Tag Archives: Tim Ferriss

A Few Questions

A Few Questions

I am reading Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World by Tim Ferriss. He submitted a group of eleven questions to more than 100 people whom he admired for their brilliance, questions whose answers he believed would help move him forward to being a better person. As I read the compelling replies, it occurs to me that I also have answers to some (but not all) of these questions that might be helpful to someone.

If you’re interested, here is the complete list of questions.

And here are my answers to three of them:

What are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

Two books I’ve read in the last couple of years have given me a clue to what “white privilege” is. I didn’t think I had it; don’t you have to be rich to have privilege? I’ve struggled financially for most of my life.

But when I read the nonfiction book Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, I realized how much I take for granted, and how many obstacles to success people of color face. It opened my eyes and broke my heart.

I read Angie Thomas’ YA novel, The Hate U Give, to find out what all the fuss was about. I was prepared not to like it. But again, it opened my eyes.

All white people should read these books or some of the many other good books about the Black experience in the United States. These two books, and an article in my denomination’s magazine, changed my life. I still have much to learn, but I am humbled by trials of my Black brothers and sisters. We must fight racism.


How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?

I graduated from college in 1974 with a degree in music education. I taught elementary general music in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, for four years while I completed my Masters in music education. It was a hard job, and I left it to start a family and raise our five children.

Starting in 2000, I eased back into the work force as a part-time procurement clerk for the Bureau of Land Management. When that ceased to be fun, I worked on my novel and took on a string of part- and full-time, low-paying jobs, until I decided to go back to teaching after 27 years out of the classroom. I picked up a balance-of-term substitute job teaching elementary general music. It was a tough school, with some behavior problems; but I hoped I would land a permanent position. At the end of the year, a different teacher was awarded the contract for my job.

I knew the new teacher, and she was awesome. I couldn’t fault the vice principal for hiring her, but I felt like a failure. Then she said, “I hear the Chandler district is hiring music teachers. Why don’t you apply there?” So I did.

My interview at the school in Chandler was one of the most positive meetings of my life. The principal, dean, another music teacher, and I chatted about my experience and music education philosophy and what the climate was like at the school. No one posed awkward questions to put me on the spot; we were just four colleagues talking about working with kids. Afterward, I called my husband from the parking lot and told him this was the school where I wanted to work.

I got the job and I thrived there. The kids were great, the staff was friendly, creative, and collaborative, and the principal advocated for his students and teachers. It was a great place to work for the next five years; then it wasn’t. I stayed an additional three years and then retired. But I would never have had this idyllic experience if I had succeeded in keeping the previous teaching job.



What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”?

This is a poem I wrote a few years ago entitled “Commencement” that says it all:

Welcome to the next stage of your life.
No matter what you’ve planned,
be prepared to go with the flow.
Not everything will go the way you hoped.
Stuff happens.
Practice resiliency.
Sometimes your best experiences will be the ones you didn’t choose
but were thrust upon you by circumstances beyond your control.
Hang on and enjoy the ride.

Now it’s your turn. Answer one or more of these questions, or any from the original list. Cut and paste your reply in the comments below. Or post it on your own blog, and share a link in the comments.

Review of The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss

Review of The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss

This book is subtitled: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich. I read the Expanded and Updated version.

It deserves all the hype it has received.

No, I’m not crazy. I understand that not everyone can work only four hours a week. Certainly, I couldn’t as a public school teacher. You can’t if you’re a customer service representative or a cashier or any other worker who gets paid only for the hours you are physically at a specific location.

And I dare say there are few people in the world who would be able to use all the suggestions in this book.

But by the same token, few people couldn’t benefit by applying at least a few of the principles in The 4-Hour Work Week, or 4HWW, as Ferriss refers to it.

The reason for this book is that most people work too much and too hard. (Yeah, I know, we’ve all worked with people who barely work at all. This is not about them.) And the sad part is that 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts. (Yes, this is a real principle, identified by Vilfredo Pareto, an economist who lived from 1848 to 1923.) If we want to live a more productive life, we need to identify the 80% of our efforts that produce only 20% of our results, and eliminate as many of these tasks as possible.

Ferriss advocates optimization–getting the best possible results from your efforts. The purpose is not so that we can spend closer to 100% of our time earning more money so we can amass more stuff, but to free up time to do the things that would make our lives more meaningful—spending time with family, or traveling, or making art. Time is the currency that gives our lives value. Ferriss wants us to work enough to pay the bills, but have time to live a wonderful life now instead of waiting for some glorious future era, like retirement or when the kids grow up.

In fact, Ferriss is an advocate of taking mini-retirements—breaks that are longer than typical vacations, maybe three months or six months or even a year—and then going back to work. During your mini-retirements, you devote yourself to something you’ve always wanted to do—learning a foreign language, becoming a kung fu master, participating in a dance marathon, or whatever your heart desires.

Is this just another pipe dream? Alexander Heyne says he bought into 4HWW, and it didn’t deliver. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m letting you know Tim Ferriss has more than share of naysayers.

For what it’s worth, I think anyone could build a more satisfying life by using some of these ideas. I intend to reread and study this book over the next years and test the parts that appeal to me.

In 4HWW, Ferriss gives detailed instructions for how to tailor your life to accommodate the lifestyle you dream about. He gives case studies of people who have built their own businesses in such a way that they need to work only a few days per month.

Ferriss provides lots of resources in 4HWW: addresses of websites that offer information on hundreds of relative topics, and dozens of companies that provide services that will make your life more productive. Some of the subjects Ferriss covers in detail in the book:

  • frazzled workerHow to eliminate interruptions
  • How to cut down on your emails and phone calls
  • How to outsource your scut work so you can use your time and talent for the tasks only you can do (Do NOT skip the section called Outsourcing Life. The section by AJ Jacobs is hilarious. Worth the price of the book.)
  • How to work remotely (as in, from another country)
  • How to run your own business so that it won’t demand all your time
  • How to travel like a frugal insider

Ferriss is a wildly successful entrepreneur with his hands in multiple businesses. He writes a popular blog, has given a TED talk that has been viewed by over two million people, writes for The Huffington Post, and produces a podcast. He’s also the author of two other books, The 4-Hour Chef and The 4-Hour Body. He has practiced and lived what he preaches.

I recommend The 4-Hour Work Week as a worthwhile read, especially for creative people who want more time to pursue their art.