What striked me most when i first stumbled upon Tim Ferriss’s book “The Four Hour Workweek” is that it was classified as an economy/entreuprenarial manual. I never felt that way about the book. Sure it gives you a few keys on how to manage a company but what it mainly is is a lifestyle guide. Like Seneca’s “On the Shortness of Life” that I’ve kept as my bedside book during my teen years and which Tim loves, “The Four Hour Workweek” is a paradigm switching experience.
Basically the logline for the book could be: “what you always deemed as unchangeable liferules is about to change for ever”. Because that’s what this book does. It reminds you you don’t have to live the life society wants to impose on you. You have the rights and the means to choose your own lifestyle – or rather your art de vivre. To reduce Tim’s book to entrepenarial counselling is, if you ask me, pachydermic crap.
The first lesson I applied from Tim’s book is to define your short-term goals. The biggest reason why I felt bored was because I had nothing to do. Ok there was this ice hockey class I planned to take and would have liked to take right away but I had to wait till september for the new season to begin. I was not in a hurry, just curious to try a new sport so I was ready to wait. I would have liked to take it right away, I didn’t want to take it right away. In fact, I wanted nothing. So what I did one sunday afternoon while my wife wrote her query letter for a new job, is I took a pen, a little notebook, Tim’s chapter 4 and I wrote a list of things I had in my mind. They were things I was curious to try, things I had always wanted but not allowed myself to do, places I wanted to visit (sadly “the whole world” isn’t specific enough when you’re looking at actionnable goals) and skills I wanted to learn (makes me realize I forgot to consider people I’d want to meet, Tim Ferriss would be one of these, if only to thank him personally for the Book). And suddenly the numbness of my mind lifted and I was cramming line after line of desires on the page. I named it “Things to do before I die” which made it easier to fill than “what do I want?”
Suddenly my life felt far less boring. There was so much to learn and so much to do I would never have enough time (another misconception soon to be gone). That’s when enthusiasm came back. I was not numb at all anymore. Next step was to take my notebook and decide which 5 things I wanted to be/have/do in the next 6 months. It proved far more easy than what I expected. I understood that I had time. 6-month periods are short enough that you can plan a lot of them in your life (about 100 hundred if you’re 30) and long enough that you can do a lot during that time. Can you think of 100 things you would want to accomplish in your life? Things that would require 6 months to achieve? I don’t. Most of what I want can be done in just a few days. Do you want examples?
I want to fly. I can paraglide in tandem right now if I want, I just need to spend a few hours to get to a moutain and I can use these hours to plan whatever other dream I want. If I want to fly alone, one-week classes are enough that you have the autonomy required to do it. I want to fire a gun. A few metro stops from my appartment there’s a shooting range. I can rent a gun there and fire a few rounds. Spent time: 2-3 hours. I want to visit Vancouver. I can do that in 10 days but I’d rather take at least a whole month, giving me time to meet people there (maybe William Gibson and Douglas Coupland, that would be nice), get a real feel of Vancouver’s life. This trip wouldn’t need any preparation apart from spending a few minutes on the phone with a travel agent. These three experiences could fit in just 1/6th of the 6 month timespan I have to allot. My point is: your life is long enough and things are easy enough to get that you don’t have to make choices you can have/do/be everything, you just need to decide what you want the most right now and what you can wait for. Then, you act, one small step at a time until you get where you wanted to be. Usually it will be faster than what you expected. Plus: it’s really cheap.
You also need to learn to seize opportunities. I like teaching and I wanted to be a screenwriting teacher (another goal that could wait). I thought about creating my own school but that was too much work for the energy I wanted to invest in it. I wanted to be a teacher in my old school but never asked. Then I heard of an opportunity in an entirely different place with people I love. Teaching there would allow me to travel regularly, which is something I want. It would also give me the opportunity to spend more time with people whom company I enjoy and whom I have too few chances to see, which is something else I want. So I asked. I simply sent an email to the head of the school saying I heard about the vacant place and I was interested. She said yes. Time spent: 10 minutes of email writing. Learn to recognize and take these chances. They always happen, you just have to be wary for them and to be bold enough to ask for them. Sometimes you don’t even have to work for your dreams.
For longer dreams, start today and be consistent. I want to learn how to draw. I’ve always loved sketchbooks and I’m jealous of people who know how to sketch life. I want to be able to do it but I’m too lazy to take art classes. What I’m not lazy to do is sketching something for 5 minutes everyday. I use this simple exercize: take a picture, put it upside down and reproduce it. It’s supposed to help you detach your drawing for what it’s supposed to represent. You’re not drawing a tree, you’re assembling shapes and I’ve been told it’s a more efficient way to learn drawing than just trying to draw precise stuff. So that’s what I do. I have a picture that I reproduce everyday. I don’t know where this is going but my biggest faith in life is that exercising will make you reach anything. So I just do it. And I’m happy because I get to draw everyday and I feel I’m on my way to something. It might take me a few years to get there but that’s cool with me. Instead of staying frustrated by my inability to draw, I’m acting to change it and that makes the whole difference.
Act now, reconnect with your dreams, turn them into goals and ask yourself: “which of my dreams will I fulfill today?