Jonathan Mead wrote a great post called “The Lie of the Four Hour Work Week.” It’s a brief review of the actual book, but, more importantly, it talks about Tim Ferriss’ underlying assumptions that equivocates “work” with something we don’t want to do. Jonathan’s main question: what if work isn’t something we hate or don’t want to do? Check out his answer.
Jonathan and I have had similar discussions in the past. What I find inspiring about talking and working with creative clients is that there is only a small amount of “work” that they hate – the rest of their “work” is what makes them come alive. Most creatives I know don’t want to stop “working” – they want to try to find ways to do more of the creative stuff that they want to do and optimize their workflow to get the stuff they don’t want to do out of it. If you’re hypercreative, there’s only so many administrative details that you want to be a part of your day.
Tim’s sensationalist rhetoric blurs over the fact that it’s quite possible to fill your days with fulfilling, productive activities that most people loosely call “work.” Work, in itself, isn’t something you should hate. You should hate your work if, on a holistic scale, it’s something that’s inconsistent and exclusive of the type of person you want to be.
It’s for this reason that I’m training myself to not use the word “work” for what I do. Instead of saying “I worked 15 hours today,” I’ll instead say “I was active for 15 hours today” or “I had 15 hours of productive play.” It seems hokey, I admit; but it helps me fight the cognitive resistance that is wed to work.
To be fair to Tim, the reframe of “work” that we’re suggesting is consistent with much of what Tim advocates. For instance, if you’re doing what you truly love and what makes you come alive, you won’t really need to retire. And unless you figure out how to do it in a sustainable, healthy way, you may in fact still need breaks or mini-retirements from it. Also, there are a lot of insight to Tim’s discussions on productivity and effective use of time that can be applied even to the things you love.
That said, there’s nothing about work such that you should hate it or want to avoid it. It’s fair game to try to figure out the parts of your work that suck and try to limit them and the parts that are awesome and try to maximize those. But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.