third word in from the
first word, and end each line focusing on the third word in from the last
word. This makes use of peripheral vision that is otherwise wasted on margins.
For example, even when the highlighted words in the next line are your
beginning and ending focal points, the entire sentence is “read,” just with less
“Once upon a time, an information addict decided to detox.”
Move in from both sides further and further as it gets easier.
3. Two Minutes: Once comfortable indenting three or four words from both
sides, attempt to take only two snapshots—also known as fixations—per
line on the first and last indented words.
4. Three Minutes: Practice reading too fast for comprehension but with
good technique (the above three techniques) for five pages prior to reading
at a comfortable speed. This will heighten perception and reset your speed
limit, much like how 50 mph normally feels fast but seems like slow motion if
you drop down from 70 mph on the freeway.
To calculate reading speed in words per minute (wpm)—and thus progress—in a
given book, add up the number of words in ten lines and divide by ten to get the
average words per line. Multiply this by the number of lines per page and you have the
average words per page. Now it’s simple. If you initially read 1.25 pages in one
minute at 330 average words per page, that’s 412.5 words per minute. If you then read
3.5 pages after training, it’s 1,155 words per minute and you’re in the top 1% of the
world’s fastest readers.
Q&A: QUESTIONS AND ACTIONS
Learning to ignore things is one of the great paths to inner peace.
—ROBERT J. SAWYER, Calculating God
1. Go on an immediate one-week media fast
2. Develop the habit of asking yourself, “Will I definitely use this information for
something immediate and important?”
3. Practice the art of nonfinishing.
Interrupting Interruption and the Art of Refusal
Do your own thinking independently. Be the chess player, not the chess
Meetings are an addictive, highly self-indulgent activity that corporations
and other organizations habitually engage in only because they cannot
—DAVE BARRY, Pulitzer Prize–winning American humorist
Not All Evils Are Created Equal
Time Wasters: Become an Ignoramus
Time Consumers: Batch and Do Not Falter
A schedule defends from chaos and whim.
—ANNIE DILLARD, winner of Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction, 1975
Empowerment Failure: Rules and Readjustment
The vision is really about empowering workers, giving them all the
information about what’s going on so they can do a lot more than they’ve
done in the past.
—BILL GATES, cofounder of Microsoft, richest man in the world
Q&A: QUESTIONS AND ACTIONS
People think it must be fun to be a super genius, but they don’t realize how hard it is to put up with all the idiots in the world.
—CALVIN, from Calvin and Hobbes
A is for Automation
SCOTTY: She’s all yours, sir. All systems
automated and ready. A chimpanzee
and two trainees could run her!
CAPTAIN KIRK: Thank you, Mr. Scott. I’ll
try not to take that personally .
— STAR TREK
A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.
—HENRY DAVID THOREAU, naturalist
The Menu: A World of Possibilities
I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the
table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of
—BISHOP DESMOND TUTU, South African cleric and activist
Getting Personal and Going Howard Hughes
Howard Hughes, the ultrarich filmmaker and eccentric from The Aviator, was
notorious for assigning odd tasks to his assistants. Here are a few from Donald
Bartlett’s Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness you might want to consider.
1. After his first plane crash, Hughes confided in a friend that he believed his
recovery was due to his consumption of orange juice and its healing properties. He
believed that exposure to the air diluted the juice’s potency, so he demanded that
fresh oranges be sliced and juiced in front of him.
2. When Hughes was partaking of the nightlife in Las Vegas, his aides were
charged with approaching any girls he took a liking to. If a girl was invited to join
the Hughes table and agreed, an aide would pull out a waiver and agreement for her
3. Hughes had a barber on call 24/7 but had his hair and nails trimmed about once a
4. In his hotel-bound years, Hughes was rumored to have instructed assistants to
place a single cheeseburger in a specific tree outside his penthouse room at a 4:00
P.M. each day, whether he was there or not.
Such a world of possibilities! Just as the Model-T brought transportation to the
masses, virtual assistants bring eccentric billionaire behavior within reach of each
man, woman, and child. Now, that’s progress.
We’ve done the legwork and found people who fell out of contact after Katrina. Found
jobs for clients! My favorite so far: One of our clients has a pair of trousers that he
really likes that aren’t in production anymore. He’s sending them to Bangalore (from
London) to have created exact replicas at a tiny fraction of the price.
Here are a few other YMII custom requests:
Reminding an overzealous client to pay his current
parking fines, as well as not speed and collect
Apologizing and sending flowers and cards to
spouses of clients.
Charting a diet plan, reminding client on it
regularly, ordering groceries based on the specific
Getting a job for a person who lost his job due to
outsourcing a year back. We did the job search, did
the cover letters, did the resume tuning, and got the
client a job in 30 days.
Fixing a broken windowpane of a house in
Collecting homework information from teacher’s
voicemail and e-mailing it to the client (parents of
Research on how to tie a shoelace meant for a kid
Find a parking slot for your car in some other city
even before you make the trip.
Ordered garbage bins for home.
Get an authenticated weather forecast and weather
report for a particular time in a particular place on a
particular day, five years ago. This was to be used
as supportive evidence for a lawsuit.
Talking to parents in our client’s stead.
Basic Choices: New Delhi or New York?
Remote or Local?
“Made in the USA” doesn’t have the ring it used to. The pros of jumping time zones
and visiting third-world currency are twofold: People work while you sleep, and the
per-hour expense is less. Time savings and cost savings. Ritika explains the former
with an example.
One can give the remote personal assistant in India their assignment when they are
leaving work at the end of the day in New York City, and they will have the
presentation ready the next morning. Because of the time difference with India,
assistants can work on it while they are asleep and have it back in their morning.
When they wake up, they will find the completed summary in their inbox. These
assistants can also help them keep pace with what they want to read, for example.
The biggest challenge with overseas help will be the language barrier, which often
quadruples back-and-forth discussion and the ultimate cost. The first time I hired an
Indian VA, I made the fundamental mistake of not setting an hour cap for three simple
tasks. I checked in later that week and found he had spent 23 hours chasing his tail. He
had scheduled one tentative interview for the following week, set at the wrong time!
Mind boggling. 23 hours? It ended up costing me, at $10 per hour, $230. The same
tasks, assigned later that week to a native English speaker in Canada, were completed
in two hours at $25 per hour. $50 for more than four times the results. That said, I later
requested another Indian VA from the same firm who was able to duplicate the native
How do you know which to choose? That’s the beautiful part: You don’t. It’s a
matter of testing a few assistants to both sharpen your communication skills and
determine who is worth hiring and who is worth firing. Being a results-based boss
isn’t as simple as it looks.
There are a number of lessons to be learned here.
First, per-hour cost is not the ultimate determinant of cost. Look at per-task cost. If
you need to spend time restating the task and otherwise managing the VA, determine
the time required of you and add this (using your per-hour rate from earlier chapters)
to the end sticker price of the task. It can be surprising. As cool as it is to say that you
have people working for you in three countries, it’s uncool to spend time babysitting
people who are supposed to make your life easier.
Second, the proof is in the pudding. It is impossible to predict how well you will
work with a given VA without a trial. Luckily, there are things you can do to improve
your odds, and one of them is using a VA firm instead of a solo operator.
Solo vs. Support Team
Let’s suppose you find the perfect VA. He or she is performing all of your noncritical
tasks and you’ve decided to take a much-deserved vacation to Thailand. It’s nice to
know someone besides you will be manning the wheel and putting out fires for a
change. Finally, some relief! Two hours before your flight from Bangkok to Phuket,
you receive an e-mail: Your VA is out of commission and will be in the hospital for
the next week. Not good. Vacation FUBAR.
I don’t like being dependent on one person, and I don’t recommend it in the least. In
the world of high technology, this type of dependency would be referred to as a
“single point of failure”—one fragile item upon which all else depends. In the world
of IT,15 the term “redundancy” is used as a selling point for systems that continue to
function if there is a malfunction or mechanical failure in any given part. In the
context of VAs, redundancy entails having fallback support.
I recommend that you hire a VA firm or VAs with backup teams instead of sole
operators. Examples abound, of course, of people who have had a single assistant for
decades without incident, but I suggest that this is the exception rather than the rule.
Better safe than sorry. Besides simple disaster avoidance, a group structure provides a
pool of talent that allows you to assign multiple tasks without bothering to find a new
person with the qualifications. Brickwork and YMII both exemplify this type of
structure and provide a single point of contact, a personal account manager, who then
farms out your tasks to the most-capable people in the group and across different
shifts. Need graphic design? Covered. Need database management? Covered. I don’t
like calling and coordinating multiple people. I want one-stop shopping and am
willing to pay 10% more to have it. I encourage you to be similarly pound-wise and
Team preference doesn’t mean that bigger is better, just that multiple people are
better than one person. The best VA I have used to date is an Indian with five backup
assistants under him. Three can be more than sufficient, but two is toeing the line.
The #1 Fear: “Sweetheart, Did You Buy
a Porsche in China?”
I’m sure you might have your fears. AJ certainly did:
My outsourcers now know an alarming amount about me—not just my schedule but
my cholesterol, my infertility problems, my Social Security number, my passwords
(including the one that is a particularly adolescent curse word). Sometimes I worry
that I can’t piss off my outsourcers or I’ll end up with a $12,000 charge on my
MasterCard bill from the Louis Vuitton in Anantapur.
The good news is that misuse of financial and confidential information is rare. In all of
the interviews I conducted for this section, I could find only one case of information
abuse, and I had to search long and hard. It involved an overworked U.S.-based VA
who hired freelance help at the last moment.
Commit to memory the following—never use the new hire. Prohibit small-operation
VAs from subcontracting work to untested freelancers without your written
permission. The more established and higher-end firms, Brickwork in the below
example, have security measures that border on excessive and make it simple to
pinpoint abusers in the case of a breach:
Employees undergo background checks and sign
NDAs (nondisclosure agreements) in accordance
with the company policy of maintaining
confidentiality of client information
Electronic access card for entry and exit
Credit card information keyed only by select
Removal of paper from the offices is prohibited
VLAN-based access restrictions between different
teams; this ensures that there is no unauthorized
access of information between people of different
teams in the organization
Regular reporting on printer logs
Floppy drives and USB ports disabled
BS779 certification for accomplished international
128-bit encryption technology for all data
Secure VPN connection
I bet there is a fair chance that sensitive data is 100 times safer with Brickwork than
on your own computer.
Still, information theft is best thought of as inevitable in a digital world, and
precautions should be taken with damage control in mind. There are two rules that I
use to minimize damage and allow for fast repair.
1. Never use debit cards for online transactions or with remote assistants. Reversing
unauthorized credit card charges, particularly with American Express, is painless and
near instantaneous. Recovering funds withdrawn from your checking account via
unauthorized debit card use takes dozens of hours in paperwork alone and can take
months to receive, if approved at all.
2. If your VA will be accessing websites on your behalf, create a new unique login
and password to be used on those sites. Most of us reuse both logins and passwords on
multiple sites, and taking this precaution limits possible damage. Instruct them to use
these unique logins to create accounts on new sites if needed. Note that this is
particularly important when using assistants who have access to live commercial
websites (developers, programmers, etc.).
If information or identity theft hasn’t hit you, it will. Use these guidelines and
you’ll realize when it happens that, just like most nightmares, it’s not that big a deal
and is reversible.
The Complicated Art of Simplicity:
1. I accepted the first person the firm provided and made no special requests at
2. I gave imprecise directions.
3. I gave him a license to waste time.
4. I set the deadline a week in advance.
5. I gave him too many tasks and didn’t set an order of importance.
Start small but think big.
Tina Forsyth, an online business manager (higher-level VA) who helps six-figureincome
clients achieve seven figures with business model redesigns, makes the
Look at your to-do list—what has been sitting on it
Each time you are interrupted or change tasks, ask,
“Could a VA do this?”
Examine pain points—what causes you the most
frustration and boredom?
Here are a few common time-consumers in small businesses with online presences.
Submitting articles to drive traffic to site and build
Participating in or moderating discussion forums
and message boards
Managing affiliate programs
Creating content for and publishing newsletters
and blog postings
Background research components of new
marketing initiatives or analysis of current
Don’t expect miracles from a single VA, but don’t expect too little, either. Let go of
the controls a bit. Don’t assign crap tasks that end up consuming rather than saving
time. It makes little sense to spend 10–15 minutes sending an e-mail to India to get a
price quote on a plane ticket when you could do the same online in 10 minutes and
avoid all the subsequent back-and-forth.
Push outside your comfort zone—that is the entire point of the exercise.
It is always possible to reclaim a task for yourself if the VA proves incapable, so
test the limits of their capabilities. Remember Brickwork’s suggestion: Don’t limit
3. Identify your top five time-consuming non-work tasks and five personal tasks
you could assign for sheer fun.
4. Keep in sync: scheduling and calendars.
If you decide to have an assistant schedule appointments and add things to your
calendar, it will be important to ensure what you both see is updated.
LIFESTYLE DESIGN IN ACTION
THE BEST TIMES TO SEND E-MAIL
You’ve suggested people check e-mail only a few times a day. Here’s a twist: I
reply to e-mails when it’s convenient, but I time it to arrive when it’s also
convenient for me. In Outlook you can delay e-mail delivery to any time of day.
For example, when I return e-mails at 3 p.m., I don’t want my staff instantly
zinging me responses or clarifying questions. (This also prevents e-mail chats.) So
I hit send, but it’s delayed to arrive later in the evening or at 8 A.M. when my
employees arrive the next day. This is how e-mail was meant to be! It’s mail, not a
Why to Begin with the End in Mind: A Cautionary Tale
Step One: Pick an Affordably Reachable Niche
When I was younger … I [didn’t] want to be pigeonholed … Basically, now
you want to be pigeonholed. It’s your niche.
—JOAN CHEN, actress; appeared in The Last Emperor and Twin Peaks
Ask yourself the following questions to find profitable niches.
1. Which social, industry, and professional groups do you belong to, have you
belonged to, or do you understand, whether dentists, engineers, rock climbers,
recreational cyclists, car restoration aficionados, dancers, or other?
Look creatively at your resume, work experience, physical habits, and hobbies and
compile a list of all the groups, past and present, that you can associate yourself with.
Look at products and books you own, include online and offline subscriptions, and ask
yourself, “What groups of people purchase the same?” Which magazines, websites,
and newsletters do you read on a regular basis?
2. Which of the groups you identified have their own magazines?
Visit a large bookstore such as Barnes & Noble and browse the magazine rack for
smaller specialty magazines to brainstorm additional niches. There are literally
thousands of occupation- and interest/hobby-specific magazines to choose from. Use
Writer’s Market to identify magazine options outside the bookstores. Narrow the
groups from question 1 above to those that are reachable through one or two small
magazines. It’s not important that these groups all have a lot of money (e.g.,
golfers)—only that they spend money (amateur athletes, bass fishermen, etc.) on
products of some type. Call these magazines, speak to the advertising directors, and
tell them that you are considering advertising; ask them to e-mail their current
advertising rate card and include both readership numbers and magazine back-issue
samples. Search the back issues for repeat advertisers who sell direct-to-consumer via
800 numbers or websites—the more repeat advertisers, and the more frequent their
ads, the more profitable a magazine is for them … and will be for us.
Brainstorm (Do Not Invest In) Products
Genius is only a superior power of seeing.
—JOHN RUSKIN, famed art and social critic
But I’m Not an Expert!
The Expert Builder: How to Become a Top Expert in 4 Weeks
It’s time to obliterate the cult of the expert. Let the PR world scorn me. First and
foremost, there is a difference between being perceived as an expert and being one. In
the context of business, the former is what sells product and the latter, relative to your
“minimal customer base,” is what creates good products and prevents returns.
It is possible to know all there is to know about a subject—medicine, for example—
but if you don’t have M.D. at the end of your name, few will listen. The M.D. is what
I term a “credibility indicator.” The so-called expert with the most credibility
indicators, whether acronyms or affiliations, is often the most successful in the
marketplace, even if other candidates have more in-depth knowledge. This is a matter
of superior positioning, not deception.
How, then, do we go about acquiring credibility indicators in the least time
possible? Emulating the client-grooming techniques of some of the best PR firms in
New York City and Los Angeles isn’t a bad place to start.
It took a friend of mine just three weeks to become a “top relationship expert who,
as featured in Glamour and other national media, has counseled executives at Fortune
500 companies on how to improve their relationships in 24 hours or less.” How did
she do it?
She followed a few simple steps that created a credibility snowball effect. Here’s
how you can do the same.
1. Join two or three related trade organizations with official-sounding names. In
her case, she chose the Association for Conflict Resolution (www.acrnet.org) and
The International Foundation for Gender Education (www.ifge.org). This can be
done online in five minutes with a credit card.
2. Read the three top-selling books on your topic (search historical New York
Times bestseller lists online) and summarize each on one page.
3. Give one free one-to-three-hour seminar at the closest well-known university,
using posters to advertise. Then do the same at branches of two well-known big
companies (AT&T, IBM, etc.) located in the same area. Tell the company that you
have given seminars at University X or X College and are a member of those
groups from step 1. Emphasize that you are offering it to them for free to get
additional speaking experience outside of academics and will not be selling
products or services. Record the seminars from two angles for later potential use as
a CD/DVD product.
4. Optional: Offer to write one or two articles for trade magazines related to
your topics, citing what you have accomplished in steps 1 and 3 for credibility. If
they decline, offer to interview a known expert and write the article—it still gets
your name listed as a contributor.
5. Join ProfNet, which is a service that journalists use to find experts to quote for
articles. Getting PR is simple if you stop shouting and start listening. Use steps 1,
3, and 4 to demonstrate credibility and online research to respond to journalist
queries. Done properly, this will get you featured in media ranging from small
local publications to the New York Times and ABC News.
Becoming a recognized expert isn’t difficult, so I want to remove that barrier now.
I am not recommending pretending to be something you’re not. I can’t! “Expert” is
nebulous media-speak and so overused as to be indefinable. In modern PR terms,
proof of expertise in most fields is shown with group affiliations, client lists, writing
credentials, and media mentions, not IQ points or Ph.D.s.
Presenting the truth in the best light, but not fabricating it, is the name of the game.
See you on CNN.
Q&A: QUESTIONS AND ACTIONS
For this hands-on chapter, the Q&A is simple. In fact, it’s more like a Q.
The question is, “Did you read the chapter and follow the directions?” If not, do it!
Instead of the usual Q&A, the end of this chapter and the following two will feature
more extensive resources for taking the action steps described in detail in the text.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.