Tim Ferriss relaxes in downtown Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
In The 4-Hour Work Week author Tim Ferriss describes how he became the kickboxing champion of the world. While he was engaged in the vital work of building his automated nutraceuticals company, his potential opponents in the ring were spending hours enduring grueling regimens in dank dojos. When Ferriss decided he wanted to take home the title, he saw no reason his lack of comparable talent or training should stand in his way.
To this end, Ferris researched the sport’s rules and uncovered a technicality stating that contestants who step outside the fighting circle three times are disqualified. Armed with this knowledge, he worked out how to wriggle his body in such a way to get his opponents to do just that.
Is Tim Ferris the best kickboxer in the world? Not even close. But he has the title. And in the age we’re living in, that’s all that matters.
Most serious martial artists would consider Tim Ferriss's behavior to be completely dishonorable. Fortunately for Ferriss, most of us aren’t serious martial artists. In 21st century America, old-fashioned notions like honor and fair play are for suckers. The credo of our time is that as if it ain’t technically illegal, it’s awesome. The people who rise to the top are no longer those who accomplish truly great things, but those who figure out how to most attractively package their shortcuts and fake-outs.
A few people still believe it is this mentality that leads to societal scourges like mortgage-backed securities, Kardashians and bankrupt game show hosts becoming President. But you can either get angry about the way the world is or learn how to survive and thrive in it. If you choose to go the latter route, there’s a lot you can learn from Tim Ferriss.
Focus Your Attention on Packaging the End Result
In polite conversation, most of us will say we admire successful people for their hard work, positive habits, and ironclad principles. That’s not really true. It doesn’t take much digging to uncover a major disconnect between what most of us say we respect and how most of the icons of our age actually behave. Tim Ferriss gets this, and he’s a master of making it work for him. Follow his example. Keep in mind that the only thing most people really care about is the score on the board. Everything else is hype.
Now I’m of the firm belief that you shouldn’t get yourself thrown in jail or cause bodily harm to anyone. But what you do need to do if you want to make it in our day and age is figure out all the best hacks, shortcuts and word games and use them to get a win you can claim as your own. Then promote that win like crazy wherever you go.
Find a Void and Fill It
Something else Tim Ferriss understands far better than most of us is how little the real usefulness of advice someone gives corresponds with how well the person giving that advice is received. Ferriss’s isn’t actually the efficiency revolutionary most of his supporters see him as. His main talent is his ability to pinpoint a sensation of mass emptiness and to give the impression that he has the secret to filling that emptiness.
Ferriss observed that the millions of white-collar employees spending countless hours in cubicle farms were deeply unfulfilled. As soon as he zeroed in on this, he moved right in. He preached that there was no reason to live this way. He said that you could automate your life and live a fulfilling, semi-retired life for now and forever.
If you compare the number of The 4-Hour Work Week readers who have had the kind of low-toil success Ferriss claims is possible to those who sing his praises, you’ll find a very small ratio. Yet that doesn’t stop them from coming back for more. You may believe deeply in whatever it is you’re selling. I certainly hope you do. That said, you should take the parts of Ferris’s approach that work if you want to make it in the 21st century. Seek out shortcuts to leapfrog over the competition. Find what’s missing from people’s lives. And package what you’ve got as a simple solution. If you get good enough at it, you’ll never have to do an honest day’s work again.