Mix a handful of shopworn business truisms ("20% of customers provide 80% of profits," "Work always fills the time alloted") with a jaw-slackening disregard for basic ethics and you get Tim Ferriss's "lifestyle design" plan. The premise: somewhere along the globalization superhighway, luxuriating in pleasure and whim for all but four hours of each week became the calling of the "new rich" (an awkwardly invented designation Ferriss no doubt dreams will replace "tipping point" as the zeitgeist's latest catchphrase). It became the calling of Ferriss, at least, through a crafty scheme of pulling in profits from online nutritional supplement sales and outsourcing to grossly underpaid Indian virtual assistants such tiresome tasks as communicating with a significant other.
Where Ferriss's concept most obviously breaks down is in the aggregate: society would collapse if everyone who bought this book successfully implemented his scheme, because its very lifeblood is the slew of suckers who actually work. How can you tango dance on a beach in Argentina when Akshay, your virtual assistant, is also busy tango dancing on a beach in Argentina?
More disturbingly, it is hard to listen to or read this book without turning queasy at this undoubtedly intelligent and talented Princeton graduate's near-oblivion to the possibility that, ultimately, life may be less about 'beating the system' to escape work and more about finding a vocation that both energizes oneself and services the world at large. The final chapter on service comes off unsettlingly as a last-minute tack-on by editors suddenly faced with a manuscript of stunning superficiality and self-absorption.
Save your money. Less book sales means less pesky bookkeeping work for Ferriss to outsource to Akshay.
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