how the 4-Hour Workweek ruined my life


Tim Ferriss ruined my life. Tim Ferriss aided and abetted my sink into clinical depression. The 4-Hour Work Week was the “culprit” to my suffering and agony in the last few years. Reading the book was the tipping point and triggered chain reactions I could not stomp out — for the better.

Timmie recommended I read Tim Ferriss’ book, The 4-Hour Workweek, when we were still living in Tokyo. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon and I was sprawled on my bed with the computer, punching the keyboard with furor as I attempted to drum out the MBA application essays. What was a failure in my life and how did I deal with it? How did I show my leadership? I encountered a mind block and went for a tub of icecream with a loud groan. Timmie was engrossed in a book on the couch. I went over to bother him and asked what he was reading.

He said, “The 4-Hour Workweek, you should read it.” I took the book in my hand and read the back flap, then flipped through the first few pages. I sneered. Some dude who thought he was better than anyone else. What happened to honest work and salary? I was not convinced of his philosophy and threw the book down on the couch. Smirk.Timmie

Timmie prompted, “Well, read it when you are bored. I like this guy, we were born in the same year, have the same name and he’s doing everything I want to do and living the lifestyle I want.”

I swore silently, “Lifestyle? You mean Harvard Business school alumni and then making a few millions a year as CEO in some big international company?” I dreamt of retiring early with millions in my account so I could go travelling around the world. Goodness knows what I thinking that I needed a MBA in my pocket to simply, travel.

Timmie shrugged and we both went back to our respective endeavours. I was obsessed with my trophy filled life to allow a different thinking into my mind. I did not even know what blogs were then.

However, a few weekends later, feeling lethargic and unmotivated to edit my essays for the 85th time, I crossed paths with the fatal book again. Timmie had left it opened on the coffee table, with highlighted scribbles all over the pages. I took my tub of icecream with me and glanced down the notes.

Then I started reading it from the beginning with spray of cynicism. A story of how a nobody created automated income through an internet business to sustain his preferred lifestyle – travelling around the world comfortably (not merely surviving), learning languages, spinning tango, hurling etc. He would work a few hours a day to make sure the business was on track, and everything else he outsourced to virtual assistants. He had the rest of the day to play and do whatever else interested him at that time. And he had a best-selling book that was translated into 35 languages.

I had always wanted to write a book. But I had not even written regularly in my journal for months since I had started my corporate job. Fatigue consumed me after work each day, and I did not even want to pick up a pen, let alone write. I just wanted to sleep even though something at the back of my head tickled. I had ignored the inkling.

As I continued reading the book, I looked at my own life and wondered what I was doing. I had so much conviction that my path was the best: I had a luxurious expatriate package, and was on the road to vindication and victory once I obtained a Harvard or Wharton MBA.

I was empty inside, filled only with titles, awards and bonuses. I worked to save money to go on holiday, when inevitably I would get sick for a few days. Then I would come back to work to make more money to look forward to the next holiday. I enjoyed my work and had a good manager. I thrived and learnt. I was motivated. I achieved.

But I was not happy.

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Next to Tim Ferriss, I had achieved nothing. I had only thought about applying for jobs and climbing a corporate ladder. Never in my life was I encouraged to think about starting my own business or find a job I loved – we were taught to take the jobs that paid the most. Suddenly, my cushioned path did not look so appealing. My well-planned, rainbow-coloured life shattered into kaleidoscopic pieces, except that the patterns formed were not aesthetic at all. I felt like crap.

I pushed the thoughts out of my head and willed myself to focus on finalizing the business school applications.

Yet, the seed had been sown. The rippling discontent I had towards my life had awoken from suppression. Tim Ferriss reminded me that there is life beyond life, and that I could do what I want to, instead of following the trajectory laid out for me.

The only problem was, I did not know what I want to do. I did not know what my passions were.

The discrepancy between what I did well and what I actually enjoyed doing became more apparent.

Oblivious, stress grew under the cold waters. The pressure to excel at what I had always been doing injured my mind and body. So I collapsed.

I forgot about the book for a while. Fate dictated that I picked up the book again in Beijing when I was on sick leave from depression. I re-read the book, and again I wondered: what would I do with myself from then on?

The 4-Hour Workweek and Tim Ferriss’ blogs are stories of people who have “made it” and transformed from the old life to accomplishing something they wanted. These are stories of people who have identified a lifestyle they enjoyed, and spent the time enjoying it, financing the likes in ingenuous ways. Everyone likes to know about someone who has overcome a challenge. Mine was depression.

But have I completely overcome it? If so, then what am I doing? What I have to show for overcoming this challenge? I am not sure. But it does not bother me.

For mine is a story of someone who is “making it.” One day I will change the world too, and for now I am healing, and transforming.

I want to impact, influence and inspire. That is all I have figured out for now. And that is enough.

I “blame” Tim Ferriss for messing up my life by opening my eyes to new opportunities. I “blame” Tim Ferriss for wrecking my life by making me realize I was lying to myself and living in an illusion.

I “blame” Tim Ferris for breaking down my life plans, became clinically depressed, lost self-confidence, and now have a story to tell.

So thank you Tim Ferriss, for ruining my life – so I might build a new one in the way I want.

You can live the life you want too. Work on it.

Read his book at your own risk.

Have you read the 4-Hour Workweek? How has it changed your perspectives?

30 Responses

  1. Timmie says:

    This is an excellent post Noch Noch and it is so good that Tim Ferris should guest post it onto his blog. I have read 4 hour work week and it ruined my life in the same way it did yours. I hope I can stop lying to myself soon too. Love Timmie

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Timmie

      Thanks for the encouragement. I am glad you liked my post. I hope you find your way soon too

      Noch Noch

    • rahul nagare says:

      Dude same here,
      I took engineering degree in mechanical. I always wanted to Do everything that I liked. I thought by taking job I will be able to do that. But….but… 9-5 made me sick.I am still in it.But now I am fighting to get out.Thanks Tim for making me face the questions of life.

  2. Sara says:

    Nochie thanks for that, I can really relate to you on this so I’m afraid yet extremely attracted by that book…gonna give it a read and get back to you
    Take care

  3. Leslie says:

    Great post. I think that book has had a similar effect on a lot of people!

    I have a funny story for you. In Beijing a few years back, I went with my friend Alex to a happy hour event at the bar on the roof of the Emperor Hotel near the Forbidden City. She mentioned that it was with some Internet semi-celebrities, but I hadn’t heard of the people she mentioned. It was dark and everyone had been drinking for a few hours by the time we got there.

    I sat next to a guy for at least an hour and we chatted about energy and languages. He asked me, “How did you get here?” and I said that I’d come with my friend.

    A few drinks later, one of the other guys at the table refers to a YouTube video called “How to TFerriss Your Love Life.” And they’re all laughing about this experiment in getting virtual assistants in India to pre-screen Craigslist dating ads….

    And then the next day, I realized I had been sitting next to Tim Ferriss the whole night. I’d read his book and knew a decent amount about him. But he didn’t do the Chinese thing and give me a business card, so I had no reference to his full name. And I didn’t believe that someone would use his own name as a verb like that!


    • nochnoch says:

      WOW!!!! what a story Leslie – hahaha that’s so cool you met Tim Ferris in person ahah. Yes I think he was shooting some documentaries in China a while back hahaha. Pretty awesome huh!

      Noch Noch

  4. Nigel Chua says:

    Oh hell yeah!

    It too ruined my life.

    Actually, it started with Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad book that I chanced upon in 2002, which I read and re-read with fervour…that sowed the seed of “I will be financially free, and have people working for me” then.

    It was not until I read TFerriss’ book that propelled me into entrepreneurship – Rich Dad Poor Dad was like a theory book that set the basics, TFerriss’ book was the how-to book that got me on the ball, into the thick of action.

    Perhaps, instead of comparing of our distance away from Tim Ferriss and his lifestyle, it may be more feasible and productive to ask ourselves “how can we live more like the way he did” rather than “I pale in comparison…”

    …that being said, I do understand how you feel, because I do go through these bouts of “I want that, I dont want what I have/am now” phases as well… but I guess that life has its ways of showing us things when we are ready for them =)

    • nochnoch says:

      Oh yeh Rich Dad Poor Dad! You are an inspiration and motivation for entrepreneurship 🙂
      It’s hard work too, but at least we can do what we love. I dont know what I want to start yet, but whatever it is, I am now more concerned about my lifestyle and my priorities, and not just work work work for a corporate
      Noch Noch

  5. Nigel Chua says:

    Oh yeah, totally understand what you said! And you know what, I think what I enjoy much about entrepreneurship is that in the end, it’s ours. We’re free to do what we want.

    Yes, many fail. Yes, we may have to work like shit. Yes, that is true.

    But in the end, it’s ours. We’re free. And that’s what is most important. Of course, a disclaimer is that many people do not make themselves free, but they instead create another job for themselves…this can be rectified. =D

    But it’s optional. =)

  6. […] some money to send home in the villages. They have not had the opportunity to travel as I had, to explore the world, and to soak up the differences, enjoyment, and […]

  7. I think you should read tims blog post about depression or try the 21 day no complaint chellange!

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  9. […] Out tumble their worries, their challenges, their thoughts, and their fears. A few more reticent than others, but everybody seem to have had some experience with depression, anxiety, and life balance. […]

  10. Victor says:

    Hi Noch Noch,
    I want to thank you for your articles. I read a lot of blogs as I’m a blogger too. Most of the times it’s just always the same. Your blog is different, is personal and what’s more important, it helped me understand a few very important things.
    I just read many articles of yours and our stories are quite similar. I’m still fighting against depression and lately I was blaming all my problems on all those self-help books wishing I had never read them! That’s how I found your blog.
    Although painful, it’s still difficult for me to accept that having read all those book ruined my life for good.
    I’m still searching for my new meaning, hope and purpose in life and this transition phase is very difficult because so many old beliefs are being destroyed but I’m not able to replace them yet.
    One of the challenges I was confronted with a few years back was quitting my sex and porn addiction (that’s my blog’s topic). A very common addiction among successful career freaks. Having the best date, the best sex, etc, is also part of that rat race competition.

    Anyway, your article(s) helped me to understand a little better that all those eye opening books were not that bad after all (although many of them were just gimmicks) and that developing a deep depression as a consequence of it was not that bad either.

    As you say, there is a lot to be learned from depression. The tunnel is sometimes just too long and dark. After 2 years I’m starting to see light at the other end of the tunnel. I learned a lot. I sorted many things out. Still, there is a lot to be learned!

    Thanks a lot again!
    Take care,

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Victor

      Thank you for writing and sharing your experience. I am inspired by your work and your insights. I am happy you like my blog. When I first started I struggled with the writing style. It seemed all the blogs had a particular way of writing and I felt impelled to have bullet points and headings, but I wasn’t comfortable with that and It didnt feel like it was me. I do find merit in their writing though and have participated in some guest blogs elsewhere. Here, I want to write what I want and however I want to me. It’s the whole aim of my blog, to be true to myself . I think it will help me get out of the depression

      The transition is indeed difficult. I am trying to unlearn some habits myself, still. In fact, I find the transition even more difficult than being “sick” and in the worst days, because we are trying to move on, and yet feel bogged down by practices and habits of the past and get frustrated when trying to tug away from the past and yet dragged down again by the illness. Do you find that too?

      Noch Noch

      • Victor says:

        Hi NochNoch,

        Thanks a lot for your answer. What you describe is what I’m fighting against now. In the meanwhile the causes and consequences of my depression are very clear to me. I’ve read more than enough books and theory about it and tried different therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy, somatic therapy among others.

        Recently, I came across “Schema Therapy”. Have you ever heard about it? After reading enough about it online I’m considering trying it.

        I find that’s the most difficult phase of the depression, breaking with old habits and changing the belief system.
        The same as you, I went 200% for decades, fighting for a lifestyle that was based on many assumptions and beliefs that have no meaning to me anymore. The most difficult aspect now is to adopt new beliefs… …somehow I feel I’m too scary about adopting new beliefs… what if within a few years somehow I realize again that those beliefs are also meaningless? Somehow I prefer to stay in “disbelief” and at the same time I realize that the disbelief is what keeps me frozen, Do you know what I mean?
        Having no “beliefs” there is nothing I find worth fighting for.

        I hope we can get out of this depression soon!


        • nochnoch says:

          Hi Victor

          I have not heard of schema therapy before… what is it?

          Yes break old habits is SOOOOOOO hard. Even when I started my blog I got into my perfectionist habits and berated myself for little glitches. Then realized, oh, good enough is okay….

          I guess you need some time to process the new assumptions and “beliefs” so you you don’t “disbelief” them? 🙂

          Noch Noch

          • Victor says:

            Hi Noch Noch,

            it’s just to complex to explain what “Schema Theraphy” is about, if you google for it you’ll find wikipedia articles and websites explaining it much better than what I can do.

            I know those perfectionism habits all too well. I’m also trying to allow my self being less perfect in many things. Specially with websites. I always say to myself “it’s not ging to be worse than this”. There is always time to improve the layout, look for a better picture for a post, whatever…

            Yes, adopting new beliefs is a tricky thing somehow. I have to learn to trust myself again. I also have to accept that whatever I choose to believe, might not be valid anymore in a few years time. Maybe I end up as a buddhist monk believing only in spiritual aspects of life and paying no more attention to material things, discarding all materialistic “beliefs”.

            I’m sure that’s not my goal in life. But I realized that I started moving in that direction. materialistic beliefs -> spiritual beliefs.

            I have to accept that during that journey, I will surely adopt and discard many beliefs. I’m starting to realize that I will need some temporary beliefs during the journey.

            Like being on the road and stopping at a motel. I somehow believe that for tonight that’s “my home”. I set up things in a way that make me feel “at home”. But tomorrow it will not be my home anymore.

            I’m in the process of accepting that no new belief will ever feel as 200% as my old corporate lifestyle beliefs. But somehow I will have to temporarily adopt them in order to continue my journey.
            I’m also starting to feel some kind of relief when I think that I wont have to be obsessed about any new belief anymore.

            Ironically, we accept that almost everything around us is disposable (specially status symbols) but we have a difficult time accepting that also our beliefs are disposable. Unfortunately, I have to accept that everything is disposable in this universe.

            It was not the intention to write such a long comment, it all came out somehow.
            Take care,


          • nochnoch says:

            Hi Victor

            Yup been googling schema therapy. Have to read more too

            Actually, that’s similar to some of the COnfucius literature I’ve been learning with my calligraphy teacher. The concepts are fluid and ever changing, and what we do / think /say will have to be appropriate to each situation and role. So our personalities, thoughts, believes could evolve with time, space and company. Very deep, I’m still making sense of it all


  11. Emma says:

    Dear Noch Noch

    I’m just a visitor who searching for the information of Tim Ferris and his 4 hours work per day. I come to your blog accidentally.

    I’m having trouble in my life. I feel that I was stuck in the place and the work that I dislike just for salary. And I no longer know what I really love and wish to do. I just can’t remember…

    I’m so happy that you are on your new journey and be the real you. I wish I will start mine too. :)

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Emma

      And I hope you will find your’s too. Tim Ferris’ book helped inspired a little, but I think we all have it inside us to find our own calling and do what we really want. i also felt stuck before, but all lif experience happen to teach us a lesson we need to learn to treat ourselves better. Good luck with finding your journey into a brighter future!

      Noch Noch

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  13. richardo mustachio says:

    Life is full, to the point of choking, with beliefs no longer applicable to the time and place. We must discard anything that does not work to make way for what is needed.

  14. Lee says:

    Hello Noch Noch,

    You said something very powerful:

    “For mine is a story of someone who is “making it.” One day I will change the world too, and for now I am healing, and transforming.”

    You know why it’s powerful right? Because it is the truth.
    The truth is the only thing that has any value. Not money, not time, not beauty, not success.
    You already see that you are not meant to be like Tim Ferris, (maybe it’s not that important to you).. but you are certainly is a seeker of truth. And this is the highest measure, the highest virtue. Unfortunately, this world demotes truth and promotes illusion (success, money, power, beauty, sex, love…). Be who you are and love it about you.

    I write all these words as if I write to myself. And I read your words as if I wrote them (from in me)

    I thank you.

    This may be completely irrelevant, because I just noticed that you original post this two years ago 🙂 But please allow me to say one more thing,,,,in case it is relevant –
    I understand the anger towards Tim Ferris (perhaps it subsided by now)…but, I hope you see the value in what he has given you. (perhaps you do by now) He didn’t give you the formula to success, the formula to travel the world, the formula to make all your dreams (hidden) come true. He has given you something greater – the opportunity to see the truth and face it. Unfortunately the truth comes with suffering (I know depression). I wish and hope you will see the value of the depression – a step to climb the real path, which most people lost because of their addiction to the illusion.
    And people, more than success, need to know how to conquer depression. Even successful people suffer from depression – Robin William – perfect example – perhaps with his death he can wake some people up.

    So good on you for taking this path. You are healing, transforming,, and changing the world even by affecting one person. (me). I am sure you affected more.


    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Lee

      Thanks for the insightful comment, and also reminding me of what I wrote. Sometimes I need others to remind me of my own journey of self-awareness, especially in days of weakness and feeling hopeless again. It is indeed a powerful path, and I am grateful for the experience!

      Hope you are doing well too, and are on your journey of self discofery and reflections!


  15. […] the same way, why do so many people consider depression “weak” or those who attempt suicide “stupid”? Those who so consider might not really think that themselves, but rather, have been […]

about Noch Noch

Enoch Li, (pen name: Noch Noch) was born and raised in Hong Kong and Australia. She has also studied / worked / lived in the US, France, UK, Japan, The Netherlands, China, and has travelled to more than 40 countries. She loves travelling and her curiosity in foreign cultures and languages has led her to enjoy her life as an international executive in the banking & finance industry. However, she was forced to take time off work in 2010 due to her illnesses and after spending time in recovery, cooking, practising Chinese calligraphy, reading and writing – in short, learning to take care of herself and letting out the residual work stress, she has transitioned into a Social Entrepreneur and founded BEARAPY to help corporates make workplaces mentally healthy, and support executives to become more resilient.