The 4-Hour Workweek and The Mexican Fisherman

During the first half of The 4-Hour Workweek Tim Ferriss spends a lot of time making the case that he is a self help douche bag, in the classic sense of the word. The first half of his book, he talks about how he bended the rules on a martial arts competition to win a championship, how he travels the world wining Tango competitions and learning foreign languages, all along while virtual minions ran his business. There has been a lot of debate and dispute about the claims he makes in The 4-Hour Workweek. Bu the truth is that his claims to credibility are not the issue. There are many other problems with the premise of this book. Tim claims that we can earn substantially more money by working 4 hours a week than if we worked 12 hours a day. To this, some would reply, why not just work 8 hours a day and make ten times what you would make working 4 hours a week! So the credibility of the author and premise of the book is are immediately thrown out the window.

Thomas Friedman said that The World is Flat. Tim Ferriss is trying to make the case that we can use the flatness to our advantage. One of his arguments if that we can earn dollars, pay rupees, and spend pesos. He talks about being able to rent the equivalent of a Park Avenue apartment in Buenos Aires for less than the price of a studio in Queens, and how you can hire a Virtual Assiantant in India for less than a value meal at McDonald’s an hour. Many hard working blue collar individuals will romanticize with this idea, and this can work well for many individuals that have a free of responsibilities, but it does not work so easy for many people with families. It may be possible but it is not practical in many of the situations that I know.

In the end, his biggest argument for this ‘new found lifestyle’ is the old story, The Parable of the Mexican Fisherman. The author of this story is lost, but story has been retold many times over as such…

The American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.

Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.”

The American then asked, “Why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?”

The Mexican said, “With this I have more than enough to support my family’s needs.”

The American then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life.”

The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing; and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat: With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor; eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then Los Angeles and eventually New York where you will run your ever-expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15 to 20 years.”

“But what then?” asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said that’s the best part. “When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”

“Millions?…Then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

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