I have hated Tim Ferriss for a long time. I have hated him since we both had editors at Crown Publishing who sat next to each other and I heard how difficult he is.

I didn’t blog about it because first of all, I’m sure the buzz about me is that I’m difficult, too. And also, his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, was a bestseller and mine wasn’t. So I figured people would say that I’m jealous. And really, what author is not jealous sometimes? I mean, every author wants to write a bestseller.

But at this point, two years later, my hatred goes way beyond jealousy. My hatred is more selfless than that. And while I do understand that Tim is great at accelerated learning, the time management tips I have learned from him stem from the energy I have spent hating him:

1.Don’t hang out with people who don’t respect your time
This all started at SXSW conference in 2007, right before Tim’s book came out, when he was promoting the hell out of it to bloggers. Of course, this was not a bad idea, and to be fair, Tim was brilliant to start this book marketing trend. But that is beside the point. He approached me after my panel and said, “Can I get you coffee? I’d love to talk with you.”

I said, “Uh. No. I have plans.”

And he asked who with.

I wasn’t really sure. I knew there were cool people to hang out with after my panel, though, and I knew he wasn’t one of them. I gave a vague answer.

He said he was also meeting three people, and he name-dropped them. I can’t remember who they were. But they were fun, interesting, and I wanted to have coffee with them. So I said okay.

Then Tim couldn’t find them and I had coffee with only Tim.

Then I realized this was his strategy all along.

I told myself not to be pissy. I told myself bait-and-switch is the oldest sales tool in the world, and it’s my fault for falling for it.

I even wrote a blog post that included his book.

2.Cut to the chase: Tell people who are full of sh*t that they’re full of sh*t
When his book came out, there were vacuous, annoying comments all over my blog directing people to his book. Like, “The topic of priorities is an interesting one. I like how Tim Ferris handles that in his new book,blah blah” and then there’s a link to the book.

At this point I knew Tim, sort of. And I called him on his phone and told him to tell his employees to stop spamming my blog.

First he implied it was his fan base and he had little control.

I said that I thought he was full of sh*t.

He said he’d make sure there were no more comments like that on my blog.

3.Self-centered people are more likely to waste your time
Really, when I found he was spamming my site, I didn’t call him first. First, I emailed him. And I got some sort of crazy response about how he is only checking email twice a day and then instructions on what to do.

I emailed him back to tell him that I do not want automatic emails from him every time I try to contact him.

Which generated another, identical response about how he doesn’t check mail.

So I called him to tell him that he is generating spam back to me to tell me about his email checking and I don’t care. If he wants to check twice a day, fine, but don’t clog my in box with emails about it.

He said he’d take me off his list.

I am STILL getting this sort of spam from him. But the scope has widened. For example, now, he has commented on my blog and he forgot to say that he doesn’t want to be alerted to new comments. So every time there’s a comment, he spams everyone in the comments string, telling them that he doesn’t answer his email.

It’s insane. I cannot believe how many automated announcements I receive saying that Tim does not have a Blackberry. (Yes, the email really says that.) What if we all sent automated emails like that? Email would be totally nonfunctional. What if Tim just shut up about his email and if he thinks its fine to answer twice a day, then he should do that? And not spam everyone about it.

4.Productivity is about meeting your goals, not getting out of doing work
The week that Tim actually works a four-hour work week will be a cold week in hell. Tim got to where he is by being an insanely hard worker. I don’t know anyone who worked harder at promoting a book than he did. But the thing is, he didn’t call it work. Somehow, sliming me into having coffee with him to talk about his book is not work.

Fine. But then his four-hour work week is merely semantic. Because everything Tim does he turns into what the rest of us would call work, and he calls it not-work. For example, tango. If you want to be world-record holder, it’s work. It’s your job to be special at dancing the tango. That’s your big goal that you’re working toward. How you earn money is probably just a day job. So most weeks Tim probably has a 100-hour workweek. It’s just that he’s doing things he likes, so he lies to you and says he only works four hours. He defines work only as doing what you don’t like.

It’s childish. It’s a childish, semantic game. And it reminds me of him winning the Chinese National Kickboxing Championships by leveraging a little-known rule that people are disqualified if they stop outside the box. So he pushed each of his opponents outside the box to win.

He is winning the I-work-less-than-you game with a similarly questionable method: semantics.

5.Time management is about making time to connect with people
The idea of time management only matters in relation to how important the stuff is that’s competing for your time. The stuff that makes time management the most difficult is relationships. Which Tim does not excel in.

Fine. Not everyone has to be good at making real connections.

But Tim runs around telling people who have lots of relationships competing for their time how to think about work/not work, forgetting that in the real world, where people are not assholes, time management is not an equation or a semantic game because relationships really matter. And figuring out how to judge time in terms of competing values is the hardest thing of all.

Tim is all about time management for achievement and winning. But there are not trophies or measurements for relationships. There is only that feeling that someone is kind. And good. And truly connected.

And Tim is not.

1054 replies
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  1. Charley
    Charley says:

    I think you are promoting Tim. Is this some sort of “warfare” marketing?

    “You post how much I suck and I’ll post how much you suck and people will Google us to see if we really suck as bad as the other says we do…”

    Funny. Clever. And always well written.

    I appreciate what you do.

  2. Danny
    Danny says:

    Tim Sucks!!!! Ha, okay, here’s the problem with this post. I now have the desire to go read this book and I had never wanted to before. DOH!!!!!!!, he swindled you again!!!!! Or wait, was this outcome what you had planned all along? I think we might have a conspiracy here.

  3. Neil Kandalgaonkar
    Neil Kandalgaonkar says:

    I met Tim at SXSW under very similar circumstances. A meeting where I expected lots of people but it turned out to just be a few (with another blogger who I suspect was the real target).

    He pulled out his book and I skimmed it right in the restaurant. Disbelief factor 10,000. I actually challenged him to show me kickboxing moves right in the restaurant. He did, but I wasn’t all that impressed.

    But I also knew that his book was going to be a best-seller, before I even opened it. The title alone was genius.

    But everyone who knows him knows that all his victories are empty, except for the one where he realized that starting his own little religion, with semi-faked “miracles” of self-improvement, was going to be a huge moneymaker.

  4. Matt
    Matt says:

    Penny, coffee? Seriously, I gotta run, these people are waiting to meet me. I’d love for you to come!

    (Man, this is endless fun. I could, and just might, do this all day.)

  5. carla
    carla says:

    I read Tim’s book. I loved parts, but also agree with Penelope on many parts of it.

    All said and done, it motivated me to launch a product which has done quite well. OK, I was already working on the product when I read the book, but it assured me I wasn’t crazy and heading in the right direction.

    In the end, I created an iPhone app and am having blast promoting it. It’s a gratitude journal for the iPhone and has been well received (without using Tim’s type of promotion).

  6. Xencor
    Xencor says:

    Excellent…that guy is just a freak success… selling shit bottled up in excellent glassware. 4-hour work week is just plain idiocy…and seems like ther have been a good number of idiots who made the book a best seller.

    Only lesson learnt from Tim – you can sell crao to people if you make up your mind and work for it.

  7. Xencor
    Xencor says:

    You know what Penny…this is going to be the most commented post of yours in 2009 :)

    But there have been crap best sellers …all along right?

    Going by that guy’s fetish for Virtual Assistants…”who are cheap and do the job well”..whatever it means :)
    probably he hired one of them ..to post in comments section of all popular blogs.

  8. Ruthie
    Ruthie says:

    Zing.

    Oh, and great post about calling out and cutting out people who are using you for their own gain. Thanks for the reminder that its people and relationships that matter, not the petty little games we all try to play.

  9. J. Caspian
    J. Caspian says:

    Tim Ferriss probably has little love for me – (you can read my comments on his blog… the last one I basically said I was done with his site because I believe he wasn’t being real, particularly over the election – to which I garnered 33 ‘thumbs up’ – I didn’t expect that) … my comments prompted a response from him on the blog and I respected what he said and, after-which, no longer read it – as I said I would.

    So, all that said, when I read another blogger reference this article (yours), I came here (this is my first time) …and my only response to you, Ms. Penelope, is quite simple:

    Get over it.

    …while I can’t get inside your mind – I believe your rant says more about you than it says about him.

    What I gather from it are the following assumptions… (then later I lay out some facts that back these up to the extent they can):

    1. Tim beat you and you didn’t like it (on many different levels… some of which you illustrated, some of which are not apparently visible, but seem to scream out their existence)

    2. He sold you and you didn’t like it (…nobody likes being sold but everyone loves to buy … you bought a bill of goods from him and now you’ve got your Visa statement-post-holiday-sticker-shock)

    3. He’s more skilled than you at getting to those levels and it bothers you so much that you had to trash him.

    Now to why I’ve come to the above: Some of the points you make that are “insane” are specifics that Tim’s “time management” principles espouse. Personally, I don’t agree with or like them …but you’re stating them here to your readers as though they are “insane” is as though he hasn’t blatantly written about in his book…

    …he has…further, you make these statements having said you READ his book (btw, I read and returned his book for the purchase price …I have SHARP criticisms with it… and said so on his site). Well the logic doesn’t connect here …if you read his book – then you know this is part of his philosophy …so why are you acting like it doesn’t make sense? It’s as though you’re writing this in a manner like he started doing this out of the blue. But if you read it in his book – you’d know it. But because there are technical problems in that his email is responding back to blog comments… this means it’s all “insane”? Sure, sounds like he’s a promoter to me… but c’mon…

    Hey, it’s nothing personal – as I stated this is the first time I’ve EVER read you … but for that very reason you really ought to think twice about writing trash-talk like this as all it does it point right back at you and turn-off objective people like myself (unless that’s what you’re blog is about ..and from the gist, so far, I don’t believe it is …if I’m wrong here – I’ll be happy to stand corrected …and heck – go get ’em, if that’s your calling).

    Now, I might sound hypocritical ..afterall – here I am talking about you …and further, I talked about Tim in my aforementioned comments on his site too …

    …there’s a difference here though: I told BOTH of you what you were saying that was out and out wrong and the reasons why – DIRECTLY TO YOU (further, I cited evidence of this – either thru your own words or in the realm of experience, historical legitimacy and good judgment.)

    Honestly, I mean – I hate drawing these conclusions… but you need to know how you’re coming off… and you’ve displayed all the ear-marks of a gal whos been “conquered” by a male and is in the “Hell hath no fury” stage of things. I am not even making this accusation … but were a psychologist to pick apart everything you wrote …it seems the “blue dye pack” that explodes in the money has it’s ink all over you.

  10. Lionel Conforto
    Lionel Conforto says:

    It’s funny that you write this post about Tim. I had the same feeling after I read your book and Tim’s one. You are outstanding writers (I must admit that I have a preference for your style. Great). The problem is that Tim and you use these writing skills to turn half cent ideas into a jewel. That’s your strength. Be honest, why do you hate him? because of your differences? or because of your similarities?

    With my best greetings from France
    Lionel

  11. Joselle
    Joselle says:

    Now I know why I love you. You are who Courtney Love should have grown up to be. This post is now one of my all-time faves.

    I can think of one reason why your book was not a runaway bestseller: the cover. The cover was like the old blog design in that it disguised the crackling wit and sound advice that was between its pages. A white guy in a shirt, ripping it open to reveal a crisp, white tee does not a brazen careerist make.

    Otherwise, your book (and well, books) was a million times better than 4HWW. But his cover was better.

    You can just insert that old saying here.

  12. Shonzilla
    Shonzilla says:

    So good that you haven’t lost any track of your feelings and ramblings about Tim Ferris and similar people who redefine work as something you’re forced to do.

    Thank you for writing this 4 hour work week post-mortem and trying to explain what work really is and a$$holes who trick you in what work is not.

    Your rant inspired me to write a blog post of my own – Is 4-hour work week a myth?.

    Cheers!
    Shonzilla

  13. Sean R
    Sean R says:

    I’m a recent subscriber and really appreciate the unadulterated honesty in your blog. Not only is the post a diatribe but you offer sound advice as well. It’s genius!

  14. Raven
    Raven says:

    I don’t know about this Tim fellow, but he sounds odd. Anyway, one never knows why some people prefer one person’s crap over another (not that you write crap Penelope), but that’s one of God’s great mysteries. Anyway, I think people like Tim know how much they can get away with…and then some. They push boundaries b/c to some extent, who is really going to push back? In some cases, they learn their limits and move on to some other unsuspecting chap.

  15. Ted
    Ted says:

    I’ve never met Tim and never read his book. But I briefly became fascinated by his success — very briefly. The book title made me suspicious so I read his blog, read reviews of his book, and watched some video interviews with him. In all channels, he appeared smug and insincere. Tim’s advice mostly reminds me of what Stephen Covey has described as “personality techniques”. These techniques are apparently successful at first but they are also manipulative and hypocritical. They prove harmful long term in relationships, reputation, and

    Thanks for providing the missing pieces in the marketing strategy and confirming my suspicions about his “people skills”.

  16. Jonathan Mead
    Jonathan Mead says:

    I agree with much of what you’ve said here Penelope.

    The only problem is that you’re doing Tim a favor by posting this. Exposing more people to his work and creating more controversy, exactly what he wants.

  17. Belinda
    Belinda says:

    “I’m highly suspicious of all highly successful people. ”

    This sums up your fanbase nicely.

  18. Duff
    Duff says:

    From day one I’ve felt that 4HWW should have been subtitled, “How to cheat at work and life.” I prefer GTD and Bit Literacy.

  19. Andreas Climent
    Andreas Climent says:

    Oh, come on. This is probably the most negative post I’ve read in over a year. Why do you feel the need to share this unnecessary anger and jealousy with your readers?

    Tim has always seemed like a great guy to me and even if some of his ideas could be considered a bit extreme I have found great value in both the book and his blog!

  20. Maintenance Man
    Maintenance Man says:

    Wow. Somebody here does not like Tim Ferris. LOL. Yeah I bought and read his book. It was more like the 4 hour waste of my time. But you have to give the dude credit. It is a novel idea.

    – Maintenance Man

  21. Tim
    Tim says:

    I can’t believe I actually bought his book.

    Looking for some sort of contrarian wisdom, I wasted a holiday gift card and got as far as the kick boxing competition. Purely unethical and “cheap” in terms of competition… he used cheap methods to ruin a competition and now parades around with the title of international kick boxing champion. Thumbs up Dude.

  22. Cat
    Cat says:

    I spent a whole day and a half a couple of days ago looking for an objective (at least somewhat critical) perspective on Tim Ferriss and his tactics. I am stunned to find your blog entry today about some of the very things I was bemoaning in my (very unknown) blog the other day.

    As I was perusing your bounty of blog entries after I got laid off this past month, I found a veritable cornucopia of knowledge that has been very helpful. And I ended up running into articles by some young blogging types who ranted about lifestyle design and SEO and all that jazz, which made me curious, and had some good information, but seemed to be lacking the basic “how-to” of the whole thing.

    Every single one of them seemed to be a big fan of Tim Ferriss. When I saw his book a few years ago, I wanted to read it. But then I saw the reviews on amazon and realized something fishy was going on. I took it off my wish list. When the lifestyle design bloggers started pointing me back to him I was loathe to find a SINGLE comment about what seemed to be just a huge marketing scam.

    In short, thanks for adding your feedback about Ferriss, because I found only one blog entry on the net that was objective about him, and that exasperated me. Anyone who criticized him (which were few) got attacked by “omg just read his book, don’t judge, he’s so cool” comments. Not one example of anyone living their own “new life” based on his logic anywhere. It’s refreshing to find one of my favorite bloggers writing refreshingly honest truth about Ferriss.

  23. Cyril
    Cyril says:

    I wanted to read all the comments … but quite frankly this is too much.
    I have read 4HWW and I really liked it.
    That doesn’t mean that I agree with all what Tim said, is saying, will say, do think …
    Just because the man is not behaving as we should expect (personnaly I don’t know the guy so I can’t say) that doesn’t mean is book is not worth reading.
    Nowadays people are looking at books or blogs and expect what our grand grand fathers and mothers found in religion : a road book for your entire life that you can follow faithfully.

    Common, take everything with a grain of salt. Yes his book is full of good tips, and full of rubbish too.

    For me his entire book should only be discarded if the guy can by classified as a certified asshole, otherwise we could learn something from this guy afterall :)

  24. Robert 'Groby' Blum
    Robert 'Groby' Blum says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Finally one of the bloggers with name recognition comes out and says it.

    I was appalled reading his book, finding out how he ‘won’ competitions. I felt dirtied by his advice. He more or less suggest exploiting loopholes for pretty much everything in life – his “business” of selling nutritional supplements is just one step above a scam, IMHO. He is advocating a life profiting off others, without contributing anything to humanity.

  25. hard knocks
    hard knocks says:

    I thought Ferriss’s book was pretty good. Parts of it were BS, but the core was pretty solid: pick a niche, learn how to make money from it, train inexpensive outsourced employees how to do almost all of what you do, eliminate all demands on your time that don’t serve your goals, and use the time saved and money earned to move onto to your next passion. It’s not all that new, but neither is it all that wrong – it’s simply smart people employing leverage and focus in ways that the internet and globalization now make possible. Parts of what he suggests I’ve been doing since the mid 90s; some of the other parts looked like they might work.

    Like a lot of people – yourself included – he presents some stuff that’s worthwhile wrapped in a fair amount of BS. But, in all fairness, the woman who advises people that prevarication on resumes is the new way has very little business calling other people out on mendacity. There’s a bit of the pot calling the kettle black going on here.

  26. Sean
    Sean says:

    I have no fucking clue who Tim Ferriss is, but he sounds like a complete dick. This type of post is why I read the internet, for gems like this.

  27. 123fun
    123fun says:

    Very interesting post. It’s obvious that Tim’s a narcissist who values his own time more than that of others (he doesn’t try to hide that), and you’re right to call him on that, but his book is one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever read.

    I’m not surprised that some idiots have screwed things up following his advice. Tim is really smart, and if you’re not smart and ethically centered his advice can be dangerous. But not seeing what he presents is dangerous, too. The traditional corporate world is obviously not functioning well, and Tim presents a radically different approach to life where hard work is aligned with passion, where money is a tool rather than an objective, and where authority in business comes from genuine autonomous decisions rather than ladder-climbing. His go-it-alone approach can be seen as a weakness.

    If you can present a feasible model for a work life of empowerment, balance, autonomy, passion, and excellence, PLUS mutual respect, meaningful relationships and strong values, you might have a bestseller, too.

  28. le
    le says:

    hello there … as with Andrew I bought your book and Tim’s online from the same site on the same day and then read both one after another.

    In some ways I was mildly disappointed with both. But I learnt stuff from each.

    No wonder when I emailed you and asked your thoughts on some of his ideas you were a bit short in your replies. But still you replied. When I emailed him seeking clarity on something I got nothing – not even the automated thingo.

    Go figure … le

  29. Magic
    Magic says:

    I liked Tim’s book; pretty funny and a handful of common sense ideas. Your comment about semantics is irrelevant. If you want to get real pedantic about it, I could say that when I woke up this Saturday morning and made myself a cup of tea, I was working. Then when I checked my personal email and paid some bills…I was working, etc. I intend on working for the rest of my life. I love working. However, I would much prefer to work towards something that is a passion of mine (tango, music, whatever it may be) than showing up to my “day job” 50 hours per week. That is what the book is about. I’ve also seen people work this way. My father does. He hasn’t read the book…it’s just the way he is.

    I have to say, you sound bitter.

  30. J
    J says:

    I’ve actually met him and read his book. He admitted that 4HWW was the publisher’s idea, not his, and that he didn’t really love it, but acknowledged that he knew it would sell books and so went with it. Ironically, I only got his book after hearing him speak, because I was so turned off by the title initially.

    He’s a marketing genius and having talked to him talk about marketing, I can totally believe he’s outsourced blog spamming. He’s very deliberate in that sort of manner. You should also know, he’s probably dancing around in glee over your post because he thinks any publicity is good publicity. If it gets one more person to buy his book, you can call him whatever you’d like.

    At the end of the day, I agree with you that his system only works because he’s not competing with others who are doing it/doing it to him. And he knows this, as was his point with the contest for his students to contact a famous person = most people won’t act like he does, making it possible for the few who do to do it successfully.

    I also agree with you that the communication on his timeframe is inconsiderate and a turn off. It only works for him because people want to talk to him. As one of the other posters noted, when someone low on the totem pole does it, others will just ignore them.

    I also do not consider him trustworthy, as he publicized something that was meant to be confidential.

    That said, even if he isn’t a role model, he still talks to some interesting people and the idea of prioritizing goals and the concept of “lifestyle redesign” are still useful. I can’t imagine stepping on others or diminishing the quality of relationships to achieve productivity is something I would feel good about in the end. But I also think that there’s something about his assertiveness I can learn from.

  31. GenerationXpert
    GenerationXpert says:

    Penelope:
    Love this post and am kind of bummed my comment will be so far down on the comment list.

    This sounds like the classic Boomer/Xer split. The Xer mentality is “get your shit done, stop talking about, and don’t preach to others on how to get their shit done – unless they’re not getting their shit done (at which time you tell that person to get their shit done.).

    I’m wondering if the sales differences between your books was about titles. He offered something everyone wants, but is impossible. Maybe the next edition of your book could be retitled the 3 hour work week. Add a line at the end that says “do all these things and don’t call them work and voila the 3 hour work week.”

  32. Gretchen
    Gretchen says:

    Thank you for coming out and saying this. I was interested when he was making the rounds of all the blogs, but didn’t get very far into the book before I realized nothing he recommended was practical. He bugged me in a general sense too, but I could never put my finger on why until I read your post.

  33. jenx67
    jenx67 says:

    I have no idea who Tim Ferriss is, but I know this post took a lot of time and thought and experience to write. The five points are relevant, even if I don’t know Tim Ferriss. They don’t call you brazen for nothing, but that’s why I keep coming.

  34. Bridget
    Bridget says:

    Penelope,

    I have not read the book but if it does as much damage as the 1 Minute Manager I could join the anti-Tim movement.
    The amount of hate you have for him reminds me of how angry I become when someone takes my ideas that I have innocently disucussed over coffee or cocktails and pretends that they are their own and they get promoted. I liked the freedom you displayed by laying him out publicly and I have no doubt he is a douchebag as others have suggested. I wonder if you will get a blocked email response fro him now? AND I wondered if one of the reasons you hate him is that he gets to you at the time you have your defenses down and takes advantage of you-every time and you then have to be pissed at yourself first. I agree, it is him not you!

  35. MW
    MW says:

    Hi, P. Your points are perfectly valid and I suppose using Tim as an example helps it come alive for anyone who feels the same way about him, though it does make you look a bit small in spirit and temperament. An alias would’ve made your points just as well, with the subject easily identifiable to those who loathe Tim as you do.

  36. sminetti
    sminetti says:

    This is pretty embarrassing. I have read both books several times, and see the title of this blog a desperate call for more google hits when someone searches Tim Ferriss!

    All of the dimwits in the room, please understand that the term “4 hour work week” is the result of Tim’s lifestyle design principles. No different than a race car driver’s goal to run a 3 second quarter mile. Is it possible, probably not, but it is important to strive towards that.

    Also, to those that mention negatives of excerpts from 4HWW (such as the kickboxing mention being negative). You will be destined to achieve mediocrity in life. You must understand the rules in place, whether in business or any other endeavor and strive to make them work for you.

  37. Kerry
    Kerry says:

    Wait–isn’t this the guy who says you should outsource everything? The one who has MBA students outsourcing their job searches? I just did a blog post on that. I didn’t know there was a whole book. That’s tragic.

  38. Jason
    Jason says:

    Tim Ferriss has jumped the shark. It just happens to coincide with a good blog post about what a douchebag he is.

  39. Happy D
    Happy D says:

    Hey Penelope, I like your points – I need to improve my Time Management. Can I ask you why you chose to mention him & his book, thereby giving him more exposure?

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