‘The 4 Hour Work Week’ Tim Ferriss

How the new rich live, or so we are to believe.

I gave a presentation on Friday and quoted The 4-Hour Work Week, so clearly it had an impact on me. Like all self-help style books, you kind of hope that it will give you a fit of inspiration and your life will change forever. Unfortunately, I’m still the ever-procrastinating person that I always was although, to be fair, in my day job I have used principals from within to make us all more productive. This is what you should regard the book as more than anything: a productivity book. Combined with The 4-Hour Body, which is also worth a read, you can cut all of the fat out of your life if you follow everything down to a tee.

Tim Ferriss made his millions and got a better body and life and all the accouterments that come along with it with this strategy. He started up BrainQuicken which he was then able to largely automise and then go off travelling the world and living life to the max.

I enjoy reading self-help books largely because I like reading how people live their lives. This probably explains why I went on to do History to a postgraduate level. Reading about how Ferriss freed up his time and some of his round-the-world adventures was quite interesting. Less interesting to me was the nitty gritty of how to keep the wheels turning in your absence. This book is largely aimed at entrepreneurs, and there is some very practical advice here about how to keep the business ticking on the cheap, for example by best utilising apps such as Evernote – which I do use but clearly haven’t managed to get the best out of it yet – and by hiring an assistant from Pakistan or elsewhere on the cheap. Saying this, there are also tips for employees, and if you do take his advice you’ll see that your productivity does increase. Once I’ve got over my procrastination, this definitely is the case for me.

The main takeaways are as follows:

  • Make a note of every task that you do. This will make you aware of what takes up a lot of time but isn’t worth doing, and what you do that results in the highest profit.
  • Work out how much you need to earn per month to live the lifestyle that you would like to have. Do this by experiences rather than material goods. How much would it cost for you to travel and take lessons, for instance. If you’re purely searching for material goods, the struggle will never end. However, do also out aside money for material goods and, you know, the general cost of living in your budget.
  • From these two steps, work out your hourly wage. Any spare cash earned after your “ideal money/life” equation, reinvest back into the business. This can be in terms of expansion or just hiring an assistant to help out with tasks below your station.
  • Cut out bad clients. The time that you spend with them will outweigh the profits that you will receive in the end. Stick to the hourly equation.

Solid advice, and advice that I have given to my bosses who own their own business which has, combined with one of them also reading a business book, resulted in their highest monthly turnover ever last month. No easy feat.

Similarly, The 4-Hour Body looks at how to improve your physical and psychological life as efficiently as possible. Efficiency is so important that in the introduction, Ferriss outlines that you only really need to read 200 or so pages of the 700 page book at a time in order to achieve the areas of improvement that you are after.

I think Ferriss really is onto something. Moving forward, people are more interested in being time rich than cash rich, as long as they are cash comfortable at least. This is why it isn’t overly applicable to me: I’m still searching for a job that means I don’t have to worry about covering rent. The perils of living in your early 20s, I guess. Nonetheless, the principals within the book are definitely there to live by and I have seen that if they are stuck to, you will definitely reap the rewards.

I’d like to read a version aimed specifically at creative people, as it seems here that it’s mostly aimed at business-types who then may want to pursue their creative dreams on the side. Writing this out, maybe this is the way that I should approach my life actually. Hm.

Of course, as with every self-help style book, you need to take it with a pinch of salt and adapt it to your own situations. But self-improvement is always worthwhile.

Landing

About

n.b. the first draft of this (read: the title) was saved on 22nd May and it is now 13th July. Procrastination abound! It’s only taken me 15 minutes to write. Awful. 

Worth a read. 

‘Kanye West: God and Monster’ Mark Beaumont

As you would expect, what you think of ‘Kanye West: God and Monster’ lies heavily on what you think of Kanye West. Music reviewer and frequent biographer Mark Beaumont’s book semi-obsessively tracks the divisive rapper/producer/fashion designer/superbrand’s life and career while revealing very little new about The Greatest Living Rock Star.

The book starts with Kanye’s grandparents, then goes to the story of his parents, then settles its focus on Donda and Kanye. I was quite surprised to read about Kanye’s childhood. Few rappers would have his background. He was born in Atlanta then moved to Chicago when he was very young after his mother got tenure at Chicago State. His dad was a member of the Black Panthers. Kanye seemed to have been ever the precocious child, as he was to continue into his adulthood, rapping from third grade and winning talent competitions all over the place. Donda and Kanye then moved to China for a year in his pre-adolescence, during which time Kanye was able to further concentrate on his academics. On return he scored so highly in a test that he was asked to resit it with no-one next to him. At least Kanye and Donda believed in Kanye.

Onto his post-high school days. Kanye got into art school, but dropped out. He was talented in both art and music but, as we all know, ended up choosing music. Good. He then flitted in and out of different jobs before annoying everyone with his constant beats. Then came Def Jam. Then the world.

After the earlier chapters, much of the rest of the book is split into chapters roughly surrounding the periods around each of his albums: The College Drop Out, Late Registration, Graduation, 808s and Heartbreak, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Watch The Throne, Cruel Summer, and Yeezus. It does into extensive detail surrounding each of his songs, so to really make the most of the book it would help to be well-versed in his discography. I’m a Kanye fan (a Fanye, if you would be willing to indulge me in this poortmanteau), but I must admit that I ended up skimming quite a lot of the song blurb segments.

The earlier parts of Kanye’s life are the most illuminating in the book, although I suppose this is because this is what is least known to me and I generally find it interesting to learn how famous people got their start. Kanye always seems to have been painfully strongwilled and with his ridiculous self-belief that his driven him to the success that he achieved. It seems that Kanye may have some type of personality disorder that was never properly diagnosed or never brought to public attention. He has proclaimed a lot of grand things recently in interviews, lyrics and at concerts, but what seems to be evident throughout his life and career is that he is one of the hardest working people in the industry.

The frustrations of Kanye’s early career must undoubtedly shaped the path of the rest of his career and his media personality. He struggled to make it as a rapper, being relegated to making beats for many years before he could take the stage. I say relegated: he was and is a very renowned producer. The College Drop Out seems to largely have come about purely based by Kanye’s stubbornness, skill and panache, making it and putting it out there with seemingly little support. Another biographical detail that was news to me was the car crash that nearly killed him and which inspired ‘Through The Wire’ which, as I listen to it now, is noticeably sung with his jaw wired shut.

It was a good album. All of his albums have been good, although I haven’t really listened to Late Registration or Graduation. It was interesting to read about his music video process, and, as I work in music videos, it is absolute madness to see how much money and time he was throwing at his videos to make videos that, to the best of my knowledge, haven’t particularly earned much rep as being “the best” or anything.

This leads to another strand of the book: Kanye’s perception of himself, the media and industry’s perception of him, and the public perception of him. He is an ass. But he makes good music. But he hasn’t been rewarded as much as he would like. So he’s more of an ass. And the wheel keeps on spinning.

Reading about the amount of effort that goes in to making each album, and indeed each song, is eye opening. And quite inspiring – I wish that I was passionate enough about anything to spend this much time and care over it. Everyone that has worked with him recognises his work ethic and his gift, and a lot of people still work and want to work with him, in spite of his brash media image. There is certainly a difference between Kanye the craftsman and Kanye the personality.

Then there are sections about his personal life: the loss of Donda, the loss of his first fiance, the Amber Rose breakup, and finally Kim and North. These were all interesting asides, though I suppose I am naturally predisposed to the gossipy side of life so to others reading it solely for the music, it may be a bit pulpy.

There’s a lot more to Kanye West than is shown in the media. He is an ass. The Taylor Swift thing and, more recently, Beck thing are both ridiculous and he definitely did deserve some stick for it. But here is a man who does what he believes in, and stick by what he does. The media perception of him is not the real Kanye, but then again, the music probably isn’t either.

I take back my earlier comment. The book does shed a new light on Kanye West, even if by only making you think more about the man. And you can’t help but admire what he has done for music, how he constantly reinvents himself and how he pushes to keep achieving more and more: whether in music, fashion, or #breakingtheinternet. More of a monster than a God, but always just a man.

7/10 – a thorough and insightful biography, although prone to dragging in places. 

‘Freedom’, Jonathan Franzen

 

The first time I came across Jonathan Franzen was at 1am in JFK in 2010. My friend and I had a flight at 6am so decided that it would be better to just spend the night in the airport than pay for a hotel room that we would only have to use for half the night. The logic is there. The night itself was still pretty uncomfortable. In the six hours or so I was waiting in the airport – at night it’s a pretty strange experience seeing so many people sleeping on the floor or on their luggage – I read the first few hundred pages of The Corrections. It didn’t particularly grab me, but I was inordinately tired. My friend offered to lend me the book to read at home but I figured that it was too bulky so gave it a miss.

Four years later, I read Franzen’s newer (2010) bulkier (and hardbound) book Freedom. My three main criticisms of the book are as follows: I wasn’t a big fan of Walter’s environmentalist storyline and mostly skimmed these chapters and passages (although I do largely agree with the views about overpopulation. A rock concert still could never make this issue seem ‘cool’ as it seems more misanthropic than most people would care to be. Maybe that’s the point); the word ‘freedom’ or occurrences relating to freedom can sometimes be a bit overdone: they’re getting freedom and that’s the title of the book, how exciting; the book was too heavy and so I couldn’t take it out with me.

For however heavy and irritating I find the weight to be, Franzen is a great writer – this sounds like a dumb criticism but it’s my day off so you can take it. He writes character extremely well. I would expect that most people have a leaning towards preferring story or character. I am a character fancier (it mildly amused me to write it like that so character fancier it is!), and as long as the characters are relateable – that is, you can understand their actions based on the circumstances, rather than thinking ‘she is so like me! I bet she wears Uggs too!’ – and what they are doing is not completely dull (or, for me, political) then I could happily read about their lives forever.

On relateability, I found myself often identifying with Patty too much and as such I really need to work on myself.

Here’s the synopsis of the story from Wikipedia: Freedom follows several members of an American family, the Berglunds, as well as their close friends and lovers, as complex and troubled relationships unfold over many years. The book follows them through the last decades of the twentieth century and concludes near the beginning of the Obama administration.

Normally I’d try and write it myself, but it’s more of a character study so there’s the plot and that’s nice.

The main characters in grammatically poor sentences:

  • Patty: former-athlete, current housewife, depressed but not unremarkable.
  • Walter: smart, working husband, opinionated, passionate, “crazy person”.
  • Richard Katz: Walter’s best friend, object of Patty’s affections, rockstar, bum, attractive.
  • Joey: son, precocious, lucky.
  • Connie: Joey’s wife, moderately intelligent doormat.
  • Jessica: daughter, largely overloooked.
  • Eliza: full blown crazy person and drug addict, later puts on weight.

I am a sucker for imperfect characters and crazy people, so maybe this is why the book really resonated with me. Aside from this, it also serves as a pretty solid commentary about American middle class life, I would imagine, knowing very little about the specifics of American middle class life.

While regarded by some as overlong – it is 560 pages – I found it an impressive read seamlessly chronicling the lives of a family, and one friend, and the number of pages kept me interested enough. Just cool it with the environmental stuff, yeah, I just like drama because I’m a girl and can’t deal with real issues.

8/10 – worth the hype

 

 

‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez died recently. Upon hearing this news I remembered that I had long been wanting to read One Hundred Years of Solitude, mostly for advice on how to live my life alone. Also I had heard that it was a classic.

If you didn’t know already, which I didn’t, the book charts seven generations of the Buendia family who founded Macondo, which Wikipedia tells me is fictionalised Colombia which was Marquez’s home country. The family repeat their mistakes across generations, as humans are want to do, and the novel touches on historical events that affecting Colombia, such as the fruit strike and various wars, and also refers to a number of magical phenomena in a rather blase way.

“INCEST! WAR! LONELINESS!” If OHYOS was a Michael Bay movie, this may be the logline on the poster.

I’ve clearly been out of university for too long, or wasn’t concentrating on the book enough, as it got confusing at points keeping up with all of the characters, many of whom had the same or similar names and personality traits.

 

The family tree which I had to regularly refer to

Most of the characters ended up in desperate or sad situations, living the majority of their lives in seclusion. The poignancy and sadness was broken up with sex or magic scenes: it pays to change it up a bit. The only real exception was Aureliano Segundo and Petra Cotes who in the end find joy from helping others, although he lived most of his life in excess (hence the lovely fat illustration, above). The family line then ends with a baby being eaten by ants, as described in a non-chalent, almost throwaway line (I say this as I often skim books and could have missed this line).

In some ways, it’s surprising that this novel has become such a classic when looking at the bare bones of the story. Thinking deeper about the characters, symbolism, and mirroring of actual historical events, this is a complex and moving story that offers some insight into human relationships, both inner and outer, and fatalism. It stays with you, if not just making you wondering about what such an incestuous family would actually be like. Also, deeper things. It never did teach me how to live alone for one hundred years though.

8/10 – Everyone else has told you to read it, and now so have I.